Alastair Aitken
Alastair Aitken
Alastair Aitken's
Interviews and


Belgrave Harriers pulled out all the stops to win the National 12 Stage Road Relay. The event  was combined with the Area road relays too at Sutton Park, near Birmingham on the 13th of April, 2013.
That was the only solution to the fact that the Area Championships had been cancelled due to severe weather conditions in March.
   It was only on the cards towards the end of Leg 11 of 12 stages that Belgrave looked like possible winners of the overall Championship. Till then, a good mixture of clubs, had put their men at the front as stage winners..
An interesting thing to note was that two members of  Belgrave's winning team  Richard Ward and Will Cockerell were in the Belgrave team that won ten years ago on the same course!
   However, last year Tipton won, who had  been placed in the first 10 a record 44 times and first for a record 15 times. They still have added to the former but not the latter, as they had a weakened team but still came eighth.
In recent years Newham & Essex Beagles were a major factor but not in this one, as they could not muster a full team together. That was upsetting for their very hard working Manager Bob Smith.
   RON BENTLEY, who was a Champion Ultra-Distance runner in the early 1970's (Won 24 hour and 100 mile races-and the Plymouth to Exeter race) and, of course, ran in the ' National' relay (London to Brighton in those days). He stressed how important he felt the Relay was. "This was the most important race. I have never missed being at the event since 1952 and I have been Manager of the team that has won seven times.'
He added ' Sutton Park is the ideal place and it is a marvellous place for spectators.'
       Over those years, which runner was he most impressed with that ran in the relays?.
   He  said emphatically 'Andy Holden.He ran in the Bermuda Marathon, flew across to run in the European clubs cross in Milan and then in the weekend ran for Tipton in the relay. He is the most important club runner we have ever had to my mind. Eamonn Martin ran a good short leg and then the London Marathon the following weekend.'
   ' I can remember when we (Tipton) were second to Bristol and our slowest runner for the 3 miles was 14.27 and the long stage just over 29 minutes!"

Here I have got some stories of all the stage winners for 2013 and a bit more!

Stage 1

80 teams started. Leg One First 3.- 1 Alberto Sanchez (Derby AC) 26:12; 2 Danny Russell (Highgate Harriers)
26:17; 3 Mohamud Aadan (Thames Valley Harriers) 26.27
     ALBERTO SANCHEZ from,Spain " I was feeling quite comfortable during the race, surprisingly. I was just in the pack and waiting.I was not expecting to be in the top places. Russell attacked at 3k to go and I just went with him'
   ' Right now I am improving a lot in the last year, as before that, all my life, I had been studying so when I was at Uni I was stressed. It was last year I went to Erasmus College (Trinity College exchanges) in Ireland and could dedicate myself more to the athletics. This year I started to do it more.In the last three years I have been improving.This year I have managed to do 7:59 for 3000m"
      DANNY RUSSELL He was back in the group about 20th after a mile but moved through with Sanchez, behind the two leaders then Danny went ahead and the two of  them raced up the final straight with Sanchez passing over in first place..
  Russell was 11th in the World 'Age Group' Tri-athlon in New Zealand. " I had the fastest run there. After my ffirst marathon in the London I will get ready for the European in June and the  World Triathlon in London in September."

Stage 2

1 James Poole (Blackheat & Bromley) (Up 9) 14.22; 2  Stephen Mitchel l( Bristol & West) (Up 14) 14.13- Fastest Short leg of the day; 3 Martin Williams (Tipton) 14:47 (Up 3).
    JAMES POOLE (Blckheath & Bromley) " I took the lead at the ice cream van. It was down the hill half way between the ice cream van and the lake I went into the lead'
   ' I have been running since I was 12 or 13 and got signed up for Blackheath and never stopped. I actually train at Loughborough but still run for Blackheath, as they are a good club. I love running it's my favourite thing..'
' I might move up to 5k on the track. I have run 3:49 for 1500. I ran 14.40 in a Park Run My coach is Chris McGeorge. I am 25 and improving a lot.'
   ' As an ' Under 20' I ran really well but I overtrained a lot, too much. Moving to Chris  2½ years ago  brought it all back. I finally got rid of all those demons as I had been doing 100 to 110 miles a week' s for so many weeks of the year. Sometimes people say run the miles! run the miles but doing that I eventually went from 3:49 one year to 4.09 the year after and could not run faster.  I had not had not had any days off training. I finally came back down with the milage to where I got better.'
About this year he said ' I think.I will  do 1500's  and 5k's as well."  

