For the uninitiated, the Round Norfolk Relay is not in any sense your usual race. The basics first: it’s a 198 mile course, taking in the entire perimeter of Norfolk. Each participating team comprises 17 runners, each running one leg, with the legs divided into unequal distances. From a start at King’s Lynn in the west, the course runs clockwise, all around the Norfolk coast, before cutting back inland after Great Yarmouth, and then runs along the Suffolk border, through the Fens and back to King’s Lynn. It starts on a Saturday morning. And it doesn’t stop until the 17th runner gets back to the start, usually around 24 hours later.
Done the Green Belt Relay? Finished Welsh Castles, but perhaps looking for something a bit more… extreme? I was sold.
I had dreams of glory. Dreams of a weekend spent in surroundings of strange and eerie beauty. Dreams of finally being treated like the elite athlete that I undoubtedly am.
The day after signing up, I receive an email from Kieran, asking: “For Saturday night, are we going to book a hotel, or should we just sleep in vans?”
Stage 1: King’s Lynn to Hunstanton. 16.9 miles
It’s coming up to 11:00 in the morning. The sun is shining in one of those clear, wide autumnal skies that this part of the world does so well. It’s already about 18 degrees, and I was secretly thanking my luck that I wouldn’t be running until much later, beyond the heat of day. An expectant, but small crowd has gathered. The Round Norfolk Relay features staggered start times, according to predicted race times, in order for teams to cross the finish line at around the same time. The first teams had started five and a half hours ago. As one of the last few teams to start, the Eagles crowd are joined on a small path next to the Lynnsport and Leisure Park by the only other team starting at 11:00, Ryston Runners, and their first athlete, Jonny.
Expectations are high. As is the hemline on Greg Fernandes-Lawes’ shorts.
The starting buzzer sounds, and Greg races off like a gazelle, followed by Fiona on support bike. My shout of “Don’t let the club down…” isn’t universally well-received by Ryston Runners, who obviously have a different approach to team motivation.
Greg takes up the story:
“Underway, I started with a runner poor Jonny from Ryston, who had been called in the at the last minute to race me and was profusely told to “Keep with ‘im.” By mile seven, he was out of sight, as I was met with a cheer squad just before entering the Sandringham Estate to give me a bit of a buzz before the stage really got going. I was ahead of target, so unfortunately, the Queen missed me roll through.
“The second half got tougher, shingle everywhere. Even a few hundred metres of soft sand. I had to zigzag to find bits actually runnable against the energy sapping terrain. The scenery on route was stunning, the estate, crossing a pond on a bird reservoir and going the beach.
“As I got back on to tarmac, this coincided with one of the busy times of the day on the beach and I had to weave in and out of every bloody person who decided this was the best time to go for a stroll. Unlike my usual commute down the Oxford Road, I had a hi-viz jacket with the club name and had to be more polite. Not easy in mile 15.
“With just over a kilometre to go, I looked to my right and realised the finish was all the way up the top of the bloody cliff, zigzagging up another busy path and then steadily up to the lighthouse.
“I have never been so happy to see Harry in his Y-fronts… Shortly after the finish, we learnt I had put a cheeky 14 minutes in to our rival team, who we would eventually beat by just 147 seconds.”
Stage result: 1:58:43. 21st place.
Stage 2: Hunstanton to Burnham Overy. 13.8 miles
It’s already time for lunch. 1:00 in the afternoon to be precise, and the café by the lighthouse in Hunstanton is doing brisk business. How they have any ice cream left after Tom Easten’s serving is anyone’s guess. The stage ahead is probably one of the hardest to navigate on the course, with a fiendish mix of dunes, paths and boardwalks. Who better to rise to the challenge other than Harry:
“Perhaps in hindsight Stage 2 wasn't the best stage for someone who couldn't spare a weekend to recce the route. Trying and failing to match the pictures on the sparse route notes to points on the map shortly before leaving only heightened the mounting concern. I didn't want to run holding my watch, and went with my old school method of maps with the distances to all turns written.
