Over the last five years, many of us have been lucky enough to take part in the wonderful Welsh Castles Relay. But one of the great things about the Eagles is that there are always people who ask “what next?”. One night, Kieran Santry and Paul Thomas did just that and came up with the Round Norfolk Relay: A 198 mile race around the border of Norfolk, run as a non-stop 17 stage relay. Held since 1987, teams submit a predicted finish time which is used as handicap to make sure all teams finish at about the same time on Sunday morning. The event website says it best:
“The race presents not only a tough physical challenge, but also a test of the organisational prowess of a club... The event is much more than just a normal relay for it requires special preparation, planning and support. It is not an event for a club without a spirit of adventure. But the sense of satisfaction and achievement after completing the race is simply second to none.”
Now the Eagles have never lacked a spirit of adventure, organisational ability or supporters. Which is how a stunningly attractive 17 member team and an even more attractive 5 strong support crew found themselves in the dark in 3 small boats on the River Bure headed (where else) to the pub. We spent the night in our HQ, an amazing riverside house and boat, courtesy of Tom Green and Jon Duncanson (thanks!). There we were each issued with personalised timetables for the weekend by the man with a PhD in logistics (plus an MA in photography a BSc in sleep deprivation), Paul Thomas, before heading to the start in Kings Lynn.
As we’d submitted a relatively quick predicted finish time, our allocated start time was quite reasonable at 10am. alongside the very friendly Fenland Runners who, it turns out, love to be called the Finland Runners. The nature of the event meant that the two teams and the St Edmunds Pacers spent the daylight hours battling each other for position before the field concertinaed during the long, lonely night stages. Two minibuses and two cars shuttled back and forth, dropping off runners, support cyclist, two timekeepers and some increasingly bleary eyed cheer squad members. Runners have a cyclist with them on all the road stages, and at night you are also tailed by one of the support vehicles.
We finished in an impressive 10th place in 23:17:19, 20 minutes ahead of our target time. We were second in the mixed category, won the prize for the best new team and Rebecca won her stage. But this wasn’t about times and positions, it was about spending an amazing weekend with the best running club on the planet.
I’ll leave each of the runners to report on their own stages, but first I must doff my cap to the heroes of the weekend: The event organisers and marshalls; our support crew Heidi, Henry, Bob, Andrea and Paul Thomas; fellow organisers Tom G, Ewan and Olivia; and, of course, Captain Fantastic Kieran. Thanks to their hard work over several months we all made it around in one piece, no one got lost on the lightly marked stages and we all had a total blast.
Roll on RNR 2019!
10.00 am: Stage 1 Laurence Elliott, King’s Lynn to Hunstanton (16.32miles, 1:56:14)
The time had come for the relay to begin, all that was needed now was the baton to get on its way with the other 60 teams. The start consisting of me, the Fenland runner (our closest in the mixed category), and … that’s it. To put it simply, staggered starts are boring for the first few stages.
And like that we’re underway, support cyclists in tow and a baton that isn’t stopping for nearly 24 hours. The first few miles roll away effortlessly, a fumbled bottle handover but now we’re on top of it. Then a hill 5 miles in, the one-bit I could not recce the week before, and it feels like a big one, it isn’t but I question how the next 12 miles are going to be. Just a couple miles after its goodbye to the bikes I’m running alone up gravel lanes with glimpses of my faster fellow starter in the distance.
After a brief foray over some grass the shingle and sand begins, no more solid ground for 5 miles. Mile 10 rolls round and the first friendly faces, or any faces, for nearly 30mins. Ben and Andy bundle fuel into my hands, it’s getting hot now, really hot. All I can picture is the deep sand I need to run through, I clock my third fastest HM time just before it. Then the inevitable, I plough into the sand and my legs just turn to lead. But it’s just one long parkrun to go… it’s just dodging dogs, prams, a duck boat, and then up the cliff face. There finally I see Ewan and Andy, they assure me I’m nearly there. I wipe the sweat off the baton, hand it to Jon and off he goes with the same eagerness that I’ll see at the start of every stage.
