"The Northern 12 stage road relays, one of my favourite races of the year. This year the venue was Wythenshawe Park in Manchester.

Despite the usual difficulties in transport organisation, we were helped at the last minute thanks to Steel Taxis and Minibus Hire. Seven of us travelled on the bus, a group and an individual travelled via car, one arrived by train and a taxi from London.

The travel on the minibus is always great for camaraderie and getting to know each other. The journey started well enough with everyone in high spirits, then a spanner was ruthlessly thrown into the works. The M62 was closed in both directions, an arrival time of 10am now turned into 1115am.

The Long And Winding Roads Of South Yorkshire.......and Beyond!!.

Please bear in mind that the race starts at 12 noon, panic buttons were not pressed.....yet! If our first leg runner was given the chance of a good proper warm-up then this didn't seem too be bad at all.

The detour through Barnsley and the rest of South Yorkshire seemed to fly by until we hit the country lanes and little villages, where the traffic was virtually crawling at snail's pace, oh dear "Houston we have a problem".

Talking about problems, read this......

Meanwhile, in the car driven by Stephen Jackson carrying the lads from Durham, they were still at Skelton Lake Services in Leeds, patiently waiting for Alex Seed who was just a 'little bit' late. This was at 955am, with the M62 currently closed this gave them an estimated time of arrival of 1140am.

The hairs on my head went from grey to a nice snowy white.

Frantic phone calls ensued, trying to contact the Race Secretary was impossible. Surely a delay in the start of the races was the way forward, some would think so but not on this occasion. Madness, absolute madness.

The team was declared on the Friday night, but now a major reshuffle was brewing. Our ETA was getting later by the minute, but the gods were certainly shining down on the Jacka Juggernaut Express mobile, as by some luck the M62 was reopened, giving them an ETA of 1105am - and by the way, Alex Seed is taking the credit for this thanks to him being late. The first two leg orders were shuffled around, and team declarations re-submitted. Michael Wilson arrived safe and sound in a stylish 4 wheeled Uber taxi and collected the team numbers.

A major problem solved, but not as big of a problem as what Tyne Bridge Harriers had encountered. Due to the traffic situation, they had a plethora of junior athletes travelling to compete in the Young Athletes 5K Championships, these started at 11am and unfortunately not one of them got to race - a crying shame given that they had been on the road since 7am.

However, their 12-man team had problems too, their first 4 leg runners were shipped off in a taxi - a costly expense. And being the club that we are, we picked up their next 3 leg runners up on route to get them to venue on time. The other 5 runners stayed on the bus patiently as the driver had a 45 minute break.

Mind you, one of them must have eaten about 300 bulbs of garlic, if Count Dracula was on our bus, he would have been a goner.

Anyway, a few miles later we were back on the motorway, everyone was back in full voice and we were on our way to the venue.

We were now at Wythenshawe Park, unpredictable weather and a tad windy too. All the team was there complete with race numbers. More importantly the baggage tent was erected in a Guinness Book of World Record time of 86 seconds.

The race itself was to be competed over 12 legs. Legs 1, 3, 5, and 7 were long legs with each runner racing approximately 5 miles. Legs 2, 4, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, and 12 were short legs with each runner racing 2.8 miles.

The first leg runners were assembled, they were under starters orders and they were off. Stephen Jackson, after a team leg reshuffle was given the task of getting us into a good position. First legs are notoriously quick, but given the nature of the course and the wind, this was soon put to bed.

Stephen came back in 13th position with a time of 24.34. The first 3 runners home were Tommy Power (Hallamshire) 23.31, Olympic triple medallist Jonathon Brownlee (Bingley) 23.36, and Finn Brodie (Morpeth) 23.40.

Next up on leg 2 was England international Michael Wilson, who ran a very good leg of 13.47 (4th quickest on leg 2). In doing so Michael hauled the team up into 7th place. The lead had now changed with Morpeth (Josh Fiddaman - 13.37) in first place, Leeds City (Mark Bostock - 13.28) in 2nd, in 3rd were Salford (Harry Wakefield - 13.16. Also making a comeback on this leg was 2021 Olympian, Oliver Dustin (Border)

The 3rd leg (long) fell on the young shoulders of Alex Seed, who did not disappoint with a time of 26.33, bringing the team home in 13th position. The loss of 6 places does not reflect on the run but undoubtedly leg 3 in terms of quality opposition was probably the toughest leg to race.

On that leg were 2008 Olympian Tom Lancashire (Bolton Utd), Jonny Mellor (Liverpool H) who last month ran 2.09:06 at the Sevilla Marathon, Joe Wilkinson (Bingley) and Robert Warner-Judd (Blackburn).

Leeds had now taken control of the race, Salford a close second, whilst Jonny Mellor (22.50) lifted Liverpool Harriers into third.

On leg 4, Scott Armstrong ran a good solid leg of 13.50 (4th quickest on leg 4) to lift the team up into 11 places.

The top 3 positions remained unchanged.

Jake Ridding, who was originally down to race on leg 1, was next to toe the line on leg 5. Jake, at the tail end of marathon training produced another solid run (25.10) to propel the team up into 9th . Leeds, Salford, and Blackburn were now the three leading teams.

Steve Rankin (leg 6), fresh from his PB exploits at Leicester last week, continued his great form as he maintained 9th position with a time of 14.07 (4th quickest on leg 6).

On leg 7 was Jordan Taylor who was the 1st of three members making their club debut. Jordan, who is currently training for Blackpool marathon, was certainly pleased with his time of 27.49 bringing the team back in 11th.

With all the long legs now done and dusted, it was down to the remaining 5 lads to do the business on the last 5 short legs.

Up next was another debutante, Jordan Scott, recently signed from Morpeth Harriers. Having his first race since last September, Jordan ran a solid leg of 14.55 to move the team up into 10th position.

A 2003 team silver medal winner at these championships was up next on leg 9, Norman Younger (son) made his 1st appearance at this event in 20 years. With the weather threatening to turn for the worse, Norman battled round in 16.20 bringing the team home in 13th place.

Salford, Leeds, and Morpeth were now well clear in terms of medals.

I like these events in terms of giving youth a chance, pitting their wits against older athletes. In 17-year-old Samuel Main, another debutante, it was a chance he grabbed with both hands. Samuel brilliantly maintained 13th position with a run of 16.20. A beaming Samuel was delighted with his run afterwards, hungry for more events like this.

On the penultimate leg (11), Darren Dodd who despite not being race fit did his teammates proud with a stint of (18.24). We were now in 17th position.

On the final short leg, team captain Nathan Reed who despite tweaking his achilles mid-race, came home in 15.31 fending off the gallant challenge of ex-Harrier Sparrow Morley (Tyne Bridge), this ensuring that the team finished in 18th position.

Finishing 18th meant we had qualified for the National Finals.

Leeds won the overall team championship, with Salford winning silver medals, and last years champions Morpeth claiming bronze medals

A great end to a long, long day.

It was great to see new faces in the team, including 3 lads who were making their debuts, even more impressive in a regional championship.

The club continues to move in the right direction, with its athletes getting stronger and quicker."