National Road Relays


I would like to be feeling fresh and full of energy this week, as I am cutting my running volume in half as we get nearer to London Marathon. Unfortunately though, I get some really hard days at work that take it out of me. Throw in our little girl’s ear infection, and consequent sleepless nights, and it is an extremely hard week for…Nina. Honestly, she is my superhero.

My work week goes like this:

Monday – carry 1000kg of tiles up 2 flights of stairs, then use a rubbishy SDS drill to bore a 5 inch hole through a 1 meter thick wall

Tuesday – knock down an interior wall

Wednesday – dump the several tonnes of rubble from yesterday into a skip

Thursday –  easier day. Install a big window (while client watches!)

Friday – demolish exterior wall, and remove rubble, in the rain

Friday is particularly tough. After a hard week, I run 5 miles at 6am, then the 8hrs labour, then straight in the car and drive 3hrs to Birmingham, sleep in the car, knackered. Despite all of this, I would rather have worked this week than not. Over-resting and thinking before the marathon is potentially more dangerous for me. I am confident I am fit enough to absorb all this. And next week will be easier.

In the morning I am right next to race venue, and have a luxurious 4hr period to reset myself before the gun goes. I have porridge in Asda cafe, and jog round the race course in the gorgeous morning sun. I have slept well and am excited about the race. My club, Kent AC, have put a lot of focus on this event and we are hoping to get a medal. I have been given my favourite leg, 1st leg, and want to get the team off to the best possible start.

On the start line, Andy Maud (very good runner) asks me who is going to turn up today, Bentley Builder or Russell Runner? It is a good question, and I don’t know the answer. I do however, finally know what Trapezius muscles are good for; lifting and pushing heavy wheel barrows.


Tom Hardy, seen here lifting a wheel barrow

We set off and the start is typically loaded with good runners, taking tight corners and pushing each other around to get a good position. This is all a waste of energy, as pretty soon we will reach a 1km hill, and that spreads out the field pretty sharpish. My traps are killing me! This is just an annoyance, more than a hindrance, as they aren’t really needed for running. But my legs are also feeling heavy after yesterday, especially on this bloody climb. I push that thought away and commit as hard as I can. When you have done these races as many times as I have, you are not only racing the other runners, but also your own ghost. I finished 4th in this event 4yrs ago, and it felt like the easiest thing in the world. Now I am killing myself for 23rd place

12stage startrussell 12 stage


Once I am finished I am straight back out onto the race course to cheer on my team mates. There are 12 men in each team, and we have an A & B team, so loads of cheering to do. The race is only 5 miles, but I run 8 on top of that, and another 5 walking, just going up and down supporting my club.

Our highest ever finishing position is 6th, and although our chances of a medal are fading, the race for 4th is heating up. With the final leg to come, and us poised less that half a minute behind 4th place…the race referee decides, without any prior warning, that all the teams after the top 3 have to gather together to do mass start. This kills the relay element of the race.

It also means that our leg 12 runner, who is warmed up and ready to go, has to wait an extra 15 minutes for this to be arranged. He then pulls his calf muscle, bad news for us, worse for him, as he is gearing up for London Marathon next week. He gives it his best, but no one knows what position we have finished in now. The whole thing is a massive anti-climax, our manager is furious, our leg 11 runner nearly gets us disqualified he is so angry. It is so so hard for a club to get their 12 best distance runners, fit & healthy at the same time and place, this just feels like a smack in the face to all of us.

Several people heard the race referee justifying it all by saying, “In my day, we would’ve all finished by now!”

This is disrespectful, untrue and just wrong on so many levels. I have to say that an apology has been issued, and assurances that it will not happen again. But it only adds to a long list of bungles that England Athletics have been making in the past 5 years. We are all being forced into paying an annual membership fee. This has increased 300% since it’s inception, and if anything, seems to have only made things worse.

