Alastair Aitken
Alastair Aitken
Alastair Aitken's
Interviews and
Reports

National Six Stage Relays (October 2011)

The first six completed teams out of 76 clubs:- 1 Aldershot Farnham & District 1:44:51; 2 Birchfield 1:45:22; 3 Newham & Essex Beagles 1:45:30; 4 Leeds City 1:45:33; 5 Swansea Harriers 1:46:15; 6 Bristol & West AC 1:46:48.
   Here is my account and interviews which concerned the runners at the sharp end with also the words of the Southern Six stage road relay Champions Newham & Essex Beagles. In the race itself Birchfield tested Aldershot in the latter stages but, mainly due to Aldershot's Andy Vernon running the second fastest time of the day on leg 4, the other big rivals Newham & Essex Beagles found it an impossible task to take the title.A huge gap had developed after the first two runners had completeed stage five well ahead. Newham had the sixth fastest runner of the day Keith Gerrrard on the last leg. However Birchfields' runner on the final leg was no match for International marathon runner Ben Moreau, who brought Aldershot home clear.

Leg 1 The first leg was close 1st was Ricky Stevenson of New Marske (17:06), 2 Dewi Griffiths of Swansea, (17.07), Ben Tickner of Wells City (17.08).

Rory Chesser,  25 in March (Newham & EB) was 9th in 17:28.
  " I was pleased with my run"
   Did he prefer running 1500 which he did 3:40.20 last year?
" Yes! Up to 5k I am good. I will eventually probably run 5k. I'll have a crack at making it next year. This season has been 'Crap' for me'.
' I started a new job as a teacher. I was just tired all the time. I did 3:42 when I started my season but I was disappointed as I ran 3:40 last year. Things went down and down and I ran 8.30 something for 3k and, I ran that back when I was 17. Hopefully this year will be better. Fingers crossed'
   Rory comes from Ennis, County Clare. " I moved here three years ago. I started as a teacher at St Marys and teaching at Sutton now. I used to train round St Marys so I could train with the boys but only at the weekends now because of work."
    Leg 2 Johnny Mellor sent Liverpool up 18 places to first place in 16:59.
   " I am just coming back into it and doing around 80-90 miles a week. I had a break this Summer but earlier did a pb of 13:36 for 5k. I hope for a good run in the Portsmouth 10'
   'I started running when I was 16 and stopped playing football then. I moved to Liverpool Harriers and Dave Evans is my coach there"
Dave Mitchinson took his Newham team from 9 to 6 in 17:44. Martin Mashford of Aldershot was just behind him in 17:57.
     DM " I have only just started again as I broke my foot in May and missed a month's training. Been back and training hard and doing the Dublin marathon in two weeks time but it is a race against time. I broke my foot at work (as a policeman) when I arrested someone who was quite large and did not want to be arrested and broke my toe. I missed a month but been back and training hard but it is only my third race back"
   Leg 3 Zak Zihara took Birchfield into the lead with a 17:02 clocking, having moved the team up nine positions
     Jonathan Hay, the Junior National cross-country Champion from Aldershot, brought his team up from 7-4
in 17:28.
Coming through from a junior to being senior must be quite difficult?
" I think it is important always to set your site on the next thing, be one step ahead of the game in that respect. I try not to think in terms of Under 23's but to think as a senior because there are not much under 23 racing'
   ' However, the Euro Cross I Will be running in that category but focusing on the next track season as a senior in a team of some sort. I did a pb of 13:57 for 5k this season so getting there."
   Kairn Stone came in 8th for Newham in 17:46
About that he said "My run was so-so'  but pointed to a performance that he did think was O.K " I did 2:21.37 in the London"
   Ben Pochee, the Southern Counties Vets cross champion and in his second year as a vet, is the motivator behind Highgate Harriers team that he took from 26 to 25 in 18:29 on the third stage but he has bolts in his legs and also had a bone graft to help with his injuries.It was thought by doctors that he would not be able to run again..
   " I was out after the National 12 stage in April till August injured'
   ' I had spent two years with operations in order to run again. I could not even jog, then you have got to start all over again after the surgery,. How many times have I got to do that! It is a continual saga'
He said wistfully " Part of running injuries!"
   Leg 4 This was where the damage to Newham's chances came with Andy Vernon running 16:58 for Aldershot and taking them up into the lead. The first three teams were now Aldershot 1:09.40; Birchfield 1:09.54 and Newham 1:10.31 which was starting to make it an almost impossible task for Newham to win.
 Andy Vernon " People were saying you might not be very fit?
Andy laughed at that " The reason I have not been amazingly fit. I had a 2 mile race in Newcastle and ran the next day and both days I did not have that good runs. I got my head down since then. The last 3 to 4 weeks of training has brought me on a lot.'    'Early season  it was o.k. 8/10'ths off my 5k time with 13:27.'
   'I wanted to go on the Kenya  UK trip coming up in a few days. Because of my choice of coaches I think, they did not let me go on it!.'
   ' My new coach is Nick Bideau and now I am going to Australia and linking up with him in January at Falls Creek'
   ' I am training through now to the European cross and hopefully if I get selected then hopefully go to Australia in January, Go away for four months and spend the fourth month of those in the States'
   'Today I caught Birchfield (Biniam Ande) on the far corner. We ran together, pretty much to the lake. A dog got in the way but I avoided the dog and got a bit of a gap."
  Lee Merrien of Newham moved up from 8 to 3 in 17:33 on that stage but adrift of the first two.
   "You used to be a four minute miler Lee doing 3:59.8 in 2005 so what made our  turn to the marathon?
    " I did 5k and had a couple of difficult years under performing and illness. I looked at the standards and thought I had a better chance, firstly to get to the Europeans,World and Olympics would be at the marathon.
      " You were seen quite a lot on the TV coming in eighth in your European and ran two other marathons. Which one gave you the most satisfaction?
" Probably the Europeans--My first Summer Championships. I probably performed better than by own expectations
2:20 but it was really hot.
   " You did 2:16:48 in London last year and 2:14:27 this year plus 2:16:59 in the World Championships
Which one's were memorable?

