A Heanor Running Club 12 secured club-best 27th-place finish at the English National 12-Stage Road Relays at Sutton Park on Saturday.
Absentees through injury and work commitments caused selection headaches in the week before the race and meant the side was altered from the 12 that finished fifth in the regional qualifier just three weeks ago.
Some of the best athletes from the top-25 teams at the three regional races competed for the National title on a slightly revised route and conditions were a little cooler than during the week with a slight breeze helping the runners along the top-stretch towards the Jamboree Stone.
Stuart King kicked things off on the opening leg and ran exactly the same time as the one he ran at the Midlands event over the long stage route to bring the side home 21st.
Tom Roethenbaugh, a student at Lancaster University, stepped in on stage two and clocked the fastest Heanor RC short-leg of the day before Dale Annable, set to run in the London Marathon next weekend, went over half-a-minute quicker than three weeks ago to bring the team into the top-20 for the first time.
Danny Heathcote made his first appearance since the North Midlands XC in January on leg three and though he was passed by seven runners, Chris Rainsford made the positions back up before handing over to debutante Chris Dale, who made it three-out-of-three inside 15 minutes over the 2.69 mile short stage and passed the baton on to James Mee, who maintained the team’s 19th position.
With big gaps beginning to appear, Tony Weatherson ran just one second slower than last time out despite being six spots further down the order on leg eight.
Shane Rice stepped up to a long stage and ensured the side stayed inside the top-20 before Ashley Deeming – two weeks on from the Rome Marathon – and Steve Ashmore handed over to Paul Mercer in 26th.
Stepping into the side just 24 hours before, Paul may have lost one position but he ran 17 seconds quicker than at the Midlands event and anchored the team home to 27th.