A mostly accurate account of an amazing day out with wonderful team mates.
The Ridgeway is one of England’s National Trails, covering 86.5 miles from Ivinghoe Beacon in Buckinghamshire to Overton Hill near Marlborough passing through some beautiful villages and countryside.
The Ridgeway Relay is a team event organised by Marlborough Running Club. It is run over ten legs, the legs varying in length from 5.4 miles to 11.0 miles. Lliswerry Runners were the only Welsh team amongst 37 teams who were mostly from the surrounding areas. There are no marshals on the stages and while the route is well signposted, it helps to know where you are going. Doing reccies is easy for local teams but we had to wing it a bit. So to finish the relay with the same number of runners as we started was a major achievement and all credit to our amazing team!
Stage 1: Ivinghoe Beacon to Wendover (11 miles)
Inspiring the whole team from the start was Lisa. Not only did she (& Lee, Stage 2) get up before dawn & drive 100miles to be ready for the 7:30am start but she’d already completed a trail half marathon the day before! As our team’s technical wizard she’d set the route up on her watch and had the OS App installed on her phone. So we were confident she wouldn’t get lost. She completed the day’s longest stage looking as fresh as a daisy.
Lee, Lisa & Julia at Ivanhoe Beacon
Stage 2 Wendover to Whiteleaf Car Park, Princes Risborough (6 miles)
Lee stepped into the team at short notice so didn’t have time to check out any details. This stage has a tricky section which passes through the grounds of Chequers, which is Boris’s summer residence. Fortunately the PM is out of the country but this didn’t help Lee who couldn’t find a way into his garden. So he did the savvy thing and ran with a local, from Whitney Roadrunners.
Stage 3 Whiteleaf Car Park to Lewknor (9.4 miles)
Another team member with an early start was Hannah whose handover from Lee was at 10:30. As these first few stages are all described by the organiser as the trickiest to navigate, she was also suitably equipped with the route on her watch and phone. The happy, smiley photo tells the success story. All good!
Stage 4 Near Hill Farm, Lewknor to Swyncombe Church (5.4 miles)
After a suitable breakfast, Orlagh & Kieran arrived at the handover point in the middle of nowhere in bags of time which is a challenge in itself. Not phased by the tough climb at the end of her run, she finished quicker than more than half of the teams & looked like she could keep going!
Stage 5 Swyncombe Church to South Stoke Primary School (10.1 miles)
Jaron found his way to the 11th century St Botolph’s Church, Swyncombe without any problems. Looking back at the gigantic hill that Orlagh was about to finish on, he was in “bring it on” mode. He seemed pretty happy with his run when he arrived in South Stoke 10.1 hilly miles later, enough for the most spectacular finish of the day. He did this twice as we missed it the first time!
Stage 6 – South Stoke to Bury Down Car Park, West Ilsley (10.4 miles)
Chris had made it known at the planning meeting that he lacked confidence in any form of navigational equipment. No problem. Family support was on hand from daughter & former Lliswerry runner, Gemma to guide him through Goring. This & various sneaky photographs of the route sent by the reccie team (Chris & Julia) managed to get him through to the finish.
We’re still investigating how the word “flat” crept into the route description. It turned out that this one had the greatest net ascent of all stages, so we’ve promised him a flat stage next year. Trust me.
Stage 7 – Bury Down Car Park to Sparsholt Firs Car Park (9.1 miles)
Stage 7 was a “mass start” (unlike the starts of stages 2-6 which were handovers) so she had company from the beginning. This helped as we knew she’d prefer to run in a straight line, on the flat, with no hills and no navigation. After celebrating her “Clubman of the Year” award from her football club 2 days before, she wasn’t quite sure how she’d do (tbh she was petrified). On goes the magic Lliswerry vest & she didn’t put a foot wrong. Smashed it! Inspiration to all Lliswerry Runners on how to challenge yourselves. You never know what you can achieve until you try.
Stage 8: Sparsholt Firs Car Park to Lane Charlbury Hill (7.8 miles)
As the only team member to have participated in the Ridgeway Relay before, Leanne knew something about the terrain. Running through some amazing countryside there were a few road crossings to navigate. At one, she was a bit unsure of where the path continued, so managed to get directions from a very helpful spectator who she realised upon closer inspection was Dean, her husband. The heat of the day was at its highest, slightly masked by the breeze in the face all the way. So Leanne was really pleased to see us waiting at Charlbury Hill and the team cheered her handover to John.
Stage 9 – Charlbury Hill to Barbury Castle (10.7 miles)
It would be easy to assume when the start and the finish are more or less the same height, the stage would be easy. Um, no. Equal ups and downs doesn’t make a stage easy. This one has a climb followed by a big decent but then……uh oh, what goes down must come up. Yep, a gigantic climb. Luckily we had trail expert and ultra distance runner, John on this stage. As can be seen from the finish line picture he was more that satisfied.
While John was running, our super supporter & driver Martin was taking Sam to stage 10 which was a mass start at the scheduled time of 5:30pm.
So Jaron & Emma looked after John on his run. Thanks both.
Stage 10 – Barbury Castle to the Leisure Centre Marlborough (9.7 miles)
As another late substitute into the team, Sam “hit the ground running”, turning out the best stage position of the day for the team, finishing in 14th place. Sam looked strong at the finish having let others around him do the work and find the way along this stage.The route ended off the Ridgeway to finish up at Marlborough Leisure Centre which was the location for the prize giving.
Thanks To Our Team!
Many thanks to Laud who did all the backroom work entering the event, sorting out the team though its many changes. Phenomenal effort! Without this we couldn’t have had a fun day out.
Also, thanks to the wonderful support team on the day – Martin, Emma, Julia, Dean, Kieran, Gemma, Natalie & me.
Last but not least, our marvellous runners for your commitment!