11.56 am: Stage 2 Jon Duncanson, Hunstanton to Burnham Overy. (14.06 miles, 1:39:14)
Privileged to be on a team of high quality Eagles, the nerves before the multi-terrain 2nd stage we’re keenly felt. Stage two’s start is overlooked by a lighthouse and a beautiful view of Hunstanton beach, the sun was shining and the glorious North Norfolk coastal path beckoned...but this was a race and, unlike on my recce, any appreciation of the scenery was quickly put to one side, this was about keeping end up my for the team.
Lawrence handed over the baton and I was off straight into a 1.5m section of sand dunes before finding a firmer footing on the coastal path, phew. The excitement of the event spurred a fairly ambitious pace through section one but running an early stage of this handicapped event meant it was unlike any race I’ve done, there were no other runners or support to be seen! Fortunately section two saw me hit road for 4 miles where the Eagles were on hand in max noise cheer squad mode. Olivia flanked me on the bike, all my needs were covered, the Mo treatment was quite the treat! The road section saw me push on nicely to Brancaster, where the coast path once again awaited. That’s where it got tough, running solo with the ambitious pace I’d set earlier in the stage waning. It was a question of trying to stick with it, getting the job done and willing on the sight of the windmill at Burnham Overy. 1k from the changeover was the welcome sight of the bikes who picked me up and trailed me to the end. Over to Ben to keep the baton moving. For me, I loved all aspects of the event and, despite being disappointed not to manage my run better, I was happy to get through the stage ahead of schedule and without a wrong turn.
1.35 pm: Stage 3 Ben Cale, Burnham Overy to Wells (5.76 miles, 41:19)
A beautiful course with no road sections but also no bikes allowed so you are running very much on your own at this stage. I had a 10 minute deficit to Team Fenland in front so knew it was very unlikely I'd be catching anyone. First mile consisted of flat hard-packed dirt that formed the wall of the estuary, busy with walkers but with enough space to easily get past as long as you warned them you were approaching. This turned into a short section of boardwalk where you dip down into a proper dune before a short loose sand climb revealed the beach quite a way below. On the beach it quickly became obvious that running on the sand exposed by the low tide was the firmest and therefore most efficient course although negated slightly by the rills left behind by the waves that made it feel rather odd underfoot. High tide would have made this section miserable!
The exit from the beach was thankfully marshalled as this was the one bit I was worried about missing. To leave the beach involved ascending a rather large dune that sapped all momentum and was no quicker to run than it was to walk up. Once over you twist through the dunes before a gradual climb into pine woodland away from the shore.
The last section was an evil little bit involving a much busier section of path that ran alongside a car park, before running around a cafe and up a vicious final climb onto a concrete sea wall. Round a tough 90 degree bend before a final 30m sprint to the handover point. By the end, I was not far off the pace for a 10k PB and I'd clawed back 5 minutes on the team in front and beaten my target by just under two minutes so my job was done.
14.16 pm Stage 4 Harriet Irving, Wells-Next-The-Sea to Cley-Next-The-Sea (11.14 miles, 1:26:55)
With the voice of Captain Santry telling me that I must know my route echoing in my mind I set off from the beach Wells-Next-The-Sea down the broadwalk to the town. Had I learnt my route well enough? Probably not. So I was relying on my watch and phone to direct me over the next 11 Miles. The Captain’s voice was still ringing in my ears, but this time he was actually there on his bike, warning leisurely strollers of my approach. After navigating the busy town, I headed out over winding trails along the beautiful north Norfolk coast, with the sea somewhere to my left. For the most part the flat, well-trodden paths were easy to follow. A couple of junctions and a few “private land” signs meant consulting the map but I thankfully didn’t stray too far. Twice cheering groups of Eagles were able to get on to the route and spur me on, which was most welcome given that I didn’t see a single other runner for the entirety of the stage. With a couple of miles to go I was rejoined by the cycling Captain as I picked up the road into Cley-Next-The-Sea before the final stretch back on the coastal path out to the beach. As I started my sprint to hand over to Tom G, I sunk into the shingle. The glorious sprint finish wasn’t meant to be. At least I didn’t have to run four miles on that shingle though.
