Saturday 23rd September 2017 saw the running of the Uphill to Wells relay, covering 29 miles divided into 6 different legs (of various lengths and nastiness).
There were three Bristol & West entries this year: a men’s (or ‘open’) team (Herd of Tortoises, aka HOT) consisting of Mike Warren (legs 1&2), Dave Salter (legs 3&4) and Dave Engledew (legs 5&6); a ladies’ team (Foxy Uphill Zombies, aka FUZ) comprising Maggie Salter (leg 1), Liz Hill (leg 2), Alice Doggrell (leg 3), Jane Colman (leg 4), Alison Engledew (leg 5) and Tracy Allan (leg 6); and Paul Jefferson who was running the entire route as a solo runner.
A variety of start times were on offer, from 10:30 for the ‘Social joggers & Solo runners’ every half hour through to 12:00 for the ‘Super keenies’, all with the aim of arriving into Wells by 17:15.
As a first-time solo runner Paul Jefferson opted for the 11:00 start, with the men’s and ladies’ teams setting off half an hour later, which meant that the supporting crew dashing around in cars did not see Paul again until the end of leg 4, so quickly did he set off.
Mike and Maggie stayed together for all of leg 1, arriving into the first checkpoint at 12:33 just 6 minutes behind eventual solo runner winner Claire Prosser who had also started at 11:30. While Maggie handed the baton on to Liz, Mike continued on into his second leg.
At checkpoint 1 the ladies team was a minute faster than the second-placed ladies team (EEK from Clevedon AC), and 17 minutes ahead of the third-placed ladies team (Just Us Girls from MH4). The men were in 7th, and Paul completed leg 1 in the 3rd fastest time for a solo runner (at dead on the hour).
Liz completed leg 2 in exactly half an hour, dropping Mike by 3 minutes and keeping the ladies in the lead overall, while Paul was the second fastest solo runner to complete this leg in just 28 minutes.
The start of leg 3 saw Mike completing the first baton handover to Dave Salter, just 3 minutes after Liz handed on to Alice, but whilst she could go full speed Dave had to temper his pace as he would be running leg 4 in addition to leg 3. Alice handed over to Jane Colman after 41 minutes, at which point the ladies’ lead was 14 minutes, while Dave passed through the checkpoint after 46 minutes. Paul completed this leg in 49 minutes, the third fastest solo time for the leg.
Leg 4 involved negotiating a herd of cows (rather than tortoises), and saw Jane finish just 2 minutes behind the second-placed ladies team (who had started 30 minutes earlier), giving the ladies an impressive lead with 2 legs still to go. This was the first time that the men and ladies teams managed to catch a look at Paul Jefferson and it was great to see him running so well, though he was somewhat isolated on the course having started earlier. Dave (Salter) completed his handover to Dave (Engledew) after a 52 minute leg, the 8th fastest from an open team.
Leg 5 was an all-Engledew affair for the two teams with Alison overtaking the Clevedon ladies’ team, completing the leg in 36 minutes while Dave went 5 minutes faster with a 31 minute leg but did not manage to overhaul the ladies’ lead. Paul was suffering with leg cramps at this stage (not helpful for getting over the multiple stone stiles), and completed leg 5 in 46 minutes.
Alison handed over to Tracy in the middle of a family fun day in Priddy, to find the rest of the team who had already finished their legs indulging in the largest ice-creams known to humanity, while Dave had to settle for a running water stop as he kept pushing on (downhill) to Wells. Tracy crossed the line in Wells just behind the solo winner Clare Prosser (but being awarded the same time as they were within a minute of each other), with Dave Engledew coming home just 6 minutes later. Paul was the second solo runner to finish at the line, but having started earlier was placed third in the rankings (by just two minutes!).
All runners managed to control themselves and not photobomb a wedding, and just about managed to stagger to their feet for the obligatory photos before the prize presentations and dinner at ‘Spoons.
The women finished in a total time of 4 hours 20 minutes, the joint 5th fastest time of the day across all teams and solo runners; the men finished in 4 hours 26 minutes; and Paul completed the full course in 4 hours 58 minutes. Full results can be found here.