3 years ago I struggled to get a team together for this relay, 4 lonely excited Striders competed that day and I’ve been struggling ever since to get us back. This time it was different. With a 50/50 split between old and new Striders in the team, we headed down to Manchester and into the unknown for all but myself.
The excitement was in the air as we walked over the bridge Towards the Etihad Stadium and sport city complex. Some incredible fast youngsters flew past us on the way to registration as they raced round on their relay leg. This set the tone of a truly top end competition and a sense of home coming for myself.
Sport city was developed for the 2002 commonwealth games, the facilities are incredible. Registration was inside the main building leading to the outdoor track, job done and I was face to face with something completely new to me. A 200m indoor running track, looking round at the excited Strider faces next to me we all had the same thought, wow this is amazing.
The 200m indoor track is the warm-up area and a truly odd experience to run round. The curves are banked inwards and you are chucked round the bends as you tick off the laps. Must be an awesome experience racing on one of these and something I dream of experiencing one day. Made me chuckle as we all gave it a go, some loved it and other soon drifted to the flat route round the bottom as they felt sick due to the camber. (Chris Callan looked sea sick 😜)
We found our base station round the track and planted our purple flag with pride. This required quick thinking as no grass, thankfully Mark Warner had a spare pair of shoes and laces to do the job 😄. pictures and Facebook post done, the team soaked in the atmosphere.
100+ teams from the north are represented consisting of their very best best runners. All hoping to qualify for the national road championships. Top 25 is the standard and the dream, but I knew it was a massive achievement for Striders just to field a competitive team. The positive chats and feedback have been amazing from many of our local clubs. They were all pleased and quite shocked to see us, the feeling of pride was really overwhelming.
Onto the running, each man gave their best which is all I ever ask. Each had their battles and all had that massive grin on their faces as they walked back to the strider area.
Chris Callan was the first leg, the excitement of starting on the track next to 150 amazing runners did nothing to distract this dedicated runner. Set off at a solid pace and consistent splits showed what a rising star he will be for the club. A solid start and strong run.
James Lee shot off on the second leg, the hand overs are just like the Durham cathedral relays and well organised. A good leg from James with his distinctive style sprint finish and 100% effort. James was A last minute stand in for the relay and I’m massively great full for him stepping up.
Mark Griffiths was next, another new strider and showing massive potential with a fast run only 3 seconds behind the flying Chris. I have no doubt Mark will continue to get ever quicker and had some amazing flying feet pictures on the day.
Mark Warner running 4th, was massively exciting to watch as we were clearly mixing it up in the middle of this incredible field of runners. Mark ran with dedication and a impressive continued return to form.
Michael Littlewood was up next, running on heavy marathon training legs but doing what he always does, pushing through and fighting hard. Rewarded with the 2nd fastest strider leg on the day and again first strider to the beer tent 😄
I decided to run the last leg, I hunted down a few people and loved the excited cheers from the team as I charged down the home straight. The course takes you looping round the outside of the stadium, round the sport city complex then finish back on the track. The heavens opened during my leg but happy to even pace and play my part.
The strider team officially placed 55th of the day out of 103 complete teams. Some teams being disqualified and some were incomplete. We all enjoyed a nice cold beer on the way home and reflected on what we had just experienced.
So what did we think? Wow is all we could say. For the first time Striders had fielded a complete team and we didn’t just show up, we were competitive with the very best the north had to offer. I felt proud as we chatted about the day and the possibility of doing it all again. A truly amazing experience and something I can highly recommend to everyone in the future.
So next stop will be 25th march 2018 when I will try once again to get a 12 man team together. An even greater challenge, but definitely worth a go. Would be even better if we could field a ladies team too.
Can it be done? After today I think we have a chance.
Results:- 55th place 103 finished teams