Round Norfolk Relay Race Report
The Round Norfolk Relay – September 17/18 2011
Bungay Black Dog Running Club stormed around the 25th Round Norfolk Relay over the weekend of September 17th/18th to complete the event in a club record of 26 hours and 43 minutes coming 41st of the 57 team entries.
As the longest multi-terrain relay in the UK, it is a compelling 195 mile run around the perimeter of Norfolk in 17 stages. The logistics are complicated because some stages require some navigational skills, six stages are off road with sand and shingle to tackle and there are no water stations. On the road sections, the runners are accompanied by a cyclist and minibus support. There is also a 28 hour limit to the event. This was the fourth year that the Bungay Black Dog Running Club had entered and once again team chiefs Sue Potter, Karen Gedge, Chris Chorley and Bobbie Sauerzapf did a great job of co-ordinating the seventeen runners to the right locations at the right times, along with accompanying cyclists, minibus drivers and getting timekeepers in place.
While some teams take the event very seriously, the Black Dogs prefer to promote team spirit by encouraging all ages and levels to take part including three Junior members, one of which had his mother running as well. The mixture of abilities meant that it would take a huge effort to beat the dead line which was predicted by the club to be just inside the 28 hour deadline which last year, they just squeaked inside by 1½ minutes. This year numerous club members ran faster than their anticipated times which consolidated over an hour of breathing space.
The Stage results were:
Stage 1: starting at 5.30am on the Saturday morning 16.32 miles Chris Chorley 2:08:49
Stage 2: 14.06 miles Robbie James 1:42:30.
Stage 3: 5.76 miles Robin Bendix-Hickman 0:44:01
Stage 4: 11.14 miles Shona Bendix 1:46:12.
Stage 5: 10.81 miles Sally Nicholls 1:46:03
Stage 6: 7.90 miles David Waterman 1:08:31.
Stage 7: 9.24 miles Bobbie Sauerzapf 1:17:00
Stage 8: 7.52 miles Marcus Sladden 0:49:52.
Stage 9: 11.3 miles Bob Paul 1:44:00.
Stage 10: 20.06 miles Leo Altarelli 2:38:43.
Stage 11: 14.60 miles Ian Taylor 1:48:19.
Stage 12: 19.67 miles David Gilbert 2:57:45.
Stage 13: 13.25 miles Richard Dye 1:42:58.
Stage 14: 8.8 miles Bob Jack 1:33:26.
Stage 15: 7.2 miles Karen McMorran 1:05:55.
Stage 16: 5.49 miles Kieran McMorran 0:32:24 – who was the 2nd fastest runner of this stage in the event.
Stage 17: (11.73 miles) Adam Craske 1:16:54
The Black Dog Running Club was also responsible for organising a Stage checkpoint (11) for the second time during this event. John Wharton and his team did an excellent job to ensure that the travelling circus of 57 teams passed though the Maltings Sports Ground in Bungay very smoothly on the Saturday evening.
Runners’ Experiences of the Round Norfolk Relay 2011
Stage 1: Chris Chorley - Lynn to Hunstanton -16.32 miles
The stage went well; the first part took no time at all with Carol to talk to, and despite the predicted stage times for the first four teams being nearly identical, we spread out from the start. There was no way I could catch Chris Starmer (Stowmarket Striders) so I settled for second of the 5.30 start teams. After Wolferton the course cannot be recce’d without special permission, but it isn’t difficult. Mostly concrete track, grass and sand. It doesn’t take long to get to Snettisham (a slight course change which added distance) and then to Heacham. Finally you join the concrete promenade to Hunstanton South Beach and on via grassy cliffs to the changeover just past the lighthouse. An early start makes it quite a challenge, up at 3:45, at the start by 4:45. When do you eat what ? At least you know your exact start time, unlike most of our later stages which started earlier than predicted. I think I could knock a few minutes off if I did it again.
Timekeeping and Support
Always a challenge. It was partly made easier, and partly harder by the lack of RNR official timekeepers and referees at some changeovers as the organisers struggled to keep up with the BBDRC team. At Scole I received a call from Ian Vaughan-Arbuckle (Race Director) who was somewhat concerned that we would get back to Lynn before the official timekeeper was ready. On the picture below we are the obvious Black Dog logo, waiting in Thetford at midnight with Doug and Richard. The square symbol to the west is the RNR course marker (we were very close at times), and the similar symbol between Diss and Thetford is the RNR lead vehicle. It was very interesting to have position reporting available to us; though I do wonder if the organisers thought that our position was that of our mini bus !
It would be useful if night time runners travelled on the mini bus, or at least were in the vicinity of the race. We spent most of our time at changeovers on the phone making sure that runners were available for their stage or providing directions to get to the stage car parking. It didn’t help that the parking at Wissington seemed to have moved a mile down the road with no notice, but situations like this were partly our own making, as when we got to Wissington the stage marshals had not yet arrived so could not tell us, and we could not pass the information on to our runners.