15.43 pm Stage 5 Tom Green, Cley to Cromer (10.81 miles, 1:14:01)
Stage 5 is considered one of the three toughest stages in the race (along with 1 and 12) - due to its mix of shingle and un-Norfolk-like hills - not that I knew when I put my name down for it. So it was a shock when I did my recce and found I was losing two minutes/mile over the shingle - which resulted in my predicted time being revised up by 5 minutes.
The only ray of light was that the course did offer some choice over which route to take along the beach. On the day, the word was that increasingly, as the tide was going out, runners were heading straight down to the shoreline for the firmer sand, rather than the traditionally favoured meandering route along the top of the beach which offers some respite from the worst of the shingle.
Taking the baton from Harriet, I headed straight for the shoreline. I was pleased to find that the sand was indeed quite firm, that the slope towards the water wasn’t too steep, and there weren’t too many rocks to avoid. I settled into a rhythm tracking 30s per mile faster than planned.
I pushed on, taking more seconds off my planned pace, until the 4th mile, where increasingly the shingle was running in waves all the way to the sea. Rather than cut back up the beach in search of firmer ground on the coastal path, I decided to stick with it. I’d worked out that by running on the sand while the waves were out, I could minimise the amount of time I spent on the shingle when I was driven up the beach by the waves.
I was relieved to see Heidi, Henry and Olivia on hand with water at 4 miles. The 100m uphill dash on deep shingle to reach them and then the cliffs was the hardest of the race, but I was elated to see I was 4 minutes up on my target split as I hit the firm coast path.
The rest of the race passed in a blur as I realised that not only was I well ahead of target, I had loads more in my legs and could continue to eat away at my predicted time.
I knew I was gaining on the runners ahead of me as their supporters were still on the course as I came through Sheringham. As I hit the final mile I picked up Laurence as my support bike, and immediately saw a runner ahead. I passed him before the final turn, which took us across an open field to the finish. Now I could see the runner from Fenland. I pushed as hard as I could for the finish, but he was too far ahead to close down - coming in about 40 seconds ahead. But it was a great feeling to have got us in touch with that team, made our first overtake of the race, and taken 10 minutes off my predicted time. This was a race I will never forget!
16.57 pm: Stage 6 Hayley Kandt, Cromer to Mundesley (7.90 miles, 59:47)
What an amazing event with even more amazing teammates! Going into this race I had 2 fears: 1. Not letting the team down, and 2. Seeing an opponent and having to race head to head. You can imagine my fear when Tom Green sped round the corner, nearly 10 minutes ahead of schedule and directly on the tail of our main competition! It was up to me now!
So off I went, down onto the boardwalk (far too fast) and within a stone’s throw of the other runner. I’m sure Eagles on the later stages will tell you the same – there’s something inherently animalistic about chasing someone down! After watching the Fenland runner struggle to tackle a hill I knew this race was mine to take. By the end of the 2 mile off road section, I had caught her – just in time to see our cheering teams and meet up with our cyclists. The next 6 miles were some of the best I have ever raced. With Laurence on my tail encouraging me and keeping tabs on the other runner, all I had to do was run! A summer of Canadian trail running had paid off and I was able to run those hills like they were flats. And 59 minutes and 47 seconds after finishing I handed off to Michelle and was done… a whopping 3 minutes faster than my projected time, and with a 10k PB stuck somewhere in the stage!
