Round Norfolk Relay Race Report
20 & 21 September 2009 written by the runners of each stage.
The Bungay Black Dog Running Club came 44th out of 55 clubs taking part, in a time of 27 hours, 8 minutes and 51 seconds.
Stage 1 Bob Paul, Kings Lynn to Hunstanton 16.32 miles.
'In the beginning'
After getting up very early I made my way to the start line at Lynn sport, met Sue n' crew, was given our yellow baton, and as day broke set off with 8 other runners at 6.30. I was in contention for at least 3 yards, but by the time we left Lynn my fellow competitors had disappeared into the distance and I was running on my own, save for the excellent company of Bobbie on her bike, (with enough drinks for the full 193.97 miles !) It was a beautiful morning as we made our way through picturesque Castle Rising and onto the Sandringham estate. At which point Bobbie had to leave me, and after a short while I reached the sea and ran up onto a sandy ridge. This was the hardest part of my run as the route was mostly sand and shingle and slowed my progress, I also had to check my directions to make sure that I was on course. After about 3/4 miles I reached Snettisham and friendly encouragement, and by the time I was on the prom at Heacham Bobbie had rejoined me (still with plenty to drink) and I was able to pick up my pace a little as we ran and peddled to Hunstanton, where I ascended the cliff, yomped across the green, around the lighthouse, and passed the baton to Chris. It was about 5 minutes past 9, I had intended to arrive about 5 minutes earlier - however I thoroughly enjoyed my run, and was pleased to get my leg over so early in the day ! - Bob
TIP - roll your directions up and place inside the baton
Stage 2 Chris Chorley Hunstanton to Burnham Overy 14.06 miles
The relay was excellent organised chaos as usual. Impossible to explain to anyone who doesn't do running/cycling/endurance events. Impossible to explain to anyone who has to ask 'why' or 'is it for charity'. There's the daytime, that's just like on a 100 (mile walk), gets the miles out the way before the night, setting a good time helps later on. Stage 2 for the second time, to be recommended for its mix of on and off road. Memories of meeting Goy Roper and Tracey Curl from Norwich Road Runners. Goy, who I met several times, seemed to be running the stage backwards as well as driving, supporting Tracey and probably preparing to run it himself later as part of the winning team. Tracey passed me on the road section, said "come on, tuck in behind!", and then apologised at the end of the stage for overtaking. Needless to say, I didn't keep up. The night, cars parked in a dark field at 2am, people running about, just because that's how they get from A to B, with lights, bikes, tea and coffee. Long lines of transits and cars with flashing amber beacons, bikes with flashing red leds, and if you look closely, runners in hi-viz doing what it's all about, their 5/10/20 miles of the 190-odd miles. The closest other experience I have is marshalling on 100s. If you're anything to do with the organising then you're lucky if you get a break. And suddenly it's all over. At least they put the finishing tape up for every team, whoever you were
Stage 3 Karen McMorran Burnham Overy to Wells 5.39 miles
After a few sleepless nights, I arrived at Burnham on Saturday morning, with my supporting family, to take part in the RNR. It was a bright morning and the view was fabulous. Soon I was joined by Karen, Peter, Bobbie and Sue and Christine. All too soon, Chris arrived and my stage began! Unfrotunately I am unable to see too much of the scenery. The RNR website described Stage 3 as multiterrain, and it was! Loose stones, sand, tree roots etc. however, nerves aside, I thoroughly enjoyed my run and I am very proud of taking part. Thank you to BBD for the encouragement, belief and the opportunity. Additionally, a big thank you to all who organised and also to Karen for running with me.
