(A title that is only a
little more original for the fact that we couldn’t have a seventh
runner! After running my first leg, I was wishing that particular rule
didn’t really count.)
Ian (WACer nearest the camera) ready for the start
from Tollard Royal
Our team (Ian Buckingham,
me, Phil Burgess, Daryl Davies, Andy Porter, Steve Guy) turned up to a
quiet little corner of Dorset near Tollard Royal, nice and early, for
the start of the 12 leg, 60 mile relay race along this well known local
ridgeway. It helped to take our minds off what we were about to do by
trying to find/beg/borrow pins enough to tag on our numbers, pick up
meal tickets and share a word or two with others. But the starting gun
came soon enough and Ian was off! We had to drive in a similar direction
to the runners to begin with, who weaved on and off roads and tracks, so
we were able to see them all at a couple of early viewing spots on our
drive to the first change-over point. I remember the weather being ok
for that first 15 minutes. But by the time we concentrated on getting to
Iwerne Courtney, the heavens opened.
The runners came down the
last hill of this first leg looking like drowned rats (perhaps not
fleeing a sinking ship or looking fearful, but looking equally
determined!). On top of the ridge, with gusting winds and heavy rain,
Ian had had a tough time to push on through that. And running against
top runners of opposing teams. What a start!
I was having to run at
this upcoming change-over and am possibly the most fair-weather-seeking
runner you’ll find. But being a road runner, rather than x-country fan,
I’d already accepted the worst – the more than slim possibility of
pain….hmm, make that lots of pain, let alone rain - and threw myself
down the road.
Well, the psychology of
fearing the worst must have been helpful. Come the last hill, after
running fairly hard and wheezing for breath yet still running on with
eyes now near glazing over, I passed three folk walking together having
given in to the pain. Though I knew that shame well (the hill beat me
before on my running of The Stickler), I had sworn not to be bowed down
low once again. Grrrrr! Though it did help a great deal to this rat that
the skies had dried up almost immediately after Ian had handed me the
baton! The sun would peek out now and raise all our spirits.
I made it to the end of my
leg and passed on the baton to Phil, who had let us use his car as our
‘half-team’ mobile home come transport. After recovering sufficiently to
get out of wet clothes, down a bottle of squash and eat tracker bars
enough to leave crumbs for half the local wildlife to live off, it was
time to be at the next change-over to see Phil come in and Daryl hare
off in his element, up for the challenge!
Driving around the country
lanes of little-seen parts of Dorset is actually a very pleasant part of
the day. But you’ve always got in the back of your mind that we really
need to get to the next change-over in time when it’s your half of the
team changing over! So this next drive was pleasantly relaxing now that
we (our car’s trio) had all run our first legs and, though the wind was
strong for the runners, the sun had shown itself fully by now and we had
time to relax before running again. For Daryl, it was a lot less
relaxing I’m sure!
We kept as a group, both
cars of our team’s triplets meeting at each change-over and cheering
each other on. We had lost touch with the leaders, who had already
passed through even before either of our cars had arrived, and the field
was settling down into positions so we now saw familiar faces from
near-placed teams and could now judge we were in a battle for 4th/5th
place with Marlborough, watching the team of four Avon Valley runners do
brave battle with the hills in third place.
The next few legs flew by
and all too soon I was sitting in Phil’s car as we parked up at my next
leg start, dreading having to cause my calves to do yet more work! I’m
pretty religious about warming up for a run (usually riding my bike for
a half hour or so when not so constrained) but not so much as a few
short strides this time – not from lack of time but from a wish to
postpone the torturing of my poor legs!
Ian came running along a
shallow incline along a valley floor through the tall green grass of a
huge curving field not too unlike somebody out of Monty Python’s Holy
Grail - so far away as to not appear to be making much ground…. and then
all at once….argh!! Off I go!
I lumbered in to the
change-over with Daryl shouting well done! We had taken 4th
place from Marlborough. I felt tired, but not so tired as to miss
passing someone. Turned out he’d got himself a bit lost and their 3
minute lead was now a 30 second deficit without me having realised!
Phil ran on, determined as
ever. We got to the next change-over without mishap and waited
patiently. This was a long leg and a rapid drive there had left us
plenty of time for suspense to build. A great part of this relay race
along 60 odd miles of Dorset’s ridgeline is that it’s long enough to
build up that tension! Would we come in 4th, would it be 5th?!
What would happen to the other teams around us?
This was perhaps the image
of the day. Phil running at real pace, steaming along the road with
blood all over his leg and arm. Like some runner out of Gallipoli! He’d
taken a wrong turn (our turn this time to even things up with
Marlborough) and Phil had had an altercation with some barbed wired in
his efforts to correct his course! Phil had run a proud leg to make up
time and we were still right in there with Marlborough only 30 seconds
in front! The game was afoot! And Daryl shot off after the runner who
was still in sight.
We only just made the next
change-over in time to see Daryl holding the margin steady against a
very powerful runner. They both clearly enjoyed running so close to each
other over a whole leg, with great spirit in both our teams’ enjoyment
of the fight now brewing up for 4th! This was now the
business end of the race and we were right in there!
We stood about in the
layby that was the next change-over point, peering anxiously round the
bend to know who would appear first. And as fate would have it, Andy
came pounding down the last stretch with neck aflame from the exertion
and determination…… without sign of a chasing runner! Awesome!! Andy had
flown along this penultimate leg, hunting down the pretender to our
rightful spot in the order of merit! Grrr! Getting down to the glory
section of our battle …. Andy had not only overtaken Marlborough but
made over a four minute lead on him. Muhahaha!
slick final changeover from Andy at Coney’s Castle, as Steve heads
for the finish line