Alastair Aitken
Alastair Aitken
Alastair Aitken's
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National Men’s 6 Stage Road Relay (October 2014)

Aldershot Farnham & District AC were triumphant but one must consider the surprise to most when, the second placed team was Highgate Harriers. Despite having several very good runners over the years and, not counting a Highgate veteran/Masters team victory, they were last in the frame 'National' team medallists in 1905 when they won the 'National' cross country championships. In third place at Sutton this year were Sale Manchester, who had to overtake Central AC, the club from Stirling in Scotland, to gain the bronze medals. Central AC had the fastest leg runner of the day Andrew Buchart on leg 5 who recorded 17:08.
Leg 1As usual it was fast and furious, as it always is at Sutton Park in the Six stage event that started in 1969 and the 3rd, 4th and 6th fastest of the day came in. 1 Alberto Sanchez (Derby) who led the First leg in the 12 Stage a couple of years ago. He ran 17.12; with Ben Tickner (Brighton Phoenix, the Southern Cross Champion last year) on 17.17. Third, handily placed was Joshua Grace ( Aldershot ) 17.19. Although back in 19th of the 80 starters was Robel Bahelbi (Highgate) in 17:58, which kept them in the hunt time-wise.
    It was interesting to hear what the Stage winner Alberto Sanchez of Derby had been up to "I took the lead at the top of the hill. I decided to go hard from then. I am preparing for cross-country."
'I raced for Spain in the summer in the IBERO American Games in Sao Paulo , Brazil (He was 4th in the 3000 out of 11 in 8.01.22. Juan Luis Barrios of Mexico won in 7:59.60. Alberto ran his best time for 5000 in Belgium in the summer in 13:33. The IBERO event he said, was something similar to the Commonwealth Games, with Portugal and Spain and the Ex-Colonies etc).
     'I started running when I was 11 in a couple of races at school. 'As a Junior Under 20 I ran in the European cross country Championships and finished about 40th or so but 4th Spaniard of our six, which I was quite pleased about as I had been nominated as the sixth scorer. I was going well as a junior but then 20 to 23 I started Aircraft engineering so, it was quite tough to combine the two. I found it difficult to cope with that as I was studying very hard. After that I went to Ireland(Erasmus College Exchange). I started to improve again and more motivated towards running. I had more spare time and so basically I started to catch up again. I wanted to run in the European track Championships this year but missed the qualifying time by half a second. Sometimes you train very hard and it just does not happen!"

Leg 2 Pascar Owor (Belgrave Harriers) moved his team up five places to lead in 17.43; 2nd was Jonathan Davies (Reading AC) up 10 places in 17:33, John Beattie (Newham & Essex Beagles, 2nd to Gerrard in the National CCC at PHF a few years ago) 17.17; and Tobias Smith (Aldershot) 4th in 18:06, keeping them well up and, in the hunt for gold and, Shaun Dixon did some serious damage for Highgate Harriers, up from 19 to 7 in 17.35. Further back Gareth Raven of Sale Manchester moved his club up 15 places to come in 22nd in 18:06, again a useful move for them. Hallamshire had the second equal fastest of the day with 17:12 by Andrew Heyes who moved his club up no less than 27 places to 5th.
Pascar Owor "Most of my training takes on hills so when I do a long run and get to the hill I just sprint all the way, however long. Someone who is not doing that base will find it tough on the hill.
Even if I am doing fartlek, if I get to the hill I increase my power so, when I come on the flat I just take it easy but still run fast."
He ran for Uganda over 800 in two Olympic Games. Did he still do 800/1500 or more leaning towards 5000?
I can still train and could still run under 1:49 but the problem is I would have to stay off work, stay off coaching. I am coaching children at schools in South West London so, I would find that difficult."

'I train on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Yesterday I was up working till 10.30 pm and then I jumped on the bike. It is hard.'
He could balance?

'No!! To be able to run 1.48 again on the track I would have to really stay off work.'
He had already achieved a great deal?
'With this I am happy, having fun. I am 35 in December, so there are a lot of young people here, maybe I would beat them by experience but enough is enough. I am doing Surrey league next week-end and see what I can achieve next.<
He ran 18th in the 'National' not bad for an ex-Olympic 800 man is a good result
'Perhaps next year I am trying to prepare fully. This year it was in a park in Nottingham. I made a mistake moving with the guys. Next time I will go in front but not leading, in first 4 or 5 and, then see what they are doing.
I was beaten at Nottingham coming 18th but I was happy with result.'

