Who would have thought what started in March this year as an email out to all club members would turn out to be the biggest challenge ever undertaken by the Newmarket Joggers. An entry to the Round Norfolk Relay has eluded the club in the past however thanks to Jim Withers this year with his organisation and commitment an entry was made and accepted. Little did we know at this point that the next 6 months would be filled with meetings, route recce’s, emails and endless phone calls to organise the event, team and support crew. The relay is unique not only to the UK but worldwide, its 17 continuous races all of different distances ranging from just over 5 miles to 20 miles. The madness all starts and finishes in King’s Lynn before taking in a circular route that follows the Norfolk boundary running along parts of the Norfolk Coastal path before heading inland after Great Yarmouth and towards the finish to total 195 miles.
Being new to the event did not deter the Joggers enthusiasm for the race and all 17 who were part of the running team had been to either run or walk their stages beforehand to ensure that they knew the route and what lay ahead. The relay required meticulous planning and it wasn’t just the runners that had to put in hard work as it took a support crew of 6 to timekeep, drive and ensure the runners were in place where they should be and on the line ready to take the baton, in addition the relay is notorious for its strict rules and regulations that have seen many clubs disqualified in the past resulting in non completion.
The support team of Debbie Read, Jim Withers, Carolynn Anderson and Kevin Collins met in King’s Lynn early on Saturday morning to register the team and welcome the first runner, Keith Williams and accompany him to the start. Keith’s stage was 16.81 miles long and started at 9am, Keith is a seasoned marathon runner however he had struggled to incorporate some long runs into his training schedule recently due to work commitments but this did not deter him from running his heart out to finish on top of the cliffs at Hunstanton in a time of 2hrs 14 minutes and get the team off to a flying start before passing the baton to Neville Clarke who had a stage of 14.06 miles in distance again running along the Norfolk Coastal path which Neville is very familiar with being a Norfolk lad. He put in a great run which was tough in stages as its very open and due to the nature of the race had long stretches where you couldn’t see another runner just endless coastal paths, this didn’t deter him nor put him off his stride as he completed in 1hr 57 secs passing the baton onto Jason Beeton in Burnham Overy, Jason was using his stage of the relay as a warm up for the following days Great North Run but the 5.76 miles ahead of him was as tough as a half marathon as the route incorporated sand dunes and undulating terrain in parts and in true team spirit Jason didn’t save any of his energy for the following days race as he gave the race his absolute all passing the baton onto Lisa Redman in Wells and clocking a time of 41:59 before jumping into a car to head up to Newcastle. Lisa’s stage took in 11.14 miles of coastal path as well as a pirate carnival along the way! Lisa had been suffering with illness prior to the event but she dug deep and put in a brilliant run to finish on the shingle beach at Cley in 1hrs 42 mins rewarding herself with a well deserved paddle in the sea afterwards. Waiting to pick up the baton was Ursula White who had 10.81 miles ahead of her and one of the most notoriously tough stages of the race due to miles of shingle and sand as well as a tough cliff climb, as ever Ursula showed her strength and when the Red Arrows did a fly over just before her stage end at Cromer this gave her another surge of motivation as she finished strongly to pass onto Julie Sheldrick who had a team out in force supporting her including her Mum and dog Marley and she gave everyone something to cheer about as she put in a fabulous run taking minutes off her predicted time and completed her 7.9 miles in a time of 62:53 minutes in the village of Mundesley where Susannah Rush was waiting to undertake the next stage which is 9;24 miles in distance and the exceptional running was obviously infectious as Susannah put in a blinding run and with Jim Withers supporting her on the bike crossed the line in 70:12 minutes recording a new PB for the distance.
