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National Six Stage Road Relays at Clumber Park 13 October

Some days it seems it’s just not your day. For Hillingdon AC’s senior men’s team  Saturday 13 October 2012 was one of those days.

After very strong team performances at the St Albans Cross Country Relays and the South of England Six Stage Road Relays, there were high expectations that the National Six Stage Road Relays would see Hillingdon AC record their highest finish at these championships for many years. However, a seven vehicle pileup on the M1 and the resulting delay meant that this wasn’t to be.

All three lanes of the M1 were closed for two hours as a result of the accident and both cars that had travelled from the clubhouse had the misfortune to be stuck in the pocket of traffic between the site of the accident at Junction 18 and the placing of the temporary diversion at Junction 16.

As Matt Fayers had made his own way to the race and was already at Clumber Park, he ran the first leg in a very good time of 15.20 over the 5.1km course to finish in 25th position. Then the clock started ticking as he waited for his team mates to arrive.

James Laing and Sam Blanshard were in the first car to get to the course. James volunteered to run leg two and so after getting changed in the car he jumped out and dashed to the start as soon as the vehicle had stopped. Grabbing his race number he went straight into the race. Unfortunately, Matt had already finished his leg five minutes earlier and so James started leg two in last place. James didn’t clock his own time and so although the race results show a time of 20.39 I don’t know what time James actually did. At this point, Sam was the only other Hillingdon athlete at the race and so he ran leg three.

Then the waiting started again as the second car that had travelled from the clubhouse was still to get to the race. Fortunately it arrived about eight minutes before Sam was due to finish his leg and so Robert Thompson ran leg four after very quickly putting on his racing kit and doing a few strides. Daniel Thompson ran leg five and Martin Bateman ran leg six after very limited preparation time.

The team finished the race in 48th place of the 55 teams that finished and the 64 clubs that had entered. We will never know where they might have finished if the athletes had had time to warm up and prepare themselves properly for the race but based on Matt Fayers’ time and position and the race distance of 5.1km per leg I’d estimate that each athlete would each have been between 30 seconds and a minute quicker than the time they actually clocked.

Subtracting the five minutes lost between leg one and two alone from the overall race time would have put the team in the top 30 places and subtracting a further two minutes from this time to allow a 30 second improvement in time for each of the remaining four legs would have seen the club challenging for a place in the top 20. However, this is merely conjecture. What happened happened and the race results stand.

It just wasn’t our day.

A big thank you to all six athletes who made the effort to travel to the race and compete for the club and the five athletes who spent eight hours of their day sitting in the car and running in very difficult circumstances and many many thanks to John Bignell, Gerry Archer and Mark Fayers for giving up their time to transport the athletes and help coordinate the team.

Full race results may be found here.