Overall, well done to everyone with their stage times. A memorable moment was in the carpark at Stowbridge when Adam asked if he should go for it (which he did !) or do something like half his normal pace so that we would finish at our estimated time.
We even got “Full Marks” from Steve Carrott (the RNR timekeeper) when he signed the stage sheet at the finish. But more accurate time estimates would have made life easier. As Ian V-H said to us, “no, don’t slow down, keep going, well done, but let us know if you are going to get to the finish before we do!”.
Stage 2: Robbie James - Hunstanton to Burnham Overy Staithe - 14.08 miles
Another RNR, another fantastic event and another great day! With Chris storming in from the 1st stage I set off with the wind behind me and the early morning sun glowing gold across the sand. Keeping the required pace was hard on the sand, board walks and railway sleepers but the wonderful scenery and many twitchers and dog walkers being friendly keep me going. A bit of "recovery" on the road section between Thornham and Brancaster with welcome company from Carol on bike, then back off road through the Staithe and marsh making my way to Burnham, I could see the village so close, but I knew I still 3 miles to go! Legs now aching, but still on time. Little Egrets and Grey Herons swooping by and Oyster catchers calling took my mind off them. Then it was across a field to the road, with Carol waiting for me again. Into Burnham Staithe to the change over, a great reception from all the gang as I handed over the baton. Time for a beer! (Oh **** they are not open yet!)
Thanks and well done everyone. Another fantastic effort.
Stage 3: Robin Bendix-Hickman - Burnham Overy Staithe to Wells - 5.76 miles
At around 9 in the morning on the Saturday, my start time was luckily only verging on the edge of ridiculous. The support team were waiting ready, sporting a snazzy minibus, and thanks to the runners before me shaving an impressive 8 minutes off their estimates, it wasn’t long until Robbie rounded the corner and passed on the baton. The route itself starts off with a mile and a bit on a coastal path, then a mile on beach and finally 3.5 miles on country tracks. It’s a lovely route but I really paid for a fast pace (for me at least) on the path, and then the gruelling section on beach, so I found the last few miles quite tough. It was even too early in the morning for the nudists to be on the nudist beach to provide some distraction! Despite this, and with the help of some supportive comments from my accompanying runner Darrell, we managed to get to the changeover in my original estimate time. Mum was waiting to receive the baton, and I just had the energy to wish her luck before collapsing to the ground. Thanks to all the team for making the event such a brilliant experience and memorable occasion, but especially to Darrell for being an excellent support runner. I would definitely like to run again next year!
Stage 4: Shona Bendix - Wells-Next-the-Sea to Cley - 11.14 miles
Being a member of a club, you get used to running in a group as well as the usual running on your own but there is nothing quite like taking part in the Round Norfolk Relay. You suddenly find yourself involved in an iconic team event with all the excitement that entails but also with all the risk of letting yourself down and everyone else. Not only that but my son, Robin, was taking part too and handing the baton to me which made it seem even more amazing. Having worked myself up into a lather of excitement, over-preparation and too many emails to poor Carol Maycock, Sue Potter and Karen Gedge (who are so patient, calm and kind and had to do a great deal more than turn up to run one stage), I made it to North Norfolk with enough provisions for a month at sea.
It was strange legging it way from Robin at Burnham Overy Staithe and then waiting for him to arrive at Wells. Not much to see of RNR in this remarkably lovely spot except for two cones and the Bungay team. I have a vague recollection of an incriminating photograph being taken at some point. Robin arrived with the superb Darrell Oldman who kindly accompanied him the whole way, both looking incredibly good given the time in which they had managed to finish their stage.
Off I set with Carol, who was supporting on the bike, and we weaved our way through ambling pedestrians and a dog-fight. Despite having had no sleep, an incredibly sparkly, upbeat and encouraging Carol managed to entertain me with observations of people we passed, in the long first mile or so which includes the Wells town sea front. Apparently the fish and chip van by the Harbour Master’s Office sells great grub. However, nothing could totally distract me from the classic self-destruct path that I had embarked on in my over-excitement – too fast (for me), too early and too much uncontrolled heavy breathing (say nothing).
Continuing on alone, not even some really inconsiderate dog-walkers could blight the miles of lovely open countryside which followed but nothing compared to the beauty of Carol and Robin standing in Stiffkey Salt Marshes Car Park with a bottle of water for me. The Creek was more boggy and water-laden than on my trial runs but with a few well-timed leaps, I escaped with only about 1kg extra weight of clay on each shoe which, thankfully, came off after about 100 yards. Even without the clay, my legs had decided they had had enough of me and fought against forward movement for the rest of the stage.
Arrival at a National Trust point signalled the beginning of the home stretch with Blakeney Church in the distance so it was safe to start feeling more optimistic about finishing. The path wound its way along into Blakeney and on arrival, remembering to keep left of the white barriers, there was the great distraction of seeing people crabbing and eating ice-creams and little children pointing and laughing as a bright red runner ‘whizzed’ by. There are a few bits you could go wrong on here e.g. picking the wrong gate to go through at the edge of Blakeney and then not noticing the smaller gate to the right up the short and steep slope which takes you to the pick-your-own area.