Stage 4 Andrew Smith Wells to Salthouse
Last year Bobbie ran Stage 4 and commented how much she’d enjoyed it. Well, that was good enough for me so I volunteered to run that stage this year. And very nice it was too! I collected the baton from Karen, plus Karen, left Elizabeth relishing an ice cream and set off. The first 600-700m is along an asphalt footpath, dead level into Wells itself, then there’s some ducking and diving around the harbour before you pick up the North Norfolk Coast Path. The path has very few straight ‘bits’, few gradients and the surface was firm; it’s quiet, with only a handful of walkers in spite of the excellent weather. I found it enjoyable but after 7 or so miles, towards Blakeney, I realised that I was feeling uncomfortably hot so slowed down a touch. At Blakeney, as planned, Chris Chorley was waiting laden with water, so all was well once more. It was at Blakeney that I had my one regret seeing hordes of people chilling out over a nice lunch and ……..beer! The climb out of Blakeney was the hardest bit for me and having reached the A149 it was a good run to the change-over at Salthouse. Then it was off to the Sports Centre at Sheringham for a shower before driving (well, being driven actually) back to Harleston.
At Harleston I managed a couple of hour’s sleep before my 2330 assignation with Sue at the Mendham junction on the A143. I leapt on the minibus and Ian Taylor leapt off, what did I do? Colin Whale was putting in a sterling effort, all I had to do was sit back and help myself to chocolate muffins and an assortment of biscuits. Sorry – again for throwing the muffins on the floor! Somewhere South Lopham way it was payback time and I took over cycling escort duty to Ian Taylor. It was hard work on two counts: the first was Ian’s pace which required quite some effort of me to keep up and the second was the improvised water bottle container, a carrier bag that had a mind of its own, either unbalancing the rider or colliding with the spokes. 3/10, must do better next time Dave! A change-over of both runners and cyclists and I took post alongside Bobbie in Thetford Forest for what must have been one of the quietest stages. The teams were spread out well by that point and we caught only the briefest glimpses of other team’s flashing beacons. A thoroughly more pleasant cycling experience as the carrier bag had been withdrawn from use, good job too! The overnight leg was an experience that I won’t forget easily, I really enjoyed it - especially the banter in the minibus.
Stage 9 Karen Gedge Horsey Mill to Great Yarmouth 11.15 miles
Having been awake with excitement for most of the night and then up since 4am, I wasn't sure I was ready to tackle the 11+ miles which lay ahead of me for stage 9. However, we set Nigel off at stage 8 and dashed to Horsey Mill for me to get myself ready. Usual nerves began to kick in, together with all the questions like “Why am I doing this?” and “How will I ever get to the end?” and “Oh no, I've forgotten to drink enough!” but by the time Nigel came steaming towards me at a great rate of knots, I was well and truly raring to go. He was clearly “in the zone” and I wasn't sure if he was actually going to be able to stop (secretly thinking how good it might be if he did carry on!) but he thrust the baton at me and I grabbed it and took charge of something very wet and sweaty and off I went. Christine was my cyclist and swiftly jumped on her bike and caught up with me in no time. I planned a steady run with no early spurts because I knew there were some nasty hills ahead and had to pace myself properly if I was going to be able to last the distance. Yes, they were hills! I had already run my route a couple of months earlier so I knew what to expect and I lived in that neck of the woods for many a year so I was very familiar with what needed to be done.
It was a beautiful evening with not a breath of wind – even the wind turbines couldn't be bothered to turn and Christine and I marvelled at what lovely countryside we had around us. Only the sound of cars and minibuses coming past broke the silence but it was short lived and soon we on our own again. Then, out of nowhere came this car with a rather irate man shouting “GET BEHIND YOUR RUNNER!” I think we were being told off! The funny thing was that Christine hadn't quite caught his shout first time around and so politely asked him to repeat it, whereupon he once again shouted out his order. Both of us did apologise but by this time, the car had long gone, no doubt getting prepared to pounce on other unsuspecting runners with cyclists beside them! Oh well, what a good start? From then on, we fell back into the silence around us and Christine giving me words of encouragement which were very much appreciated.
