HERCULES Wimbledon Athletic Club’s road runners posted their best performance for almost 50 years in finishing sixth out of 64 teams in the England 12-stage road relay championship at Sutton Park, Birmingham, on Saturday.

The Hercules Wimbledon dozen were the top Surrey and South London club to finish. Their sixth place equalled their second best-ever performance in the event on the club’s debut year in 1968. Hercules Wimbledon only performed better in 1973 when they just missed out on medals in finishing fourth. The team included international twins Bob and Dave Holt. None of the dozen in action on Saturday were even born before that fine performance although, Mike Fuller, one member of that 1973 team travelled to Birmingham on Saturday to give his support.

The relay was staged over alternate long and short legs of 5.38 miles and 3.16 miles, respectively. Andrew Penney ran a solid opening long leg in 26 minutes 57 seconds to hand over in 24th place. Ed Mallett ran a fine second leg in 15:39 gaining nine places with the 11th best time of the leg.

Bradley Goater then ran a solid third leg in 26:40 to move up to eighth, a position held by Jake Croft with 16:01 on leg four. Tom Jervis (26:50) then gained a place before Oli Carrington (16:08) moved up to fifth at the half-way stage.

Hercules Wimbledon started the second half of the relay strongly as Jonny Cornish posted the club’s fastest long leg time of the day, 26:33, in holding fifth. It was also the fifth fastest time on the seventh leg. Then came a superb run by Charlie Eastaugh who clocked 15:38, the fastest stage time and the day’s fastest Hercules Wimbledon short leg time.

Dan Cliffe then ran a fine ninth stage as he moved into fourth spot with 26:36, the third fastest time of the leg. Team captain Fred Slemeck (15:52) kept Hercules Wimbledon in fourth spot with the sixth best time on the 10th leg. George Mallett (27:33) dropped a place on the penultimate leg as he was passed by Bristol with anchor leg runner Rhys Boorman (16:33) slipping to sixth being passed by Leeds City.

Team manager Keith Scofield said: “It was an absolutely brilliant team performance from the guys to come sixth in the National 12-stage - our best result for almost 50 years. Apart from one change it was the same team which finished fourth in the Southern championship.”

Teenager Niamh Thompson was Hercules Wimbledon’s only winner in Saturday’s 5km parkrun events. She was top woman finisher on Wimbledon Common in a personal best time of 20:19. Her time chopped 228 seconds off her previous best for the course set in December 2019 when she was also first woman finisher.

Another Hercules Wimbledon teenager Tom Davies also clocked a personal best time in finishing fifth in 19:23, taking nine seconds off his previous best set in December last year. It was also his highest finishing position in 13 Wimbledon Common parkruns. He finished ahead of his dad, Andrew, who was 17th of the 349 runners in 20:28. Teenager Isaac Lutaya, running in the event for the second time, was 10th in 20:04, more than a minute faster than he clocked on his debut appearance last December.

At the other end of the age range, Over-55 veteran Lisa Thomas was just pipped by older veteran Lucy Woolhouse finishing fifth in the women’s race in 22:04.

Adam Harwood was runner-up on his debut in the Durlston Country Park event at Swanage, Dorset. He crossed the line in 22:22, just over a minute behind the winner. Also in Dorset, teenager Ava McCandie was runner-up in the women’s race at Poole in 20:06, 16 seconds behind the winner. She clipped 14 seconds off her previous best time.