A somewhat bemused Darrell met me as I went up the slight slope from Wiveton cafè to the main road into Cley. I must have been moving at about 15 minute mile pace, into the wind, and all I could say was ‘I’m dead’. David Waterman biked down a lovely hill into Cley with me. I loved this rejuvenating bit, knowing there was still a couple of miles to go but it was all interesting and, most importantly, downhill or flat. Cley is windy (as in bends in the road not a perpetual weather condition) and the roads are narrow with a fair amount of through traffic and parked cars to weave around so anyone doing this stage needs to keep their wits about them.
Just past the stone bench, the turn onto the long raised bank leading to the shingle beach, provided an open view to the changeover which, in contrast to the start point of this stage, was heavily and helpfully marshalled. The beautiful Sally Nicholls set off incredibly strongly across the notorious shingle of Stage 5, baton safely in hand. Millions of thanks to Karen and Carol for covering the cycling for Stages 5 and 6 and even more thanks to Sue for instructing that they should do so instead of me!
Stage 5: Sally Nicholls - Cley to Cromer 10.81 miles
Basically, it was a case of third time lucky! Training was tough, having left it a little late, but Robbie made sure that I kept to schedule. The pressure was on, with only a minute to spare for the overall completion of the event and I was determined not to be the one that that took us over the time limit.
On the day, we got an excellent start, and were running ahead of our predicted time from Stage one. An added benefit was that we were in the lead. Again, a bit of pressure was there, wanting to keep a 'lead' position, something I am not usually used to!. Once I had taken the baton from Shona, despite some rain and wind, I had a clear run.... the weather conditions actually cleared the route of pedestrians near to and in Sheringham! The temperature was mild and the views as lovely as ever. Having a portaloo at Cley helped avoid a necessary 1-2 min toilet stop at Sheringham and I felt I was running well. Fearful of being overtaken by numerous faster runners, I kept the pace up and imagined that I would run to predicted time or possibly a couple of minutes
faster. However, I was amazed to have come in 12 mins ahead of time. Why? The amazing and most welcome support by the team members at every possible stop, especially Shona, Robin, Katie, Pete, Robbie and Charlotte. It really did keep me focussed! The great standard set by those who ran before me, showing that every single person was doing their best for the team. The confidence given to runners, with the knowledge that the admin side of the event was being capably covered by Sue, Karen, Peter, Carol, Bobbie, Chris, etc Everyone was pulling together!! I was just a small cog and that despite the fact that I didn't think I could do it... I was proved wrong by the team. Would I do it again? Yes. It is an amazing experience for a runner and a unique opportunity. Thank you to all those who made it possible.
Stage 6: Dave Waterman - Cromer to Mundesley - 7.90 miles
After a night under the stars and an early morning breakfast of sardine sandwiches and coleslaw and beet root salad, a few hardy others and myself were there to see Chris Chorley off at 5.30am. Then it was a case of being driven round the beautiful North Norfolk coast by Peter to cheer on Robbie, Robin, Shona and Sally who then passed the baton to me for the 6th leg from Cromer to Mundesley.
After a quick warm-up which included a rain-dance, things were looking good for me to finish the leg in my predicted time of 64 minutes. The first couple of miles led me along the promenade up to the lighthouse, passing through a golf course and on to the A149 where I was met by my support cyclist - none other than Club Captain Karen Gedge. The sun then came out which made running conditions less than ideal for me as I’m more of a cross country runner who likes to run in the rain and mud. Thanks mainly to Karen’s encouragement, I finished my leg in 68 minutes, being 4 minutes over my predicted time. Considering the heat I can’t be too disappointed with that result really.
Then it was back on the minibus for the rest of my guided tour of Norfolk. I managed 45 mins sleep before it was time for the night team support cyclists to take over, including myself, Dave Gilbert and a very brave Michelle, not forgetting minibus driver Roy Burton. I enjoyed this part of the relay the most; I suppose working nights makes it a lot easier for me as I’m normally up and about anyway.
The things I remember most about the night shift are Kieran’s incredible run where he just went for it to finish second overall for that leg, then Adam’s run for the final leg into King’s Lynn. Though next year I think I’ll opt for a mountain bike so I won’t come a cropper like I did this year trying to catch Adam on the towpath. Overall it was a great experience and I can’t wait to take part in it again.
