GBR 2019 Report

Posted by Alan Mawdsley on 27 May 2019

Written by Simon Webb, Stragglers GBR team captain

GBR 2019 Start


Heidi Russenberger, in her debut event, brought the baton home for our ladies’ team to give Stragglers a spot on the stage winners list in 2019. From Walton Bridge to the Hawker Centre may appear one of the more straight-forward legs, but many teams put fast runners out hoping for glory in front of the largest finishing crowd of the weekend. We of course did this too, with another first-timer Charlie Jeffrey the first Straggler home and Martin Vivian completing the victorious Vets teams circuit of the 220-mile GBR course.

Taking on the task of managing our Green Belt Relay teams was a daunting task for several reasons, not least the standard set in 2018 by previous captains Helen and Malcolm Davies who secured a second-place finish for both vets and ladies. So, to go one better and win a prize last held by Stragglers in 1996, is massively pleasing. Coming into the weekend I knew we had a competitive team in this category, but with the consistently strong London Front Runners amongst the opposition, the destination of the ‘walking stick’ was never a certainty. It almost seems unfair to pick out individuals in a title-winning team, but a few of note include Crispin Allen with his V50 record on stage 13 (he finished 4th and 6th over the weekend), Kevin Price another V50 record-breaker on 20, Richard Carter’s 10th place on the 13.3 mile Lullingstone to Tattsfield stage, and Dean Morley’s 5th and 6th places on stages 2 and 15. Mention too for Mark Pattinson who ran a strong stage 11 after marking parts of the course earlier in the day.

Heidi’s win on day 2 completed an excellent debut as she was first Straggler on stage 4 (Little Marlow to Great Kingshill), one of three ‘grade 10’ legs. Twice more over the weekend our women would secure top spot among Stragglers, with Sophie Biggs holding off the charging Charlie on stage 6, and Eliza Hawthorn running strong on stage 12 – the first on day 2 with it’s 8 am start a tougher challenge than might seem.

It was a great weekend for debutants, eight out of thirty-three runners: Sophie Biggs, Pete Gregorowski, Eliza Hawthorn, Brigid Hibberd, Charlie Jeffrey, Tom Poole, Heidi Russenberger and Becky Thurtell all making a valuable contribution to the teams they represented. Pete’s double 4th one of the many stand out performances of the weekend! A mention is due also for Tom Poole who was only 6 minutes behind Richard Carter on ‘Lullingstone’ in his debut GBR, and who didn’t have a half marathon PB when he was allocated this stage.

Going one place better than Pete was Oli Bowers, who secured third on stage 5 (Great Kingshill to Chipperfield), a 13.3 mile grade 10. He followed this up by running stage 18 (Merstham to Burford Bridge) including the climb up Box Hill. A tough double as many tell me this should be added to the ‘grade 10’ list, so also an excellent effort here by Malcolm Davies to come in 12th and Clare Graham who had one of the longer stages on day 1. As well as Oli, huge credit to Gareth Pritchard and Helen Davies, who both ran grade 10 stages on the first day, and took on the deceptively tough stage 17 (Tattsfield to Merstham) on day 2.

A record 52 teams lined up for Green Belt Relay in 2019. Our Vets victory saw them finish 7th overall. The men came in 13th and the ladies 30th, and on paper, second in this category. The one disappointment of the weekend was their ineligibility for the runner-up prize, as the GBR rules state only teams who complete the course can qualify. It’s a reminder of the fragility of this race and the magnitude of the achievement of merely getting round. The fact our injured runner was Maddie Garner, who along with Kevin Price have been my support team in the organising this year, was extra disappointing. We’re already thinking about what we might do to lessen this risk in 2020.

The 2019 Stragglers Green Belt Relay teams were

Vets (winners): Crispin Allen, Richard Carter, Malcolm Davies, Jim Desmond, Pete Gregorowski, Andrew Lane, Dean Morley, Mark Pattinson, Kevin Price, Gareth Pritchard, Martin Vivian.