“The first 100 metres follows along the side of the car park on a gentle downhill before diving down to the dunes where I almost slipped in to the bushes while trying to make a turn while avoiding beach-goers walking back up. I headed off behind some beach huts, before coming out past the lifeboat hut. The path was still soft sand; my heart rate was pumping before the sand finally gave way to grass.
“After a short while I could see the path ahead was overgrown. I had a quick word with myself to get my heart rate down – there was a long way to go. There were groups of walkers on the path, and I was perfecting my call of “runner!” at the right distance and urgency to give them time to turn, assess the situation and pick a side. As the path turned inland through the marshland, it was here I picked up Fiona as my bike escort for the road section, mumbling something about the sand and trying to get into a rhythm along the road. It is strangely uplifting have a bike escort, and the Eagles cheer squads popped up unexpectedly with more water. After a quick gel from Fiona washed down with water from a final cheer squad, suddenly I was back on my own on the path at Brancaster.
“Unfortunately, not completely alone. Here the path is mainly a boardwalk of three planks with raised above beds of nettles and brambles, where passing people was like dancing along a tightrope. I ran past a group of a dozen ladies each stepping just enough to the side at the last moment, before a larger lady decided to stand sideways. Did she forget about her large back pack? I threw myself into a 'C' as I skipped past – catching the top of the backpack and teetering on the edge. She didn't seem happy, but I'd stayed out of the undergrowth.
“Finally the finish village comes into sight in the distance across the marsh, but the path turns back on itself and seems to go on forever as it gets harder and harder to keep the pace up, aiming at a windmill on the horizon. I almost crash into the marshal directing me round the sharp right-hander to the handover point where Rebecca is waiting. A slight fumble, but I have enough momentum for a another go, and I'm done.
“After a minute catching my breath lying on the grass in the shade Kieran tells me we need to get going. I was disappointed with my overall pace until I saw the results, which suggested everyone had found the heat and the first stage through the sands dunes sapping.”
Stage result: 1:34:59. 7th place. Eagles now in 12th place overall.
Stage 3: Burnham Overy to Wells. 5.8 miles
It’s now 2:30 in the afternoon, and the sun remains high in the sky. There’s a bucket-and-spade feel to this part of the coast, and Rebecca is taking in the scenery as she waits for the baton:
“The start is of Stage 3 is like a snapshot from a Norfolk postcard with a traditional ice cream van, the estuary in the background, boats resting on the shore and the sun shining – although maybe a tad warm for running! This helped to calm the nerves beforehand.
“With a smooth transition carried out, I was off along Burnham Overy Staithe for the first stretch of the stage, dodging dog walkers as I went. I then leapt over the missing panels in the wooden board walk, tackled the sand dune in front of me and bounded down onto the beach – tough on the legs! I could feel my pace dropping as my feet were sinking into the squidgy sand and I weaved around trying to find the firmest parts. My legs were turning to jelly and the headwind wasn't helping either! These two miles felt like 20…
“As I descended into the woods, this next section offered welcome shade and some pleasant undulations. The trail path was busy with tourists so I shouted as I approached; unfortunately one lady heard me wrong and we collided in a fumble of confusion! A mile or so more and I could see my fellow Eagle cheer squad in the distance – thank God! [A cheer squad member writes: Rebecca didn’t have time for water, but at least she did have time to shout “I KNOCKED OVER AN OLD LADY”.] This gave me a little boost for the final stretch along the coastal path, again dodging the general public.
“I saw the hi-viz heroes in the distance and strode towards them before having to navigate through the busy café area of Wells. And just to add the extra sting in the tail, it's up the ramp and round a sharp corner to the finish where the baton and our Eagle, Jon, continue the journey around Norfolk.”
Stage result: 43:14. 13th place (5th lady). Eagles now in 10th place overall.
