Monday 4 April 2016

National Road Relays

A quite exceptional day for Ronhill Cambuslang, and possibly the most exciting event I've been part of.

After my horrific dose of flu in February, it was touch and go I'd make the team. I'd done no racing in 2 months, apart from an 18:17 Springburn Parkrun the previous weekend. So I was far from being race fit.

Anyhow. The team selection was made. I was placed on the long (9.3km) 2nd leg. With Paul Thompson and Colin Feechan on the short legs, and Stan MacKenzie heading off last on the anchor leg.

Our main rivals were Shettleston, with John Oates, Denis Williams, Billy Coyle and Andy Little.

It would be a finely poised competition.

Paul handed over to me in a good mix of runners. All the warnings of going off too fast were ringing in my ears, so perhaps I settled into far too easy a pace. But I wasn't sure how I'd survive the 34 minutes or so. I'd thought I'd be chasing down runners, but apart from passing one Kirkintilloch vest, I'm not sure I caught anyone. I could see Paul Carroll and Alex Lamond about 100 metres up the road, but couldn't seem to close the gap.

Paul leading out on Leg 1
Photo: Alan Ramage
Getting hunted down by Denis Williams on Leg 2
Photo: Colin Stephen
Only with about 300 metres to go when I heard a shout of "Go on Denis!" right behind me did I finally properly wake up and start shifting, to ensure I was handing over a lead to Colin.

I was well down on the time I'd estimated, so it was looking ominous giving Colin such a slender advantage to defend.  To be honest, at this point I thought we'd totally blown it, and Shettleston would romp away with the victory, so I was astonished and delighted when 18 minutes later Billy Coyle emerged on the home straight with Colin right on his shoulder, hanging on for grim death, limiting the loss of every second.

Colin digging deep on Leg 3, hanging onto Billy Coyle's coattails
Photo: Colin Stephen
There was a bit of chaos as Andy jumped the gun on the transition, got called back, stopped, and restarted, and immediately Stan was chasing after him.

I didn't hold out too much hope of Stan keeping pace with Andy, who is almost unbeatable in the V50 category, but I dashed off to give Stan every shout of encouragement. At around 800 metres in, it looked like Stan had been dropped already, but Colin was confident he would put up a fight.

We jogged across to 7km on the route, and waited. When the pair emerged, Stan was sitting right on Andy's shoulder.  Both guys looked wrecked. But neither was giving an inch.

Stan MacKenzie and Andy Little, locked stride for stride on Leg 4
Photo: Colin Stephen
Next for me and Colin was a mad sprint back to the finishing area to catch the closing stages. We split up to give our shouts the maximum effect. With 300 metres to go Andy was launching his attack up the final hill, but Stan was still in the game and timed his move to perfection.  Just as the angle eased, Stan used the change in gradient to slingshot Andy and for the first time took the lead.  At this moment it could have gone either way.  It was down to who wanted it the most.

Stan rose to the occasion, and didn't look back. Stretching away in the final 200 metres.

It was nail-biting stuff.  I can't remember any M50 team event going down to the wire like this before, so it was great that we had 2 teams testing each other to the limit.

With our job completed, and the drama of the M50 race over, it seemed almost a formality that Kyle McLellan and Kenny Campbell coasted home to win the seniors and M40 races to complete an historic treble, with Ronhill Cambuslang taking home all 16 of the men's gold medals.

Ronhill Cambuslang Team Winners: Seniors, M40 and M50
Photo: Colin Stephen
M50 team
Photo: Bobby Gavin
Round up at Scottish Athletics:   Cambuslang land a treble at Livingston

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