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Race Report & Results: 2024 Green Belt relay

The Green Belt Relay is one of those running events that has Fight Club like undertones; despite the fact that everyone who runs it, never actually stops talking about it.

But like Fight Club, it’s difficult to fully comprehend the magnitude of this special event, until you’ve participated in it. Some might say it’s awesome, others say it’s brutal, still others will say it’s insane, but all will agree; it’s one of the best racing weekends in our club’s calendar.

For those un-familiar, the event is a two day, 22-stage relay race, covering 220 miles of the Green Belt Way around our great capital. Brilliantly organised by The Stragglers Running Club, this not-for-profit event starts as Hampton Court and over an exhilarating weekend, makes its way through Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire, Essex and Kent, before coming back to finish at the Bushy Park Sports Centre.

In between those two points are miles & miles of footpaths, towpaths and roads, through towns, villages, fields, underpasses, bogs and hills, encompassing distances varying in distance and difficulty; with the longest just over a half marathon, and the shortest 6 miles.

Four teams made up Ranelagh’s charge this year: The Rapids (Men/Open), The Rebels (Mixed), The Roses (Women) and The Golds (Vets), with club representation from all ability levels. The extra team made the ever mammoth task of organising, re-organising, assigning, cajoling, chasing & reminding even more challenging, but team captains Suzy Whatmough, Clare Fowler and Jonny Smith, with help from Rebecca Bissell and David Ready, responded strongly.

Due to unavoidable dropouts, the planning went right up to the wire but in the end, Ranelagh’s 2024 GBR teams roared up to Hampton Court to cheer the Stage 1 runners as they set off. In scenes reminiscent of The Great Race, 5 vans plus Ranelagh’s official Water Boy Gavin Hillhouse, accompanied by Water Girl Clare Fowler, raced off to their respective stages; to drop off, pick up, cheer or marshal as required.

The Rapids were on a mission to defend their phenomenal win last year; Ranelagh’s first GBR victory in over 21 years. Initially the charge came from Thames Hare & Hounds but cracking runs from everyone, especially Ranelagh’s favourite leprechaun Eirin McDaid, and ‘silver-no-more’ Ross MacDonald meant that by the end of Day 1, The Rapids were only 2:49 behind Thames.

While all this was going on, our vets The Golds, were steadily showing the young bucks that our ‘men-of-a-certain-age’ still had much fight in them. By the end of Day 1, they were 5th on the overall leaderboard, and 1st in the team category, 1:09 ahead of the Serpies’ vets team.

The Hollywood-like sign of Basildon brought cheer to many a weary runner; with the comforts of BazVegas (aka Basildon Festival Hall Travelodge) to look forward to. Early birthday felicitations were sung for Nick Twomey but with no Eurovision to distract, all were in bed promptly, ready to rise and shine to take on Day 2.

As the denizens of Bus B & E drooped down at 6.30am, it felt somewhat like the morning after the most epic clubbing night before; although never underestimate the power of instant coffee, McMuffins, jelly babies and day old baked goods to put much that was wrong, right.

Luck, however, was not on our side; Andy Starr’s nasty tumble the day before meant someone on The Golds was given the ominous honour of doubling up. In the end, Jonathan Moore took up that mantle, after some juggling of stage allocations between the other team members to maximise his recovery between stages.

All was not right with The Rapids either; Jonny Smith had given his all on Stage 4 despite sickness and ill health, and it was uncertain if he would be able to run. But soldier on both teams did, despite the anxiety and nerves rising upwards as the stages counted commensurately downwards.

By the end of Stage 12, THH was a threat no more, but Clapham Chasers were ahead of The Rapids by a tantalizing 1:33. By Stage 13, running his heart out to overcome a catastrophic navigation error, Mark Herbert took The Rapids to within 49 seconds of the lead. Clapham however powered on, placing just ahead of The Rapids to keep the overall lead. Then a cracking stage 17 win by Eirin knocked a whopping 9 mins + to take them within 2:18 of the lead.

The Golds, meanwhile, following strong runs from Serpentine had slipped to 2nd in the early part of Day 2. But our steadfast vets kept their cool; chipping away, slowly but surely clawing back time, and after some astounding runs from Graham Weller, Neil Rae, Mike Morris and James Ritchie, led by a comfortable 23 minutes.

But, as it always is with Green Belt, it would come down to the wire; with everything to play for in the last 3 stages.

