Running log

Injury on the opening leg stymied Airedale Athletics’ victory hopes in the Leeds Country Way Relay.

A record 49 teams registered for the six-leg race, starting and finishing at Garforth on Sunday, and Airedale were hoping to break through a glass ceiling of runners-up spots and near misses in these off-road events.

Unfortunately stalwart Gerard Mills damaged his groin on leg one, paired with Martin Fillingham on the 11.8-mile run to Stanley. He battled gamely but they were 12 minutes down on his previous times for the section.

Will Kerr and Matt Nowell took over in about 20th place and passed a dozen teams – but not without controversy around the eight-mile mark.

The Dewsbury team they were passing insisted on an alternative route and almost persuaded Kerr and Nowell to follow.

Fortunately they turned back, since it was a mistaken short cut, and several teams suffered a ten-minute time penalty here. Despite wasting time, the Airedale pair were the fastest on this leg to Morley.

Andy Bedford and Chris Williams, then Quentin Lewis and Steve Watkins, also put in fastest legs on stages three and four to Thornbury and Golden Acre Park respectively.

The Airedale team were now within four seconds of second-placed Pudsey & Bramley and had gained 12 minutes on Valley Striders, who were still six minutes ahead.

Pete Hughes and Darren Midgley put in a hard shift on leg five to Scarcroft but Valley ran 64 minutes using their strongest pairing (Gwyn Thomas and Paul Kaiser), while Pudsey & Bramley also had clear water in second.

Martin Firth had swapped legs earlier in the week to accommodate a late drop-out and had only recced the course the day before. He teamed up with Pete Hopson, who had been on holiday.

A storming final leg meant they closed down Pudsey & Bramley and finished a few minutes ahead but Valley were worthy victors in 7hr 2min, nine minutes clear.

The Airedale target of a sub-seven-hour performance would have been enough to win. But initially-disappointed captain Kerr said: “Everyone’s gunning for a victory for next year.”