Stage 7: Bobbie ‘Cookie Monster’ Sauerzapf - Mundesley to Lessingham - 9.24 miles
I really enjoyed this stage. Navigation is easy and some of the views are spectacular. It was raining heavily when we left Norwich but the sunshine had returned by the time we got to Mundesley. Dave W hammered down the hill and handed me the baton and we were off. The first couple of hundred yards are downhill and, spurred on by the thought that the incredibly fast Mary Nary from Striders was running this leg too, Carol and I shot off. Normal pace was soon resumed because the run then wound through Mundesley before climbing up to the windmill. That was really the only one uphill section. The rest of the run was puff-Mary will be coming soon-pant-Mary will be coming soon terror. About half way we knew we were being chased because support vehicles started passing. First the Black Dog fleet, then assorted others including the aforementioned Striders, Norwich Road Runners in their laundry van(!) and Yaxley. It’s a tribute to the camaraderie of most running clubs that each passing support vehicle slowed and shouted a “well done” or similar before zooming off towards Lessingham. We continued at slightly less than zoom-pace and, after a brief stop at the toilets in Walcott, headed towards Happisburgh and the home leg. At the Cart Gap turning I gasped to Carol that we had a mile to go and could she please phone Chris to warn him. Marcus was suitably warmed up and revving at the start line. Mercifully he waited until I’d handed him the baton before disappearing towards Horsey.
I can recommend the tea and cake at Horsey (though the rob-dogs charge you £2 to park a canoe) and chips from Litchfield chippy in Yarmouth. If you can find the chippy, do keep your car doors locked and drive elsewhere to eat them because the area is less-than-tasty. The chips are definitely tasty and you can also purchase deep fried mars bars...
Quote of the event. Doug to Bob Jack in the dark outside RAF Feltwell. “What are you getting out of there? (BJ was ferreting in his shorts at the time). Bob J to Doug after the article was retrieved “You might have to hold it in!”. What was the item? Answers on a postcard to... This whole episode was doubtless captured on MOD CCTV thus scuppering Bob J’s attempts to get a visa for dodgy parts of the world ever again. Probably unrepeatable but not recorded for posterity...Karen and Gary Mc’s comments as Karen was hauled from the car at Wissington to be informed that Bob J was thirty seconds away and Karen could only have a wee if she could perform in 29.
Stage 8: Marcus Sladden - Lessingham – Horsey 7.52 miles
The Round Norfolk Relay this year was my second time at participating in this event and iIhave to say it was 10x better than last year and last year was AMAZING.
The stage that I was running was nice and flat and I managed a 10k pb while running this route.
I couldn't have ever finished this course without the help of Captain Karen spurring me on all the way .She was a great help although we almost got lost once but we found our way!
Overall, yet again, one of the best experiences of my life would defo participate next year and the year after that and the year after that and so on.
Very Proud to be a Black Dog!! Thanks.
Stage 9: Bob Paul - Horsey to Yarmouth - 11.3 miles
I arrived at Horsey in good time, or so I thought, but no sooner than I had attended to my pre-run essentials, Marcus came charging down the road like a runaway train. We successfully exchanged the baton (note to GB 4 X 100 relay team) and I was off. Within a minute or so Karen Gedge cycled up to join me and we set off for Yarmouth. We chatted about all manner of things, all the way through West Somerton, Winterton, Hemsby and Caistor.
As we progressed, the traffic got heavier, but the sight of my brandishing the bright yellow baton like a whirling dervish was enough to guarantee our safe passage. It wasn’t too hot, it didn’t rain, it wasn’t windy, and it was still light - perfect for running and in due course we arrived in Great Yarmouth. Karen turned into Bob Jack and the conversation changed from fish and chips to abandoned cars in the Kazahzstan desert. Very soon I was on the seafront, and the end was in sight. I increased my pace, not that you would notice, and as night descended I reached the changeover point to be greeted by our team, and pass on to the waiting Leo.
Some two hours later, I greeted Leo at the approach to The Maltings and for the next three and half hours ushered tired runners and cyclists onto the footpath towards Pirnhow Street and the changeover point, not a usual Saturday night, but enjoyable all the same. And it struck me, as if I didn’t know, of what a good club we are – some other teams runners didn’t have accompanying cyclists and some didn’t have a support vehicle – we had all this and more. My thanks to the organising committee and helpers and well done to everyone who took part in one way or another.
Stage 10: Leo Altarelli – Great Yarmouth to Bungay - 20.6 miles
The Round Norfolk Relay! What an experience, I was running Stage 10 which is 20.6 miles from Gt. Yarmouth to Bungay. I set off at around 6.30pm and arrived in Bungay 2:38:43 later around 9:15pm. From day to dusk to pitch black. I am writing this 2 days after with a strange feeling. Did that really happen or was it a dream!? When I woke up the next day and tried to walk down the stairs I realised that yes, it had really happened! I waited at the start on the seafront with the other runners getting ready for our stage. By this point the race had been going for 12 hours and had travelled 94.54 miles. My fellow Black Dog runner Bob Paul arrived to much cheering, shouting and excitement, we exchanged the baton, a few words and a hug, and I was off. Running down the seafront, much to the amusement of the amusement arcades, a lone runner in tight shorts with a baton in his hand and a number 7 on his shirt was on his way. Where? they shouted! I had some Kendal mint cake in my pocket which I had found in a kiss me quick shop earlier in the day. This would be great fuel for my feet I thought. After all, it got Edmund Hillary to the top of Everest and Josh Naylor round all the peaks, so it’s got to get me back to Bungay. Right?
