Belgrave’s hopes of retaining their English 12-stage road relay title at Birmingham’s Sutton Park on Saturday were dashed by the shutdown of European airports due to the Icelandic volcanic eruption.

Two of Belgrave’s key runners, internationals Steve Sharp and Nick Goolab, were stranded in Portugal, where they had gone for warm weather training.

The squad included two runners who were nursing injuries and four others who were desperately short of training.

In the end, the team finished in eighth place.

Belgrave clocked four hours, 16 minutes, 43 seconds, with Newham & Essex Beagles taking the title in 4:09:12.

Twickenham’s Moumin Geele stretched their lead with the fastest long leg of the day at 25:37.

Belgrave’s opening leg runner Will Cockerell was 33rd, clocking 28:08 for the five-mile stage.

Mark Miles (14:37) clocked the fastest Belgrave short stage time, while Neil Speaight (15:09) anchored the team home.

Thames Hare & Hounds finished 21st in 4:30:22, and Battersea Park-based Serpentine were 24th in 4:31:29.

Tooting policeman Ben Whitby was also the best long stage runner for Windsor, Slough, Eton & Hounslow, who finished 26th in 4:35:36.

Herne Hill came 28th in 4:36:07.