Round Norfolk Relay - race report

A threadbare team of just 19 Serpies defied the odds to complete the jubilee edition of the Round Norfolk Relay in a shade less than 24 hours.

The early stages along the county's picturesque northern coastline were precisely marshalled by David Martin, whose meticulous blue ring binder folder of maps and notes would shore up the entire operation.

Mariana Ivantsoff set the team off, clutching our fluorescent baton as she powered from King's Lynn to Hunstanton. She handed over to Emma Parker, who liked the coastal route so much she took a more scenic way. New member Carla Denneny made a fine Serpie team debut on the following stage, reaching reach Wells-next the-Sea to deliver the baton to Tanya Shaw. The latter sped through Blakeney and defied her husband's prediction by not getting lost. Then it was over to Miguel Branco, the team's speed demon, who took on a particularly hilly stretch (they do exist in Norfolk) before handing the glowing stick to Brian Stramer, Tanya's husband, who did get lost.

Put back on track by Kemi Yusuph, the team's crucial, relentlessly upbeat cycle and driving support, Brian passed running duties on to John Kennedy. He performed an excellent 11th-hour substitute role, reaching Nick Tucker in Lessingham.

Nick surged onwards, reeling in several runners as he undercut his predicted time by an impressive margin. As night fell and yellow warning lights started to flash on support vehicles, team co-ordinator Jolyon Attwooll carried the baton along monsoonal A-roads to the Great Yarmouth seafront. Raj Paranandi, a veteran Round Norfolk campaigner, then blitzed the longest leg (20 miles) at a metronomic seven-minute-mile pace, before Gordon Buntting, the Cape Town crusader, scythed on through the darkness.

Then, disaster! As the flying Frenchman Stephane Schneider raced off on his leg, the team's time-sheet disappeared into the night. Disqualification loomed as did disappointment for the entire squad.  After 20 minutes of despair, the precious carbon paper was retrieved from a nearby field, a car tyre-print now to the noted times.

It was now stage 13, but Andrew Williams's diligent autumn marathon training ensured no further bad luck dogged the team. At RAF Feltwell, he handed over to local hero Nick Fairclough, who emerged like a myth from the pre-dawn mist by the Wissington British Sugar factory.

In an eerie half light, Sarah Bell then set off at a good clip, mercilessly hunting down and overtaking a clutch of slower runners.

When Clare Parkholm departed from Downham Market, the sun had begun to glow over the landscape - although nothing shone quite as brightly as Clare's arm-warmers as she paced towards the final stage.

That glory leg deservedly fell to David Martin, who ducked over the finishing line in a King's Lynn now basking in beautiful autumnal sunshine. He was tongue-tied by exhaustion as he accepted the Norfolk Round Relay pennant from Ron Hill, the wizened running legend presenting the awards. 

The ever diligent Nick Tucker then ironed out the last entry on our battered time-keeping sheet. It might sound fanciful but as he delivered the mud-streaked paper to officials a brass brand really did begin to play.

Final position and thanks

The team finished 13th overall. The overall winners were Norwich Road Runners. Thank you to all Serpie runners, cyclists, and drivers, including Kiera Davidson, who ferried runners to Norfolk and around. Everyone pulled together well in sometimes trying circumstances in this quirky but demanding team event. Thanks too to previous Round Norfolk organisers Alex Elferink and Alan Hall, who advised on the planning.

Jol Attwooll

Submitted: 19 September 2011