At Scratby, the team had stopped on the side of the road to cheer me on which was a very welcome sight and I tried to make it look like I was finding it easy but these people know me better and I came puffing towards them. Cyclists then swapped and I was accompanied by Darryl for the rest of the way, he too giving me some very encouraging words as what for him must have been a very slow ride. We passed my parents at The Centurian Pub, they too shouting at me to “keep going, you're doing well”. I managed a smile (or was it a grimace?) as mum took a photo of me for posterity, in all my sweaty glory. By the time I reached Jellicoe Rd, it was getting tough and dark and I had not yet been passed by anyone, my worst fear. There was no sign of anyone ahead either and Darryl kindly kept up the good words as I struggled to get over the Bridge at the end of the road. We made it onto the seafront where I knew I had only a short distance left to go but now it was getting chilly too and I kept telling myself that the end was only a short way away. Then, out of nowhere, my worst fear – I got overtaken by someone who looked and sounded like they had only just started off. I was gutted! Still, Darryl stayed with me and told me to put it out of mind and just get to the finish. It looked very busy and in the now near darkness, I struggled to pick anyone out and couldn't see Neil at all. Then I heard the shouting – it was Peter telling me “come on” and what with Darryl telling me to do the same, I decided it was time to put all the Tuesday night pain into practice and sprint for the finish. I finally picked Neil out and just aimed in his direction as fast as I could and was so relieved to pass that line, in tact, out of puff, but truly elated that I had taken part in the Round Norfolk Relay. My time was 2 minutes outside that which I had predicted but I was getting some wonderful comments from fellow team mates who kept saying all the right things we say to each other at the end of a race. Christine gave me a banana and a cereal bar and a bottle of water, all of which were most welcome and all too soon, it was time for the team to move on to support Neil and for me to get home, showered and changed, ready to come back to the minibus to provide overnight support. I had done it, I had actually run a leg of the Round Norfolk Relay – wow! When can we do it all again, please?!
Stage 10 Neil Thomas Gt Yarmouth to Geldeston 15.08 miles
After a week off due to a foot infection I was raring to go for this one. Taking over from Karen Gedge, I set off through Yarmouth seafront, weaving in and out of people who looked at me strangely for running with a baton in my hand. I didn't think they knew what was going on. Darryl soon came up behind me on the bike, encouraging me for a quickish start. We were soon marvelling at all the scantily clad girls all going out dancing and us thinking “Ah well, only another 14 to go!”. I thoroughly enjoyed the run and thought I had cracked my target time of 2 hours 10 mins but just fell outside.
I got disorientated at McDonald's where I saw Colin Whale waiting to take over from me but was quickly ushered around the building where Mr whale was waiting to run an even longer leg for the next stage. Big thanks to both Darryl and Roy for their assistance in cycling and driving the minibus, respectively. Much appreciated – thanks Gents. All in all a good experience. Also thanks to Sue, Margaret and Roy for organising the event and the lift to the start of my stage.
Stage 11 Colin Whale Geldeston to Scole 19.60 miles
While I was waiting at the start of my leg, I heard one of the marshals call out for somebody, and they turned round and shouted back, “he is still getting changed!” It was a lot warmer than last year. I would like to thank all the support team for encouraging me to keep going, especially Mark my cyclist, although I struggled the last 4 miles – it was nice to see the finish line!
STAGE 12 Ian Taylor Scole to Thetford 19.67 miles
Having ran two marathons earlier in September I was undaunted at the prospect of the longest stage which clocks in at 19.67 miles. Whilst I was waiting for the baton to arrive I observed runners from other teams departing and vowed to overtake as many of them as possible on the road to Thetford. There was no time for any SCOLE-duggery as I accelerated away from the changeover point accompanied by my cyclist, David Gilbert. It had just turned 1am.
In August, on occasion of our Sunday Club Run around the Halesworth area, I had asked Peter Cunningham to cycle alongside me and to tell me how fast I was running. I achieved 10.5mph but this fell to 9.7mph with the blarney. I was surprised by the difference and resolved to run my stage in silence. There wasn't much to DISS-cuss in the opening couple of miles anyhow. The town was very quiet and it wasn't long before I could see the lights of a couple of other teams ahead. I was determined to make it an exciting drive for Roy in Roydon where I overtook both teams in quick succession. The A1066 may seem flat when one is driving but for a runner there are a number of long gradual climbs. However I was really steaming as I passed the museum at Bressingham and I was soon bearing down on three more teams which were swiftly dealt with.
