With a little bit of arm-twisting, 10 ladies were gathered to mount a challenge at the team title at the Cotswold Way Relay on Saturday. The Cotswold Way is 103 miles long and pretty hilly. It is divided into 10 stages for the relay, rated as either hard, medium or easier. Yup, that’s right, there are no easy stages! It starts at 7am in Chipping Campden and finishes about 12 hours later in Bath city centre by the Abbey. Each stage has a mass start at about the time that the first runner comes in from the previous leg, which is no bad thing for the slower teams, who would otherwise have a very long day of it!
Claire Sapwell started us off at 7am, and finished 9th lady and 45th overall on her stage (about 80 teams took part). Claire deserves a special mention for (a) being prepared to race at 7am and (b) driving over from work to race and then driving back to work afterwards. Thanks to the positive responses I had from other team managers when trying to sort out transport for Claire back to the start of her leg.
Annabel Granger took over on leg 2 (the first ‘hard’ stage) and had a storming run, finishing 1st lady and 6th overall. Thanks to TACH for helping out with transport to get Annabel to and from her leg.
Sarah Everitt ran leg 3 and finished 2nd lady and 19th overall. I’m not sure she enjoyed the experience (she feels she has been traumatized by it!) but she is clearly better at running on the hills than she thinks.
Kate Goodhead volunteered to run stage 4 because it is local to her. It’s the 2nd ‘hard’ stage but that clearly didn’t faze her at all, as she was 1st lady and 5th overall, despite expressing concern beforehand that she wasn’t fully fit. Maybe an overall stage win would have been on the cards otherwise?!
Andy Malloy was designated driver for legs 5 and 6 and thanks are due to him for helping out: the transport logistics of 10 point-to-point legs don’t really bear thinking about, and it was great to have his help. Maggie Salter was 10th lady and 33rd overall on leg 5, handing over to Tracy Allen, who not only ran having marshalled at parkrun that morning, but also when distinctly unwell, having lost her voice. Both Maggie and Andy tried to talk her out of running, but Tracy still ran, finishing a very creditable 14th lady and 54th overall.
It’s fair to say that Anne Fletcher, on leg 7, was probably the most nervous and apprehensive about her introduction to off-road running. She ran very well, finishing 32nd lady and 69th overall, despite not having had the chance to recce her leg beforehand. It was particularly kind of Anne to spend her last full day in Bristol supporting the club by racing. We all wish her well in the future!
As team captain, I stepped in to run leg 8 (it was the final ‘hard’ stage, and there was no queue of eager volunteers fighting for the privilege). Thankfully I didn’t repeat my navigational errors from my recce and managed 1st lady and 13th overall. Roger Brocklesby was the legs 7 and 8 designated driver, so thanks are also due to him for giving up yet another weekend to help the club.
At this stage we were still holding off title holders Team Bath. Our lead (about 27 minutes at one stage, probably the end of leg 4) had reduced to about 15 minutes, but we were in a strong position. However, despite sterling runs from Becci Colquhoun and Alison Engledew (both 14th lady and 53rd overall on their stages), Bath had saved their best two for last, including Holly Rush (a 2.37 marathoner) on the glory leg. Although Team Bath overhauled us pretty comprehensively, winning by about 30 minutes, B&W were also safely second ladies’ team by about 15 minutes in exactly 15 hours and 9 minutes.
Although challenging, the race is well-organised and good fun. Plenty of the local clubs put several teams out. Organising just the one team for the one race has given me a tiny bit of insight into the stresses our real team managers experience throughout the year, but it has to be said there’s a teeny bit of me which already fancies another go at this race next year…
Julia Belyavin Reports