By this time the support crew, which also included Lynda McCormack, were passing on messages to the other runners who were waiting to take on their stages that the race was well and truly on and this proved infectious as waiting for Susannah at the end of her stage in Lessingham was Adrian Whittle who had 7.52 miles ahead of him and now it was starting to get dark so the support vehicles kicked in and Adrian set off in the shadow of the flashing beacon from the van and took on the road, at one point he was almost carried out by a stag which leapt in front of him luckily Adrian escaped its antlers and didn’t miss a stride as he ran on towards the village of Horsey to pass the baton onto Neil Williamson and record a time of 61:06 minutes for his leg. Neil took on his stage flying and determined to continue the amazing efforts of his 8 predecessors he didn’t disappoint despite running on roads that minutes earlier had seen flash flooding which he luckily missed along with the fork lightening which could be seen in the distance, Neil ran consistently and with strength covering the 11.3 miles with ease and finished along the promenade in Great Yarmouth recording a stage time of 1hr 25 minutes before passing the baton to Paul Holley who would cross the halfway point in his leg and having been in contact with the support team beforehand was well aware of the great performances recorded in the 12 hours before him. Paul set off through the streets of Yarmouth at a blistering pace which he maintained throughout every mile of his 20.06 mile stage which saw the Jogger overtake 9 other teams and have the support van sign of Slow Moving Vehicle being replaced with Fast Moving Vehicle as it sped along the A143 to the Bungay changeover, Paul came into changeover in a time of 2hrs 6 minutes to pass onto Alan Shand who was waiting eagerly to start his 14.6 mile stage, Alan is a master of long distance events having recently completed the 54 mile Comrades Marathon in May. Alan was full of enthusiasm as ever and got off to a great start however 7 miles in saw him suffering with stomach cramps but he battled through the pain barrier and found the strength to complete in 2hrs and 7 minutes and handover to Greg Davis who was waiting in Scole and ready to tackle his stage which was 19.67 miles in distance. Greg had a battle early on with a runner from Bishops Stortford who managed to get past the Jogger in the early stages however this did not deter Greg who maintained perfect pacing throughout and kept the runner in his sights overtaking him easily 3 miles from the stage end and this manoeuvre was met with cheers of delight from his support crew who by this time had been awake for almost 24 hours and were overloading on caffeine and at times hallucinating. Greg came into Thetford picking up the pace as he looked forward to getting into his car which he hoped would be at the changeover point waiting for him, picking up the pace Greg put in a strong final mile to pass the baton onto Brian Munns and complete in 2hrs 7 minutes. Brian was on the road and off at a rate of knots showing his usual determination and dedication to the team and burning up the miles as he passed along the outskirts of Thetford Forest towards Brandon the Jogger looked comfortable throughout his stage and overtook many other teams as he cruised towards Feltwell in a time of 1hr 30 mins to pass the baton onto Steve Edwards who as dawn was approaching had a leg of 8.8 miles ahead of him, Steve had a great start and was clipping along with ease when completely out of the blue he had to stop due to feeling nauseous which soon passed and saw him take off again and as the early morning mist started to rise he continued into changeover to Noel Benn in a time of 1hr 5 mins. Noel was waiting and ready in Wissington and had Debbie Read cycling along-side as well as an A Team of supporters as other Joggers had stayed on after their stages to cheer the team on. Noel’s stage was 7.2 miles in distance and he ran with ease through the twisting Fen Roads towards Downham Market, looking confident throughout his stage he finished in 52:32 minutes before passing the baton onto Sue Stoten who had the penultimate stage ahead of her. Sue had been nervous about her stage but she didn’t need to be as she recorded a tremendous time of 48:21 minutes for the 5.49 miles, this was 2 minutes under her predicted time and reiterated the efforts put in by every runner to do their very best for the team.
The final leg was down to Vincent Coogan who was at the start of his stage in Stowbridge with his wife Elspeth, their 3 boys and an earwig, as the support crew arrived Vincent did a warm up and as the sun started to burn through Sue came over the bridge down into changeover and passed the baton onto Vincent who took off at amazing speed with Debbie Read frantically peddling to try and keep up with him as his support cyclist. The final stage is 11.73 miles in distance however this did not deter Vincent who ran at 5:55 min per mile pace to record a total stage time of 69:33 minutes, an incredible feat and great finale to the relay which saw him cross the line on the track at the Lynnsport Leisure Centre in King’s Lynn to the cheers of his fellow club members and family as well as the legendary Dr Ron Hill MBE.
The team completed the 195 miles in a time of 24 hours 42 minutes and 53 seconds, this saw the Joggers as 23rd overall out of 57 teams, 7th club team and 2nd in the newcomer category. The sense of achievement at not only completing the challenge but to do so successfully made up for all the hard work that had gone into organising the event and the lack of sleep which by this time was reaching 36 hours. This was the silver jubilee for the relay and it’s fitting that the Joggers should be part of such a momentous occasion. For a small club like the Newmarket Joggers to pull together and compete at the highest level is a massive undertaking and shows how far the club has come in recent years to be able to field a team in events like this and finish with such credibility gaining respect from other clubs who congratulated us on our achievement. 2011 has seen the club go from strength to strength and now as it approaches 100 members it’s hoped that the years that follow will see more successes in individual and team events. What’s been learned over the last 6 months is that as a team the Joggers are up there with the very best due to the commitment the club has from every member to do their absolute best for the team.
The memories of the weekend’s events will live with every member and in true Joggers style the team met up on Sunday night to celebrate and reiterate the stories of the weekend. The photo’s that are now circulating only give a glimpse of the tremendous efforts by everyone but each and every participant, whether running or in the support team, are more than aware of the fact that they have been part of something very special and momentous for the club.
- Jason 8th & 5th senior male
- Ursula was 2nd lady
- Julie was 4th lady
- Susannah beat all the Senior Ladies and was only beaten by 4 Lady Masters
- Paul 4th overall & 2nd master
- Greg 14th & 8th Master
- Brian 11th & 7th Master
- Sue 14th lady
- Vince 3rd & 2nd Senior Male
You really are the A-Team and I can think of no better final quote for this weekend than that famous phrase from Hannibal – ‘I love it when a plan comes together’