The 32nd Round Norfolk Relay
The Ultimate Club Experience

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From little acorns....a history of the Round Norfolk Relay

The Early Years: 1987 to 1996

Ryston commence the inaugural run (1987)

The original concept was born from the newly formed Ryston Runners desire to create a team building event. What emerged was a continuous relay following as near as possible the Norfolk county boundary - just under 200 miles! .The inaugural run, held over the weekend of 1st/2nd August 1987, in ideal conditions, sponsored by the Eastern Daily Press, was declared a resounding success. Started by Edwin Comber, Chairman Norfolk AAA, in Downham Market, Ryston Runners completed the course in 20.58.01. Official observer, Karen Savage of Wymondham Runners noted, with remarkable foresight "With more awareness, this unique event should make an ideal All-Norfolk Relay".

In 1988 and 1989, Norwich Road Runners and Great Yarmouth Road Runners joined the event which by 1992 had grown to 11 teams, including a few entries from outside East Anglia. 1992, produced the closest finish the race has seen, with Duke Street Running Club prevailing over Vauxhall AC by a mere 10 seconds, after over twenty hours of running! Although Vauxhall took full revenge in 1993 for their defeat the the previous year, Duke Street were to dominate the event for the years up to 1996.

Kelly Holmes starts the race (1996)

The 10th anniversary race in 1996 which saw the staging of the event relocated to Lynnsport at Kings Lynn produced a record entry of 22 teams. The race was started by future Olympic double gold medalist Kelly Holmes, who also made the inaugural presentation of the Kelly Holmes Trophy for the best individual performance. This was won by the legendary Peter Andrews of the Norwich based Duke Street Runners with a 92.3% age performance (still an overall record) with a quite magnificent run over the 19-mile Stage 11. Duke Street were again the winners, although having finished nine minutes behind the Army who were subsequently disqualified. Overall there were no less than 21 course records bettered.

The Growth Years: 1997-2006

In 1997 for the second year running the Army fell foul of the rules, incurring a time penalty of 46 minutes due to a no-show at a stage changeover. Despite this they still managed to claw back 40 minutes of this to finish only six minutes adrift of the newly formed City of Norwich Athletic Club (CoNAC). Between them, the two clubs won all but 4 of the stages and in doing so set 4 new stage records. Brian Burlingham of Headington started Stage 11 age 49 and finished as a 50 year old. He was presented with a cake at Scole after running 19 miles!

1998 saw the race won by Colchester AC holding off Norwich Road Runners by a mere 2mins 11 secs. Long term participants Serpentine joined the event for the first time in 1999, when the race saw the Norwich based clubs battling it out with CoNAC prevailing by 58 seconds

Commemorative First Day Cover (2000)

Although the millennium running of the race was marred by postponment due to a national fuel dispute, 21 out of the originally entered 31 teams made it to the re-arranged weekend with CoNAC repeating their previous year's success. Our guest was marathon runner Richard Nururkar who presented the inaugural trophy for best junior performance to Ben Whitworth of CoNAC. All competitors were presented with a unique First Day Philatelic Cover depicting the event,

For the second year running, the two Norwich clubs dominated the 2001 race, City of Norwich finishing ahead of their great rivals Norwich Road Runners and, in doing so, taking 9 Stage titles. CoNAC's Guy Amos posted the best personal performance with the evergreen Peter Andrews again best veteran.

Race start (2002)

By 2002 the race had taken on a new look with four of the seventeen stages, including three on the north Norfolk coast, now containing off-road elements. Staggered starts, based on estimated running times, ensured a tight finish which created a competitive atmosphere during the latter stages of the race. An additional five newcomers increased the field to a record 29 entries. Of the debutantes, Nene Valley Harriers were fastest, whilst the overall race was won in convincing style by CoNAC 32 minutes clear of runners up ******. The best overall performance was delivered by Mansfield AC's Pat Carlan (xx%), whilst Riverside Runners' Anne Furback made an early appearance as best female performer (83%)a

Serpentine ladies (2003)

CoNAC continued their domination by winning the 2003 event in a magnificent new record of 19:02:13 (6:02 pace per mile) with teamsfrom Mansfield AC winning the open and ladies categories. Entries again increased with Milton Keynes AC, Cambridge and Coleridge AC and Norfolk Gazelles all making their race debuts. The 544 runners traversing the county border included a number of nationally recognised athletes: Paul Evans, Guy Amos, Ruth Proctor and Olivia Walwyn all from CoNAC, Debbie Robinson (4th Commonwealth Games marathon), Liz Lilley and Lee Garrett from Mansfield and Steve Neill a regular RAF representative who ran for RAF Marham. But they all had to concede in the age graded list to 64 year old Peter Andrews (CON) who produced another outstanding run at night on stage 12 to record 89.6% to win the Kelly Holmes Trophy for the best individual performance. Debbie Robinson was best master and Ruth Proctor best junior.