Stage 3

   1 Ben Noad, Highgate Harriers 27:01 (Up 3); 2 Rowan Axe, Cardiff AC,  26.53 (up 3); 3 Dan Mulhare (Belgrave)  (Up 8).
       BEN NOAD (37 in May) . 'The Leeds runner took me on the way out and we worked together till the last 1k when I drew clear'.
                          He considered his best race was back in 2004 when he was 43rd in the World Cross country Championships. Regarding his club for sometime now, after being at Bristol and West, is Highgate Harriers where his friend Ben Pochee is. Pochee was the fastest Master 'Over 40' over 3k and 10k in 2012.
 "The Highgate team has given me a bit of resurgence.said Ben Noad'  It's occasions like this we are all having a banter and a good laugh and getting together to enjoy the sport as a team"
   How right he is as, surprisingly Highgate took the ATW Metropolitan League title away from, four times Champions, Woodford Green in the Winter cross seasson but on this occasion Woodford got revenge by finishing in front of them (Woodford 10th Highgate 12th)..
  PHIL PARRY, bar Martin Reese, is the best Vet over 50' in the UK and was home on this leg in 28:54
     " I started running when I was 12. I have won 6 or 7 British Masters titles. It was a great period of my life when I hit 40 then when I hit 45 I was just hanging  on to that fitness before I got injured after that.
' Mind you have got to be realistic when I say I don't think I am going to catch Martin Reece but I hope to be the fastest person at  50-55."

Stage 4

1 Jonathan Peters (Cardiff) 15:00 (Up 1) ; 2 Michael Dan (Highagate Harriers) 15:40 (-1) 3 Michael Wood (Leeds) 14:52 (UP 5).
   JONATHAN PETERS " I overtook Highgate coming down  the hill just before the lake'
 About his athletics he said ' I have had a lot of injury problems.I had a problem with orthotics.'
   ' I ran well in 10k cross country. 10th in the Welsh cross country Championships. I came in the top 15 when I was in the Under 23's and 16th in the Liverpool cross country.  Recently I ran a 10k at a Atlantic College (33:50) . It was on a really bad course.Very windy and cold." (3rd but 1st Under 23).

Stage 5

1 Joe MacDonald (Cardiff) 26.01(0) 2nd fastest of the day ; 2 David Webb (Leeds City) 26:35; (Up1) 3 Philip Nicholls (Tipton Harriers) 26:35; (Up 2)
   Joe MacDonald ' It was good today. I worked hard. When you are out in front it is you against the clock rather than anything else' 'I ran a good half marathon the other week as a debut so knew I was in good shape (Wilmslow 24th of March 2013). It was a windy day at Wilmslow. I knew today it would be just me slogging it.out. (Wilmslow is where I am from so it was nice.)
   ' I started running at 13 to 14.'
   'Every time I have been on the cusp of running really well, something has happened so ' 'Touch Wood' I am going to be in good shape.I have run under 14 for 5k--13.52 but I have run a good 3k- 7.57. I just never have quite got it right. I am 27 now and still got time especially, as my coach is JOHN NUTTALL (once the National Senior cross country Champion) -He thinks I will be better the longer the race is.I am still too much on my toes for the marathon.
I think if I had a good Summer I could go 28.30 for 10k."