Ladies: Sophie Biggs, Helen Davies, Maddie Garner, Clare Graham, Sue Hall, Eliza Hawthorn, Brigid Hibberd, Mary Hyde, Carys Mills, Heidi Russenberger, Becky Thurtell.

Men: Richard Baggott, Allan Barrie, Oli Bowers, Neil Carrington, Phil Davies, Charlie Jeffrey, Richard Patient, Stephen Penpraze, Tom Poole, Simon Webb, Fraser Wiggley.

Guide runners for Simon Webb were Simon Brazil and Dan Greenslade.

Some other highlights/recognitions:

As well as several first timers, we saw some note-worthy returns this year. Allan Barrie’s results service is a fantastic piece of work, but in recent years it has seen him flat-bound and on the end of a phone. Innovation in 2019 saw clubs sharing some of the work, allowing Allan to run, and take the lead off stage from Hampton Court for our men’s team. We also welcomed back to Straggler colours Andrew Lane, who first ran GBR in 1998 but who now lives in Norfolk and is a second-claimer. I gave Andrew our share of the results processing, which from where the rest of us were standing appeared to go extremely smoothly.

Credit too to the runners on stages 9, 10 and 11 (Andrew, Eliza, Tom, Malcolm, Stephen, Maddie, Mark, Becky and Richard) who ran in, or on courses, affected by heavy rain. Also to Phil Davies, who came into the team during the middle of last week. There are certain runners we can rely on to be dropped onto any part of the GBR course and they will know what they’re doing and where they’re going, and Phil is one of them.

The Green Belt Relay is a special event. It requires effort, commitment and a willingness to step outside your comfort zone. It’s also hugely rewarding, especially so from the position of team organiser. I’ve asked a lot of people, and everyone has played their part. Runners, drivers, marshals, water stations and a supportive environment, you’ve all played your part in another great display of Straggler teamwork.

I was pleased with the numbers who stayed Saturday night in Chelmsford. This will always feel a bit of a rush, but I hope it provides an opportunity for people to get to know one another – I wish we had longer and each year wish we could wrecklessly say out all night in some sticky carpet Essex nightclub. The Whatsapp group has been a good addition this year, I especially enjoyed Malcolm Davies’ enthusiasm to take photos of anything and everything, once Maddie had shown him how to actually use it! It also allowed us to quickly tell the whole team that club Chair and GBR team co-organiser Kevin Price had arrived for stage 5 – one of the toughies – without his running shoes. Memories of Oli Bowers running up Drovers in Malcolm’s shorts came back as Kevin headed off to Chipperfield in my shoes half a size too small.

Both inside and outside the Stragglers, GBR shows us in the best possible light. Peter and Alex, who many of you won’t know, do a sensational job staging this event, and they seem to raise the bar each year. See the GBR website for Peter’s report, which gives you an idea of the scale of the task and the amount of people who need recognition.

My final thanks are to Kevin and Maddie. I’d have been out of my depth taking this on by myself! Their support was exactly what I needed, with many emails, phone calls and a few pub sessions to turn this into reality – the brewers of Amstel did especially well out of GBR this year. And, to the Chemical Brothers, Vampire Weekend, Jaws and Catfish and the Bottlemen, whose new albums have soundtracked many an email, spreadsheet re-write, and this report.

I’ve had some wonderful feedback, and wanted to share some of it here:

“It was my first GBR at a tender age and you know Simon how anxious I was with regards to the distances and navigation. It was totally out of my comfort zone but I was so thrilled with how it went and came away feeling a little bit taller than when I went in. A running club that can have that effect on you is surely one to be treasured.” Brigid

“The organisation of this event is mind-blowing. I loved the whatsapp this year - really felt like we were in a big team.” Sue

“I hadn't been at GBR since 2011 and it is better than ever. Really nice to meet lots of you for the first time.” Andrew

I've been involved with GBR since the start, and I would say this was the best one yet. Yes, the weather was kind (on most stages 🤔), but Peter's organisation gets ever more phenomenal, and the way that Allan/Evan have developed online results & comms gives a hugely enriched experience to all.” Jim

Date for 2020 to be confirmed, but it’s usually the third weekend in May.

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