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WACers – Going the Distance on the Ridgeway – 17 May 2009 

Report from Stewart Little

What do I and Sir Alex Ferguson have in common?

We are both Scottish, we had a great squad to choose from, and we were in the winning team.

Running two legs of the Wessex Ridgeway was the easy part, getting the administration right was the difficult bit.  We started with Plan A (all meet up at QE get in the one car and travel together as a team), due to car problems moved to Plan B (still all meet up at QE and go in two cars), and ended up with Plan C (last minute get most of the team to the start in one car, get help from the other teams to get the other runners to the start, then all jump into the one car). 

In 1999 I had been part of the Blandford Striders team that set a new course record of 8 hrs 15 minutes for the relay. I still had the split timings for each leg when we set the record and therefore brought this along to use as a comparison against this year’s times. 

Check watches at the start – Tollard Royal

On the first leg Jerry kept up his present form and put the team into almost a one minute lead over the Dorset Doddlers and Axe Valley Runners to hand the baton over to the legendary Tim Harris. 

Another challenge of the Relay is ensuring you get the next runner to the start of the leg before the other runner finishes without making a map reading error.  I had come up with a cunning plan to put the start of all legs into the SatNav which would take the pressure off map reading.  As we made our way to the start of Leg 3 doubt starting creeping in after we had been going for some 12 miles and appeared to be heading towards Leg 4!  Fortunately this was just the ‘quickest’ route that the SatNav had selected (not the shortest!) and we made it to the correct handover point.

Dorset Doddlers and Axe Valley Runners had put their strongest runners on Leg 2 and we found ourselves back to 3rd place; to start with Tim was slightly disappointed but on checking his leg time against the 1999 record time it raised his spirit to see he had done almost the same time (I had run this leg in my prime).

Tim hands over to Graham – Okeford Beacon

Graham Whiffen put in a great Leg 3 and held onto 3rd position handing over to the ‘bionic’ Graeme Furley.  Graeme set off at the speed of a cheetah with his sight set on the two runners in front of him.  As I waited anxiously at the start of Leg 5 to see which team would appear over the hill first I was about to find out why Graeme gets called ‘the bionic man’ – he came into the handover point in first place with a good gap (which I found out later was three minutes!) over the other two runners who had set off before him.

Graham hands over to 'the Bionic Man' – Breach Wood Barn

For the rest of the event we held onto the lead with Anthony Clark managing not to get lost (well almost – he still went slightly wrong on the last leg) and came into the finish a good few minutes in front of a strong Doddlers team.  Unfortunately having used all of his energy into the run Anthony did not have the strength to break through the winning tape and needed help to cross the line.

Anthony fast approaching the finish line - Uplyme

Our recorded time was 8 hrs 15 minutes and 15 seconds, what I had not told Jerry was that the 1999 record time of 8 hrs 15 minutes was a rounded down time that the race organiser John Gregory had recorded; in fact the exact time was 8 hrs 15 minutes and 28 seconds – so we had managed to better the time.  Unfortunately Chris Cussen did not have the current record time that I believe was set by Poole Runners after 1999 to hand, but that time can wait for another day.

The benefit of being first team allowed us to get to the showers first and have hot water (as long as you knew which shower had the hot water Graeme) but the downside was that as we had had to keep moving on before the other teams arrived at each leg therefore we did not get the chance to see much of our other teams – I can now understand Ian’s logic of fielding teams close in strength.

With the strength of Wimborne AC at the moment and the improvement we are seeing coming throughout the club I expect next year to be putting myself forward as B Team captain!

Stewart Little


Graham flies the flag at the finish




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