The Round Norfolk Relay!
Last saturday the 17th of Sept 2011 I competed in an amazing event that travelled 195.34 miles in a circle around Norfolk. There were 57 teams competing, I was running for my club the Bungay Black Dogs. What an experience, I was running stage 10 which is 20.6 miles from Gt Yarmouth to Bungay. I set off at around 6.30 and arrived into Bungay 2h:38:43 seconds later around 9:15. From day, to dusk, to pitch black. I am writing this 2 days after with a strange feeling: did that really happen or was it a dream? When I woke up the next day and tried to walk down the stairs I realised that, yes, it had really happened!
I waited at the start on the seafront with the other runners getting ready for our stage, by this point the race had been going for 12 hours and had travelled 94.54 miles, my fellow black dog runner Bob Paul arrived to much cheering, shouting and excitement, we exchanged the baton, a few words and a hug, and I was off. Running down the seafront, much to the amusement of the amusement arcades, a lone runner in tight shorts with a baton in his hand and a number 7 on his shirt was on his way, Where? they shouted! I had some kendal mint cake in my pocket which I had found in a kiss me quick shop earlier in the day, this would be great fuel for my feet I thought. After all, it got Edmund Hillary to the top of Everest and Josh Naylor round all the peaks, so its got to get me back to Bungay right?
The Round Norfolk Relay is a unique and brilliantly surreal race, especially at night. I had the privilege of leading the whole race and I never saw another runner for the whole 20 miles (the start is staggered), just my cycling support partner and the other black dogs in the van. At a few points when I needed more water collected from the van I was left to run in the pitch black for a few minutes, a moment to reflect and realise your body is running without you really thinking about it. Your mind sharpens in the dark, without anything for your eyes to focus on, or to get distracted with. I had the legendary Bob Jack cycling next to me, he entertained me the whole way with stories of his epic desert ultra race conquests, fish and chip marathon pitstops and bull fighting.
As usual my enthusiasm and excitement at the beginning of the race far outweighed my discipline resulting in a fast first 10miles and a slower second! with a few moments which were a test for my stamina both physically and mentally, at one point around mile 18 I turned to Bob and announced that 'this hill is really long I cant wait for the top', with which he laughed and told me ‘we are actually going down hill!!’ We ran along the A143 through Fritton, Haddiscoe, Toft Monks, Ellingham and finally across the old railway line at the bottom of my road to The Maltings in Bungay. In the last 500 yards shouts, instructions and cheers leaped out from the side of the road in the dark 'go Leo' they shouted, 'who is that?' I shouted back. I passed over my baton with much joy and relief to Ian Taylor who set off into the night for his 14.6 miles to Scole. Once I had warmed down I then sat with a cup of tea chatting and laughing until my energy had returned a bit. Later on in The Artichoke pub, I found a nice pint of something called ‘Black dog Beer’ nice end to the evening!
My lasting memories of this race have yet to settle, It will take a while I think as it was such a unique experience, but here are a few; running past the boats in the Yarmouth docks, cars and vans beeping, boys on BMX clapping, a Yarmouth girl shouting 'go on sexy legs', and friends and loved ones cheering me on along the way. A big thanks to you all from me and my 'sexy legs' you really helped us get home!
p.s (Our team completed the whole course in 26:43:22 a club PB! 41st place)