ARC permit 17/380
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 teams were competing for trophies in five classes - Open, Club, Masters, Ladies and Mixed.
The fastest finishing club was Cambridge and Coleridge (C&C) whose 17 runners covered the 196.2m course in 19:56:16, an average pace per mile of 6:06mins, 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 20:55:44.
C&C impressed the timekeepers throughout the race and nearly caught the finishing party out. Whilst the fastest, they nearly won the worst predicted time as they were 96 minutes inside their predicted time! This award only went to The Stragglers as they had to forfeit three stages with non-runners.
Winners 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 C&C also picked up the visitors award, given to the first finishing non Norfolk club, whilst second overall placed Ely won the ARC award for first placed Association of Running Clubs member. 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. 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 had all started 24 hours previously!
It is not possible to review the 2014 event without acknowledging the shadow cast over the race by the tragic death of CONAC runner Darryl Davis who collapsed and died whilst running his stage. As fellow runners we are all affected by the loss of someone who shared our own values and was taken from us whilst doing something he really cared about. The achievements of everyone who took part are diminished by his loss. As a mark of respect CONAC withdrew their three teams from the race.Neville Knights