Every Autumn sees the country's leading endurance teams do battle once again around the roads of Sutton Park. The 3.67 mile route is raced by each clubs six fastest men who make up each 6 man team to do battle for National supremity.

The National 6-Stage Road Relays once moved around the country each October to various fixtures, but in more recent years the '6 man' has settled in the leafy suburban surroundings of Sutton Park. Also home of the National 12-Stage relays as you all know, and have read about on previous pages, the 6 man relay has used the Birmingham park each year since the mid Nineties.

The course distance varried slightly in the initial competitions with the 'turnaround' point moving each year, but since 2001 a permanent 'marker' was noted for the 'turnaround' (a manhole cover where a cone is positioned) so that the course is now exactly the same and therefore comparable each year just as the 12-stage relays are. The set course distance now being a little under 3.7 miles (3.67M) which lengthened the older courses used by approximately 30 seconds and has seen many of the countries leading endurance athletes tackle over the past ten years in a quest to take their club to become National 6-Stage champions.

'King of the Road Relays', Telford's Chris Davies (No.5-centre) is pictured setting the pace in the Balmoral International 5KM road race. Davies is keeping with the exulted company of Australia's World Bronze medalist and 12:55 5k man Craig Mottram (No.2), the future World  & Double Olympic Champion and fellow Brit, Mo farah (No.16) and World 3000m record holder, Daniel Komen of Kenya (No.3).

 

As I've mentioned on the 12-stage pages earlier, the 'new' course record stands at an incredible 16:25 which was set by Telford 'flyer' Chris Davies in 2003 when he was in the form of his life. He considers this record to be even stronger than his 'short stage' best of 13:23, and being a massive 8 seconds quicker than the second fastest athlete to have completed the loop, who is non other than World Champion 5000m runner Mo Farah, you wouldn't argue with Davies's opinion of his two amazing blasts around Sutton Park.

Unfortunately, with only the last ten years to accurately compare, with previous 6-stages being either held at different venues or over slightly varying course distances, many of my club's leading athletes who many of them set leading times in 6-stage competition before 2001 will not feature on my clubs 'All-Time' 6-stage list. Some of the athletes who do feature have also posted superior performances in 6-stages before the set 2001 course was used permanently. Even so, Birchfield's 'All-Time' 6-Stage list still reads a great list of athletes, but is yet to see a 'sub 17' run around the ups and downs of the 3.67 tarmac route. Again, as with my 12-stage lists, I have only taken into account performances which were set in National competition, even though Midland relays are now held over the exact same course.

Pictured right, the very first running on the 6-stage course as used nowadays. It's from leg 1 of the 2001 National 6-stage which I was lucky enough to start Birchfield's campaign off well with a first stage 'win'. Blackheath's Mike Skinner is pictured left of shot with Danny Simmons of Cornwall A.C. (yellow vest), N.E.B's Dave Mitchenson and me (Mike Bouldstridge) far right of shot, as we return past the 'Jamboree' stone with about a mile left to go...

 

Birchfield Harriers 'All-Time' National 6-Stage Relay times...'Sub 18:00' performances (2001-2013)

 

 

1. Wilfred Taragon-17:01

2. Zach Kihara-17:02

3. Jean Ndayisenga-17:04

4. Simon Tonui-17:15

5. Rob Birchall-17:17

6. Mike Bouldstridge-17:22

7. Julian Moorhouse-17:23

Two of Birchfield's 6-stage best, pictured left Berundian born Jean Ndayisenga and right, Rob Birchall gracing the cover of Athletics Weekly after Birchfield's 6-stage win in the late nineties. Both athletes also figure highly on the cubs 12-stage list.

8. James Trollope-17:25

9. Biniam Ande-17:29

10. Ben Livesey-17:30

eq.11. Elijah Wanderi / Martin Whitehouse-17:31

13. Ian Gillespie-17:33

eq.14. Colm McCloughlin / Tom Penfold / Darrius Burrows-17:48

17. Elliot Giles-17:53

18. Paul O'Callaghan-17:55

19. Mark Dalkins-17:58

And so that completes Birchfield's 'Sub 18' performers so far, all of whom have helped the Birmingham club to some useful results over the past decade of 6-stage running. That takes us on to the creme of Sutton Park's 6-Stage athletes...Here's the list of 'All-Time' top performers around the 3.67 mile loop.