In 2004 the event went off road onto the North Norfolk Coastal Path. CoNAC continued their winning streak leading from 'gun to tape' in a record time of 19:00:56 (6:01 mins. per mile). The Open class cup was taken by Norwich Road Runners, with the ever-improving Riverside Runners in 2nd place winning the trophy for the best non Norfolk club. Ely Runners, made an impressive debut to take the Best Newcomers cup. Other teams making their race debuts were Garden City Runners and Stamford Striders. Norfolk Gazelles won the Ladies title after a keenly fought race with Norwich Road Runners. The Master class was won by North Norfolk Beach Runners, whilst the newly introduced Casual class, for teams unable to meet the UKA strict criteria for open relays, attracted 7 teams, with Paddock Wood prevailing in 21:54:18.

Night time changeover (2005)

In 2005 the off-road sections were increased proving a tough test so that only 2 team records were broken. The race saw CoNAC, the premiere team in Norfolk and probably in East Anglia, register their seventh successive win. Second in the Club class were Headington Road Runners, making their 11th appearance, with Norfolk Gazelles in third place. Norwich Road Runners men's team won their club's second title by winning the Open class from Mansfield Harriers with Riverside Runners in third place. Wymondham took their first major honour by prevailing in the Masters class from Milton Keynes AC. The inaugural prize for the best small club went to Great Yarmouth Road Runners, while the first debutante team home was Biggleswade AC. Other teams making their first appearances wwre Hunts AC, Old Greshamians, Reepham Runners (with a club strength of only 33) and Stowmarket Striders.

For the first time individual awards went to both men and women winners of the 17 stages. The Kelly Holmes Trophy (best overall performance) was won by Martin Pigott of Great Yarmouth Road Runners. Martin, returning after a period out of the sport with injury, had previously been the best individual back in 1992 and 1999. Olivia Walwyn of CoNAC produced an outstanding performance of 84.92% over stage 14 to record the best performance by a lady whilst Guy Amos also of CoNAC took the Paul Evans trophy for the best performance by a Master with Alan Chetwynd of Headington Road Runners (80.1%) winning the Richard Nerurkar statuette for the best Junior. Awarded for the first time was The Peter Andrews Memorial Cup, presented by CONAC for the best run over stage11 (Peter's favourite stage) which went to Norwich Road Runner Penny Edwards. Peter, who died tragically in 2005, ran a total of 11 times in the RNR and on no less than 4 occasions posted individual performances in excess of 90%; his best being 92.3% in 1996.

2006 saw the 20th Anniversary running of the race with a record 45 teams taking part. The event saw the debut of now stalwart race supporters Dereham Runners, St Edmund Pacers, Tri Anglia, Fetcheveryone and Pinks and Blacks together with the quaintly named "Yes, we ate all the Pies" taking part. A further number of north coast stages were further moved onto the Norfolk Coast Path to make the course more interesting and safer. The last stage from Barroway Drove to King'sLynn was also re-routed off the road and on to the Fen Rivers Way. All credit goes to Richard Handoll and his team who did a magnificent job signing these changes and the rest of the 193 mile course.

Once again, CoNAC making their 10th appearance routed the opposition with an organised and impressive performance. Not only did they win the Club Class but their second team was third just behind Headington Road Runners. Mansfield Harriers prevailed in the Open Class and at the same time took the Best Outside Norfolk Trophy with an impressive 6.26 mile pace. Best Small Club was North Norfolk Beach Runners whilst St Edmund Pacers lifted the Newcomers Trophy. The Family Trophy was won by the Simmonds family of Ryston Runners for the second year running and fourth time overall.

