18 April 2006

Oxfordshire County Road Relays

Easter Sunday in Hook Norton, renowned for its real ale but I am here to run a leg of a relay race - something over three miles. Relays like this are the most bizarre events: I did this same event several years ago, volunteering then to run two legs as I could only rely on being able to run at one speed and that would probably see me round the course twice. I also ran in the Teddy Hall relay in Oxford, a couple of times: we were a team of ringers, so even our captain was a little unsure about who was involved. My instructions were to take over from the Pole. At least the team members all wore the same tee-shirts.

At the Hook Norton recreation ground (which is an extensive facility, with a football pitch, tennis courts, a pavilion, and a cricket square) there is nowhere to get out of the wind, and we wrap up warm while awaiting our turn. Our first man doesn't seem to be having a good day, and he returns well down the order. By the time I take over, on the fourth leg out of six, we are well adrift but the team ahead of us are in sight and I pass their man just after exiting the recreation ground.

The route passes through the village, and very attractive it is too, before turing left and heading out across open countryside. From there, three more right turns bring you back to where you started. There's little to see, apart from the price of diesel at The Firs garage - 99.9p - and the Witney Roadrunners member in front, who is getting closer with each step. A clubmate, jogging the course against the flow of the competitors, urges me to relax. Apart from him, and the marshals, I hardly see anyone. A relay with no more than a couple of dozen teams competing and over three miles between changeovers is a miserably boring business.

The cold at the start has tricked the Witney man and as I close in with about a mile to go he breaks his stride to remove the base layer under his running vest. I have managed to keep up the ridiculoulsy ambitious pace at which I set off, and eventually cross the line to hand over to Thornton in 21:15. Not a good time for three miles, I think to myself, but later learn that it's about half a mile more than that, so not far off six minute miling. (Thornton beats my time by ten seconds, and apologises to all concerned for being so slow - we missed third place by a narrow margin in the end.)

I cannot believe that the older I get the faster I can still run.

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