17.57 pm: Stage 7 Michelle Tanner, Mundesley to Lessingham (9.24 miles, 1:09:58)
Nerves were rising pre-race, but with a cute dog waiting patiently at the start line, I managed to distract myself from getting too nervous. Before I knew it Hayley came flying around the corner and then I was off. With an amazing downhill to start and the adrenaline of it being my turn with the baton, I got to the bottom of the hill and thought, uh oh this is faster than my 10k pace but 3 miles longer in distance! As someone known for going off too fast and blowing up there was a quick panic, then some uphill kicked in I managed to find some decent pace that I have not been able to do continuously since before my marathon disaster earlier this year, so tactics became, try to hang on as long as I can. Towards the end it all became about counting down the distance left. My amazing bike support Bob seemed to understand this giving me the occasional update on distance left, between us we agreed a regular countdown and then before I knew it, it was over and the end was in sight. From there I tried to just reach the end as fast as I could, in the panic of getting to the end, the fading light and hi vis everywhere I couldn’t see Natalie! Poor girl had to start her stage with me practically running straight into her!
*** Support crew interlude! ***
Bob Sharpe (support crew)
Up early on Friday with over 400 miles ahead of us in my Suzuki SUV – it’s not a Jeep! At first a grand tour of Ealing picking up vans and stragglers – Paul, Ewan and Heidi. We made a rendezvous with Henry at Thetford to recce stages 12 to 9 backwards…to add to the stages we’d done the week before. No mean feat but definitely worth seeing them in daylight.
As a Yachtmaster sailor I’ve always fancied a trip on the Broads… I didn’t realise that meant from my car to the house… buy hey ho, I was soon ferrying the rag tag eagle refugees to the restaurant and back… great fun and thanks to Jon and Tom for trusting me at the helm.
Heidi and I finally got to sleep after our giggling fits. It was like being at teenage camp again. At King’s Lynn I was greeted by my old friend Sue who lives nearby who wanted to let us know we were all stark raving mad. Then we’re off and speeding along to the various bike pick up and drop off points. What a wonderful experience seeing so many Eagles pulling together and a testament to Paul for his amazing spreadsheet that everyone was at the right place at the right time and knew what they were doing. I still can’t get out of my head Andrea shouting “Hundescheiße“ every time we stepped near a coast path.
After what seemed forever I realised it was only 3pm! Still another 18 hours to go! No one in the car thanked me for continually updating them on the time left. After a fiddle with Keiran’s rear… brakes, I found myself pedalling behind Michelle in my lycra shorts far too tight for a man of my age and size. She was quiet as a mouse as she made great progress along stage 7 until about 2km to go when she became a tiger hunting down her finish line prey screaming “how long to go”? plus “Count me down every 100 metres”…. Boy she was on fire. Then back in the car as night fell to stage 9 start. Ewan thought Natalie was to arrive imminently and I’m grateful that in the gloom no one could see the sight of Henry and I sprinting to the start line in front of the windmill.
An hour’s sleep under the stars at midnight in a field of cows and cars. Indelible memories of Tom Easten’s lycra clad cheeks furiously bouncing all the way along his 20 mile route at great speed. And Rebecca’s joyous celebrations as she crossed the finish line.
What a race, what a weekend, what a fab flock of Anglia eagles.
After being on the team for the first WCR I couldn't let the Eagles debut at RNR pass me by! I'd get FOMO!! Minor problem though in that I don't run much at the moment so the chances of me making the team were slim to none! I decided to volunteer my services instead, and after some debate it was decided I was responsible enough to be Chief Timekeeper, woohoo!!!
Timekeeping wasn't so hard - press start, press lap 16 times and press stop! What could possibly go wrong? Other than a malfunctioning timer not too much! It was great to be at all of the changeovers to see the runners and cyclists finishing or heading off, although as we went through the night and the runners started to bunch up the changeover areas were just complete carnage which made things slightly more interesting!! It was so bizarre at night to see the convoy of cars and flashing beacons along the race route (although I became slightly obsessed with the style of beacon and whether they were in the right place!) and even google maps couldn't work out what was going on as it told us there was congestion ahead! Yes, we were causing it!! But we got to fly past all the cars and cheer on our runners so that was good!