The Grown Up Years: 2007 to 2016

On the road (2007)

In 2007 the race was oversubscribed for the first time with the number of entries capped at 50 with Thetford AC and Felixstowe Road runners making their race debuts. Headington Road Runners, making their 14th appearance, were first team to finish in 21:04:27 breaking CoNAC's stranglehold on the event. For the first time, the Ladies class pitted Norwich Road Runners (NRR) against their closest rivals CONAC. Starting together on Saturday morning at the end of nearly 25 hours racing only 12 minutes separated them with NRR prevailing in a new Ladies course record of 24:52:24. Individually Anne Furbank of Riverside Runners, was the female winner of the prestigious Kelly Holmes Trophy with an age related performance of 85.5%, whilst Terry Fowler of Garden City Runners and Tommy Salmon of CONAC were top Master and Senior man respectively. The Simmonds Family of Ryston Runners AC, took the Family trophy for the third successive year.

City of Norwich AC reasserted themselves in 2008 to take the premiere Club class title for the 10th time and were overall fastest team. Fielding four teams, CONAC were only prevented from a clean sweep of titles by Ely Runners, who took the Open Class and in doing so were second team overall. Ely also lifted the ARC long-distance relay title, ahead of Norfolk Gazelles with debutantes Bedford Harriers in third place. Bedford were also the First Newcomers whilst best small club were Haverhill. Individually there were some fine performances, headed by Anne Furbank (Riverside Runners) who, with an age-graded score of 89.5%, won the Kelly Holmes Trophy for a second consecutive year. Guy Amos (CONAC), second overall secured the Paul Evans trophy for Best Master with 85.7%. The Richard Nerurkar Trophy for Best Junior was taken, for the second consecutive year by Stuart Huntington (83.6%) of CONAC. Paddock Wood's Paul Haslar and Fetcheveryone's Rachel Elliott won the Senior Male and Female prizes respectively. Paul Firmage was the first individual to reach the landmark 20 appearances, while Ryston Runners also reached the 20 appearance milestone.

As the event continued to grow, the 2009 race under new sponsors Birketts LLP, saw a record 55 clubs contesting the 23rd running of the race, yet again in ideal conditions. The regular top dogs of CONAC, Norwich road Runners and Ely contested the sharp end of the race with Norwich Road Runners getting the better of their city rivals in posting the fastest time of 20:31:42 in the Open class and becoming 'Champions of Norfolk'. Ely Runners split the two Norfolk clubs in taking 2nd place in the Open class as well as prevailing in the Association of Running Clubs championship and being the best team from outside Norfolk. For their part City of Norwich AC won the Club class for the 11th time and took the Ladies class for the 2nd year in succession. The Masters trophy was won by Riverside Runners in a very respectable 7:06 pace per mile. There were four race newcomers with 26.2 Road Running Club heading BRJ Huntingdon, Yaxley and Tiptree Road Runners to lift the newcomers award. Riverside Runners' Anne Furbank won the Kelly Holmes Trophy (best overall performance) for the third successive year whilst St. Edmunds Pacers' Peter Golding was Best Master. Hollie Rowland of CONAC was easily the best junior with an impressive 82% whilst in a very close family contest, the Simmonds family of Ryston Runners AC narrowly beat the Milletts of NRR. Between them, CONAC (10) and NRR (7) won half of the stage prizes including Richard Sales who clocked-up his 16th stage win, the first being in 1988!

Big Sky (2010)

With the growing demand for the limited number of places in the event now putting long term supporters at a disadvantage the current priority entry system was introduced for the first time. In addition the increasingly ad hoc Casual class was discontinued and in a further restructuring a further section of the course was moved off road and the changeovers at Salthouse and Geldeston moved to Cley and Bungay respectively. So it was that the 54 teams, one short of the maximum, lined up for the 24th race in 2010. The field included debutantes, West Norfolk AC and race sponsors Birketts' Runners AC whilst long term participators Stragglers and Harwich Running Club were presented with special awards to mark their 20th and 10th appearance respectively. The race was fiercely contested with Norwich Road Runners wresting the premier Club class from 12-time consecutive winners City of Norwich AC, averaging 6:22 minutes per mile. NRR also took the Masters title and won 7 of the 34 individual stage titles. Ely Runners, fast emerging as a force in East Anglia, won the Open class race in finishing second overall - they also lifted the ARC Shield from 13 other clubs. In the Ladies race, unfortunately only contested by two clubs even though ladies made up 30% of the runners, Riverside Runners were easy winners being a full hour ahead of Milton Keynes AC. West Norfolk AC took the Newcomers Trophy from Birketts Runners AC while Coltishall Jaguars were best Small Club.

