Timekeeping at the Round Norfolk Relay

Rachel Miller on keeping track of all 17 runners in the Round Norfolk Relay

4am. A time I only see a few times a year. One of these is Round Norfolk Relay weekend – time to get up and be ready to be picked up at 5.30am by Debs and Vicky in the van!

For the second year running I had the privilege of being asked to be Timekeeper on the Ladies Team and I of course accepted and had been looking forward to this exciting, unusual, fun and sometimes downright bizarre weekend!

Our start time was 7.30am at King’s Lynn and we arrived in plenty of time to get coffee (which I am very grateful for!).

Getting kitted up as Timekeeper can be how you spend the next two days. Hi-Viz donned with team number and ‘Timekeeper’ written on the back. Although I do think it would be a good idea to also add ‘My Name is Rachel, if found please return to…..’ – I jest not!

Then, of course, to set up the all important timers! I end up becoming quite protective of ‘my’ timers and feel like I should perhaps wrap them in cotton wool.

Nerves and excitement start to build and Jo is off on the first leg, timers have both started (always a bonus) and we’re on the way!

If you’ve never experienced ‘Life on the RNR Bus’ then I highly recommend you put your name down now for next year. It becomes its own little world, a bubble, which you inhabit for just over 24 hours.

This is what you need:

  • Food (lots of it).
  • Blankets/pillows/Dryrobe
  • Changes of clothes (a few for the rain and cold)
  • Waterproofs
  • Money (for the all important coffee stops and of course chips!)
  • Clipboards
  • Pens
  • Timers
  • Mobile phone chargers
  • RNR paperwork
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste (for the Sunday morning)
  • Sweets (which you will probably end up eating at 3am)
  • Hairbrush
  • Bodyspray (for the Sunday morning!)

Not an exhaustive list – but you get the idea!

As Timekeeper I find this such an amazing position to be in. You get to greet all runners before their legs. Witness the nerves, try to calm and reassure and give confidence boosts and then you get to see them in at the end of the run, see the euphoria, exhaustion and sheer effort everyone has put in – just for the club – and then off the next runner goes.

There is also co-ordination and making sure everyone is at the changeover point on time. Runners darting off for that last loo stop and me anxiously looking at my watch! Not an easy job as you never know exactly when the previous runner is going to appear. Sometimes this is out of thick fog and if there are no marshals calling out your team number then you really have to be on the ball.

I do love a few of the night time legs. These, as other people have written about, are very challenging legs. Trying to co-ordinate buses, vans, runners, helpers in darkness, cold and with tiredness creeping in. However, some are just magical too. Some in just fields with car headlights and orange flashing lights becomes a scene from a sci-fi film where it looks like aliens have just landed (of course could just be me with my overactive imagination – but it gets me through the night!).

Throughout the night you constantly check the timers and sigh with relief that they are still running. As Timekeeper you need to make sure you’re at the changeover point on time too – can’t have a late timekeeper and we only had one near-miss!! It’s a testament to the organisation and hard work of team captains Stacey and Debs that everything worked like clockwork, I can’t thank them enough.

You will have moments of tiredness, cold and stress, but thankfully this doesn’t last as not only do you get to cheer on your own team as you drive past but through the night you start catching up with friends and other NRR teams which just adds to the excitement – and to the pride of being part of such an inclusive, friendly but also competitive and determined club.

As you reach King’s Lynn and night becomes day, yes, perhaps you feel a bit groggy. Sometimes your emotions might be running high. Perhaps all you want is a fry-up and HUGE coffee, but it’s all worth it when you cheer your last runner in. I’m so proud and grateful to have been part of the Ladies Team and see us win this year. Such an amazing achievement, amazing friends, amazing club. Until next year…..