Stage 6

1 James Mills, (Cardiff) 15:33 (0); 2 Richard Kay (Tipton) 15:08;(Plus 1) 3 Jack Simpson (Leeds City) 15.37 (-1).
   JAMES MILLS" We got a good team out this year, that always helps to get the adrenalin coming beforehand.'
         ' I have had a lot of injury problems over the Winter but this was a solid run.
           ' I have been with Cardiff about three years now and higher claim for four years before that.'
            Looking back:-  ' I have won a few AAA's Junior Championships. Once indoors one outdoors. Universities indoor and outdoor as well. It was 2006 when I won a few of those. It was a step up in distance today but got round OK.'
   ' I probably will go back to 1500 again in to he Summer. My best time is 3:46 for that'

Stage 7

1 Carwyn Jones (Cardiff) 27:30; (0) 2 Carl Smith (Leeds) 26:55; (Plus 1 ) 26:55; 3 Ben Gamble (Tipton) 27.15 and 4th and fastest long leg of the day Alberto Lozano (Belgrave) 27:15 (Plus 2)
 CARWYN JONES " There was wind on the way back. It has really picked up. My run was Okay today. Steady and then picked it up but on the way back the wind seemed to pick up again. Especially coming frown the hill losing time again.'
   'Cardiff are strong and getting all the boys together, as everyone is healthy.'
   'I started running a few years ago but I have had a lot of injuries. In the 5 years or so 31/2 I was injured.'
   His best time then " 5k 14.40 on the road anyway." (Last year he won the 5000 in the Welsh Championships in 14:57.57).
ALBERTO LOZANO, 26 years old " I enjoyed my run today.'
   ' All my life I have been running. Prefontaine  is my hero. He ran a lot all sort of things. His mind attitude and philosophy on running and racing I liked.'
   The interpreter James Kelly of Belgrave said he is coached by the same man as Alberto Lozano in Spain, in the group. They train either just outside Madrid or in the mountains. Alberto lives in Guadalajara, just outside of Madrid.. He wants to do all sorts of running in the future, cross-country and track. Alberto said about any outstanding results he that he did.' All races are  important to me and I have a passion for every race and every performance is valuable.".

Stage 8

1 Kristopher Gauson (Belgrave) 14:20 (Up 3); 2 Nick Hooker (Leeds) 14:48 (0); 3 Mathew Edwards (Cardiff) 16:01 (-2)
   CHRIS GAUSON (25) " I got the lead at Tobys Carvery which was not very far from the finish, about 800m left.'
   'I have had a bit of injury this season when I went to Kenya altitude training in September.I got a stress fracture. 1500 is my best distance- 3:39.'
' I started running when I was 12. I have been out in the States for a while. Studying at Boulder University in Indianapolis.I am training back here with Craig Winrow. I have been with Belgrave since I was about 15 or 16".

Stage 9

1 Phil Wicks  (Belgrave) 26:29;(0); 2 Alan Buckley (Leeds) 27:03 (0); 3 Kevin Seaward (Cardiff) 27.25  (0)
   PHIL WICKS " I have had a cold about 3 or 4 weeks back, which lingered around. I am really happy how things are going. A good work out for the London.'
  He has had disappointment in the last few years?
   The last couple of years have been up and down. I am always hoping the marathon is going to be where I run well. I have had three or four marathons where I either have not been able to complete the race or get to the start line.
   When you look at some of your wins. I have seen you winning the Surrey cross country at Lloyd Park by a huge margin in the mud and winning the Maidenhead 10 by several minutes, relaxed and on your own?
" I think that will be the case next weekend. You would not get a pacemaker on for the time I am looking to; '2:15.'. I might be on my own there and the mental strength will  come and  get me through it which I will rely on."
   How is your work at Legal & General?
"Really  good.I am still working there full-time. It is nice to have a distraction from running sometimes. Have a 9 to 5 job and it works well for me.I am disciplined enough to get up in the mornings and train and the same again after so it is thriving at the moment..
   Have you memories of the other National Road relays you have done?
    " It was here when I ran my fastest  25:13 in 2009.That was the quickest on that  particular day".
      It was windy to-day, as Martin keeps pointing out?
 "I was not running 100%. I did not go full beans today because I have got next weekend but I did run it hard. I felt good and strong."
      What is your favourite surface?
        " Definitely the road and the cross-countries. If I never ran on the track again I don't think I would miss it..
Regarding the track Frank Tickner feels the same as you do about it.
    " I definetly love the road and the cross'
     You have been inside the 14 minutes for 5000 on the track?.
         'I have been inside sub-14 a couple of times but never enjoyed them' (13.56 and 13.58)
It was on this stage Jonathan Taylor of Morpeth ran the third fastest long lap time of 26:03