Sadly for The Rapids, Clapham was just too strong, and despite everyone’s best efforts, they were unable to retain the Green Belt. However, it was testament to everyone’s grit and determination that they still won fastest Men’s/Open team. The Golds however, proved that there’s life in our old dogs yet; prostates and male pattern baldness notwithstanding, they built on their strong lead stage after stage, to take 1st Vets Team and the Walking Stick home to Ranelagh.

Well done to both teams, and shout out to the non-racing Roses and Rebels for their support and encouragement throughout.

The finish at Bushy Park Sports Centre saw many a tired, but jubilant Ranelagh face, coupled with exhilaration at completing the 2024 GBR. The entire weekend was a joyous testament to everyone’s collective efforts and the incredible support from all involved; especially the team captains, the brilliant drivers & navigators, and our steadfast Water Boy, Gavin Hillhouse.

GBR 2024
💙 Stage 1 | Peter Cook, Simon Martin, Natalie Haarer & Phil Andrews | 12.7 miles Hampton Court Palace to Staines
💛 Stage 2 | Marc Leyshon, Robbie Hillhouse, Emma de Heveningham & Chris Davidson | 9.42 miles Staines to Boveney Church
💙 Stage 3 | Nick Twomey, Marcus Atkins, Ann Kearey & Neil Rae | 11.2 miles Boveney to Little Marlow
💛 Stage 4 | Jonathan Smith, Jack Mitchell , Maia Rushby & Mike Morris | 11.2 miles Little Marlow to Great Kingshill
💙 Stage 5 | Dave Ready, Alex Ring, Claire Warner & Graham Weller | 11.5 miles Great Kingshill to Chipperfield
💛 Stage 6 | Eirin McDaid, Paula Maguire, Narissa Vox & James Ritchie | 8.5 miles Chipperfield to St Albans
💙 Stage 7 | Mark Herbert, Matt Hirschler & Rick Jenner | 11.6 miles St Albans to Letty Green
💛 Stage 8 | Ed Perry, Ed Smith, Nic Douglas & Hadi Khatamizadeh | 10.7 miles Letty’s Green to Dobb’s Weir
💙 Stage 9 | Ted Mockett, Vaughan Ramsay, Rachel Revett & Andy Starr | 10.2 miles Dobb’s Weir to High Beach
💛 Stage 10 | Dave Lawley, Greg Smith, Rebecca Bissell & Mike Thomas | 9 miles High Beach to Toot Hill
💙 Stage 11 | Ross MacDonald, Andrew Mclauchlan, Aoife Kilpatrick & Jonathan Moore | 7.5 miles Toot Hill to Blackmore
💛 Stage 12 | Nick Twomey, Alex Ring, Claire Warner & Phil Andrews | 10.75 miles Blackmore to Thorndon Park
💙 Stage 13 | Mark Herbert, Matt Hirschler, Emma De Heveningham & Jonathan Moore | 6.6 miles Thorndon Park to Cranham
💛 Stage 14 | Dave Lawley, Andrew Mclauchlan, Ann Kearey & Graham Weller | 8.2 miles Cranham to Davy Down
💙 Stage 15 | Ed Perry, Simon Martin, Maia Rushby & Neil Rae | 9.4 miles Stone Lodge to Lullingstone
💛 Stage 16 | Ross MacDonald, Paula Maguire, Aoife Kilpatrick & Mike Morris | 13.1 miles Lullingstone to Tatsfield
💙 Stage 17 | Eirin McDaid, Greg Smith & James Ritchie | 10.5 miles Tatsfield to Merstham
💛 Stage 18 | Marc Leyshon, Vaughan Ramsay, Rachel Revett & Rick Jenner | 9.7 miles Merstham to Burford Bridge
💙 Stage 19 | Peter Cook, Ed Smith, Rebecca Bissell & Chris Davidson | 8.4 miles Burford Bridge to West Hanger
💛 Stage 20 | Ted Mockett, Marcus Atkins, Natalie Haarer & Jonathan Moore | 6 miles West Hanger to Ripley
💙 Stage 21 | Jonathan Smith, Robbie Hillhouse, Nic Douglas & Mike Thomas | 8.4 miles Ripley to Walton Beach
💛 Stage 22 | Dave Ready, Jack Mitchell, Narissa Vox & Hadi Khatamizadeh | 6.42 miles Walton Beach to Hawker Centre

Full stage results & final leaderboard: http://greenbeltrelay.org.uk/results/2024/2024individuals.pdf
Category winners: http://greenbeltrelay.org.uk/results/2024/2024catwinners.pdf

june, 2024

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Surrey cross country league standings

LeagueTeam PositionFull details
Ladies Div 17/15league table
Men Div 18/9league table
Ladies Div U159/16league table
Men Div U15/U1716/18league table

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