Stage 4: Wells to Cley. 11.1 miles
If you’re looking for a quiet corner of Norfolk where teammates can gather and calmly reflect on how things are going so far, then Wells-next-the-Sea at 3:15 on a sunny Saturday afternoon in early September, is not it. The changeover takes place by a huge car park next to the beach, situated a mile north of the town, along a sea wall built in the 19th Century that links the town to the coast. Unfortunately the narrow-gauge railway that runs along the wall between the town an the beach doesn’t seem to be working today, and so Jon has no choice other than to start his leg on foot:
“Stage 4 is a cracker. Sadly there were no lights to chase, just dogs to dodge. Coast paths most of the way and a few chances to get lost (Kieran’s constant reminder to know your stage haunting me throughout!). All in all thinking how lucky I was to be running on the Norfolk coast, in the sunshine and only having a few yards of shingle beach to negotiate.”
Jon delivered an outstanding run, equalling the Eagles’ best placement in a stage over the weekend. He had such a flier that he was even too quick for the cheer squads that tried to catch him half way along his route.
Stage result: 1:10:50. 4th place. Eagles now in 7th place overall.
Stage 5: Cley to Cromer. 10.8 miles
It’s still mid-afternoon, and it’s hot. The sort of weather we’re you’d like to be on the beach. Unless, that is, your job is to run on that beach, along shingle, up and down dunes, and along the very edge of the shoreline. Colin had been given one of the hardest legs, nearly 11 miles of brutal endurance running in unforgiving terrain.
Whilst Colin made his away along the coast, at the changeover point at the end of the stage in Cromer, the team’s mission control was dealing with two potential crises. The first was apparent when Tom I – poised half-way along the stage on his bike, waiting to pick up Colin when he emerged from the coast – messaged to say that Colin had yet to emerge at the expected time. Had Tom missed him? In which case we’d need to prepare another rider to continue with Simon S at the start of Stage 6. With no way of contacting Colin, it was a question of a nervous wait.
The second crisis was caused by Diane approaching the front of the fish and chip queue, and not having had everyone’s orders. With Colin still not in sight, and no more messages from Tom, the tension was heightening, so much so that Skipper Santry had to temporarily suspend a few people from the “Serious Stuff” WhatsApp group, which could only really support one critical conversation at a time (speaking of which: was there anyone who didn’t want vinegar…?).
As it happens, Colin did manage to hook up with Tom, no reserve cyclist was required, and everyone got their fish and chips, apart from poor old Simon S and me, who by now had other things to focus on.
Stage result: 1:14:20. 8th place. Eagles remain in 7th place overall.
Stage 6: Cromer to Mundesley. 7.9 miles
Cromer on a Saturday afternoon was no less busy than Wells. Simon S had a scenic but tricky stage to navigate, with beach huts, the promenade and a lighthouse. Fortunately Simon’s warm-up routine of listening to half an hour solid of Basement Jaxx left him well-prepared, as he ate up the miles and maintained the Eagles’ overall position in the race.
Stage result: 57:19. 16th place. Eagles remain in 7th place overall.
Stage 7: Mundesley to Lessingham. 9.2 miles
It’s now around 6:30 in the evening, and the sun is low in the sky – so much so that it’s impossible to look directly west into the path of the runners finishing Stage 6. The staggered start is beginning to unwind, to the extent that a few other runners are lurking around the start at the same time. Dogs sit waiting to be petted by the support crew.
It’s now my turn. It’s a short-ish, fast leg, with only two directions to remember (turn left at the T-junction, turn left at the crossroads). And I’m as nervous as I’ve ever been before a race, wondering if the various injuries I’ve been ignoring are going to wreak some sort of havoc in the next hour. With no warning, Simon S appears around the corner and in ten seconds I’m off.