Individually CONAC's Robert Cheverton recorded an age grading of 86.9% to win the Kelly Holmes Trophy with a superb run over from Mundesley to Lessingham stage whilst or C&C, John Oakes was just 2% behind him on the early morning, Feltwell to Wissington stage to win the Paul Evans trophy. Tracey Curl (NRR) posted the best overall ladies performance with 83.5% run. The Richard Nerurkar trophy for the best junior was won by Ben Russell (NRR) with Daisy Glover the best junior lady. The Simmonds Family secured their 7th Family title with an aggregated age grading of 73.3%. Also of note was Iva Barr (Bedford Harriers) beconing the oldest competitor at age 82 and 32 year old blind runner Simon Webb completed the 7.20 miles 15th Stage in 53.49 to finish 20th /out of 54 runners. During the weekend Claire Peircy (Yaxley Runners) completed the 10,000th individual run in the RNR.Richard Sales (NRR) who made his 20th appearance and recorded his 17th stage win was presented with a 20 year award along with Andy Smith (RRAC), while eight runners received medals to mark 10 appearances.

A record 57 teams out of 60 original entrants contested the 2011 event. The field included three debutantes, Newmarket Joggers, Virgin Money AC and Roman Runners, a team from 16 Air Assault Brigade stationed in Colchester, who had just returned from an operational tour in Afghanistan who took the Newcomers trophy. The Stragglers received a 20-year appearance award while Ramsey Road Runners, Serpentine Running Club and Haverhill Running Club were also recognised having run in 10 races. To mark the Silver Jubilee, Ron Hill, the former European, Commonwealth and Boston Marathon champion, was guest of honour and he agreed that the family trophy would in future carry his name. First recipients of the Ron Hill Trophy were Martin, Robert and Andrew Simmonds of Ryston Runners AC, no newcomers to the best family award, having now won it xx times. Norwich Road Runners won the premier Club Class, for the second year, with a fine display of sustained running heading Paddock Wood AC. They also took the Masters Class with Ely Runners taking their second successive win in the Open Class. Winning the Ladies Class City of Norwich set a new record by averaging 7:34 per mile. Coltishall Jaguars won the Best Small Club for the second consecutive year. In the incorporated ARC championship, Ely Runners maintained their unbeaten record since the championship was first introduced in 2008.

In the age-graded order of merit, Robert Cheverton ofCONAC, narrowly headed Metros' Nigel Rackman,and , Norfolk Gazelles' Nigel Arnold, to win the Kelly Holmes Trophy with a score of 87.6% over Stage 7. The best lady’s performance came from Phillipa Taylor (CONAC), who achieved a score of 85.5% over the 19.67 miles of Stage 12, which she completed in 2:06:36, Damian Rogers (CONAC), won the Richard Nerurkar Trophy for best junior. In this year’s race, Masters accounted for 66% of the field confirming the national trend of fewer seniors taking part in distance road running. The average age of all runners was just below 42 whilst in the gender stakes, female runners accounted for 27%. The anniversary event also marked the retirement of long time stalwart and race director Ian Vaughan-Arbuckle who can rightly take pride in his achievements in establishing this now iconic event.

Another year, another race.....coming on the back of a fabulous summer of sport the 2012 race was run over a perfect weekend of blue skies and vivid sunsets. 58 teams paricipated this year, with the first teams leaving Kings Lynn at 5-30am in the early light of Saturday morning. Local running clubs were to the fore with City of Norwich AC winning the coveted Club Class trophy and also were fastest team over the 197 mile course in a time of 20:22:20. In second place were Paddock Wood AC followed by Wymondham AC. City of Norwich AC Ladies won the Ladies Class in a time of 25:13:06. The open class was won by Ely Runners (21:14:25), who get again also picked up the Visitors Cup and ARC relay awards. The masters class was retained by Norwich Road Runners with the best small club award being won by Great Yarmouth AC in a time of 25:15:28. The individual runner age graded awards saw familiar names being presented. The Kelly Holmes trophy went to the City of Norwich’s Guy Amos with 87.9% whilst Robert Cheverton (87.0%) and Philippa Taylor (84.6%) both of City of Norwich AC won the Masters Section. Norwich Road Runners' Ben Russell (84.3%) and City of Norwich’s Ellie Matthews (78.2%) won the seniors male and female awards respectively. The male and female junior winners were Sean Atterwill (81.1%)and Emily Hoogkamer (71.5%.) Of the 17 stage wins on offer for both male and female runners, competition was fierce with City of Norwich winning 10 stages, Norwich Road Runners 6 stages and Cambridge and Coleridge AC coming in with 4 wins. The Ron Hill Trophy for best family went to the Ryston Runners' Simmonds Family. Andrew Robert and Martin are all long term RNR stalwarts and are regular contenders for this award.