I haven't pulled an all nighter for a VERY long time so I'm quite surprised that I made it through the whole thing with only a 40 min nap in the car during Tom E's stage! If only he ran slower I could've slept for longer!!! But despite the lack of sleep it was a brilliant weekend and it may have even inspired me slightly to get off my arse and dust off the P&D book to see if I can make the cut for next year... Watch this space...
*** Interlude! ***
19.07 pm: Stage 8 Natalie Noble, Lessingham to Horsey (7.52 miles, 58:29)
I started stage 8 feeling good but very nervous. It was beginning to get dark and the wait to get my head torch on was finally over. Seven and a half miles of Norfolk country road followed, accompanied by the world’s best cyclist/coach (thanks for shouting at me Tom...)! A great run and coming in just under my predicted time was an added bonus. Bring on next year!
20.05 pm: Stage 9 Ewan Fryatt, Horsey to Belton (16.6 miles. 1:43:05)
Between Natalie picking up the baton and handing it to me outside Horsey mill, it had got completely dark. The experience was starting to feel surreal as everyone gathered in a car park in the middle of nowhere - not a street light in sight but hundreds of head torches, bike lights and some flashing beacons in the distance from the vans that had departed and those arriving.
Having never raced a 16.6 miler in the night I didn’t know what to expect or how to pace it, but I picked up the baton and set off hoping to average 6:20 mile (3:55ish k).
One of our vans was immediately behind me to light up the road, and I was ably assisted by my cyclist and our skipper Kieran. It’s only later on that I found out repeatedly that Kieran isn’t that good at cycling far enough in front of me to give him enough time be able to get gels and water out of his bag for me by the time I got level with him. We learned how to do it eventually, and his support was much appreciated.
The stage got eventful about 6 miles in, when we could see the flashing beacons of various teams ahead of us as we started to close in a number of the teams that had started earlier in the day. We learned the drill of runner and cyclist passing on the inside of a long traffic jam, with our van having to safely make its way through the field. The adrenaline boost of overtaking teams led to a couple of faster miles than planned, but I remained fairly sensible. I was aware that beautiful scenery was a stone’s throw away, but I couldn’t see anything except road and flashing lights, concentrating on running as fast as I could without getting run over.
12 miles in came Great Yarmouth - we were a little worried by this section because a) it featured some tricky navigation like underpasses, and b) it was 9.30pm with people outside pubs fueled by alcohol and I was about to run through it all in short shorts, a head torch and high-vis, accompanied by an Irishman on a bike shouting ‘Go faster, go faster’.
After another 4 miles of painful dual carriageway in the middle of nowhere, I could start to sprint as we could see there was a gathering of hundreds of people wearing high vis up ahead. I finished 2 minutes quicker than planned, and I was handed a slice of pizza by the team. The most bizarre and exhilarating race I’ve done by some margin!
21.48 pm: Stage 10 Andy Guy, Belton to Earsham (18.13 miles, 2:10:03)
A week after a mountain marathon and a return trip to New York, Stage 10 started 10 minutes early thanks to my amazing team mates setting such high standards. Ewan blazed in to sight brandishing the baton. Cannot let them down now. I set off for a long stage to race in the famously flat county of Norfolk. Which isn’t, as it transpires, that flat! Nervous as usual pre-race I was calmed by Henry, Heidi, Olivia, Laurence and my cycle support Ben; the latter was about to spend over 2 hours with me on a dark and lonely road.
I had been hoping that I’d see the orange lights of support vehicles strung out along the not-
so tricky section of the route described in the instructions as ‘Then continue on road for 16
miles’. This would have helped the racer in me drive onwards. However, we saw not one
orange light or other runner (excepting the nutter who sped past me at light speed after
The surreal 18 miles felt like chasing ever forward in to a cold black hole. I did discover that
it’s easier to push yourself ever harder when there is a bus load of teammates watching
your every step! The early hills caught up with me slightly in the second half and Ben was a fantastic support in keeping me going. We crashed onwards along the dark road with only our silhouettes for company – the result of the full beam of our support vehicle. Finally, in a blaze of light cast by headtorches and hi-viz vests, the end of the stage came, baton was handed to Olivia and the cold tarmac became a sudden resting place.