" All my races are memorable for different reasons. Different things mean different an different  times."
     You do some coaching in Guernsey?
      " Club athletes back home.'
''I run a business as well- running groups for the general public and coaching people below club level I suppose."
   You enjoy marathon running so I suppose you will continue with that
   " A new lease of life doing the marathons.'
' Different hopes and aspirations really. I am only a spring chicken in  marathon terms (32). I feel like a young 32 in case of running marathons."  
   Leg 5
James Trollope of Birchfield hit the front in 17:25 with Stephen Scullion of Aldershot on 17:43 in second place.
  JT:-" I took over in second and went a bit hard up the hill but he extended the lead over the back and at the turn around point I caught him. I pulled away over the last half mile and up the home straight
   " I run races from 400 to 10k with bests of 3:48/30.48 for 1500/10k. I am coached by Rich Partridge."
Total times at the end of that leg were Birchfield on 1:27.19, Aldershot 17.27,23; Newham 1:28.23
   James Ellis (26) was 3rd for Newham to maintain their position.in his leg time of 17:52.
   " There was quite a large gap so quite difficult closing. I felt O.K. but it is quite hard when the other team is 50 seconds up. My personal leg went good and felt quite strong."
         Your Year?
" Been quite positive. My first years back after quite a long period out. 2 and a bit years of constant surgery. It' nice the first season back to run a few PB's 5k 14:24 and 8:22 3k which is O.K. I am hoping to run a lot quicker next year. I need a good Winter behind me really which is what I have been lacking in the last few years and looking forward to next year.'
   ' I actually started running when I was 13 so I have been running a long time. I joined Newham & Essex Beagles three years ago. Just to help my recovery as well as to have a good team around me also, to have the opportunities of higher claim competitions as well. I was once with Winchester but moved across and solely with Newham now. It is nice to be back after the injuries I have had . Touch wood they have all gone now."
   Leg 6 Ben Moreau of Aldershot brought his team home. His time 17:28
  ' I have had hip flexor problems, when I could not train properly and kept taking rest days off which I did not want to do'
   Did you have in the back of your mind to-day that Newham had their fastest runner Keith Gerrard on the last leg ?
 " I expected to take over in the lead. I took over in second. I thought well I'll go after him but not go off too hard. I was still worried about Keith mainly because I knew he was running really, really well. I just had not to get to the front too quickly and blow up. As it is a long way'
   'I got back in August but before that my injury  meant I was taking days off. Even 10 at one time, then got back with a little bit more running, build up slowly with a little tempo running at marathon pace. It was only the last two weeks I stepped on the track."
   " The London Marathon is my main aim. I have just got to get to the end of the year and able to train, stay fit before getting back into proper marathon training'
   ' My last good race was in the Wokingham half marathon in the earlier part of the year. I did 64:55. It was a really windy day and I ran Wokingham the year before in better conditions and I ran 20 seconds quicker than that. It had been quiet windy in the last few miles this year but a good course. It is a quick course but as the prize money is not good enough to get the good guys out. I ran my 2 or 3 quickest times there on my own."
   Warren Frey the South African from Birchfield, came in second with an individual time of 18:03
   " I tailed the Aldershot runner as I thought he would probably run quicker than me but I took it conservatively up the hill and stayed with his as long as I could. I thought if I stayed with him for a while I might hold off the third placed guy and kill myself on the last hill.
  Warren is an 800m runner who many years ago ran a 1.47 something in South Africa.
" I ran 1:49.43 this year. I ran 18:23 in the Midland road relay and I did 18:03 today. I ran 3:42 for 1500 in 2003 and I ran 3:49 this year so at 28, I still have a way to go."
   Keith Gerrard brought Newham in third spot in an individual time of 17:07
" I have run 17:05 when I had company on leg 2 or 3 but they were a little too far ahead today. It was tough when I set off. I knew it would be an almost impossible task to catch for the win. Even to get second as well. I was running alone."
   It was on leg 5 that the fastest time of the day was done by James Wilkinson of Leeds City in 16:38 . The third fastest ever round the course.Their last three legs were their fastest on the day. The other two Simon Deakin (17:21) and James Walsh (17:16).
   " JW " Last year I ran 17.09!.'
A special result for him " Liverpool last year coming second overall behind Andy Vernon.
   ' I got ill for the Euros and things went wrong afterwards which scupperd it all. Making the World cross that year when I was 19 was something too.'
  'I started running when I was 13 but not training hard. It has been a  gradual progression every year. Our last three guys today were our fastest.'
' I am off to Kenya for month shortly.'
' Phil Townsend is your coach what is his qualities?
' Looking for Long term I think, progression all the time. Every year that bit more."  

Alastair Aitken

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