Joe saves the day to help Bedford team win bronze at National road relays

By Tony Forrest

By Zoe Ashton
Friday, 15th April 2022, 3:18 pm
Updated Friday, 15th April 2022, 3:19 pm
Bedford and County team, with their coaches, Simon Goodwin and Mark Goodwin (centre) after their bronze medal performance
Bedford and County team, with their coaches, Simon Goodwin and Mark Goodwin (centre) after their bronze medal performance

Bedford & County’s Senior Men’s team were in action on Saturday 9th April in the National 12 Stage Road Relay Championship, which is held at Sutton Park, Birmingham.

Entry to the race is by invitation only with all teams having to qualify from either the English Areas, or the Scottish or Welsh championships. The 12 stage Relay comprises alternate long and short legs of 5.4 and 3.2 miles respectively, starting with a long leg.

With former GB international Dan Jarvis coming into the squad that took bronze at the Southern relay 2 weeks ago, hopes were high of a podium finish. But disaster struck as just 10 mins before the race got underway, 2nd leg runner Alex Alston suffered an injury whilst warming up. With no travelling reserve, Team Manager Tony Forrest and coach Simon Goodwin wasted no time in trying to resolve the situation. After a number of frenzied phone calls, Joe Strange who had just completed a hill training session in Bedford agreed to jump in his car and drive to Birmingham to run the last leg so the team could at least finish. The team order was then revised with all the short leg runners moving to an earlier leg.

Meanwhile, Jack Goodwin was already in the middle of his leg, setting the pace at the head of the 64 strong field. Jack ran superbly coming home in 2nd place in the best ever Bedford time of 25:44 for the very hilly 5.4 mile lap. Replacement Leg 2 athlete Alfie Yabsley who had only had 15 mins to warm up as he’d originally been doing leg 4, ran really well, finishing 3rd in a time of 15:39 for the 3.2 mile short lap. Dan Jarvis wasted no time in turning an 11 sec deficit into a 30sec lead as he brought Bedford home in first place with a time of 26:07. With a fine time of 15:57, James Minter on leg 4 increased Bedford’s lead to 24 secs. Ben Davies on Leg 5 had the unenviable task of defending the lead with one of the fastest runners in the country chasing him down. Ben battled well, recording an excellent 26:55, but slipping back into 2nd place a minute down on the leaders Highgate Harriers. This set the tone for the next 5 legs with Bedford hanging on to 2nd place with the gap staying around a minute. On leg 6 the gap opened slightly as Craig Emmerson battled to a 16:06 time for the short leg, only for Ben Alcock to close it back down with a great 26:05 long leg.

The gap opened again slightly on leg 8 as Sam Winters recorded a solid 15:58. The old man of the squad 43yo Darren Deed showed the youngsters that he’s still got it running a super 26:45 to again reduce the gap to 43secs.

A fine run by Matt Bray on leg 10 was not sufficient to stop the gap increasing slightly to 51 secs as he ran 15:39. With Southern Relay Champions Tonbridge AC fielding their best athlete on leg 11, Bedford were pushed back into 3rd despite a fine 26:52 from Harry Brodie. As the 12th and final leg approached all thoughts turned to how big a gap would be needed over the 4th placed team if Joe Strange was to hang on to the bronze medal position. Bearing in mind that 800m specialist Joe would not normally have made the team, the fact he had trained hard that morning, and an ongoing shoulder problem, the general consensus was that 3mins would probably suffice.

However, at the change over with Joe setting off just 1:56 ahead of Bristol, it was going to be tight. But Joe, running scared, surprised everybody including himself losing only 50 secs to the chasers, and running a superb 16:38 over a minute faster than feared. So the hoped for Bronze Medals went to Bedford.

It was both the English Road Running Association Championship, and the British Athletics Championship so each athlete got 2 medals. Despite winning numerous National team medals at Cross Country and Road Running over the last 20 years, this was the first time Bedford have ever medalled in this particular championship.

In the younger age groups, there were also fine performances from Milly Dunger and Lyla Danobrega in the National Young Athletes 5k Road Championships. Milly won the race in Under 15 girls race in 17:59, and Lyla finished third in 20:14. Both Milly and Lyla are ranked in the top 7 nationally for 5k in their age group.

What a fitting end to the first full winter season since 2019-20.