At this point, before going on to Leg 3, I would like to introduce someone I have interviewed, at least four times in his long career, the fastest runner ever over the long stage at Sutton in the National 12 Stage Championship with 24.27 in 1982. DAVID MOORCROFT (Coventry Godiva) A 1500/5000 Commonwealth Champion. World 5000 record holder 13:00.41 in Oslo 7/7/82) talking to me at Sutton Park on the 4/10/14)
What was his take on seeing and doing the National Road Relays?
"The National Six Stage did not used to be held at Sutton. It was often at Wimbledon Common. The National road relay for me was one of the highlights of the year. I grew up watching Coventry Godiva in the London to Brighton, the Manchester Road relay and the Bristol to Western. When I was quite young it moved to Sutton and I think it was in 1971, I was 18 and I made the Godiva team as the last person in it. I ran a short stage and, it has been here ever since. It's 'Fantastic!'
You have a 12 Stage record?
"I have got the fastest 12 stage Long Stage still. It was 1982 and it was my best year"
Is that a memory for you
"Oh Yes!, Everybody who is anybody runs it. Bernie Ford, Brendan Foster, David Black, Ian Stewart, all of them. I ran a second faster than Brendan had run, which is kind of arbitrary really, because I am sure the timing is not that accurate but I still have got the long leg record. Brendan, Nick Rose and Bernie Ford and Ian Stewart; the number of times they ran under 25 minutes was phenomenal. They all took the Leg 9 which was the big one. I did it on a different leg but leg 9 was the big one. I have 'Great' memories here at Sutton Park ..."
It was sad Andy Holden died. He had such a reputation of being a 'Great' runner round Sutton
"Again another guy who must have run sub-26 on countless occasions and in the Tipton winning team. Stalwart of the team. If he only had one leg he would still go out and run, it was so sad that he passed away."
Dave added 'I love this place it is great.'

Leg 3 on 4th of October at the Six Stage:- Craig Ruddy (17:33) of Belgrave Harriers kept his club in the front, Next came Rory Chesser of Newham & Essex Beagles (17;36). (He ran 8:43 for the 3k steeplechase in the Summer) and 3rd was Highgate Harrier, Norwegian international, Audun Nortvelt (17:34), getting some good work in for the Norwegian a cross-country Championships a couple of weeks after the event. Nortvelt put Highgate into a challenging position for medals and, then lurking for 'Gold' in 4th was Elliot Palmer (18:13) from Aldershot. Sale were starting to move up the field, twelve places. It was Jack Crabtree running for them (17.55).

Craig Ruddy "I took over in the lead. I did not know who was behind me. I just got my head down."
'I come from Greenock in Scotland. I have been running since I was 14. I was a Junior 'Under 20' at the European cross country (2007 in Toro , Spain ). Sometimes running takes a back seat because you have got your priorities. I am coached by Lawrie Spence. He was a Commonwealth Games 10k runner and a 2:15 marathon runner."

