The Mixed Round Norfolk Relay Team

Report on the Mixed Team's Round Norfolk Relay 2017 by Jonathan Eagle

Having never been involved as a runner or supporter of the Round Norfolk Relay, I had got the sense it was going to be a long but rewarding weekend from others.

We met at club at 3.30am on Saturday morning, all pleasantly surprised our early alarms had done the job.

Captain David, a minibus full of merry helpers and a truck (kindly lent to us by a local businessman)  full of supplies set off, next stop Kings Lynn. 

We arrived with plenty of time to spare before our 5am briefing and shortly later our first runner Guy Shearwood arrived, ready to get us started. He started at 5.30am (the earliest time possible due to the estimated times we had for each stage) along with 4 other teams. The support team, wearing our lovely red hoodies, gave him a big cheer and set him on his way.

Guy got us off to a great start and we were ahead of the other teams at the start of Stage 2. A great effort from Guy who then went home for parkrun and a duathlon the next day - some effort!

Next up was Gary Grand on Stage 2. We made sure we gave Gary plenty of encouragement along the way - like we tried to for all of our runners - and he smashed it, running 3 minutes quicker than expected! Superb running.

Gary handed over to Brian Moore - a man who seemingly knows the Round Norfolk Relay a LOT better than most. We took the opportunity to have a few photos at the boatyard and a chat with the lovely Jags who were marshalling.

Brian and his support runner Mark Tayler were off. In the meantime, the support team made our way to the next access point to see them pass through, which they did soon enough. Next stop Wells.

After finding the next point (and a dodgy 12 point turn, no names mentioned) we met our next runner Tina Moseley in the nick of time to get her numbered up and ready. 

Brian arrived, bang on time again and Tina was off.

Tina epitomised our team on her leg, digging in and running through some difficult conditions to get the baton safely to the start of the next stage, even stopping for a very quick selfie at Morston Quay (I have been told the coffee was great here). Tina's effort was a poignant reminder of how we as a support crew were all proud were to be part of a such a great event, she left every bit of her energy out there and we couldn't have asked for any more.

Tina handed over to Ashley Yellop for Stage 5, which we knew would be a tough stage, having heard plenty of stories about how difficult it is. Ashley and his support runner Jody however took it all in their stride and again ran a great stage time, arriving in Cromer with smiles on their faces and looking like they had really enjoyed their first experiences of the Round Norfolk Relay.

No time for fish and chips, though I did manage to grab a tuna melt while Roly polished off a 2 scoop ice cream, which actually had 5 or 6 scoops - apparently the girl serving the ice cream fancied him, understandably!

Stage 6 was down to Sarah Boosey, who had run the same leg for in 2016. The heavens opened a bit before Sarah set off, but she ran an awesome leg with some tough inclines and really done us proud. The coast line views were beautiful as we drove from leg to leg, reminding us how amazing our local scenery is.

At Mundesley our next runner Maureen Hamis was waiting and ready to go. Sarah handed over and she was off. Maureen is a familiar face at the club for many of us and again showed us what Norwich Road Runners are all about, raising her game and running a superb leg (past some can-canning support crew - you know who you are) and again coming in under her predicted time. We now had a couple of teams who had passed us earlier on in our sights!

By this time Andrew Cooper's baking was making waves amongst the support team - get that man on Great British Bake off was the cry!

Back to the running...Maureen finished and passed on to Wendy Smith at Lessingham. Wendy was excellent, shaving over 30 seconds a mile off her estimate and closing in further on the teams ahead. A super leg by a super young lady who was a massive help to everyone on Saturday - thank you Wendy.

Wendy passed the baton to Glyn Manton at Horsey and some of the support crew changed here. We said goodbye to Roly Cook and Stephanie Wenn but were joined by Trevor Horrex. The rest of the early starters, Dave, me, Johno, Luke Guy and Mr Cooper were staying until the end!

Glyn ran a storming leg, gaining some great ground on the other teams over his 16.6 miles and giving the crew some renewed enthusiasm with every one of his long strides! Top run Glyn, well done.

By the time Glyn passed the baton to Mark Mardell the light had faded and night was setting in. The idea of pulling an all nighter was sinking in and we knew it would be a tough challenge to stay on the ball and keep things going smoothly.

 

Mark was brilliant, hopefully spurred on by our support, he ran the second longest stage a whole 12 minutes faster than his estimated time - looking strong the whole way.

Mark handed over to club legend Ray Lindsay for Stage 11 - a 12.4 mile late night run. Ray rolled back the years, also surpassing his estimation by 4 minutes. By this time the support crew were trying to share breaks to keep us on top form, so it was good to see each and every runner arriving with a smile on their face and in turn lifting our spirits.

At Scole, Ray handed over to Stephen Moseley who had the daunting task of running the longest stage of the relay in the very the early hours of Sunday morning. The fog was decending, but Stephen ran steady mile after steady mile, ending up with a 7.32mins per mile average pace - absolutely amazing!

Stephen passed the baton to Caroline Allen, another runner who had previous experience of her stage having run it in 2016 for the ladies team. Caroline showed great character, running one of her longest runs of 2017 at a time when most normal people would be tucked up in bed! Meanwhile spirits were elevated by what can only be described as a party bus behind and her husband Dave on the support bike.

Caroline handed over to Nicky Dowson who had completed a last minute recce only a few hours before! Nicky was fantastic, another runner who showed what NRR is all about and done us proud. By this point we were also rubbing shoulders with some of the other NRR support crews, hearing both good and bad news from other team captains really did show us in first hand even more about the ups and downs that Round Norfolk Relay can bring. We vowed to plug on ahead.

Stage 15, from Wissington to Downham Market was the responsibility of Lucy Spinks. It was cold and foggy by this time, but Lucy gritted her teeth and again delivered a solid leg for us - keeping us on track for a finish time around what we had expected. Well done Lucy.

Danielle Crane was selected to run the penultimate leg for us, supported by Vicky Bailey on the bike. Danielle ran a storming leg, again stepping up to the plate when required.

By this time the support crew were feeling the effects of the early start the previous day, however having the end in sight was a real incentive to see it through.

Chris Read was given the honour of running the last leg, of 11.7 miles, from Stowbridge to Kings Lynn. Chris was brilliant, another runner who was the first to admit he hasn't been running a lot of miles lately, but he managed to better his estimations and bring us home within 10 minutes of our overall estimated finish time (I think).

The feeling when Chris carried the baton over the finish line was a mixture of relief, joy and pride. Every one of our runners was reliable, on time and done exactly what was required of them. Not one of them had given us any hassle at all - another reflection of what being a Norwich Road Runner is all about.

The support crew from start to finish had kept everyone safe, moved numerous cars and done everything asked of them. It wouldn't have been possible with such a great team.

So in wrapping this up (well done if you made it this far), a big thank you goes to all of our runners, you were ace, our support crew - too many to mention, and the companies that sponsored our hoodies and goody bags and generally helped us out. 

A big well done has to go to our ladies and vets teams who won their categories and the open team who gave it a great shot.

One last thanks has to go to all our family, partners and friends who sent us messages of support and put up with us talking (and sometimes stressing) about this 'crazy' event for the last few months, thank you and again well done to everyone involved.