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Barnes steps up to Norwich Union GB Chiba team

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Matt Barnes (Altrincham and District AC) has been promoted into the Norwich Union Great Britain and Northern Ireland Team for the Ekiden International Marathon to be run in Chiba, Japan, on Thursday 23 November.

 

He steps up from travelling reserve to run the 7km leg because original selection Jermaine Mays (Kent AC) has been forced to withdraw with a stress fracture of the foot. The Men’s Team, selected on the basis of form up to and at the recent Six Stage Road Relay in Sutton Park, will now not have a travelling reserve.

 

The 5km stages will be run by Adam Bowden (Harrow AC), Glen Comish (Sale Harriers Manchester) and Phil Nicholls (Tipton Harriers). The 10km stages will be run by Jon Brown (Sheffield AC) and Peter Riley (Leigh Harriers).

 

The Norwich Union GB Women’s Team for Chiba comprises Helen Clitheroe (Preston Harriers), 17-year-old Sian Edwards (Kettering Town Harriers) and Laura Kenney (Royal Sutton Coldfield AC) on the 5km stages, Jenny Blizard (Rotherham Harriers) over 7km, with Wendy Jones (Cirencester AC) and Jo Wilkinson (Bedford and County AC) each racing 10km. The travelling reserve is Gemma Turtle (Shaftesbury Barnet Harriers).

 

The Chiba event, over the marathon distance of 42km, is renowned as the highest quality road relay in the world and attracts massive crowds – plus national TV coverage – because it is always held on a national holiday.

 

Kenya won both the Men’s and Women’s races last year, ending a three-year reign of double successes by Ethiopia.

 

Organisers work out that GB’s average performances over the previous 17 years of this race amount to seventh place in the Men’s race and eighth in the Women’s race.

 

Jon Brown is the only man in this year’s team with experience of Chiba’s unique atmosphere: he was fifth on the opening stage of the 1992 edition. Barnes, Comish and Nicholls will be earning their first international vests.

 

Bowden finished the 2006 track season placed 18th in the Power of 10 men’s 5000m rankings with 14:06.37 and Nicholls was 20th with 14:08.18. In Power of 10 men’s 10km road rankings, Riley is third with 29:02, Comish 18th with 29:49 and Barnes 62nd with 30:47. More significantly, perhaps, they showed form at the recent English National Six Stage Road Relay Championship.

 

Of the Norwich Union GB Women’s Team, Jones is 16th in the Power of 10 women’s 10km road rankings with 34:00 and Wilkinson 46th with 35:26. In the Power of 10 women’s 5000m rankings, Edwards ranks fifth with 15:42.48, Blizard 16th with 16:09.61, and Kenney 14th with 16:14.36. Clitheroe was fastest in the recent English National Four Stage Road Relay Championship, where most of the team were selected after demonstrating good form.

 

Spencer Barden, UK Athletics’ Senior Coordinator for Endurance, said: “The selectors are confident that we have the strongest available teams, bearing in mind that the event is two days before our Trials for the European Cross Country Championships.” Of the team in Chiba, Riley and Edwards, who celebrates her 18th birthday on Friday, have been pre-selected for the Europeans.

 

The Norwich Union GB Team Leaders in Chiba will be Mike Johnston, the Scottish Athletics National Endurance Coach, and Liz McColgan, a Scottish Athletics Director who coaches young athletes in her home city of Dundee, probably best remembered in Japan for her 10,000m triumph at the 1991 World Championships in Tokyo.

 

The Chiba men’s race will start at 4.10am GMT and the women’s race at 4.20am GMT – 1.10pm and 1.20pm local time.