Tom E. summed it up best when, from the prone position following his stage (exhaustion
not planking for once) he uttered “I hate these Eagle relay events: it’s not like when you pay
your own race subscription and can ease off if you don’t fancy it. You just have to give it all.
Then more”. Given that running is essentially an individual sport, I’m proud to run with a
club where (i) it appears each member of the RNR team pushed themselves harder than in
solo events; and (ii) five heros gave up their time selflessly to volunteer and work hard in an
event they didn’t compete in.
23.58 pm: Stage 11 Olivia Parker-Scott, Earsham to Scole (12.45 miles, 1:39:12)
12.5 miles on one long straight road at midnight probably wouldn’t be my usual number one choice when it comes to racing however when you get the chance to be part of the first Eagles team to enter a crazy event such as the RNR how could you refuse?! When picking stages I was the first to put my hand up for a night stage as it’s gnarly nature appealed to my sadistic ‘type 2’ running side. As the day wore on I was starting to regret my life choices and fuelled by seaside chips, tons of junk food (nothing new on race day was not honoured) and little rest I wasn’t feeling incredibly confident on the start line. However with the amazing support crew behind me including Ben on his bike and Tom, Paul and Yvette in the van blasting ‘Love Shack’ and ‘Eye Of The Tiger’ it made for a fantastic experience that I’ll remember above so many other events I’ve taken part in!
1.38 am: Stage 12 Tom Easten, Scole to Thetfold (19.67 miles, 1:59:53)
For me, my feelings on the Round Norfolk Relay have come in three distinct phases:
- Months before: “Ooh, this sounds fun! I’ll have to get involved with that. Those night stages look fun.”
- Weeks and days before: “I can’t believe I signed up for this but it’s too late to drop out now,
- Immediately afterwards: “That was bizarre. Intense, unique and extraordinary. Never done
anything like it and so glad I went.”
First, the event. The first time doing something like this is always something of a prototype, a way of ironing out the kinks in the planning by trial and error. Next year won’t be the same, and that’s a good thing – lessons will have been learned and things will have been improved. The essence of the weekend will remain, though: very intense, very little sleep, eating and drinking where possible [and lots of planking - ed.] and some great times with your clubmates. I’d recommend it to anyone, as long as you’re they type to throw yourself into things and don’t mind wearing the same filthy pants for about 30 hours.
Mine was stage 12, a 19.67-mile, undulating race from Scole to Thetford, mostly on the same ‘A’
road, which gave me a great, level surface to run on, unlike some of my teammates earlier in the relay. I say ‘race’; you’re actually extremely likely to start running on your own, as you go whenever the baton gets to you. Due to the event’s staggered start, you might go large stretches of your stage without seeing another runner. As my stage was in the second half of the relay, I was lucky enough to have some people to try to catch up with and pass, as by that time the race had started to bunch up and there were more runners near each other. Off I went with my support bike and follow car, up the small hill stage 12 starts with, so much the better to stop me racing off too fast. After a few miles, I noticed the first distant, orange glow of another runner’s follow car beacon and the chase was on. That, for me, was how the stage developed: racing as hard as I could, chasing orange beacons whenever I glimpsed them. Racing at that time of the night was a surreal experience, particularly when you start so fatigued. Running through the dark, with orange and white lights flickering around you, and trying to keep your tiring brain focussed is a dreamlike experience. I’m so glad I did it. Unforgettable. Maybe next year I’ll start a bit earlier though…
3.37 am: Stage 13 Tom Irving, Thetford to Feltwell (13.25 miles, 1:29:54)
A half marathon in the middle of the night requires meticulous preparation: Careful planning of meals throughout the day, napping throughout the day, a relaxed build up and a good warm up. As a serious athlete I fuelled up with some lukewarm chips, 15 minutes of dozing in the bus and several panics. Panic one: When about 5 miles from the start of my stage, driver Paul was convinced our van had a puncture. Will we make it to Thetford? Or would I need to run there? We managed to roll up to the start line, piled out of the van and checked out the 4 completely puncture-free tyres. Panic two: where are the van keys? 20 minutes of frantic searching found them in the most unlikely place - the driver’s pocket. Panic three: another 20 minutes in the portaloo queue, regretting my lack of nutrition strategy and desperately hoping Tom Easten wouldn’t arrive too far ahead of schedule. I got to the front of the queue just in time for an extensive 150 metre warm up jog before being handed the baton.