Windmill man (2012)

The 27th running of the race in 2013 under the continuing sponsorship of Birketts LLP took place over a weekend of traditional British weather with Saturday morning showers and high winds making for some tough running over the early coastal path stages. Fortunately the weather calmed down and by Sunday morning blue skies were evident when the teams were traversing the flatlands back to Kings Lynn 197 miles later. Of the 54 competing teams, City of Norwich AC were quickest over the course in a time of 20:22:39, and in so doing collected the coveted Club class award. Their Ladies (25:26:10) and Masters (23:02:16) teams were also first finishers in their respective classes. Ely runners also had a successful weekend finishing second overall in 20:34:28. This performance also rewarded them with the Open class award, the Visitors Cup for non Norfolk clubs and of course ther continued unbeaten run for the ARC relay award. This year saw the introduction of the Mixed class (minimum of 8 females) - a category aimed at emerging smaller clubs. This was won by St Edmund Pacers (24:08:28) finishing in 13 position overall. Dereham Runners AC were top placed small club finishing in 16th place overall in a time of 25:00:46. The winner of the Kelly Holmes Trophy went to the City of Norwich’s Philippa Taylor with 87.6%. Robert Cheverton 86:6% ) of City of Norwich and Riverside Runners' Anne Furbank (86.3%) won the Masters awards. Norwich Road Runners Steve Gibbs (85.0%) and City of Norwich’s Kelly Grant (82.3%) won the seniors awards respectively. The male and female junior winners were Adam Mathews (75.7%) and Nastassja Potgieter (76.8%. The Ryston Simmonds family's stranglehold on the Ron Hill troghy was finally broken by the Knott family of Harwich Runners with Graeme and Elspeth together with Kate (Hodgekiss) averaging 70.8% Finishing in 50th position out of the 54 teams in time just over 28 hours were our sponsors Birketts LLP, making their fourth Appearance in the race - hats of to them for getting stuck in!

Changeover (2013)

The 28th Birketts Round Norfolk Relay was run over a weekend of mild but cloudy weather - but with that ever present East Coast breeze! Despite the mild conditions there was a nip in the air at 5:30am on Saturday as the early starters of the 54 competing teams set of on the first leg of the 196 mile journey around the outskirts of Nelson's county. The fastest finishing club was Cambridge and Coleridge covering the 196.2 mile course in 19:56:16 to lift the Open category trophy. They were followed home by Ely Runners in 20:52:56 and third placed North Norfolk Beach Runners in 20:55:44Winners of the Club class, and fourth in the race overall were Bedford Harriers in 21:57:02, whilst the first finishing Masters team were Norwich Road Runners in a sprightly 22:22:50. Fenland Running Club were the quickest mixed team finishing in overall 12th position in 24:32:59 and also picked up the award for the best estimated finishing time - the Carrott Shield. The winner of the ladies category, probably the most difficult for any team to fill, were Wymondham AC in a time of 27:50:59. Race winners Cambridge and Coleridge also picked up the visitors award, whilst second overall placed Ely yet again won the award. for first ARC finisher Reepham Runners won the award for top finishing small club, awarded the clubs with less than 80 members. On the individual runners front it's generally regarded that any performance age graded over 85% commands respect, and in this years race only 2 out of 862 runners achieved this. So hat's off to Paul Muffett of North Norfolk Beach Runners (87.7%) who won the Kelly Holmes Trophy for best individual performance and Gill Fullen (86.1%) of Bedford Harriers who was awarded the Paul Evans Trophy for best Master. The Ron Hill award for the best family performance went, as in 2013, to the three members of the Knott family from Harwich Runners, who helped along by Elsbeth's 81.9% just pipped the Hemmingways of Riverside Runners. It's a rare occurrence for a race as long and complicated as the RNR not to have course changes from one year to another. This year there were significant changes as the Yarmouth and Bungay changeovers were jettisoned in favour of Fritton and Earsham. As usual the runners took these changes in their stride and daybreak saw them traversing the flatlands of south Norfolk as they wound their way through Downham, Stowbridge and back to Kings Lynn, where it has all started 24 hours previously!

Tragically the 2014 event was overshadowed by the death of CONAC runner Darryl Davis who collapsed whilst running his stage. Darryl's memory and long term participation in the race is now commemorated by the presentation of the Darryl Davis Memorial Trophy awarded for the best age graded performance by a male runner on Stage 4