Bedeswell Park in Jarrow is one of those local parks that was regenerated after being an industrial tip in the days of coal pits and iron works. Unlike some other courses on former slag heaps (watch out for the hilly Weetslade relay in late June), the NEMAA Road Relay is a fairly flat double circuit on park paths and no roads at all. The main racing challenges are five right-angled corners that make a steady speed impossible, plus some lurking potholes underfoot. That and the tricky job of knowing how to pace a three-kilometre relay, with runners spread out all around the circuit by the start of the second leg.
The JJs fielded two men’s teams, 35-44 and 55-64. Acting captain Angus patiently marshalled the late arrivals, contending with post-work weekday traffic, via group chat, and two full teams were confirmed with at least five minutes to spare. For the 35-44s, Jorge set the bar high on the opening leg, with a very strong 11:32, 77th overall from a field of 214. Angus and Laurence (dropping down an age bracket) followed with solid runs (13:18 and 12:36 respectively), running steady and then trying to take advantage of the long finishing curve after the final left-hander to burst the boiler by the finish.
In the 55-64 race, Cliff put down a competitive opening marker with 13:07. The handovers in these relays, unlike the recent baton swaps elsewhere, are done with impressive coordination by the starting marshals, shepherding the next runners out, like sheep through a gate, as their team-mate finishes alongside. Matty, running in improvised racing plus-fours after the late surprise of missing shorts, followed with a team’s best 12:45, and Geoff brought it home well in 13:24. There was not much between the JJs runners – Jorge’s scorcher aside – and another springtime sprint around the park was satisfactorily notched off.
By Laurence White
24th JJs – Jorge Fernandes 11:32 Angus Miller 13:18 Laurence White 12:36
6th JJs Cliff Veitch 13:07 Matty Down 12:45 Geoff Blair 13:24