My stage was through the looming Thetford Forest, so apart from the van’s headlights there was total darkness. Not being able to see the course ahead, there was nothing to focus on except picking off the vans in front and the words of encouragement from my superb support cyclist Olivia. The first half of my course was quite undulating, and the effect of my preparation and 18 hours in a minibus made it hard going. After 9 miles I was really struggling, before the Beast of Thetford came out and started shouting at the top of its voice. The adrenaline kicked in, I saw more buses to reel in, and made it to the line a couple of seconds under 1.30. From the look in Yvette’s eyes as, I handed over, I feared for the teams in front.
5.07 am Stage 14 Yvette Burton, Feltwell to Wissington (7.27 miles, 54:59)
I woke up at 6am on the Saturday morning in order to have breakfast and be ready to leave for 7am. It was then that it dawned on me that I would be getting into the minibus at 7am and yet I wouldn't be physically running my stage until 5.23am the next day. Do I put my running kit on now? Am I going to be able to get any sleep before I have to run? I mean I'm very much a morning person and given the choice I would much sooner run at 5am than 5pm but that's after I've had a good night’s sleep in a bed. This is going to be interesting to say the least.
Much to my surprise the day went by extremely quickly. The dropping off and picking up of runners and cyclists seemed to all be going to plan. Then into the night we continued.
The night time stages is where the relay really came to life and as much as I wanted to and needed to sleep I struggled to do so as it was so exciting watching the runners as there were so many more runners from other teams now on the course and overtaking was a regular occurrence.
My garmin informs me that I had 2 hours and 11 minutes sleep. When I got out of the minibus for my stage I was like a caged animal who had been let free after 22 hours. I simply could not wait to run and that would appear obvious as when I looked at my stats for the run my first mile was 7:10mm pace and I was aiming for 7:40mm pace. It was so dark that I could not see the data on my watch and while holding the baton in one hand I didn't want to have to press the light button on my garmin every time to check my pace. Therefore I ran to feel, I ran as fast as I could for as long as I could, making sure I left a little bit in reserve. When my garmin beeped for each mile I checked the pace and moved the baton to the other hand.
I overtook 2 runners early on, but then a woman overtook me. She seemed to be running much quicker than me so I decided to use her to pace me and not let her get away. I did this for the rest of the race. I was battling and I over took another 3 or 4 runners and no-one else overtook me.
With less than a mile to go the minibus behind me driven by Tom Easten starting blaring out the Eye of the Tiger song by Survivor. The lyrics seemed very appropriate.
It's the eye of the tiger, it's the thrill of the fight
Rising up to the challenge of our rival
And the last known survivor stalks his prey in the night
And he's watching us all with the eye of the tiger.
Rising up, straight to the top
Had the guts, got the glory
Went the distance, now I'm not gonna stop
Just a man and his will to survive.
With around 200 meters to go the finish was in sight. I sprinted like my life depended on it, I couldn't overtake another runner as the support vehicle was in the way. So I overtook by mounting the grass. The woman who had overtaken me earlier on finished just 11 seconds ahead of me.
That race and the whole weekend was simply the best experience ever! I’m proud to be an Eagle.