It’s the colour of the fading daylight that I remember most. That, and the discomfort in my groin turning from a glow into a grinding pain. I’d only been to Norfolk once in my life before, and oddly enough I’d stayed for a week just a couple of miles inland from this exact stretch of coast. I try to distract myself by clocking off the experiences of a few years before: the windmill where we whiled away half an hour on a rainy day, the beach where I played cricket with my son, the fish and chip shop where we bought supper. It’s a sparse but attractive part of the coast, blighted only by a major industrial plant. Thankfully, I have Harry on the bike for company, providing verbal encouragement as only an engineer can (“Bacton Terminal there… Major processing point for most of the country’s North Sea gas…”).
We pass huge churches, glowing pink and orange in the evening sky. The sun has long since set, and I can barely see, through sweat and the rapidly fading light. We turn a corner into Lessingham, and the team is there, with Yvette primed and ready to go, and then it’s all over.
I’m not happy with my time, but given the pain I’m in, I’ll take it. There’s time for a quick post-match interview on camera with Tom G (who tells me my post-race voice “sounds amazing”), and a short warm-down, before I’m bundled in to the back of the van. On we go.
Stage result: 59:19. 10th place. Eagles remain in 7th place overall.
Stage 8: Lessingham to Horsey. 7.5 miles
I remain a grumpy, uncommunicative wreck for the next 55 minutes. Yvette has a much better view of the stage:
“Norfolk was a bit of a blur but for my stage the full moon was amazing and it was such a surreal run. It was a lot darker than I thought it would be as I had forgotten that Norfolk’s country lanes have no street lighting! Therefore when I turned around corners I couldn’t see a thing and I just speeded up and hoped for the best in the sense that nothing was coming my way. Then Diane on her bike and Kieran in the van caught me up and lit up the road ahead.
“With one and a half miles to go, Kieran beeped the horn and shouted at Diane and me. It had been so quiet for the previous 40 minutes (Diane and I didn’t say a word) that it literally scared the life out of us and we stopped dead as we were convinced we had somehow gone the wrong way!”
He did it to me and Harry too, Yvette. Just testing the horn I think.)
There were no wrong turns – just a fantastically efficient leg. And now, at about 8:30 in the evening, the night was properly on us.
Stage result: 53:33. 15th place (5th lady). Eagles remain in 7th place overall.
Stage 9: Horsey to Belton. 16.6 miles
By this point I was starting to recover from my post-race fog. Which was just as well, as it gave me a ring-side view of one of the most impressive runs of the weekend, by Tom G:
“I knew the closest competition was at least 15 minutes up the road, so unless there was a very significantly slower runner on one of those teams, which was unlikely given we were at the fast end of the pack, I wouldn’t be likely to catch anyone within the 16 and a half miles. But I did know if I could match Ewan Fryatt’s pace from last year (6:13 per mile) I would likely be faster than almost all the other teams – so my job was to eat away as much of their advantage as possible so that Tom E could start with less of a deficit and start taking positions.
“I settled into time trial mode, at a pace around 6:10 per mile which felt comfortable with excellent support from Mark on the bike and Greg cheering me on from the van.
“As predicted, I didn’t see any other teams until I was in the last mile of the stage. At this point, the race doubles back on itself so there’s about a mile overlap where runners on the next stage are coming the other way. Here I passed three runners, who I estimated were between six and ten minutes ahead. This, and the slight downhill finish, meant I pushed on to the line to hand over to Mr Easten, finishing with an average pace of 6:09 and having taken one and a half minutes off my half marathon PB!”
This was another phenomenal run, equalling the Eagles’ best performance in any leg (fourth place). To run a half marathon PB in these conditions was amazing. It was dark, there was some tricky navigation and – most impressively – there was a good miles or so of running through Great Yarmouth town centre on a Saturday night, with the added jeopardy of bumping into someone emerging unexpectedly from a kebab shop… The support bus was in awe, although we also had plenty of time to subject Tom’s unique running style to close observation. As Tom notes:
“It was a bit strange running with so many teammates on my heels, knowing they would be analysing every change of pace or misstep, as well as my unusual gait! I’m reliably informed that when the question went up in the van “If you could run as fast as Tom Green, but would have to look like he does when running, would you do it?”, only one person opted to run at a slower pace but with a less hilarious style…”
Stage result: 1:40:41. 4th place. Eagles now in 6th place overall.
