Welsh Castles Relay 2006

Best ever result - 2nd - for men\'s team, 2nd place also for women\'s team behind a very strong Winchester.
Picture from Welsh Castles Relay 2006
Well, it\'s all over for another year (well, somewhat less for those of us who\'ll be organising 2007 but it\'s a bit early to think about that!) - nearly 70 Serpies (3 teams of 20 plus assorted helpers, supporters etc), 5 minibuses, 4 cars, 10 B&Bs, 700 miles of driving and months of planning - the Welsh Castles Relay is one of the biggest and best running events each year and this year was no disappointment.

Last year, the men came 6th and the women 1st. This year, the men were being quite bold and saying \'top 3\' and the women were saying \'hmm, Winchester...\' (Winchester AC had entered a ladies team for the first time and not only do they have some of the fastest women runners in the UK, they were specifically targeting WCR as a race to win). This year, we got off to a good start with the men: Eric Vamben won stage 1. The men were happy. The women came in ahead of Winchester. Maybe we have a race on we all thought?

By Saturday evening, it was clear that Winchester really do have a lot of fast women runners and we\'d have really work hard to catch them on Sunday, especially with one or two key people missing from the team through injury. Our women were in 3rd place but not far off 2nd. The men, however, were feeling more confident, being only a few minutes behind the leaders (Les Croupiers).

Over the course of Sunday (today as I write this) it became a game of cat and mouse with the difference between our women and the Les Croupiers women down a minute or two at times as they swapped from 2nd to 3rd and back again. For the men, it was even more nail biting. For a while we held 1st place bit then Les Croupiers overtook again. It was all coming down to the last stage or two. For the women, the result became fairly clear when Penny Thorn won stage 19 but for the men, it got more complicated: another team caught up a lot of time on us and could push us into 3rd on the last stage.

55 Serpies gathered in Cardiff Castle for the final runners to come in... Well, ok, a lot did, quite a few wandered off to get a few tinnies, we are Serpies after all :-) Martin Weiland and Louisa Ruderman both did what it took to make sure we were ahead (although they both looked a bit wobbly after a hot, hilly run). The end result: both teams came 2nd.

The women\'s were some way - 40mins - behind Winchester, who proved they really are a strong women\'s club. However, note this for next year, they had their dream team out and they were only 40mins ahead of our women. We can beat them.

As for the men, what can I say? They came 2nd, 22 seconds ahead of 3rd (and a massive improvement on their previous best ever placing of 6th in 2005) but, less than 9mins from 1st!

A massive well done from me to everyone! All 60 runners performed 100% in really hot conditions on hilly courses. Superb.

So what about the 3rd Serpie team? Our vets team yet again had some really great racing with some excellent individual performances but we still came last vet\'s team. With a mixed male/female team with ages up to nearly 70, we really cannot compete with vet\'s teams made up from 20 V40s men. It was great fun anyway (well, apart from the big hill I had to run over...)

Finally, a big thank you to all the drivers: Gavin, Jonathan, Kevin, Richard, Sally, Chris, Jules, Jo, Chris & Rachel, without whom nobody would have raced; and my team captains: Paul Fromme, Angie Palin and Nadya Labib.

I\'m looking forward to next year already! Full results will be available on the Les Croupiers website
http://www.lescroupiersrunningclub.org.uk/castles/ sometime soon. I\'m sure my captains will provide team summaries and highlights once they have analysed them.

Further info.

Submitted: 11 June 2006