I love this event. The best athletes in our amazing history have all run on the these very same paths, and we get a chance to be part of it, chasing their ghosts. The team element, so rare in athletics, really shines through here. I would be sad to see it go. But the England Athletics bodies are arrogant; they wrongly believe that these events are immortal. They are not. There is a long list of fast growing sports which are out to take it’s place. Triathlon, Obstacle Course Racing, Cross-Fit, Sky Running, I could go on…these exciting, modern, professional organisations are all getting their shit together in a big way; attracting sponsors, live streaming, big prize purses, and more and more talented young athletes away from our dusty blazered officials, who seem hell-bent on keeping our sport stuck in the 80s.

I get home late Saturday night and stay up with Nina to watch Gold Coast Marathon. I don’t want to take up any more of your time by airing my views on what happened to Callum Hawkins, when I can neatly refer you to Ben Moreau’s blog. Ben used to train with us at Kent AC, is a 2.15 marathon runner, has emigrated to Australia, and was there in Brisbane to watch the race. I think he is better placed than most to comment, and I agree with everything he says (read his blog post here). I would just add how inspiring it was to see someone not afraid to put everything they have on the line, and fail.

Non-running related highlight of the week

Taking my kids to a train station in the woods, have crisps and fruit juice in the cafe, and then go out into the sun to watch the steam train come and go.

Best thing on the internet this week:

so many this week, I have to put more than one!

Dewi Griffiths, Welsh sheep farmer and 2.09 marathon runner:

Link here

Just shows the passion, desire and hunger that the marathon brings out in you:

Link here

My favourite race of the Commy Games; I am a big fan of 800m, and of Kyle Longford. Saw him training out in Kenya 2 years ago, so powerful, and such a nice guy:

Thing I’m digging this week:

“Everything you’ve heard about me, is true”


9/4/2018 AM PM
Monday 6 REST
feel terrible for 3 miles, then it clicks and feel smooth. Hard day at work
Tuesday 4 @ 6min miling 1xmile in 5.07, 10x400m in 65 (2min rest), 2x200m in 29,28 (200m jog rest). 10 miles total
wake up with headache (no coffee), another hard day at work. Feel tired when get to track, gets better
Wednesday 5 @ 6min miling REST
feels good. Another hard day at work, v.tired after, early bed
Thursday REST REST
easier day at work, but 3 hard labour days in a row has taken a toll. No run, early bed
Friday 5tm Drive to Birmingham
Another hard day at work!
Saturday National Road Relays – 23rd leg 1. 27.24. 13 miles total Drive home
up late watching Callum Hawkins in marathon
Sunday 8 miles. 4 @ 7min miling, 4 @ 5.52min miling  REST
tired after yest, but happy enough at sub 6 min miling
TOTAL: 51 miles tm = treadmill



2 thoughts on “National Road Relays

  1. Very frustrating to read the race referee’s attitude, although not surprising. Look at @Wirral_AC on Twitter. The officials decided to bin the bronze medals for one of the 5k junior races rather than award them to a Wirral B team of U15 girls. There were only 3 complete teams in the U15 girls race- two ‘A’ teams plus our B team. I’m an assistant coach at Wirral and we sent as many athletes as we could get to support the event and compete hard against the best in the country. Our B team was pretty miffed by that decision. They were told by a presentation official ‘only the A team matters’. Not nice for a junior athlete to hear. Of course, these athletes are potentially 6 stage senior relay competitors of the future and this is their first experience of the event. Infuriating but in keeping with the attitude displayed in your reported comments from later in the day.

    Our club is, at our own expense, creating a squad medal for the A and B team athletes to have.


  2. Great post as ever. Same happened to me last year at the British Masters Relays at Sutton Park. Suddenly out of nowhere the referee decided it was all taking too long and we would have a mass start for the last leg. I am a mere plodder and our team was only there for the taking part, but still it was disconcerting and it certainly threw off the runner on the leg before me who saw me set off before she had got back.
    Good luck in London Russell!


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