The Round Norfolk Relay is a unique and brilliantly surreal race, especially at night. I had the privilege of leading the whole race and I never saw another runner for the whole 20 miles (the start is staggered) - just my cycling support partner and the other Black Dogs in the van. At a few points when I needed more water collected from the van, I was left to run in the pitch black for a few minutes, a moment to reflect and realise your body is running without you really thinking about it. Your mind sharpens in the dark, without anything for your eyes to focus on or to get distracted with. I had the legendary Bob Jack cycling next to me. He entertained me the whole way with stories of his epic desert ultra race conquests, marathon race fish and chip pit stops and Bull fighting.
As usual, my enthusiasm and excitement at the beginning of the race far outweighed my discipline resulting in a fast first 10 miles and a slower second! with a few moments which were a test for my stamina both physically and mentally. At one point around mile 18, I turned to Bob and announced that 'this hill is really long I can’t wait for the top', with which he laughed and told me 'we are actually going down hill!!' We ran along the A143 through Fritton, Haddiscoe, Toft Monks, Ellingham and finally across the old railway line at the bottom of my road to The Maltings, Bungay. In the last 500 yards shouts, instructions and cheers leaped out from the side of the road in the dark 'Go Leo!' they shouted, 'who is that?' I shouted back. I passed over my baton with much joy and relief to Ian Taylor who set off into the night for his 14.6 miles to Scole. Once I had warmed down I then sat with a cup of tea chatting and laughing until my energy had returned a bit. Later on in The Artichoke pub, I found a nice pint of something called 'Black Dog Beer' nice end to the evening!
My lasting memories of this race have yet to settle, It will take a while I think, as it was such a unique experience, but here are a few; running past the boats in the Yarmouth docks, cars and vans beeping, boys on BMX clapping, a Yarmouth girl shouting 'go on sexy legs', and friends and loved ones cheering me on along the way. A big thanks to you all from me and my 'sexy legs' you really helped us get home!
Stage 11: Ian Taylor – Bungay to Scole - 14.6 miles
From a navigational point of view, this is one of the easier stages, because apart from Pirnhow Street it does not leave the A143. However as all of the towns and villages en route have been by-passed, it is quite featureless especially at night. I was therefore glad that I had done my homework and had some landmarks to watch for. The footbridge over the road near Denton was 4 miles, the Mendham turn was about halfway and when I saw the sign for Brockdish I knew there was just two miles to go. It was also useful to know where the hills were, the main ones being immediately west of both Harleston roundabouts and from Billingford up to the Scole Village turn.
News came through that Leo was due thirty minutes earlier than stated which I was really pleased about as my stage was tightly timed. Back in February I had completed the Brighton Half in 1 hour 27 minutes but seven months later my legs were reminding me that they had since run 22 marathons, including five in the last five weeks! This was the reason why, this year, I had opted for one of the shorter night road stages - plus it gave the opportunity to "fill the gap" on the A143. I can now say that I have run 54 miles on this road from Great Yarmouth to Thetford in the dark; which must surely make me the saddest Black Dog ever! I have enjoyed every one of those miles too.
In previous years, there were other teams ahead of us for me to hunt down and pass on the road - their flashing lights giving me something to aim for. This time however, thanks to the sterling efforts of our team, we were in first position and I was determined to keep it that way. I am very pleased to say that no one overtook me.
This year my cyclist was David Waterman and he seemed amazed that I could keep the pace going over such a long distance especially in such tight shorts and without stopping once to take on water! Honestly, they really are very comfortable to run in and I have worn out a fair number of pairs over the last 38 years! Apparently David was told earlier in the day that I like to talk whilst I am running the RNR but it is more accurate to say that I like to listen. I conducted an experiment during a Club Run in 2009 and found that by talking, my pace decreased by 1mph and this year as time was tight I felt it best for me to stay silent. My apologies David if you were expecting an answer or a comment and didn't get one but I really enjoyed your company and appreciated the protection you gave me whilst negotiating the roundabouts. I will certainly give Hamble a wave for you this weekend as I pass by en route to the New Forest Marathon.
During the drive home I counted 38 other teams strung out along the A143 between Scole and Clays Roundabout. The further east I went the tighter they were packed but at the time I handed the baton over to Dave Gilbert for him to re-DISS-cover Stage 12 (sorry couldn't resist a current pun after completing my stage!) I reckon we were at least five miles ahead of all the other teams. Here's to doing it all again next year!
Stage 12: Dave Gilbert – Scole to Thetford - 19.67 miles
I am sorry to say, Sue, that what ever you did with the time calculator you were not going to win this one. There was a mention at the prize giving about estimated times being accurate or not, as the case may be. The main thing is that you got it under 28 hours. When the night team took over at Great Yarmouth, the day team presented us with a healthy lead on the ground. Sue, you should know by now that the night team are mad fanatics. To us the race had the makings of a fox hunt with the Dogs as the fox. Leo had taken the long leg over from Ian Taylor (2010). Leo was out in front as he left Great Yarmouth and he was staying there. There were grave doubts whether Bob Jack had the staying power to keep with him, but more later. At Bungay there was to be a complicated change-over. I did not see Ian Taylor leave as I was whisked to Scole. Having cycled with Ian before I know that he will have known he was in front, put another loco on the rear of the train and opened all the steam valves. I was taken to Scole by car and only had time for three visits to the portaloo before Ian was there.