Stage 10: Belton to Earsham. 18.1 miles
It’s dark now. Not the sort of dark you get in London – it’s blacker than that. As Round Norfolk Relay folklore has it, these are the stages where the race is run and lost. The longer road sections at night, with no scenery to distract the mind. The stages that are only fit for the real elite runners in the team. Stages where your team’s support along the way can provide a much needed boost when reserves are low. Which is a bit unfortunate, as at this point two vans that weren’t escorting the actual run decided to pull in to McDonald’s for what I swear was one of the best meals of my life.
Tom E, unable for the moment to share the joy of a large Quarter Pounder with Cheese Meal, takes up the story:
“This stage was appealing to me for two reasons: it’s a night stage, and nothing’s quite like racing the Round Norfolk Relay in the dark with the orange beacons flashing around you; and it was long – just over 18 miles, pretty much in a straight line. Perfect for a long-distance road enthusiast like me.
“In terms of advice to whoever runs this stage next year, make sure you’re ready for a fair bit of up and down. None of the hills are steep but for the first 13 or 14 miles, you rarely get a mile on the flat. It’s gently up, gently down, up again until (if you’re anything like me) you’re cursing the fact that you can’t get into any kind of rhythm. It certainly doesn’t bear much resemblance to the stage profile published on the website. The good news is that the last four or five miles are flat and fast so, if you’ve got a bit left in the tank (I didn’t), you can really put the hammer down on it then without worrying a surprise incline will pop up to spoil your fun.
“The other important point to make is that Stage 10 is when the race starts to come together and you can expect to see other teams out on the road. This year, I think I was the first Eagles runner to catch up with teams who’d started ahead of us. The earlier stages can be a lonely experience, more like a time trial than a race (not that they don’t have other things going for them that the night stages don’t, like the support and the scenery) so it’s when you get into the night that the unique magic of the Round Norfolk Relay starts to come into its own. There’s nothing quite like the sight of an orange beacon rotating on the road half a mile in front to fill you with motivation to chase it down and get on to the next one. It’s an experience I’d recommend to everyone and the main reason I hope to be available for selection next year!”
Stage result: 1:55:03. 7th place. Eagles remain in 6th place overall.
Stage 11: Earsham to Scole. 12.5 miles
It’s now almost exactly midnight. Amazingly, there aren’t may times during the weekend that I doubt my sanity, but contemplating getting on a bike after one of the hardest runs of my life to cycle in support down a dark A-road for 80 minutes is one of them. My nervousness is compounded by the fact that I haven’t been on a bike for years. I ask Harry how the gears work, and he looks at me as if I’ve asked him how legs work when you walk. Despite his careful explanation, I decided it’s too risky to press any buttons and I spend the whole stage stubbornly stuck in the same gear.
Thankfully, Skipper Santry knows exactly what he’s doing, and delivers a dogged captain’s performance, grinding out some hard miles away from the attention and the crowds, and overtaking a couple of runners on the way.
What else is there to say about this stage? The official directions read:
1) Proceed 700m to the T-junction and turn left
2) Follow the A143 for approximately 12 miles
3) At the signpost for Scole Village, turn right.
Reader, there is nothing else to say about this stage.
Stage result: 1:22:50. 11th place. Eagles remain in 6th place overall.
Stage 12: Scole to Thetford. 19.7 miles
We were now in a car park somewhere in the middle of East Anglia – I had honestly lost all sense of time and space. Somehow, in the complete darkness I managed to find a van with teammates in it and made my way to the driver’s seat for one final drive before we managed to park up and “get some rest”.