Leg 4 Jon Hay (17:28) moved Aldershot up from 4th at a pivotal part of the race and there was not much doubt who would be the likely winning team, after that point. It was Hay (17:28) Stephen Trainer of Belgrave (18:28) in third but holding on well was Ben Noad of Highgate (18:28), who was relying on his experience, having been an international quite a few years ago and despite now having two very young children to help look after (He was looking after the youngest at 5.30 that morning, He has lost none of his enthusiasm and an important member of the team still able to produce something.
Jonathan Gilby of Derby took his team up to 4th in 18:08 and Sale Manchester and Central were threatening the front runners. Charlie Hulson (17:27) and Cameron Milne (18:04) respectively.
Jonathan Hay (22) "I took over in 4th and did not take the lead till the last bend to the finish, for the run up the home straight. 2nd and 3rd I took the other guy on the loop back and 2 coming up the last bit."
"You were getting very close to the best again at the Inter-Counties at Crofton Park , earlier in the year?"
'I had knee surgery, glandular fever, tonsillitis. The Christmas before last I had all of that. The glandular fever took me a long time to get over and I am still susceptible to a bit of illness now.'
'You were close behind some quality runners at Crofton Park, in those Inter-Counties which showed you were on the way back?'
'Then I ended the track season in the Mile race at the Great North City Games. I was fourth (4:03) just ahead of Legat and Tom Lancashire. The next day I ran 64.08 in the half so I was happy with that as well, having run the mile the day before. I had my break so I have only done one session so far my first session back on Tuesday.'
'Do you take anything like vitamin tablets?'
'Not really to be honest. I have always been very strict. Personally I believe if it did not come out of the ground I avoid it. I have very strict guidelines on what I believe any athlete should take.
That is what I believe but other athletes may disagree.'
'You and Richard Goodman both had tremendous battles as juniors. Richard is sometimes injured but had some Great cross-country results at the start of the year.'
'He is very good but he has injury after injury. I know how that feels myself with my knee problems. It takes time to comeback but I would not be surprised if we don't see him over the cross-country this year.'
'I would like to end my age group with a medal over the Euro Cross in Bulgaria as an 'Under 23'. That is certainly an aim. I want to try and make that Euro Indoor team come February.'
'You appear as enthusiastic as ever and getting injuries and illnesses early on must make you realise that with the rest that has to come with such things gives you an added incentive to comeing back stronger with more determination than ever.'
'100%. There was certainly a period where I struggled with that and if I could come back to the form I had been in. I am on the way back - Last year Under 23'
'They did not have that age group when we were young!'
Martin comes in by saying they did not have that Under 13 or under 15.

Leg 5 Ian Bailey had a reasonable lead for Aldershot doing 17.44 (Times at that stage meant Aldershot were leading with 1.28.52; Andrew Buchart ran 17.08 for Central next, They were on 1:29:03 and Murray Strain kept Highgate in the picture with 17.58 (1:29.11), then came Mathew Barnes of Sale Manchester in 17.57 (1:29.48) so those were the clubs fighting it out on leg 5.
Ian Bailey (21) "As they approached the hill Jon was third and he ended up coming ahead of Belgrave. I worked the first bit and it was quite tough, not too hard but a good enough pace."
What sort of year have you had
'OK but it was not the best of Summers. It started off well and I ran the Highgate Harriers 10k at Parliament Hill Fields and got a PB (30:15.04)* I was happy about that. It was a tough race. It was very windy that day. It was a race between me Shaun and the winner."
'I PB'd in a couple of races in the Summer but it was nothing special, 14:29.28 for 5k and 30.15.04 for 10k.'
You do love cross-country?
'Cross-country and road I really enjoy. Mud, hills, I particularly enjoy road too. In the future I am going to look to some longer stuff like 10k's and, half marathons etc.'

Come the last leg 6 the Highgate supporters were going mad for their man Danny Russell (18:14) as he ran the first part hard and took his team into silver position, much to the astonishment of 'other writers' at the venue but Aldershot's man Joe Morwood ran well enough with a 17:56 clocking to bring his team home first. The first 4 teams were Aldershot Farnham & District 1:46.48; 2 Highgate Harriers 1:47.25; 3 Sale Manchester 1:47:54; Central AC 1:48.14. Following them in were Leeds City; Notts AC; Newham & Essex Beagles and Reading AC.
Danny Russell of Highgate Harriers 'I had a chest infection for 5 weeks so I can't breathe, he said coughing but I feel 'ecstatic' about Highgate!' (However he did all the hard running in the early stages and held on very well)
Danny, Your outstanding things of the year?
'The Triathlon. It was tough stepping up. Last year was a 'Great' year. A couple of World Championships and European medals for Great Britain.'

To Joe Morwood (23) of Aldershot 'I was pleased that my club Highgate Harriers were 2nd. The only time they have been placed in the first three since the Six stage was first held in 1969 and I was also glad Aldershot won!
"I kind of expected to be in the lead to be honest, knowing how good our team was. I am not usually a last leg runner. It was only because my train got in at 2.30 so that was the only reason I was on last leg."
I did not job but all the other guys were all 'Class'
If you had to put a race down that you have done that meant a lot to you over the years.
'The Southern road relays because it is in Aldershot, which is something I have done since I was 16. Apart from that, anything with lots of hills in it.'
'I am studying medicine at St Georges South London so, managing my running through a lot of commuting really at the moment. I am at a different hospital. It is about an hour to St Helier.
For sessions, it is when if I can fit the running in.'
'At 23. In the Aldershot team. I am about the oldest in the team. Most of us are from the Aldershot & Farnham area.'

Alastair Aitken

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