Bedford and County Athletics Club’s Senior Men finished in fourth spot in the Virtual National Road Relays, and the club’s Age Graded team finished one place higher to take third.
The ingenious virtual road relays were the brainchild of club member, Massi Dendani, who tweeted the main distance-running coach at rivals Tonbridge AC to see if they wanted to go head-to-head. Things then snowballed, with over 5,000 runners across the UK entering, with around 130 men’s teams and 125 women’s teams taking part.
The virtual relays were fully compliant with social distancing regulations and each leg had to be run solo between Saturday 4 April and Wednesday 8 April.
Competitors were told not to drive anywhere to run, and were instructed to avoid busy places and park run routes. Nearly all runners these days have GPS running watches made by the likes of Garmin and Tom Tom.
Each athlete had to find their own 5 kilometre course close to home, record their leg on their watch, upload it to the popular Strava or Garmin websites, and send a link to the organizers via the Open Track athletics website, who collated the results.
There were even time penalties for significant negative elevation (defined as 30 feet or more in the course of the leg). The virtual relays also raised over £9,000 for NHS staff and volunteers caring for Covid-19 patients, as competitors supported linked JustGiving appeal in aid of the Association of NHS Charities.
The Bedford and County Men’s A team finished fourth with a collective time of 2:58.45, narrowly missing out by only ten seconds to rivals Tonbridge, who took third place.
The scorers were in finishing order: Daniel Jarvis (4th), Matt Leach (25th), Aaron Scott (31st), John Eves (57th), Darren Deed (91st), Ben Alcock (98th), Alfred Yabsley (116th), Ben Davies (119th), Jack Goodwin (127th), Ed Blythman (169th), Andrew Headley (176th) and William Mullins (232nd).
The Men’s B team finished a respectable 38th, recording 3:17:56. The scorers were: Paul Mizon (239th), Harry Brodie (260th), Matt Bray (277th), James Minter (412th), Michael Harrison (471st), Will Mackay (491st), Craig Emmerson (634th), Charlie Palmer (685th), Richard Laursen (753rd), Jamie Webster (1025th), Erwan Weber (1047th) and Ewan Wilson (1306th).
The Women’s A team finished in 15th spot in the six to score competition with an overall time of 1:53:29: The scorers were Rebecca Murray (702nd), Alice Burgin (1552nd), Sue Bosher (1831st), Natasha Peters-Cooper (1900th), Ellie Still (1976th), and Tia Wilson (2286th).
The virtual nature of the event also encouraged the organizers to innovate by calculating the clubs with the best age-graded team. Age grading works by allocating a percentage score to each athlete based on how close their performance is to the world-best for their age.
On this measure, Bedford and County AC finished third, with the age graded team achieving an average of 88.43%. The scorers were Daniel Jarvis, Darren Deed, John Eves, Aaron Scott, Matt Leach, Rebecca Murray, Ben Alcock, Alfred Yabsley, Ben Davies, Jack Goodwin, Ed Blythman and Andrew Headley.
Dan Jarvis was the top-ranked individual Bedford athlete, finishing fourth fastest overall with a wonderful time of 13:47, and an age grading of 94.2 %. Rebecca Murray was the 10th fastest Senior Woman in 16:43. Matt Leach (25th fastest in 14:28), and Aaron Scott (29th fastest in 14:33) also made the overall top 50.
Other notable individual performance included:
- John Eves (14:44)- 5th in the M35 category.
- Darren Deed (14:58) – 2nd in the M40 category.
- Alfred Yabsley (15:03), Ed Blythman (15:16), Harry Brodie (15:33) and James Minter (16:00) came 13th, 20th and 26th and 43rd respectively in the M20 category.
- Charlie Palmer (16:42) came 50th in the M40 category.
- Sue Bosher (19:08) was the 18th fastest W35.
- Tia Wilson (20:18) was the 20th Under 20 woman.
The virtual relays enabled competitive sport to blossom, raised money for the indispensable NHS, and fully complied with all social distancing regulations.