The next leg is the longest in the race – nearly 20 miles. Thankfully, we had Laurence on the starting line:
“Not much to say about my stage to be honest as it was 1:00am and we all know not much happens at that time of night. Hardest thing about the entire run was working out what to eat; there’s only so many cereal bars someone can eat whilst sat in a minibus. By the time the stage was getting close to starting the body clock had gone to pot and there were no satisfactory evolutions. Yet as an extremely sweaty baton was handed over by Captain Kieran all of that disappeared and all that lay ahead for me and my trusty sidekick Simon S was total darkness and a beacon or 12.
“Off we charged hunting down light after light and my half marathon training showed, as what started as promising for 13 miles turned into agony as every niggle I'd had and many more became apparent. Still this lack of speed meant I was unable to get all the beacons I wanted but left them just in sight for Andy to take the reins.”
Greg notes that driving an automatic car behind Laurence for over two hours engaged new muscles and was probably more tiring than actually running.
Stage result: 2:04:16. 8th place. Eagles remain in 6th place overall.
Stage 13: Thetford to Feltwell. 13.3 miles
By this point, your correspondent was in a van, parked up somewhere by the perimeter fence of RAF Feltwell, failing to get some sleep against the constant background noise outside (“Where are the loos? Is there a portaloo here? Are there any more loos further up? I can’t find the loos”. And on and on and on.)
Andy on the other hand, was awake, and buzzing:
“3:30 in the morning; trying to keep warm and adrenaline starting to fly around the body and bring life. Santry’s doing a Facebook Live which I’m trying to ignore. Get focussed and run harder than you’ve run before for 16 teammates and our hardy support crew.
“Suddenly Laurence appears and I’m off with his kind wishes the last thing I hear. Picked off two teams quickly – more quickly than it took for my support bike and car to find me...!
“As Tom G said now that he’d joined me, it seemed like a long gap and it could be another lonely run. The route, at least, was beautiful with moonlight filtering through the trees and me tapping out as best a rhythm I could on undulating roads.
“Then I’m caught; a shock. The ever-supportive Tom tells me it’s fine but I’m disappointed by my pace and my legs are cold and my hamstrings have some cramp from sitting down for days! The guy who catches me makes me forget all this – now I’m racing. Do I let him go? Ewan’s recent counsel on racing springs to mind – so I try and hold him for a minute. Then another.
“After five minutes I felt good, my legs were getting stronger and I tried to raise the pace.... that went on for a couple of miles but then he stretched out 15 yards. I try to keep the guy in view and focus on what’s ahead. Tom points out that the next couple of miles of road looked like Heathrow’s runway at night – so many orange lights flickering on and off. So many lights to try and pass. 14 in total we think, but the race within a race was eventually lost to the Riverside Runner. The early duel had been more fun than passing the other teams who didn’t put up much of a fight.
“Suddenly I’m aware of the dazzling lights of the stage finish, adjust the baton to my other hand so as to hand to Hayley’s remaining good arm – I hope I remembered that correctly! – and it’s over. Next thing I know Colin’s trying to keep me steady on my feet. 13 and a half miles at 3:30 in the morning never felt so good!”
Stage result: 1:28:12. 12th place. Eagles remain in 6th place overall.
Stage 14: Feltwell to Wissington. 7.3 miles
This stage existed in something like a dream-like state. Harry was driving in support, Michelle and I were navigating, and all of us had been sitting silently in a dark stationary van about half an hour ago. As had Hayley, who somehow was now running through the dark, navigating her way out of the small town and into the Fens. We didn’t quite get the promised mists at this point but we did get a strangely coloured, huge sky.
This was another fantastically efficient stage, made all the more impressive by the fact that Hayley was nursing a fractured elbow. Proper commitment.
Stage result: 53:11. 19th place (5th lady). Eagles now in 8th place overall.
Stage 15: Wissington to Downham Market. 10.6 miles
Nearly 6:00 on a Sunday morning, and whilst it’s not by any means light, it’s not fully dark either. Wissington exists in an eerie calm, punctuated only by the comings and goings of agricultural workers, the odd delivery van, and 59 teams of runners, cyclists and support vehicles grinding along in first gear with glaring orange lights.
