Last weekend was one of the major events of the fell running calendar, the National Fell Relay Championships.
In amongst the 154 teams of six runners converging on the picturesque village of Church Stretton in Shropshire were two teams from Matlock Athletic Club.
Using the high level paths around the Long Mynd hills, the imaginative course consisted of legs for solo runners to start and finish with two legs for pairs sandwiched between, the second of which required canny navigational skills.
Matlock’s A team had Colin Davenport in the mix on the first leg, securing 37th place by the changeover, handing on to Ian Phillips and Ben Cartwright to tackle the longest leg together.
Recording the 17th fastest time on leg two, the team’s position gradually moved up before handing on to Karl Webster and Richard Bradbury for the navigation leg.
Taking a gamble in the early part of the course to take more direct lines between checkpoints over rougher terrain appeared to pay off, gaining a further two overall positions as they finished to hand over to the in-form Andy Whittaker for the anchor leg.
Running the same route as Davenport had done on the first leg, but in the opposite direction, Whittaker brought the team home in 20th. For a small club up against some of the country’s big specialist fell clubs, this was a very satisfying result.
The B team, consisting of Julie Goodwin, Greg Woodward, Andy Lessiter, Clive Russell, Jan Forrester and Alan Pickering, gained some valuable big-event experience finding themselves, finishing in 146th place.
More remarkable, perhaps, was that the club managed to split itself two ways to take part in the first round of the Booth’s Decorators Cross Country League on that same day at Shipley Park.
Matlock AC has just been accepted into the league and it hopes to feature well up in the rankings once it settles in.
With 12 of their runners committed to the fells that day, the remaining members mustered sufficient numbers to finish in ninth place as a team with the performance of the day coming from Simon Croft, who took the 44th individual place. Backed up by Simon Flitter, John Birch, Mick Moorhouse, Jim Thorneycroft, Martin Lea, Nicky Dick, Paul Keetley and Tessa Whittaker, the results bode well for when a full team can turn out.