Updated: Jul 8
In the blink of an eye the travelling circus that is the Green Belt Relay rolled around the outer London countryside for yet another memorable and magnificent weekend. It’s 25th running in fact.
It’s perhaps in the spirit of a race characterised by an assurance that come what may, things will work out in the end, and nobody should panic, that the silver-jubilee of the Green Belt Relay is not actually on its 25th year. A race founded by Stragglers in the mid-90s because the building of a bridge meant this idea (circumnavigating London in a continuous relay) was possible, and the question of why could best be answered by, “why not”? If anything, the break because of an inconvenient pandemic seems to have boosted the passion and enthusiasm from the many participating clubs.
For me this was a new experience, as a knee injury meant my tenth appearance in the race will have to wait for another year. Instead, I went for the non-participant, Ryder Cup approach to captaincy, telling everyone else what to do whilst completing a café tour of the Green Belt Relay – this approach comes highly recommended.
There is extensive coverage of the race elsewhere, on the GBR website and Facebook, but
congratulations go to Ranelagh for taking the overall title which they also did back in year one (1995). The headline for Stragglers is our teams came 6th and 20th, two very pleasing results.
To quote the race director himself: “We (the event overall) had some great racing for category wins and a lot of broken records on well-established stages. I would like to unfairly single out Crispin Allen (Stragglers) for breaking long-standing V40 and V50 records on stage 8 - he just keeps getting quicker, that man.” – amusingly, Crispin forgot to tell me he wanted to run and only came in as a one-week-before-the-race substitute. Stragglers have two record breakers amongst us, much respect to Sarah Winter for a new V45 women best on the tricky stage 18.
Working through the stages to look at achievements in more detail, Filip set Stragglers 1 off to a strong start which was maintained more or less across the weekend with his 7th place. For Stragglers 2 Kelly Page missed out on winning her age category by 11 seconds! There was however an age group success double up on leg 2 as Chi Ming (Stephen) Wu and Rachel Simpson secured first places for V40 men and V45 women.
Day 1 key moments include:
Leg 3: Martin Vivian first V50 men and Helen Davies first V45 women.
Leg 4: Sarah Winter first V45 women
Leg 5: shout out to James Bowell for a top 10 finish on one of the tough ones.
Leg 8: new V50 record for Crispin Allen, this one has stood for many years.
Leg 9: Stragglers 2 came out top for us here too with a top 10 finish and first V50 man for Abu-Turab Bharwana.
Moving on to day 2 and debutant Rachel Simpson was at it again securing her second age group first place on leg 12. Then Crispin secured the V50 double with another second place this time on leg 13, with Roy Reeder close behind in 6th. On to leg 15 and it was former team captain Helen Davies securing the V45 women double across the weekend.
Lullingstone to Tatsfield is one of the toughest and Filip improved on his 7th place on day 1 with a mighty 5th on this classic stage. Abu pulled out a great run too, coming first V50 man. The headlines were then rounded off as Sarah Winter bagged us a second broken record on the challenging stage 18.
The teams in full, in day 1 order:
Stragglers 1 (I really did try and come up with more imaginative names) – Filip Egierszdorff, Chi Ming Wu, Martin Vivian, Kevin Price, James Bowell, Ian Hawkes, Danny Glebocki, Roy Reeder, Neil Carrington, Oliver Bowers and Robert Hodge.
Stragglers 2 – Kelly Page, Rachel Simpson, Helen Davies, Sarah Winter, Pedro Das Gupta, Andy Howarth, Emily Wattret, Crispin Allen, Abu-Turab Bharwana, Simon Brazil and Heather Hodge.
Special thanks to Malcolm Davies who drove an almost complete circuit of the GBR course (while not competing) and was invaluable. Many people contribute beyond running, and to quote someone else “I’d like to unfairly single out” Neil Carrington, who every year I seem to give even more complicated instructions, only for him to consume them as Oli Bowers eats Oysters before a race (Oli honestly ate a plate of this seafood speciality at the High Beach Oyster Shack before finishing 7th on leg 7).
Half the team enjoyed a Saturday night out in Chelmsford (don’t be mean and say you find this hard to believe). A town centre which was dead at 9 had come alive by 10:30 just as us responsible athletes were heading for bed. If you can do it, committing to a full circuit of the GBR is well worth it for the camaraderie, countryside, opportunity to find new places to run and chance to admire the corrugated iron wall of the Dartmouth Bowling club (where leg 15 starts).
With the presentations complete and the bar at BPSC drunk almost dry (sorry Thursday nighters who didn’t have much choice), attention now switches to Welsh Castles and Norfolk Relays for more Stragglers away trips.
A quick bit of club housekeeping. After three races as Green Belt Relay team captain I’ve requested a breather in 2024. Hopefully my replacement(s) will be so good that we’ll all realise, as many a football manager has, that to go back is to go backwards, but 2025 is a long way off so never say never. If you’d like to volunteer (and repay me if you think I gave you an especially horrible stage) please let club chair Kevin Price know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.