I must admit that I have never run 19.67 miles non stop. Although I have run a marathon, this was with several leisurely stops for a sit down at water stations. Just in case, I had warned Roy that there would be a stationary water stop. However, I have run a stage of the Round Norfolk in the rain. The weather forecast had been for showers. I do not do wet and particularly not wet feet.
So, as Ian handed me the baton he also presented me with a continuing leading position and I was DRY. I went gently padding off but with no minibus or cyclist and it was pitch black. As I entered Scole a car pulled up on the other side of the road. Oh no it’s the referee. No, it’s Ian Taylor’s dad. After what seemed an age the cyclist and minibus caught up with some story that the chain had come off, (burger van at changeover point!). Earlier in the day I had not really fancied a run but by the time the cyclist caught me I had had a gentle jog start/warm up, a little time on my own to think and a lead during fine weather. I had promised Sue I would find her 5 minutes so I was off. When I got to Bressingham, at roughly 5 miles I looked at my watch and commented that I could not run 5 miles in 35 minutes and must have got times mixed up. It did not dawn on me that at anywhere near that speed I would die out there towards the end.
As we approached Garboldisham (half way) I sent Michelle back to the minibus to warn them that at the top of the next hill would be dinner break. We all pulled into the lay-by, abandoned the minibus and lined up along the hedge. As we pulled away:
The wee is in the hedge
The banana is in the runner
The cyclist is in the minibus
The co pilot is on the bike
The numbered vest is still on the previous cyclist
The baton is in the minibus
Michelle was a brilliant cyclist beside me. I would have loved to have done the whole stage with her but as a vain old man I am glad she did not see me struggling later on. David Waterman took over as cyclist with me. At about mile 14 he asked if I was struggling, to which I replied with a nod of the head. From that point on I do not think I said another word. I have absolutely no idea what David was talking about but I could not have kept going without him. I was desperate to keep him close so that I could hear him so one thing that seemed to work was that if we passed a parked car that might be a referee I passed him the water bottle that I was carrying and we never got shouted at.
After an awful lot of moaning, groaning, poking of limbs, shaking of powder, eating and drinking I was out again. This time on the bike accompanying Bob Jack on Stage 14. We were not in the lead but still in the first few teams. I had cycled with Bob before on the Black Dog’s first RNR in 2007 when he had run my stage (the old 20 mile stage from Scole to Thetford). It was a memorable occasion. Around 19 miles after a section into Thetford that seemed to go on forever, I had told him that at the bottom of the hill, he only had a few yards to go. It turned out to be another mile! Not something you want to hear at 3.30am. As we started this year’s stage, I was somewhat confused. This seemed to be the new streamlined Bob. Fortified with fish and chips washed down with red wine. Bob was away. The previous experience of cycling with Leo, Bob ‘running food’ and the team’s continuing position near the front of the race seemed to have spurred him on. Estimated times of 12 minute miles turned into 10½ minute miles (check it out on the web-site Bob). All this in absolutely freezing temperatures.
I also cycled with Kieran. What can you say? He is a machine for catching other runners. I was very surprised that he did not win the stage. The web-site shows he only missed it by a whisker. If I had known that he was that close I would have screamed at him the whole way round.
The other person who made it possible for the whole night team was Doug. It must have seemed that his journeys in the car were such a minor contribution. Can you imagine either starting a 13+ mile run by jumping out the side door of a minibus without a chance to get yourself prepared, or if had rained waiting for your stage to start and getting drenched - impossible. For you Doug and Michelle’s support I would happily fore-go running a stage next year and act as your support. Thank you.
Stage 13: Richard Dye – Thetford to Feltwell - 13.25 miles
Tried, but failed to get some shut-eye. Doug and I did a reccy of the course to Feltwell - a good move because now I knew exactly where to go. I had just heard that David (Gilbert) was not too far away and well ahead of schedule and also leading the race. Sure, enough he appeared in the distance accompanied by the flashing beacons of the support minibus, and with the Norwich Road Runners crew in hot pursuit. So off I went, a perfect change over, with Michelle on the bike. A bit cold and misty but a clear sky and bright moon.
Michelle was great, keeping me talking, handing me drinks etc. It was mainly downhill for a few miles.
Eventually, the Norwich RR team caught up and passed us. I got to Weeting and was aware of another team (Lincoln and Wellington) approaching. They overtook just before Hockwold cum Wilton (the longest village in the world) but I stuck with him. With less than two miles to go I was able to overtake and with lots of encouragement from Michelle, pushed for the finish at RAF Feltwell, where Bob Jack was waiting to take over.