Pictured form top left in a 'clockwise' direction round to bottom left are Tom Humphries, Mo Farah, Mark Draper, Andy Vernon, Ian Hudspith, Frank Tickner, (group of athletes headed by Ryan McLeod & Jonny Mellor), Phil Nicholls, Nick McCormick, Moumin Geele, Dave Webb, Sam Haughian and in 'full flight' Keith Gerrard.


'All-Time' Top 30 athletes over the 6-Stage course...(3.67 Miles)...(2001-2011)

 

1. Chris Davies (Tel)-16:25 (2003)

The Telford star once again upped his game around his favourite course and venue of Sutton Park to obliterate the course record of 16:53 held by Chris Thompson at the time by no less than 28 seconds! His time of 16:25 equates to 4:28 miling which given the undulating nature of the course is some achievement and a mark that will take some beating!

Davies is pictured in the Balmoral 5k International Road Races where he ran a fast 13:50!

 

 

 

 

2. Mohamed Farah (N&E.B)-16:33 (2009)

2012 double Olympic Champion Mo Farah of Newham & Essex Beagles (pictured below) sits at an almost unbelievable number 2 only on the 6-stage lists, just proving what a formidable athlete Chris Davies was on top form around his favourite Sutton Park loop. Farah's 2009 performance is by no means a soft one, and still ranks him above many great athletes, such as 2010 European 10,000m Silver medalist and 27:27 man Chris Thompson. Farah & Thompson are pictured (below right) after their magnificent 'one-two' for team GB in the aforementioned European 10,000m of 2011. Thompson also ranks highly on the 6-stage 'All time' list at 4th only 6 seconds down on Farah.

'Breakthrough performance' as Mo smashes the UK 10,000m best by no less than 31 seconds to run 26:46, signaling the begining of a dominant 2011 which culminated in him being crowned World Champion over 5000m and Silver medalist over 10,000m!

 

3. James Wilkinson (Leeds)-16:38 (2011)

Young James Wilkinson blasted to 3rd on the 'all time' list putting his recent altitude trip to great use. The European U/23 XC Silver medalist and 8:36 Steeplechaser took some mighty scalps in the process and is definately one to watch for the future.

 

 

4. Chris Thompson (AFD)-16:39 (2004)

27:27:27 10,000m & 61:00 'Half' man Chris Thompson blasted to a fast 'sub 16:40' time around Sutton Park in 2004. The former AFD European 5000m junior champion has progressed at a startling rate since moving to the US, now under the guidance of former Olympic Steeplechase medalist Mark Rowland and running for Oregon T.C. Thompson ran to a magnificent silver medal behind GB team mate and long time friend and rival Mo Farah in the 2010 European Championships over 10,000m for a memorable GB 'one-two'. He is also ranked on the 12-stage 'short' & 'long' lists, although all of his marks would be under serious threat, as would Mo Farah's if attacked again by the magnificent duo now in top form.

'Thommo' & Farah pictured right after their 'one-two' performance over 10,000m at the 2010 European Championships.

 

5.Nick McCormick (Morp)-16:41(2004)

3:33 1500m Morpeth man McCormick scorched to a 'top 5' run with his dazzling 16:41. With a best of 13:25 for 5000m his endurance was never in doubt.

 

6. Andy Vernon (AFD)-16:49 (2008)

Pictured left on his way to Inter-Counties XC glory is 16:49 '6 stage' man Andy vernon. Vernon is a XC master as well as a great track runner having achieved times of 7:49, 13:23 & 27:53. The AFD athlete also boasts a fast road 5k of 13:40 in the famous 'Carlsbad 5k' along with an 8th place finish in the 2011 European XC champs.

