There is no doubt that athletics and running clubs play a huge part when it comes to an athlete’s experience in the sport. From club volunteers and coaches to teammates and friends, a club unites people and brings them together because of a shared passion. Something which is highlighted year upon year at the Road Relays.
Last weekend, the England Athletics team headed to the Midland Road Relays to learn a little bit more about the event.
Going for glory
One athlete who was hoping to do her club proud was Western Tempo athlete, Megan Marchant. Megan joined Western Tempo just over a year ago and hasn’t looked back. Since joining the club, Megan has set PBs from 1500m all the way up to 5k and was hoping to carry that positive momentum into the race on Saturday:
"I joined almost exactly a year ago and wanted to put down a solid performance for the team. It was so nice to run with the girls today. I think it’s been a long time coming to get us all together on relay day, so we’re just really chuffed to get the win."
From speaking with Megan, it was clear to see that she really enjoyed the event and being part of the team. We asked Megan what the group were hoping for heading into the race:
"We were hoping to get on the podium but to come away with the win is just great, so we’re very happy. The girls put me in such a good position, so I just had to keep going until the end. My legs didn’t feel great if I’m honest, so I just tried to pretend there was someone behind me the whole time and that kept me going really strong."
Enjoying the moment
From an athlete who is no stranger to the Road Relays to one who was taking part in the men’s six stage for the very first time. We caught up with Andrew Parkinson, a member of Royal Sutton Coldfield Athletics Club to find out how he found his first experience of the 5.88km loop:
"Being local, we can’t say we’re not familiar with the course and it’s a really good experience to run with the club. I went out on leg one, holding on with the pack as long as I could and then on the out and back my legs just went a little bit. It’s a hilly course but it was a cracking experience and the challenging course is actually part of the appeal. There’s so much emphasis on flat courses these days it’s really nice to test yourself on a tough one against so many quality clubs."
Not content to just run one lap around Sutton Park, Andrew headed back out onto the course for the sixth leg, this time as a guide runner for his friend and coach Steve Marklew. Andrew became a qualified guide runner back in 2021 and has helped visually impaired athletes on training sessions multiple times. This was, however, his first-time taking part in a competition. We asked Andrew how he found the experience:
“My coach Steve asked me earlier this week if I would be happy to help. It was an honour and it was great to be a guide in a race like this for the first time. It was a really good learning experience too because while you can learn on the course and by practicing, it’s very different to actually doing it in a race environment. We got through it in one piece, I got some good feedback and it was a great experience.”
After catching up with Andrew, we spoke with Steve Marklew, Lead Endurance Coach for the seniors at Royal Sutton Coldfield Athletics Club to find out how he found the race and what it was like to run with Andrew for the first time in a competitive environment:
“It was an interesting one for me being visually impaired as it was the first time I’ve done that course with a guide. I have always run without a guide but my vision is getting worse and Andrew is a qualified guide runner so to be able to do the course with him made it a lot easier. I actually really enjoyed it.”
Unlike Andrew, Steve is no stranger to the Road Relays. We asked him what makes him come back year upon year:
“I’m club coach and team manager for the squad and it’s our home race and on our doorstep. I’ve been a member of the club for 23 years and I’ve probably done the Road Relays for 20 of those years. We always do it and it’s a priority race for the club.”
Behind the scenes
As is always the case at these mass events, the competition couldn’t take place without the support of the incredible organisers and volunteers who give up their Saturday to make sure the athletes have the best possible experience. We spoke with Steve Tupholme, Midland Counties Road Running Chairman who was helping to organise the six and four stage Relays for the first time. We asked Steve what inspired him to get involved:
“I’ve run in the relays about a dozen times but this is my first time organising the championships. It was definitely my experience as a runner that made me want to get involved.”
Anybody that has been to Sutton Park on Road Relay day knows that there is a real buzz around the event. We asked Steve what, in his opinion, makes this event so unique:
Browse the race results
“I think it’s the team spirit. Everyone wants to encourage each other to run well and it’s a great course as well. There are undulations, it’s nice scenery and I think people enjoy being here with their families for the day.”
Joining the club
Has all this talk about being part of a team and competing for your club inspired you to join one yourself? With over 1,400 affiliated clubs across the country, there’s something for everyone. Not to mention that being a registered athlete at an affiliated club gives you access to a whole range of benefits including discounted road race entry and offers from our partners. Take a look at the clubs in your area and find out how you can get involved.