As I loped towards South Lopham I picked off a few more, the rain, which had been threatening since Diss, was now a steady drizzle and a group of late teens walking home asked David "what this was all in aid of". Ten minutes later, after overtaking a couple more teams, I bought Bungay Black Dog garb into Garb'sham (local pronounication of Garboldisham so I am told), where the cyclists changed over and I was now asssisted by Andrew Smith. I had been running for about one hour at this point. Just to the west of the village, Team 8's runner suddenly loomed out of the darkness and overtook me. This was followed a while later by a second male runner. How dare they I thought! At one point I thought I might be able to stay with this second runner and return the complement but in the end he got away. I was starting to feel the hills a bit more now but there was life in the old Black Dog still and I overtook a couple of other runners en route to Shadwell Stud bringing my total to twelve I think. This section of road seems endless, there is no habitation, the canopy of trees overhead makes it very dark but the rain had long since stopped and there was not a puff of wind. Eventually Thetford came into sight although there was still over a mile to go to the changeover point. The Hurth Way and Norwich Road roundabouts were completely free of traffic. I swept around the last bend in Methwold Road and there were the lights of Brunel Way Industrial Estate ahead. It had been such an enjoyable and exciting run that I was sorry it was over and Bobbie almost had to prise the baton from my hand! Off she sped into the darkness and my part in this madness was over.
My thanks must go to my two cyclists David Gilbert and Andrew Smith for their words of encouragement throughout this stage and to the minibus crew. It was reassuring to hear that engine ticking away behind me for over two hours whilst the headlights drew strange shadows of a runner and a cyclist on the road surface ahead of me which looked as if I was fifteen feet tall but no more than ten inches wide. All the while the reflection from the orange beacon danced across the empty fields to my left or in the faces of hedges and trees as they stood guard by the roadside silently observing the bizarre spectacle which is the Round Norfolk Relay.
Stage 13 Bobbie Sauerzapf Thetford to Feltwell 13.25 miles
My memories are:-
1. Lovely bike ride through Castle Rising and the woods leading to Wolferton. Right foot going numb with the early stages of frostbite.
2. Older gentleman out for a day visit to the National Trust at Horsey. On seeing the RNR taking place around him he pulled out his collapsible stool and sat and watched. Eventually he asked what was going on. On being informed he said "But I expected them to be young and fit. Some of these people are OLD!". Did he mean us?
3. Official at Yarmouth stage change in high vis jacket labelled "Interpreter". "It's an effing road effing race"???
4. Amazing firework display from Wellington pier.
5. Good fish and chips from a chippie in a decidedly dodgy bit of Yarmouth (eaten with car doors locked).
6. Chris and Pete using a crowbar and sledgehammer to remove a flashing road light from the rear axle of a minibus (not ours!). They'd run it over and it got stuck. It was still flashing throughout the operation.
7. Sleeping on camping mat behind car at Scole changeover (aka The Field of Thistles). Having strange dream about lying in a barbed wire coffin.
8. Parsley snoring like a walrus at Thetford (long day, old dog, needs sleep, snores like walrus).
9. Surprisingly lovely run through the forest at 3AM in the morning. Apologies to Dave and Andrew for being such grim company. Both being unfailingly cheerful. Dave chatting throughout his ride and providing music from his pocket. Stage 13 is the graveyard shift but it IS mostly downhill.
10. Stage 13 distances being marked by road kill, not numbered signs. Mile 8 = rabbit. Mile 9 = pheasant. Mile 10 = undetermined furry item, possibly animal.
