Five-day event is deemed a great success, with over £6,800 raised for the NHS

Leeds City’s men and Herne Hill’s women came out on top in the inaugural Virtual National Road Relay Championships, which also raised over £6,800 for the NHS, James McCrae reports.

The innovative event involved over 3700 athletes running a 5km course local to them, while adhering to social distancing guidelines due to the coronavirus pandemic, and recording their results on a specially designed results platform hosted by OpenTrack.

After five days of intense competition, where the lead changed hands several times, Leeds City AC took the title in the men’s 12-stage event in a cumulative time of 2:57:08, led by Graham Rush and Phil Sesemann, who both recorded 14:02 clockings.

A final day 14:26 from 2019 BUCS cross country champion Emile Cairess sealed the victory for the West Yorkshire based club. The team averaged a rapid 14:46 across their 12 runners.

Cambridge & Coleridge finished second, a mere 36 seconds back after 12 stages, helped by Marc Scott’s 13:43 clocking, the third fastest of the competition.

A close competition for the bronze was won by Tonbridge, who edged out Bedford by just 10 seconds.

Scottish triathlete Grant Sheldon ran the fastest leg of the competition with 13:38, closely followed by former National cross country champion Adam Hickey’s 13:40 and Scott’s 13:43.

Over 110 teams completed the event with 12 runners (compared to 64 at the Sutton Park event last year). As well as five sub-14 minute clockings, 103 athletes broke 15 minutes for the 5km distance, showing incredible depth throughout the field.

Leeds women could not quite complete the double however, as Herne Hill took the 6-stage title by 67 seconds led by Chloe Tighe’s 16:44 performance. Their time of 1:43:20 meant they averaged 17:27 across the six legs. Over 130 teams finished the competition.

The South London-based club packed strongly with five of the fastest 25 women’s times across the five days of competition to beat Leeds, who were led by Jennifer Walsh’s 16:22, the joint second fastest time of the competition.

City of Norwich took the bronze, just 16 seconds back from Leeds, with Sarah Astin leading their lineup with the fourth fastest time of the competition.

Tonbridge’s Lucy Reid won an incredibly close fastest leg competition with a 16:19 time, just three seconds ahead of Walsh, and Cambridge’s British 1500m champion Holly Archer.

A women’s 12-stage competition was also scored for the first time – with 32 teams closing in. Herne Hill again led them home, ahead of Thames Valley Harriers and Tonbridge.

The event has attracted lots of discussion on social media, with a number of athletes having praised the event for giving them competitive focus, and reconnecting them with team-mates. Future virtual events are already being planned by a number of other organisations.

Top results

Men’s 12-stage

1 Leeds 2:57:08
2 Cambridge 2:57:44
3 Tonbridge 2:58:35
4 Bedford 2:58:45
5 Swansea 3:01:00
6 Shaftesbury 3:01:31
7 Cardiff 3:03:12
8 Bristol 3:04:09
9 CONAC 3:05:06
10 Cheltenham 3:06:25

Women’s 6-stage

1 Herne Hill 1:43:20
2 Leeds 1:44:27
3 CONAC 1:44:43
4 Cambridge 1:45:23
5 Met Aberdeen 1:47:24
6 Tonbridge 1:49:01
7 Winchester 1:49:16
8 H’gate 1:49:56
9 Thames H&H 1:50:44
10 Kent 1:50:51

Women’s 12-stage

1 Herne Hill 3:37:09
2 Thames H&H 3:47:14
3 Tonbridge 3:48:06
4 Winchester 3:55:28
5 Kent 3:56:32
6 Vale Royal 3:57:40
7 Bristol 3:58:28
8 Cheltenham 4:04:57
9 R’ding 4:05:34
10 Knavesmire 4:05:43

» The JustGiving page for the event has raised over £6,800 for NHS charities so far and remains open for donations

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