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National 12 Stage Road Relays

After 9 weeks of 100 mile weeks, I have 2 taper weeks. I don’t find tapering as hard as other runners. Sure, I like running. I also like watching shit on TV.

The withdrawal symptoms can be quite funny though. On Wednesday morning, I find myself running fast from the van into Lidl, no reason, just feel like doing it. Got to put a lid on that stuff.

Track Tuesday is the first time this year our squad can train without head torches. It’s a beautiful spring evening, apart from a quick hail shower. I am running well, things are coming together.

On Friday night I am driving down to Birmingham, for a race the next day. It is around 9pm and I am nearly there. I stop at a red light just as a man gets out of the car in front of me, and sprints towards the next car ahead. This car accelerates away, through the red lights. The man waves his hands around and storms back to his car, effing and blinding. He catches my eye, and barks the immortal line;


I read a Derren Brown (did you know I was once on his TV show?) book a while ago, which has a chapter devoted to this exact line, and how to deal with it.

Derren gleefully recommends a disorientating reply, to confuse the aggressor and ‘dump’ his adrenaline. Something like;


Bravo, Derren. Genius. I have memorised this technique for years, incase the dreaded day ever came where I would need it. And now, here it is, and everything Derren said is completely fucking useless. The guy can’t hear a word I say, so my blabbering on about a pencil case is just going to get him even more riled up.

As I see it, I have the choice of two, easy to lip-read, replies;

  1. “Nothing”
  2. “You, you fat t##t!”

If I go for number 1, then that might give him the impression I am a weakling, so he can bully me easily and feel better about his small penis.

If I go for number 2, well, then it is ON. Maybe this guy has a knife, maybe he knows Kung-Fu, I don’t know?! I’ve got Brighton Marathon coming up in a week, am I going to risk it just because of this idiot?

So I say nothing, we stare each other out for a bit, I am gripping the steering wheel, have no idea what is going to happen next. His partner is sitting in the passenger seat, I hadn’t even noticed her, she says something, he gets back in his car, and drives off.

I think I made the right decision, no thanks to Derren.

Saturday morning and it’s pretty good conditions for a race. Cool and sunny with light breeze. I am running for my club, Kent AC, at the National 12 Stage Road Relay Championships (catchy name hey!).

We have a very strong A and B squad. I love being leg 1, and have been leg 1 for the past 5 years. It is an honour and a pressure, I have brought us home in 4th place, and 52nd place. We are hoping to medal, and I feel like I can give us a really good shout today.

The course is notoriously difficult to pace correctly. Hilly the whole way, and the first mile is full of tight bends. I am near the front, I prefer it here as I can see the tangents clearly and not get elbowed out of the racing line. But, I can’t handle the heat. There is a big group of about 18 guys, and as we go up a big hill, I am starting to pay for fast start. Things are starting to burn, and they are slipping away from me.

I realise, I am not going to come 4th again this year, and the way things are going, I’m going to be outside the top 20. The brilliant torture of a 12 man road relay is the pressure you are under to perform for your team. It is so immensely difficult to get 12 quality runners, fit and injury free, to the same place at the same time. You don’t want to be the guy who fucks it all up (I have been that guy) for everyone.

Also, we have waiting in our wings, Alex Yee. The most graceful and talented non-African runner I have ever seen. I don’t want to be shit in front of Alex Yee. So every time someone comes past me, I try and hang onto them. I can’t. I can’t again. Still can’t. I don’t know what position I am in anymore, but it is around 24th place. Suddenly, Robel comes hurtling past me. I have been racing Robel for years, we are good friends and mortal enemies. I manage to lasso myself to his impressive afro, and he heaves me back into the race. We start coming back past all the people I had let slip away. We are on a long downhill section, I am getting my breath back, Robel is sucking people up into his orbit. We are a group of 6 now, heading for the final, epic, sprint finish. It is a 90° turn, then 100m uphill, to raucous cheers from the best distance runners in the country.

I have been visualising this finish for about a month, imagining me unleashing a killer kick and high-fiving my teammates to deafening applause. Now, when it comes to it, my mind isn’t up for it, I’ve done enough. My body decides otherwise, and launches off up the hill anyway. I catch some good runners, including Robel and Max, to bring us home in 18th. I’m happy with my fastest time on this course, and for salvaging the race, but a bit annoyed for having blown up in the first place.

Our entire team runs amazingly well. Alex Yee gets the fastest leg of the day, looking like he is jogging, and the entire squad put their heart and soul into it. We run our fastest ever overall time, and would have got a silver in any of the past 5 years. Today, it is only good enough for 6th.

Next time….

1/04/2019 AM PM
Monday REST 3
Tuesday 5tm 5 x 1km (3min rest) in 2.53 (last rep in 2.50). 2 x 200m in 27sec. 7 miles total
snow in the mornings in Blaenau. Perfect weather on track
Wednesday 5tm
feeling full of beans. Need to calm down. Still snowing!
Thursday 5tm 3
Drive to Brum PM, sleep in van
Saturday Nat 12 stage, leg 1. 18th – 27.06. 15 miles total REST
long day but great fun. Cover over 20 miles through the day
Sunday 11 @ 5.57min miling
feels good. Wish 6min miling always felt like this!
TOTAL: 54 miles tm = treadmill



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Russell Bentley
Russell Bentley
Track runner. Trained in Kenya, Won the Snowdonia Marathon 2018, PB Berlin Marathon 2:20:20

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