Stage 14 John Wharton Feltwell to Wissington 8.80 miles
Having spent 30 years getting up at 03.15 an early morning start of 02.45 should not be a problem! Well just let me point out, I took semi retirement three years ago and now do not rise until 06.10. So it was with trepidation that I set the alarm, would it go off, would I hear it, would I go back to sleep. I know I will set three that will do the trick! Well it worked I was up, fed and watered and off by 03.05. Janice in passage seat with bicycle handle bars in one ear (no do not ask). Do you know where you are going she asks? “Cuss I does”. Well I did until I got to Thetford that is! But I remained calm, which is more than she did when I did an about turn in some ones drive and hit a post! No the dent is not as big as the last one. With some very advanced navigation we arrived at the change over point where I was to start. Now I was told by the old gal what is organising the Black Dog team that these change over’s were busy. “Yeah okay, whatever” says I, you’re a woman, you exaggerate. Opps no she dunt, it was like the sales at the local turkey farm at Christmas. Lots of cackling, flashing lights and feathers flying. I was due to take over from Bobbie what’s her name. So there we are looking up the road at a row of incoming orange flashing lights. Those that had been on duty since the race started 24hrs earlier said they could identify all the teams by the flashing lights. Well better than an interest in Post Boxes I guess, but only just!
“HERE COMES BOBBIE, where is John”. “I am here, take my coat, where is she, where do I go, I want a wee, is that her?” “Yes here she comes”....... “Oh no it is not her” So much for these clever dicks that could tell an orange flashing light at 200 paces! 10 min later. I am now cold and in need of a bacon sandwich, “Here she comes”. By God they are correct. Baton in hand, wife on bike away we go into the dark. Remembering the advice given. “ Do you keep a running boy, and keep your head up. You are going through the Fens and them what is local, mate with anything that has a body temperature of over 6 degrees and shows signs of distress.” Well how do you report on your experience of running a relay leg in the dark? I saw nowt, saw nobody, heard a dog bark, lots of lights, Ahh the next change over, here you are David off you go with the baton. That was it! Yes I really enjoyed the experience of it. I take my hat off to those that were in attendance for the whole relay. A big thank you to Sue and Karen you put a huge amount of effort in and the club is proud of you both. To Roy, Peter, Mark, Chris & Bobbie thank you also for all you did and the time you gave. I now know that Roy is a true friend. He did not put tread marks up my Running Vest when he was driving the vehicle that was chaperoning me when I was running.
Stage 15 David Gilbert Wissington to Downham Market 7.70 miles
I knew something was a miss as before I even got on the minibus I had received more than one warning about the first runner I was to accompany. The runner concerned, Ian, joined the minibus with me at Gillingham. As we made our way to Harleston he was eyeing up the other teams ready to chase them down later. The plan of action was formed for the start of his leg before he left the minibus at Harleston to "jump" ahead. With so many teams close together there was a possibility that several teams could be at the Scole change-over point all at the same time. The plan was that we would "take" them all before they got organised. As it turned out we were the only ones at the change-over point. The earlier warnings had been that if I didn't hop on the bike quick I may never catch him. Hanging out of the minibus door as we swung off the main road the idea was to get from bus to bike touching the ground as little as possible. And we were off. As a runner myself, usually at a sedate pace of around 9 minute miles, I had only ever dreamed of racing at 6½ minute miles. It was exhilarating. I now know what Ben Hur must have felt like during the chariot race! Later on I accompanied Bobby from Thetford. She started off at a corking pace and was soon out of the industrial area and into the woodland. By this time the teams had spread out a bit. The road was dark, quiet and pretty lonely. To help produce a more friendly atmosphere to the place I had brought along a small portable radio. Despite Bobby's desperate efforts to run away I seemed to be making headway in converting her to a Radio 2 listener. Bobby seemed quite happy skipping along but I certainly would not have run her stage without knowing there was a minibus behind me. This year we were honoured in the minibus by the presence of a young lady during most of the night stage. For those who have not travelled in the minibus it can become a very busy place at times. Runners jumping on and off, cyclists on and off, bikes on and off, drinks passing out the windows and overtaking other teams, et cetera. At other times tedium. It was during one of these quiet times that our lady passenger invented yet another minibus game. Unfortunately, us men can't get on with the et cetera peacefully with ladies aboard playing games!.