A great run, I enjoyed it immensely. A great big thank you to Doug for transporting me across the county,
Michelle for being partner in crime for the evening and Sue, Karen, Chris, Bobbie and everybody for the great organisation. Can't wait for next year.
Stage 14: Bob Jack – Feltwell to Wissingham - 8.8 miles
Cycling Stage: While driving to Great Yarmouth around 6pm to take up the cycling, I was amazed to see no team appear by the time I reached the racecourse where I learnt from the minibus crew that the Black Dogs were in the lead (physically, not time wise). I took over from Captain Karen and escorted Bob Paul to the Stage 10 transition on the seafront where Leo Altarelli took off for the 20.06 mile stage to Bungay. Great Yarmouth was crowded with circus goers but no-one paid us any attention until the outskirts when a teenage girl yelled ‘Nice legs’. Leo paced himself well and got into a good rhythm as darkness started to fall. I was of little help, dropping his water bottle, fumbling with my camera, crushing his Kendall mint cake and generally getting in the way of Roy and the minibus. No other team was in sight as we made the long slog down the Broome bypass to the Maltings where the Black Dogs were waiting with good support. Leo was over the moon at his run. Ian Taylor took off like a rocket without bicycle support and I took off after him until David Gilbert could catch him up.
Running Stage: After cycling with Leo, I had headed home around 10pm for fish and chips and a couple of glasses of wine (as you do) and napped until 2am. Driving to Feltwell, there was only one team before Diss, miles behind at Billington. After Diss, there were convoys of minibuses, runners and cyclists – they looked spectacular with the lights flashing in the dark. Even if you are just a spectator, it’s worth jumping in your car after midnight and driving towards Thetford on a RNR to understand the ‘mobile circus’ that is underway. It is the most unique ‘running’ experience you will see in the UK.
Overtaking 40+ teams took extra time but not as much as getting lost in the forests north of Feltwell and trying to find the stage start. Chris Chorley had to talk me in. I arrived at the Stage 14 transition at the RAF base with only 10 minutes to spare to park and get to the line. Bobbie S took my photo hoping I wasn’t going to ‘expose myself’. Richard Dye flew in and handed over the baton around 3.45am. I think we were still near the front at race at that point and we were definitely 35 minutes ahead of schedule. The Feltwell - Wissington stage is a very flat 8.8 miles. With David Waterman as my point man, I belted out of Feltwell into the dark, still full of adrenaline from arriving so late. I knew I was running too fast but it was flat and I just pushed myself. One team passed me early on.
Mist was covering the road and my glasses constantly needed wiping. It seemed to take an age to reach the turn off heading north but David Gilbert had this strange mantra of “you are definitely running faster than 12 minute miles” which had been my estimate and even the minivan crew (with Michelle sleeping) seemed shocked at my speed. I think Roy got into second gear once. Once we turned north we were over half way and I could see the spot-lit beetroot factory with steam bellowing out in the distance, where the next stage started. I just tried to keep up my abnormal pace. David Waterman took over cycling duties and another team passed me in the final kilometre. I was delighted to finish in 1 hr 33 mins, 14 minutes ahead of my estimate and it made a change not to have half the teams pass me during my stage. Looking at the official results, I was the slowest runner on the stage (as usual) but I knew that when I handed the baton over to Karen McMorran, we would definitely make the deadline. Thanks to everyone for their event co-ordination, help, support, cycling duties and banter. Special thanks to Doug for the ride back to the car and Roy for having to drive the minibus so slowly.
Stage 15: Karen McMorran - Wissington to Downham Market - 7.2 miles
Arriving at Wissington Beetroot factory at the crack of dawn, Sunday morning, with less than 1 hours sleep, I was extremely nervous, worrying whether I would manage 7 miles. Watching Bob Jack come over the hill shouting “Where’s Karen? was a sight to behold! With Dave Waterman on the bike encouraging me., I soon caught and passed a runner, which I never expected to do. However, all too soon, I was passed by 3 others (one of the runners passed me twice I’m not sure if she was showing off or had just got lost!). RNR is an experience I would not have missed. I am grateful to all those who made it possible for BBDRC to participate.
Stage 16: Kieran McMorran - Downham Market to Stowbridge - 5.5 miles
After dropping Mum off at Stage 15, Dad, Cameron and I watched Mum go past in the car park. Then we drove on to my leg. When I arrived at Downham Market, the sun was coming out. After I had done my warm-up, Mum arrived and my race started, I soon overtook 2 or 3 teams in the first 400 metres or so and that gave me the incentive to pull away from them. With Dave Gilbert on the bike next to me and Dave Waterman in the car shouting encouragement out of the window, I soon ticked the miles away on my 5.5 mile leg, I spotted a runner about half a mile ahead, who had started 7 or 8 minutes before I did. I soon caught her up. That meant we would finish about 3rd or 4th over the line with CONAC in hot pursuit. I was half a mile a way when the two Dave’s changed bikes which meant I was on my own. I came in at 32:34 minutes. I was pleased with my result as I passed the baton to Adam where we had one leg to go. I looked at the records for U20 when I got home, and I was 9 seconds off the record. I would like to say thank you to everyone who had something to do with the RNR, it’s a great experience which I will never forget.