Tom reflects on his race strategy:
“It turns out that drinking a cold double espresso kindly bought for you eight hours earlier is actually a great idea. I had a dream of a stage, starting at night and finishing in the day. I even had the worst dressed cycle support* of anyone else in the race (but he made up for it in encouragement). Best race of the year, bar none.”
*Let’s call him Greg. It’s impossible to remember which particular outfit that Tom is referring to, given that over the weekend Greg would undergo more costume changes than Kylie.
This was another brute of a stage, and Tom gave it absolutely everything. As a reward, he found himself picked up by one of our two vans, rather than having to squeeze himself into the car as scheduled. I’d love to be able to say that critical race-related reasons necessitated a last-minute alteration to the plan, but a remorseful Jon reports that it was the prospect of motoring straight on to pick up bacon sandwiches at the start of the next stage that mean the car forgot Tom…
Stage result: 1:08:47. 10th place. Eagles now in 6th place overall.
Stage 16: Downham Market to Stowbridge. 5.5 miles
It’s now actually daylight. This stage goes by in a flash – it’s the shortest leg, and by now everyone has their eyes on the final stage and the finish line. It’s flat and quick. Michelle starts by crossing the Great Ouse, eating up the miles efficiently whilst looping round in a slow bend before crossing back over the river again just at the finish, with now less than 12 miles to go before the end of the race.
Stage result: 40:52. 22nd place (10th lady). Eagles now in 8th place overall.
Stage 17: Stowbridge to King’s Lynn. 11.7 miles
Stowbridge was by now a hive of activity, at the positively social hour of 7:30 in the morning, Those local teams that had managed to send runners home to their own beds for the night were now back out in force, and those that hadn’t, ours included, were queuing at the Heron public house which was doing a roaring trade in the aforementioned bacon sandwiches. It’s an odd start to the stage, with the incoming runner on the previous stage coming over a bridge, only for the outgoing runner to run back over the bridge after the changeover.
Fiona, meanwhile, was not well. We’ve all had those days where for whatever reason, you can’t make it to the start line, and decide the better thing to do is to cut your losses and bail out. Sadly, with sixteen runners on your team having spent the last 21 hours getting the baton to you, this was not a luxury Fiona could afford:
“I experienced the toughest race I’ve had. Being unwell before and during my run left me with nothing much to give. Knowing the team were waiting on me in King’s Lynn kept me moving (just!!). Big thanks to Rebecca for support on my leg and apologies that you had to see me vomit... three times!!”
The team by now had gathered back at the Lynnsport Centre, where both the leg and the whole race finish with a sprint down the venue’s running track. Seeing Fiona make it over the line was genuinely humbling. Giving it everything you’ve got, even though you’re exhausted and in no fit state to race, because everyone else is relying on you getting over the line? That’s team spirit.
Stage result: 1:30:33. 36th place (12th lady).
Total race time: 22:16:42. Eagles finish in 8th place overall, out of 59 teams.
How to sum it all up? This was more than just a race. The planning was meticulous. Several stages had to be reccied in advance, all had to be studied at home. The team meetings, the organisation of everything from hi-viz to bikes to radios and flashing beacons… It’s no wonder they say that the running is the easiest bit.
Everyone played a part, but the most special mention must go to the most amazing support crew, Mark Fisher, Diane Gill, Olivia Parker-Scott and Paul Thomas, who kept the entire show on the road, both before the weekend with their careful planning, but during the weekend too, with faultless timekeeping, energetic cycling, and enthusiastic good humour. 17 runners carried the baton, but these four carried the whole team.
The final world goes to our Skipper, Kieran:
“Every one of the 17 runners announced on the team in June came to Norfolk. Round Norfolk Relay is not for flakey people! I don’t like flakey people. It’s much more than running your stage.
“My PB days are long gone, so the memories I cherish most are these team events. As I always say, no one other than yourself gives a s***e or remembers your PBs. But everyone remembers weekends like this.”
Roll on next year!