 


eq.7. Sam Haughian (WS&E) (2001) / Scott Overall (B'Heath)-16:54 (2008)

 Pictured right is 16:54 6-stage man Scott Overall of Blackheath harriers. Having posted track bests of 7:48 and 13:28, Overall has made a highly successfull transition onto the roads where he ran to a magnificent 6th place in the 2011 Berlin Marathon on his 'Debut' clocking a speedy 2:10:55 time. Overall then backed this up with a fast 61:25 'Half' in New York in 2012. He now looks forward to the London Olympic Games marathon where he has earned 'pre selection' for the GB team. Overall shares 7th spot amongst the 'all timers' with the late, great Sam Haughian who tragically lost his life in a car accident whilst on a training trip over in South Africa in 2004. The Young Windsor athlete was a precocious talent who had already achieved a 4th place in the Commonwealth 5000m final in a fast 13:19. His 16:54 was the day's fastest in 2001 over the newly used course that we still use for today's event.

 

 

 9. Ryan McLeod (Tip)-16:55 (2013)

This great shot below shows Ryan McLeod forging an early lead in the 2010 World XC Trial race. McLeod's front running tactics also took him to first leg wins in the 2009 and 2010 6-Stage relays where he posted fast times of 17:10 & 17:03. The 2013 relays saw the son of 1984 Olympic 10,000m silver medalist Mike, improve his time again to 16:55 advancing him into the 'all time' top ten times at Sutton Park. McLeod has also posted quick track times of 7:52 & 13:41 for 3,000m & 5,000m respectively. The Tipton Harrier also has a road 10K best of 29:04 along with a good 10 mile time of just over 48 minutes to his name.

 

eq.10. Frank Tickner (Wells) (2007) / Jonny Mellor (Liv)-16:59 (2011)

Former National XC Champion Tickner and 13:36 5000m Liverpool Harrier Jonny Mellor share 10th spot just dipping under the 17 minute barrier. Mellor also boasts road bests of 28:50 and 62:59 for 10k and Half marathon distances with Tickner achieving many fine XC results including a 10th place in the European XC Championships to back up his many high  level domestic victories.

 


eq.12. Rob Whalley (Bris) (2003) / Phil Wicks (Bel)-17:00 (2008)

Pictured right is Belgrave's Phil Wicks who with 17:00 is ranked equal 12th on the 'All time' lists. With road times of 28:54 and 62:51 coupled with great XC form, the former Southern XC champion is the proud owner of the Belgrave 6-stage record, along with his 25:13 'Long leg' best which ranks him 2nd Belgravian behind 2:08 marathoner Paul Evans. Also just missing out on a 'sub 17' time is Bristlol & West's 13:41 5000m runner and 4KM XC trials winner Rob Whalley who is shown left. The Mike Down coached athlete also holds a strong 25:46 'long stage' best around Sutton Park, and in the 2000 AAA 6-stage over a slightly shorter course than today's race, ran to the day's fastest leg earning him Ekiden relay selection for G.B to go with his many World X/Country G.B appearances. Both athletes boast a strong athletics C.V where they have excelled throughout all disciplines of endurance running.

 

eq14. Greg Van Hest (Bed) (2003) / Keith Cullen (High) (2004) / Ian Hudspith (Morp) (2001) / Wilf Taragon (Birch)-17:01 (2005)

Shown left is fast Dutch Marathoner Greg Van Hest who in 2003 whilst competing for Bedford A.C ran to a fine 17:01 run around Sutton Park to just gain a 'top 15' all time slot. The 2:09 man ranks alongside two fine 10,000m runners in Keith Cullen and Wilf Taragon who boast p.b's of 27:50 and 27:30 respectively! Also sharing a time of 17:01 is Morpeth's ever consistent performer Ian Hudspith. With a 10,000m best of 28:35 he has been near the top of British Endurance running for an amazing two decades!

 

 

eq.18.Mark Miles (Bel) (2004)/Zach Kihara (Birch)-17:02 (2011)

Pictured below right (No.32) is Belgrave's Mark Miles who with his 17:02 best sits well inside the all time top 20. The Belgravian has track bests of 7:57 & 13:45 and 29:11 on the roads as well as a fast 47:40 10 mile p.b and is pictured here with Ethiopian born 2:10 marathoner Tomas Abyu, who now competes for Northern club Salford Harriers. Miles also boasts a superb 28:42 10k relay split which he ran in the 2002 Ekiden relays held in Chiba, Japan. The former Solihull athlete shares his 18th spot on the 'All-time' list with Kenyan born Birchfield Harrier Zach Kihara. The 63 minute half marathoner showed good pace to record his fast 17:02 in the 2011 championships to help his Birmingham club towards the AAA silver medals.

