Ridgeway Relay 2024

[Article written by Joe Lyne]

On the 23rd June was the 33rd edition of the Ridgeway Relay, the 10 stage epic covering 89 miles on the Ridgeway trail stretching from Ivinghoe Beacon in Buckinghamshire down to Marlborough in Wiltshire for the finish. HRR entered 3 teams covering all 3 categories; the mostly men’s (MM: 8 men / 2 women) mostly women’s (MW: 8 women / 2 men) and the vets team (VT: 10 of the more seasoned runners).

The build up to race day involved the team managers picking their teams and allocating legs, (most of the) runners recceing their legs and the logistics being sorted to make sure 30 runners had transport to and from their legs. We were the overall title holders from 2023 so expectations were high…

Race day

At 7:30am 40 runners set off, including our own Tom Green, John Griffiths and Stefan Franssen getting the teams started with the hilly 11-mile leg. Tom had a stormer to bring the MM team in at 2nd place just 45 seconds short of the leader. John and Stefan also got their teams off to good starts whilst scaling the 1,473ft of elevation gain.

Next up for the MM team was Tom Willner-Reid who gave us the race lead with his strong run over a shorter but equally hilly leg 2 (running the 2nd fastest leg 2 of the day). Marcus Shantry took on leg 3 where he made a slight unplanned detour but remained calm and quick under pressure to maintain our lead which he handed over in Lewknor. I (Joe Lyne) took over at leg 4 (thank you for letting me have the shortest leg!) where I ran solidly to grow our lead to around 9 minutes. HRR newcomer Lieben Dickens took over for leg 5, running to the limit to bring us to the halfway point in 2nd place, just a few minutes behind Witney. A whirlwind start to the race for our team, taking the chance to be right up at the front for the
morning with some strong running.

The MW team deployed Lysette Taplin on leg 2 where she ran the 12th fastest leg 2 of the day to deliver the team in 25th, whilst also having time to relish “the wooded areas, single tracks and spectacular views”. MW team captain See Wah Cheng took hold of proceedings for leg 3 putting his offroad expertise to good use delivering the team in 18th. This meant we overtook 16 teams over legs 2 and 3, no prisoners taken here! My fellow car shuttle buddy Margy Shueler ran leg 4 to Swyncombe bumping the team up to 17th and handing over to Amy Flaxman waiting at the top of the hill. Amy worked her way through leg 5 heading to South Stoke commenting “she enjoyed the hills more than the flat” out in the heat. This left the MW team in 17th overall, well within the top half of ALL teams, tasty.

Club top dog David Sawyer took the metaphorical baton on leg 2 for the VT navigating the ups and downs to Princes Risborough where he handed over to Hanno Nickau to tackle leg 3. Hanno has been a regular at Tuesday sessions and it’s clear they have are working by being able to keep the team in 29th after 3 legs. Chris Childs took over on leg 4, representing the team well, ascending to Swyncombe to handover to recent Boston marathoner Martin Slevin in the lunchtime sun. Martin flew along the 10.1 miles to the halfway point of the race to keep the team locked in at 29th.

Back with the MM team, Sam Garforth set off on leg 6 a man on a mission chasing down the lead. There were rumours that some clubs had stacked the back of their teams so things would be tight. Two things then happened to boost the team prospects. Firstly Sam ran the second quickest leg 6 of the day shooting us into the lead, and secondly the Witney runner took a 4-mile detour having to interrupt a couple’s Sunday lunch to get
instructions back to the Ridgeway! Mary Scott took over with a cracking leg 7 (the 5th fastest of the day) to hand over to Chris Arderne in 3rd with Newbury now in 1st and Abingdon just 1 minute ahead. Chris ran well in leg 8 to maintain 3rd place to hand over to team captain Harry Geddes. Harry ran a strong leg 9 but had to contest with the teams in 4th and 5th whose runner’s ran the two fastest leg 9s for the day, leaving it late to make their move. Harry brought in the team in 5th and handed to John Fenning for the finale. John started with 2.5 minutes to make up on 4th, ran a blinder, closed the gap, could see their runner in the distance… and just ran out of trail to close it completely, finishing the race in… a strong 5th place. After over 10 hours of racing the differences had been down to minutes and we rounded out the day strong with our heads held high.

For the MW team, Anna Corby set off on leg 6 weaving through Goring then the long ascension throughout the leg to leave the team in 16th having run the 10th fastest leg 6 that day. This was the first time there wasn’t a handover for the team as the mass start cut-off was at 14:00 meaning Susie Power had already got leg 7 started along with 31 other runners. All teams would still have their overall relay time, just not have the physical handover at every point. Susie ran a great leg 7 with the 12th fastest time of the day and solidifying the team’s 16th place standing. Marathon specialist Charlotte Cox continued the good work with leg 8 showing a cool head out in the heat to keep hold of 16th place. Natasha Flemming was up next for leg 9 where she ran the gruelling leg well to deliver the team in 17th. Sarah Evered had started leg 10 with the mass start and ran well to round out the humid relay for the team in… 19th place!

Doug Simpson kicked off leg 6 with the mass start for the VT running a good leg to leave the team in virtual 28th place. Sean Collins was up next on leg 7 and had recovered from his Endure 24 antics to bring the team to 30th (spot the epic charge picture of the mass start for this leg). Sean made it in time to tag Laurie Hurman who ran the 18th fastest leg 8 of the day to propel the team up to 26th place, and also making it in time to tag James Messer to get leg 9 started. James ran well over the tough leg in the muggy afternoon heat to maintain the team position. The final leg was handed to Anita James who set off with the mass start for leg 10 and crossed the finish arch in Marlborough to bring the team home in… 30th place!

A classic hot, humid race day saw the essence of the club on show to get our 3 quality teams around the relay in one piece with no runners left behind. Thanks to team captains Harry Geddes, See Wah Cheng and Catherine Scammell for organising and to Jonathan Flemming and Rachel Bayley being poised as reserves in case their services were required. And final thanks to all who ferried people and belongings along the course all day!

Scores on the doors

Headington Mostly Women’s Team were 3rd in their category and 19th overall, a top half finish against all teams The Mostly Men’s Team finished 5th overall, less than 7 minutes behind 2nd, a tight affair after 10 hours of racing Headington Vets finished 4th in their category and 30th overall beating many teams with runners of all ages Only 4 clubs were able to field 3 teams, Headington was one of them! Truly living out Running Together

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