The Henty Relay is quite simple in its form: teams of three, comprising a ‘fast‘, ‘medium‘ and a ‘slow‘ runner, take on 6 laps of approximately 1.3 miles per lap around Sidmouth Woods. Usually, the fast runner runs three laps, the medium runner runs two laps, and the slow runner will complete one lap of the course, with the running order left to the discretion of each team.
Traditionally a Christmas time affair, this year’s relay took place, once again, in the more clement month of August. This being the second year running, one could be moved to consider that a new ‘tradition’ of holding it in the summer months could be forming, especially as the overwhelming number of entries resulted in 18 full teams.
In a nod to newer practices, runners were required to sign up ahead of time to allow the event handicapper enough time to devise the right algorithmic magic; to ensure a fair allocation of participants into teams of more or less equal overall speed. From the outset, much caveat was placed on the phrase ‘more or less equal’, but nonetheless, close scrutiny was given to the submitted 5k times to ensure an even spread of talent.
As the adage goes, ‘the more the merrier’ and it was certainly a merry Ranelagh crowd that came together by Sidmouth Woods ahead of the 7pm race start. Talent indeed there was in the field and although some were surprised (aghast even) at the dubious honour of being nominated team captain and therefore having to run 3 laps as the fastest runner; many more were relieved at being deemed to be ‘slower’ and therefore required to run only two, or better yet, one lap.
Tradition states that the first (shorter) lap starts from the Mob Match tree, and this was duly followed, with all 18 teams choosing to field their fastest runners to best maximise their chances of building a good lead. The handover point was a little further down from the infamous manhole and after stern threats of penalties for being on the wrong side of the cones, the second lap runners waited for their teammate to arrive.
They didn’t have long to wait before the cry, ‘runner’ was heard. First to hand over to teammate Kathy Henry was Mark Herbert (07:16). Close on his heels was Ed Perry (07:17) and James Riley (07:19), handing over to Paul Wapshott and Gordon Whitson respectively. Suzy Whatmough was the fastest lady in the first lap (07:45), handing over in 6th position to Phil Roberts. The rest of the field came through within 1.12 mins from Herbie’s blistering first lap – clearly no one was giving any quarter here.
Building on her lead, Kathy crossed first (09:40) to hand back to Herbie for Lap 3. Jon Lear, who’d run his heart out (09:14) to climb 8 places up the grid, crossed 9 secs later, handing back to team captain Mike Thomas. A mere 3 secs after, Clare Fowler (09:23) crossed, taking her team 6 places up to 3rd, again handing back to team captain Rich Kimber. Shout out to team captain Hadi Khatamizadeh who’d opted to run the first 2 laps – his relief at finally being able to hand over to teammate Thomas Williams, was clear for all to see. By now the gap between all teams had lengthen to over 8.23 mins difference.
The end of lap 3 saw Mark Herbert fly across (07:45) to hand over to teammate Janet Turnes for Lap 4. Rich Kimber (08:20) claimed a place up the grid before handing over to teammate Wendy Fisher, while Mike Thomas (08:31) followed to hand over to Chris Camacho 8 secs later. Shout out here to 9-year old Cordelia Perry (11:44) who came sprinting across at the end of her lap to some well-deserved cheering & applause for her fantastic efforts. And all with a gorgeous smile!
Would Janet be able to hang onto the lead? Or would Chris, Wendy – or even someone else – come charging through?
In a stunning upset, first across the line at the end of Lap 4 was Tom Brown (09:54), who’d capitalised on a great Lap 3 run by team captain Shaun Griffith (08:57). Their teammate Ruth Gledhill was fast off the mark, so fast that Tom just about managed to catch her to touch hands for the handover! Janet came through 15 secs later (12:55), handing over to Kathy, who took up the chase. 24 secs later, Colette Doran crossed in 3rd place (11:54), handing over to teammate Rebecca Bissell.
The gap between all teams as they started Lap 5 had reduced to just over 5 mins across the board. Judging by the gurning game faces as runners crossed the line, clearly everyone was running flat out – making this truly nail biting stuff indeed.
At the end of Lap 5, the first runner seen coming up the rise was Kathy, followed closely by Rebecca. In what seemed like a slow-motion action movie (probably more a result of the uphill climb), Rebecca inexorably bore down on Kathy. Both were pushing hard – would Rebecca be able to overtake Kathy? At the handover area, teammates Herbie and Jarryd Hillhouse were anxiously hopping from foot to foot, waiting to take over.
Brilliantly, Kathy held on (09:58) and crossed the line first; handing over to Herbie who shot off like a rocket. 14 secs later Rebecca powered through (09:48), handing over to Jarryd who promptly gave chase. 3rd across some 20 secs later, was Jon Lear (09:29) who’d gained an astonishing 6 places up the grid, before handing over to captain Mike Thomas for the glory leg.
As all the Lap 5 runners crossed to hand over to their Lap 6 runners, the time difference between all teams was now 10.28 mins, ensuring the first 3 places would go to Herbie’s, Jarryd’s or Mike Thomas’ team. The burning question was whether Jarryd would be able to catch Herbie, or whether Herbie would hold him off? Then there was also the (faint) possibility that Mike Thomas would somehow pull something (anything?) out of the bag, and overtake both, causing perhaps the greatest upset in Henty Relay history?
An anxious wait ensued.
It wasn’t a long wait. Thundering up the rise, running as hard as a demented cheetah came Herbie (07:41), who crossed the line to the cheers of all assembled. A full minute later Jarryd came hurtling through (08:31) for 2nd place, followed by Mike Thomas (08:38) less than 23 secs later to take home 3rd place for his team!
After all teams had come through and recovered from their exertions (including Hadi who’d laid down somewhat (un)gracefully on the grass after his Lap 5 efforts), a quick prize-giving was carried out; where the Henty Relay Kiwi Trophy was awarded to Mark Herbert, Kathy Henry & Janet Turnes by Race Director Andy Bickerstaff. This was then followed by the obligatory sun-down watching drinks-do at the Roebuck.
As always, a fabulous Ranelagh club event and a fabulous evening’s running – well done to all participants, you guys absolutely smashed it! A huge shout out too to Phil Aiken, Simon Martin, Gavin Hillhouse, Pete Vox and Stevie Bickerstaff for their help with the various on-the-day race duties – as always, without the support of our brilliant volunteers, nothing would be possible.
💙 PDF of Team Results @ https://drive.google.com/file/d/1HmclNjcnsKaTAOgP5ijYFZh7RsmW6nHk/view?usp=sharing
💛 PDF of Lap Times https://drive.google.com/file/d/1obxzLGZ_K1Vd3f2EYAFBcwsDx3cfE5Qb/view?usp=sharing
💙 PDF of Speed Order @ https://drive.google.com/file/d/1nqNI1m4sLxIAprlzm4ojHIYNbXmrVHW2/view?usp=sharing
💛 MP4 video clip of start (22 secs) @ https://drive.google.com/file/d/1-UJMIZw2BZRIaRPJGonIZlmDdONSzF17/view?usp=sharing