Stage 10

Michael Williams (Leeds) 15:13 (Up 1); 2 Williams Cockerell (Belgrave) 15:53 (-1); 3 Nathaniel Lane (Cardiff) 15:37 (0)
   It was still a  close race and still exciting as Leeds and Belgrave fought it out till nearly the very end of the race
            MICHAEL WILLIAMS (23) " In the corner where the last lap goes I caught him.I tried to relax when I went ahead but he came back at me.'
  There are so many good 'Older' runners with Leeds so are they an inspiration for you?
       ' Very much so.'
   ' I live in Spain.  I my home was in Selby and, I did train with the Leeds club since I was 10 years old but last year I moved to Spain.
      I teach English in Spain. I train mainly by myself'
   Best Performances for him
' Fifth in the National Cross in 2007. I have been on and off injured since then.I ran for England to in 2008 in a cross country in Spain in January."

Stage 11

1 James Kelly (Belgrave) 26:51(Plus 1); 2 Simon Deakin (Leeds) 27:36 (-1); 3 Michael Kallenberg (Cardiff) 28.21 (0)

   JAMES KELLY (29) " I had to work really hard to drop him.It was about half way down the dog leg that I dropped him'
' I have been training consistently. I was really looking forward to today and we had a strong team which was part of it .'
   ' I have been doing research out in Spain and it has a been a  very interesting experience personally and the training has been going very well. I am with a very welcoming group of runners and' able to jump in on a few of their sessions very enjoyable. It is A.D.Marathon (A collection of class internationals run for that club including the Lozano brothers and James trains with them).'
   ' I came back last  night and came back for things like the Inter-Counties. I am running in the London and would like to go sub-2:20. Still very much in the early days."

Stage 12

1 Neil Speight (Belgrave) 15:26; (1); 2 Joe Townsend (Leeds) (0); 3 James Thie (Cardiff) 14:52.
James despite your long and good career as a middle distance runner you did  retire from the sport?
 "I have been retired.!"
       NEIL SPEIGHT "Because of the way the wind was you had to go hard to get the benefit but then the second half, being fair to the Leeds lad. He took 30 seconds out of me. He was coming quickly but I just had enough up the hill to pull away again.He had been about 4 or 5 seconds behind from 40' so to be fair to him he had a cracking run.I had just a little bit in the tank.'
   You were pleased because you have not been racing a lot lately
 "I moved to Germany. I just get out a couple of times a week. I try and get back into good shape and I still have some unfinished business here because, we as a club have had a couple of bad years.'.
It was important to get back over and get Belgrave back on top.'
I bet that gave you as much pleasure alas when you were running well.
'Very much so. We have been around for a long, long time but we have been out of it for a few years and it was nice to come back."
 People say some of those runners from Belgrave  have only just come to your club but, I have met a couple today that are on the team and who started with Belgrave joining the club at 15 and 17?
"We do get a hard time, but we still have some 'Grass roots' guys and people who have been part of the team for a long time. We like the ' Hard times we are given' We take it on the chin and sometimes one doesn't. To-day it worked."
    You had a job in he club too?
       " I was team Captain for a couple of years. I have been around with Belgrave for over a decade.
    When did they tell you they wanted you for the relay
"I actually asked to run because it is such an important race so, I flew over from Germany to run it.'
     Were you surprised they gave you the  last leg
   "To be fair to Alan. said ' You have been around, you have done it. You have done last leg before. We have got some guys in the team who are a bit newer who run better in a crowd. You know it might come down to a sprint finish, you are old but you are experienced.'
        ' I knew it was a tough course and I have done it and leave a bit for the last hill and, it was just enough to come away with the win. Leeds really took it to us and Cardiff as well for a large part of the race.'
'We will take the win and move on to the next one."
First Six clubs home. 1 Belgrave Harriers 4:12:54; 2 Leeds City Athletic Club 4:13:10; 3 Cardiff AC 4:14:55; 4 Notts AC 4:15:56; 5 Bedford & County AC 4:17:11; 6 Central AC 4:19:05.

Alastair Aitken

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