6.02 am: Stage 15 Kieran Santry, Wissington to Downham Market (10.59 miles, 1:12:16)
I had expected it to be fully bright by the time I received the baton, but the previous 14 Eagles had run quicker than predicted, how dare they! So it was still semi dark at the stage 15 start point.
Someone shouted “runner coming”... Oh IT IS YVETTEEEEEE get ready, Madness! Sweaty baton exchanged and I was away. Andy accompanied me on his bike and I could sense the Eagles support van just behind me but couldn’t dare look back! With only 20 miles to go to Kings Lynn lots of teams were coming into sight, I absolutely loved this. I could look up and see 2 or 3 flashing vehicles in the distance and then go and chase them down. This really kept me going and the tiredness at bay. My stage was mainly on an A road so wasn’t that scenic but at that hour I really didn’t care I wasn’t there for the scenery.
I was handing the baton over to Sophie and as I approached it was carnage with people at both sides of the road and I couldn’t see the exchange point or cones so i just kept sprinting as fast as I could as everyone was cheering so I guessed the finished can’t be far away, then I spotted Sophie (or rather her hideous pink shorts) A quick baton exchange and a pat on the bottom (much to the amusement of the crowd!) and Foxall was away.
The race was much crazier than I expected and I loved it, just pure madness being in the support car during the night especially as the Eagles were overtaking lots of other teams.
If you are a racer you will love RNR. So many memories made during this weekend.
Delighted and very proud to be part of the team that got 2nd in the mixed category and best debutant team.
7.15 am: Stage 16 Sophie Foxall, Downham Market to Stowbridge (5.49 miles, 42:51)
Following a few hours sleep back at the boathouse, I woke up at 4am. Fast forward a few hours and I found myself at the start of Stage 16, Downham Market. By now people were in various states of sleep-deprived delirium and the whole relay was coming to a manic climax.
The Stage 15 Eagles runner just happened to be our team captain, aka. my fiancé! Crackles came through the marshal’s walkie talkie of a sighting of ‘team 54’. A couple of minutes later Kieran tore around the corner with a classic Santry sprint finish which was akin to a steam train charging towards me….terrifying! With a seamless baton transition and a pat on the bottom, off I went with Tom Green in hot pursuit as my support cyclist.
Naturally, with all the excitement, I went off a little too fast and couldn’t sustain 7:30 pace throughout. However, I was pleased to pick off a couple of runners early on and enjoyed the (flat) Norfolk scenery! Tom provided just the right mixture of encouragement and company and before I knew it the 5.5 miles were nearly up and I was approaching Stowbridge within my predicted time. Enthusiastic Eagles’ cheering saw me over the bridge and down to Rebecca for the final baton exchange.
Just some of the highlights of RNR – a taster of boat life on the Norfolk Broads, stalking rival flashing beacons during the night stages and reminding Bob Sharpe that he had bikes on the top of his car when approaching barriers! Oh, and getting to spend the whole weekend with the Eagles!
7.57 am: Stage 17 Rebecca Jackson, Stowbridge to King’s Lynn (11.73 miles, 1:19:09)
So now comes the final stage, Stage 17: the “glory” stage. But with the glory comes the pressure! After the rest of the team had worked so hard to get us ahead of our target time, the pressure was on to ensure I didn’t let the club down! I had recced my stage the previous week so felt fairly confident with the route so it was all down to keeping up the pace I wanted. The nerves kicked in at The Heron for the handover and after a swift change with Foxall and Jon on the bike I was off. A few miles through a lovey little village and a few teams knocked off, then it was onto the Fens Rivers way passing the church ruins and several other clubs en route! The miles flew by and I was able to keep ahead of my target pace picturing the finish line as my motivation. Coming into the Lynnsport stadium for the last half a mile I could hear the tannoy announcement and the cheering from the Eagles. I dug as deep as I could for the final 100m onto the track and brought the baton home in style as I leaned through the finish rope to complete the Round Norfolk Relay 2018.