Stage 17: Adam Craske – Stowbridge - 11.73 miles
I was really pleased to have been given the final “glory” stage and made the decision to stay in Kings Lynn the night before as it could be an early start. Lucky I did because as I was making my final preparations before trying to get some sleep, I received a phone call. It was Chris; he was calling with good news to say we were running a little ahead of schedule, about 30 mins. So I tried to get some sleep, watching the clock and worried I might get another call, which I did, at 5am. Chris again, this time saying we were about 45min-1hour ahead and could I be at my start by 6:30am. I arrived at the start and it was so cold I couldn’t believe it. We waited on the road and there was the fantastic sight of Kieran running towards us at great speed. The first thing I thought when I started was how cold the baton was. I got to the off road part with no one behind me in sight. I really wanted to keep it this way as after everyone’s hard work, we were going to be the 3rd team to finish. After hopping over a tied up gate I pushed on but started to get tired so raised my arm to Dave on the bike for a drink, (this was the code he had told me to use so as not to use up my energy by talking). When he didn’t come, I looked behind, no Dave! (I later found out that he had slipped off his bike) the trouble was, me waving my arm about for a drink seemed to have attracted the attention of a herd of cows, who decided to run alongside of me, for about a mile. I upped my pace to get away and get to the next gate but still needing a drink I was wondering where Dave was. Then, out of nowhere, the cows started to part (like the parting of the Red Sea!) and straight through the middle rode Dave with my gel and drink, a sight for sore eyes!! It was coming up to Mile 8 when Dave said there was another team behind and they were gaining fast. At mile 9 they were only 400m behind and worse, it was a CONAC A team!! I thought I would push rather than slow down and try to stay with him, and getting to Kings Lynn I decided I was not going to give up my position now. Dave gave me an update saying he was only 200m behind then 100m! He told me to keep my pace saying he was tiring. It was then that I heard them saying those fatal words “don’t worry, he’s only a Bungay”! That was it! I got to the entrance to Lynn Sport and with the CONAC hot on my heals I just went for it, leaving Dave behind doing sub 6minute miling until the last 400m, sprinting to the finish clocking 15.5 mph I felt like Mo Farah at the 5000m World Champs knowing that I had beaten that CONAC!! I was really proud to be part of the team and would like to thank everyone who ran, biked, organised and helped us achieve a Bungay Black Dog club record.
Roy Burton - Saturday night/Sunday morning Minibus Driver
I was lucky enough to win the Golden Ticket! and drive the minibus on the night stage. Everything went quite smoothly with runners and cyclists going well, not much traffic. Most of the night was spent looking in the mirrors for orange flashing lights. Life was made easier by being so well ahead.. My night was very entertaining and the company and team worked well together, a good laugh was had by all! (you are too modest Roy – Ed)
Last Word on The Round Norfolk Relay by Sue Potter, Team Co-ordinator
Yet another fantastic Round Norfolk Relay experience, with The Bungay Black Dog team smashing all previous records to finish the 195 miles in a time of 26 hrs, 43 minutes and 22 seconds precisely. Our predicted time was 27 hours 58 Minutes and 29 seconds and being ahead of our predicted time caused the race organisers some grief in getting the changeovers set up in time for our arrival. So much so that I received a call late on the Saturday evening that went something like this:
“Ian Vaughan Arbuckle here, Race Director of the RNR. Can you tell me why the Bungay Black Dog Running Club team is so far ahead of schedule?” My reply was “ Um I think they all had 3 shredded wheat for breakfast”
and thankfully he laughed.
Well done to everybody involved, and many thanks not only to all who helped the team in so many ways - driving, cycling, timekeeping, supporting, handing water to runners at strategic points etc, keeping me fed, watered and calm, but also to everyone who helped with the Stage Changeover point at the Maltings Meadow, particularly John Wharton who lead the team and put special noise reduction measures in place, contacted the neighbours etc. His efforts clearly paid off as there have been no complaints about noise this year at the Maltings.
This year was the 25th anniversary of the RNR and Race Director Ian is standing down, but I am pleased to say that a new team have stepped up to take on the organisation of this classic race so that it may continue hopefully for at least another 25 years.
I too am stepping back from the RNR now, and am hanging up my stop watch as team co-ordinator for the Bungay Black Dogs so that new energy and ideas can come into organising a team for this event and I can focus more on my club coaching. A huge thank you to my right hand woman Capn Karen who has co-co-co-co-ordinated the team with me over the years and to Chris and Bobbie for their unstinting support to Karen and myself before, during and after the event.
Finally, we really do show others at the Round Norfolk Relay what a fantastic running club we have and this year was no exception and once more I can honestly say, I am really proud to be a Bungay Black Dog.