Race report by a South Downs Way Relay Virgin!
I have done a few big races in my short running life, but never anything like the South Downs Way Relay, I was asked if I would like to be part of the relay team and being new to the club was encouraged to take part by some of the more long standing members, so I couldn’t really refuse. I was given my legs (6,12 and 18) and with some help and advice from some of the members I duly went out and practiced them. Although the signage was very good it helps to know where you are going on the day.
The day started early, a 04:15 pick up from Amanda’s house then off to Henfield to collect the rest and swap into the relevant team vans.
The A team (Andy, Danielle, Fabian, Colin, Tom and myself) were in the slightly smaller van which was cosy but comfortable, with our driver Richard, and Tammy our Timekeeper, off we set to Beachy Head to Register.
The race started at 6am sharp with Fabian taking the first leg, as soon as he was out of sight we were back in the van heading towards the half way point of his leg to see him run past, after which we headed out to the change over point.
Change overs came and went and when we could see the runners on route we would stop to cheer them on.
Finally my first leg was up, Richard had got us to Ditchling Beacon with a good ten minutes to spare before Colin was due in to hand over, I got myself ready and had a little jog around the car park to warm up. I have never done a team event before and it’s at this point I realised it not all about me, today it’s all about the team, and if I fail I am not just letting myself down but my team mates as well. After giving myself a good talking to in the car park, I went over to the marshall a waited for Colin to come into sight, as soon as we could see him Danielle was shouting his name and encouraging him in, by the time he got to the road everybody in the car park knew who he was. The change over was a two baton change as there was a main road, Colin came in and I was released by the Marshall on my side of the road. The run to Saddlescombe was undulating for the first part then down towards the A23, after which there is a steep incline and then it’s downhill to the finish, I kept looking at my watch throughout the run because I was given a 42 minute estimated time for that leg, and I didn’t want to go to slow or to fast, I came in at 42:02 according to my Garmin. I handed over to Fabian, then it was back to the van and we were off to the next change over point.
I think the atmosphere changed in the van after everyone had done their first leg, it became more relaxed and easy going with a little bit of banter. The more experienced in the van looked after us virgins and made sure we knew where we were going. Richard was outstanding very calm and collective, knew exactly were he was going and always got us to the change overs in plenty of time to get ourselves sorted out.
Leg 2 for me was slightly longer than my first with a steep incline at the beginning and then undulating across the top with another fast downhill finish. Pretty uneventful, slightly slower then my estimate time 44:34, but we were, at this point ahead of our estimated finishing time.
Leg 3 the glory leg, the last leg. Tom was running leg 17 the longest leg of the relay and I asked him not to hang about, we were already ahead but I just wanted a bit of time just incase. Tom delivered, when I looked at my watch he came in at around 19:02, I had 58 minutes to run 5.5 miles, the first part of the run is a gradual climb up to the A272 where I was greeted with the A team cheering me on. Then it’s pretty much down hill to the finish. We managed to complete the race in 13:52.
After a very cold and quick shower we all headed to the pub for some well earned food and drink, before the drive back.
I would just like to say thanks to Mark for giving me the opportunity to run the relay, Richard for his friendly advice throughout the day, and Tammy for remembering all the essentials that everyone else forgot. Not forgetting my Team Mates for making it a memorable and enjoyable day.