Welsh Castles Relay Race Report

Posted by Simon Webb on 21 June 2022

“What a weekend that was,” the words of Club Captain Phil Davies at the end of another epic journey from North to South Wales.


The Welsh Castles Relay has been a much-loved fixture in the Stragglers calendar since as far back as the 1980s. So as the Covid cancellations kept on rolling past, Wales feeling them more than most, the return trip was something we were keenly looking forward to. The three year gap has seen a number of new faces join the club, and it was brilliant to welcome nine first timers. That they’re among the ones making the most noise about wanting to do this all again is extremely encouraging.


I however am writing this report from a slightly detached position. A brush with non-Covid illness meant that Phil and Kevin Price had to stand in for me as team leaders over the weekend. Luckily I was our final reserve so there were no last-minute dramas in team selection, but did have to follow the race via the excellent WCR online results service. Sadly no ice-cream stops on North Wales beaches for me.


One of the reasons we love this race is that it gives our athletes the opportunity to test themselves against top quality opposition. The Stragglers secured 29th place in an extremely competitive field of 55 teams. The team was in safe hands with Julie Holmes on leg 1 followed by debutant Kelly Page, one of a few who was backing up running in the Green Belt Relay with a visit to Wales. Should there be some sort of prize for anyone who goes for the triple-header and also comes to the Round Norfolk Relay in September?


Welsh Castles has six mountain stages and I felt slightly mean sending Abu-Turab Bharwana up the first, but we’ve a weird way of rewarding those who are running well. On leg 4 Sarah Kinsella achieved one of a number of top 20 finishes. Danny Glebocki on 5 finished an impressive 15th. It was great to welcome Tiago Ramos back who delivered a top half spot on leg 6.


Arguably the run of the weekend came from Filip Egierszdorff on the next mountain leg. 7 sees a brutal climb and is one where clubs with strength in depth for mountaineers pick their strong runners. So for Filip to come 15th (having driven up that morning) deserves particular praise.


Next up was Ollie Bowers, always one of the great characters on any Stragglers trip, and a reliable mid-field finish too. Then Roy Reeder secured a top 10 finish and a Vet stage win and, in doing so, completed his 19th different Welsh Castles stage in 19 appearances.


Day 1 was rounded off by Sarah Winter on another of the mountain legs, only this time spurred on by an army of Straggler marshals as each team takes a turn at supporting the race with this important work.


Saturday night in the Dragon hotel was by all accounts an excellent evening, with much consumption of apple crumble by our team of hungry runners and travellers.


As well as planning the on-the-trip logistical tweaks, Phil Davies drew the short straw of the 7 am on Sunday morning mountain leg and gave us a typically durable run. Simon Brazil ran well on 12 but was eclipsed by a number of fast V50s, for this was the leg chosen for the 2022 Jeff Wood Memorial stage. Awarded to the first over 50 on a different nominated stage each year, in tribute to Les Croupiers (organising club) founder member Jeff Wood who collapsed and died near the finish of leg 1 in 1998.


Day 2 was really rolling now as Ian Riley secured our second top 10 finish with another of a number of fine debut performances. Then it was Kevin Price’s turn to join the Drovers Hall of Fame, the mighty mountain stage not for the faint hearted.


Down the other side and Maddie Garner ran to a female stage win on a near half marathon leg which has it’s own sting in the tail with a hill close to the finish line. This leads on to the final mountain leg taken on by Nick Little, both an injury doubt and one of our valued drivers for the weekend, so a full-dimentional debut here, top work!


While Nick was running one of our two mini buses was struggling through traffic on a single track road to get Lex Prince to her stage. Arriving with one minute to spare, making her top 20 finish worth particular note. The stages come thick and fast into Cardiff from here with our final debutant Tracey Lenthall running well on 18, followed by short notice substitute Tom Howarth on 19. The value of the reserve very much seen here. It was left for Laurence Duffy to carry the non-baton home on one of the most competitive stages of the weekend.


In addition to the runners listed I’d like to thank Dean Morely and Hilary Davies who travelled and supported the team despite not running.


These trips are a mighty effort by all concerned, but also a brilliant experience and it’s clear those who made it to Wales this year had a memorable weekend. Thoughts are already turning to how we can build on this in 2023 and we’re currently keen to hear from people willing to come forward to take on the organisation. If you would like to know more or think this is a role for you, please email [email protected]

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