Stage 16 Sue Potter Stowbridge to Feltwell 5.49 miles
The penultimate stage! I knew that Roly was waiting at Stowbridge, so it was time to forget about timekeeping and the admin side of the RNR, to focus on running as fast as my legs would carry me. It was around 8 clock on Sunday morning, clear and cool when I set off from Downham Market. I thought that Captain John would be cycling with me, but either Janice wouldn’t get off the bike or John wouldn’t get on it, so Janice was my companion cyclist for the 5.49 miles to Stowbridge. The Bungay Black Dogs, along with just about every other club taking part, had been told off by referees in unmarked cars (!) for the cyclist being alongside the runner, (road safety and pace-making issues) and so with Janice cycling along behind me, we made our way along the 5.49 miles to Stowbridge. The route was flat but very open, which meant that there was a surprising headwind to contend with now and again. A couple of runners sped past me and I felt like I was standing still although I was running as fast as I could, but in spite of my lack of sleep I really enjoyed my run and felt pretty darn good out there! I particularly enjoyed the run in to the changeover point as it was on the down slope of a bridge and I managed a short sprint. It was at this point that I had a “Dear Diary” moment as Mark took a photograph of me running, and I had BOTH feet off the ground shortly before I handed the baton over to Roly for the last stage. Thank you Janice for cycling with me and encouraging me. Thank you Bungay Black Dogs for making it such a great weekend. You were all brilliant, and I felt proud and privileged to be a part of such a great team.
Stage 17 Roland Shaw Stowbridge to Kings Lynn 11.73 miles
Having been up at 4:30am every morning for the past fortnight, today was to be an easy day. A relaxing run with friends in North Norfolk. Not so! Work commitments meant that the only leg of the event I could do was the last one – Stowbridge to Kings Lynn. I needed to be at the start of Stage 17 by 7:15am – so the alarm stayed set at 4:30am! My rider (Karen Gedge) and I had been out a couple of weeks previously to recce the route, so we had it in our minds. No time to ponder at junctions this time. But, would Karen be awake enough to confirm the route as we travelled? She will have been up all night. I hope she will be able to open the gates on the embankment between the rivers and allow me to just run.
We (that is Elaine and I) check the website for reports of early progress of the team. By Yarmouth they had slipped 20 - 25 minutes from the target. If this continues I will have to run the last 12 miles in 1 hour 20 minutes! No pressure then. All the sh*t and all the glory on the final leg!
7:25am We have arrived in good time and hear that Sue Potter has set off on Stage 16 (5 miles). We expect her in approximately 45 minutes. Time to apply the race number, last drink and an energy gel sachet…….and wait…….and wait. 7:30am The car park is getting very busy as the competitors close up. The support vehicles and staff are all converging at the same place at the same time.
8:10am Sue appears over the horizon, we exchange the baton and I’m off!
8:15am Karen is talking to me constantly. I am trying to get into my rhythm and all I can offer in reply is a “Yes” a “No” or just a grunt in response. I’m thinking she feels obliged to talk as one and a half hours of silence seems odd. I don’t mind and listen to her “tales of the night” and general encouragement with interest.
3.5 miles We are on the embankment between the two rivers – the stiff breeze is straight in my face. This will slow me up I thought. We pass a couple and a couple pass us. We recognise a few of the local features we saw during the recce and comment on them. Not as much time to enjoy them as before – it hurts as I work hard to maintain the pace.
8.0 miles I lose Karen! She was just behind me, but no longer. Do I go back? We have just come over a narrow bridge – a bit narrower than the handle bars on the pool bike. She’s quite resourceful, she’ll manage to get over, under or round it somehow. I plod on.
8.5 miles She catches up and offers the overdue energy juice. The earlier gels have kicked in. I feel strong and able to keep up the pace.
10.0 miles I take another gel as they seem effective (and stay down)! I had never taken them before whilst actually running. Previously, just at the end of the bike leg in triathlons.
12.0 miles I am entering the track at Kings Lynn. It feels like the final lap of the Olympic Marathon inside the stadium. Plenty of cheering as I kick a bit on the home straight. It feels good!
The End I finish in 1:27:39 – 20 seconds faster than predicted.
Not bad for a strong head wind. Great event. We reflect on the highlights as some of the core crew and I tuck into a full english breakfast. Sue, Mark and Karen are nearly asleep.
Pity the whole Black Dog team are not here to enjoy the atmosphere. We need a camper van with sleeping accommodation for next year. Count me in!