 

 

20. Moumin Geele (N&E.B) (2008)-17:03

The final 'top 20' 6-stage slot goes to 2012 Olympic 5000m finalist Moumin Geele of Somalia who boasts a 13:15 5000m best and a 28:38 10k road time as well as running to a fast 25:37 'long leg' for his Newham & Essex club in the 12-Stage road Relays.

 

 

eq.21 Jean Ndayisenga (Birch) (2007) / Dave Webb (Leeds) (2006) / Phil Nicholls (Tip) (2007) / Mark Draper (Bed) (2010) / Tom Humphries (C&S)-17:04 (2010)

No less than 5 quality athletes share 21st spot with 17:04. Amongst them are Tipton Harrier and 28:40 10,000m man Phil Nicholls, World Marathon 15th placer & 29:12 10k'er Dave Webb and two time National XC Champion Tom Humphries of Cannock & Staffs.

Mark Draper pictured below on his way to a 3:56 indoor mile in the US. The Bedford athlete has run a sparkling 13:34 5000m in 2011, and shares 21st spot on the 6-stage 'all-time' list with 4 other class athletes including Tipton harrier, former AAA10,000m Champion Phil Nicholls (pictured right). 


 

 

eq.26. Ben Tickner (Wells) (2007) / Keith Gerrard (N&E.B)-17:05 (2008)

Pictured right and below is 17:05 performer Keith Gerrard shown on his way to a 28:27 track 10,000m. The superb 'action' shot below demonstrates the power of the flying Manx-man as he storms around the final bend to take the 2012 National XC title at Parliament Hill fields. Gerrard has achieved the domestic XC 'Double' by also racing to victory in the '2012 Inter-Counties 'cross' to make him the man of 2012 so far. Gerrard shares 26th spot with 2012 Southern XC Champion Ben Tickner of Wells Harriers who is the older brother of Frank, also ranked highly at equal 9th 'all time' with a 16:59 time at his best. For more great shots like Gerrard's below, visit Adrian Royle's flickr page at www.flickr.com/photos/adiroyle/ 

eq.28. Tom Russell (Bris) (2008) / Neilson Hall (Bed) (2009) / Jonny Taylor (Morp) (2009) / Ricky Stevenson (N.Marske) (2011) / Jonathan Davies (Reading AC) (2013)-17:06

Ricky Stevenson shown left rounds off the 'top 32' 6-Stagers as at 2013 with his fast first stage win of 17:06 in 2011. Stevenson has enjoyed great success over the past couple of seasons with victory in the televised Gateshead XC, 2nd in the 'Inter- Counties' XC in 2012 along with posting fast times of 3:56 for the mile & 7:55 for 3000m. The young New Marske Harrier has also scorched to 29:17 over 10k and 48:03 for 10 Miles showing he has plenty of endurance to go with his speed. Sharing the final slots in the 'top 32' are 13:51 5000m runner Tom Russell, 29:17 10k man and 2010 Southern XC Champ Neilson Hall, Morpeth's 3:41/7:57 track man and 29:13 10k road runner Jonny Taylor, who also took victory in the 2012 Euro XC Trials, where he backed this run up with 11th in the European XC and 31st in the World XC Champs rounding off a superb 2012/13 XC season. Finally, Reading AC's Junior protoge Jonathan Davies ran to an impressive 2nd fastest time of the day in the 2013 relays showing why he's scored impressive victories in Junior Inter-Counties XC Champs and English Schools XC's so far in his career.


And so that rounds off the 'All-Time' top 32 athletes at Sutton Park's 6-Stage relays for now. To date (2013) there are only 11 'Sub 17' minute men, with many just having missed the 17 minute barrier which equates to a fast pace of 4:37 miling!

As you can see there are some pretty useful performers on the list, all of whom possess good credentials over many surfaces and distances, and indeed hold many National titles and even higher accolades between them.

For a full comprehensive list of all the 'Sub 17:30' performances around the 'new' 6-stage course from it's inception in 2001 right through to today, please visit www.belgraveharriers.com for more stats on their brilliant website. Once on their website, look in 'Road Stats' then '2001 & later' to find all the rankings from Chris Davies's record run of 16:25 through to all 17:30 performances and below.