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Ranelagh Harriers Ratchford Relay 2022

The Christmas Henty Relay in Richmond Park has remained popular, reaching a peak of 26 teams of three in 1983 and 1985. In 1998, Frances Ratchford devised a similar summer event for women, and this has regularly attracted between 40 and 50 competitors.

So ends a paragraph on Page 128 from the ever-illuminating tome that is The First 125 years of Ranelagh Harriers 1881 – 2006 by Ron Dassett Callis and Steve Rowland. Unassuming in its description as a ‘summer event for women’, nonetheless 24 years on, the Ratchford Relay, as it eventually came to be known, has certainly become one of the much-loved highlights of the Ranelagh Harriers’ race calendar.

Traditionally signalling an end to the summer’s fixtures, the event is a fun relay for teams of three: a fast runner (3 laps), a medium runner (2 laps) and a newcomer or improver (1 lap). Open to all women as well as our Juniors, the course, set within Richmond Park and adjacent to Elm Walk, features a deceptively challenging 1km loop, with an uphill climb both at the start and the end.

On Tuesday 16 August 2022, female athletes from across all training groups gathered at the clubhouse to sign up, receive numbers and be allocated into teams. Event handicappers Suzy Whatmough, Carol Aikin & Deborah Blakemore, were instrumental in pulling the teams together at short notice, with great emphasis placed on this being a fun and inclusive event. The weather was blessedly cooler than in previous days, but it was still very hot and humid, making the ‘fun’ element somewhat a little less ‘fun’ for the 21 competitors.

Once the teams had been assigned, Frances explained the rules to all, and they were ready to go. All 7 teams chose to field their fastest runner for the first loop and on the count of 3, off they went. Lizzie Broughton and Sarah Palmer led the charge, with Cecily Day close behind; followed by Rebecca Bissell, Kathy Henry, Maia Rushby and Rachel Revett.

At the end of Lap 1, Lizzie (03:37) whizzed through to hand over to Sally Bamford. A mere second later was Sarah (03:38) who passed over to Colette Doran. Moments later Cecily (03:49) powered on to hand over to Sonia Pham, making the first 3 teams to finish Lap 1. Not long after Rebecca Bissell (04:10) pipped Kathy Henry (04:13) to hand over to Clare Day and Paula Maguire respectively; while Maia Rushby (04:28) and Rachel Revett (04:30) handed over to Carol Aikin and Victoria Hart Martin for their respective laps.

At the end of Lap 2, Sally (04:45) had extended her team’s lead before handing back to Lizzie, who took off like a shot. Meanwhile Sonia (04:35) had ran her heart out to claw up a place, taking her team to 2nd before passing back to Cecily. Colette (04:51) though wasn’t far behind, taking 3rd place as she handed back to Sarah. Clare Day (04:37), Victoria (04:25), Carol (04:32) and Paula (05:14) then came through to hand over to Rebecca, Janet Turnes, Maia and Claire Warner respectively.

As always there was much cheering, clapping and shouting of encouragement to the athletes valiantly racing, not just by their teammates but by all present. At the end of Lap 3, Lizzie (03:31) had built on her team’s gains to give Katrina Roche a decent 16 second head start, as she crossed in 1st place. This was followed by Cecily (03:43) in 2nd, and Sarah (03:40) in 3rd, as they handed over to their respective teammates, Kelly Thomas and Wendy Fisher.

The blistering pace set by the 3 front runners meant that it was a whole 46 seconds later before Rebecca (04:06) handed over to Ruth Gledhill; followed by Maia (04:31) 38 seconds behind, handing over to Narissa Vox. 31 seconds after Claire Warner (04:35) crossed to hand back to Kathy, leaving Janet (05:38) doing the same another 31 seconds later, to teammate Rachel. Clearly a lot of chasing was required by the last 4 teams – would they be able to catch the front runners at all?

At the end of Lap 4, Kelly (05:16) had powered her way to a fabulous 1st place, from 2nd, giving Sonia almost a full minute’s lead! Kathy (04:13) however had whizzed through the field like a graceful gazelle to climb a whopping 4 places, crossing in 2nd as she handed back to Paula. Climbing a place and crossing in 3rd, Ruth (05:26) handed back to Clare Day for her Lap 5 start.

Meanwhile Katrina (06:29) and Wendy (06:16) crossed within seconds of each other to give teammates Sally and Colette, 4th and 5th place respectively. In 6th was Narissa (05:09) handing back to Carol, while Rachel (04:39) placed 7th as she handed back to Victoria. 2 laps to go and with only 1.49 minutes between 1st and 7th place, it felt like everything was still up for grabs. Or was it?

At the end of Lap 5, Sonia (04:39) had run a brilliant leg, retaining 1st place as she passed to Cecily for the last lap. Almost a full minute later Clare Day (04:40) crossed in 2nd place before handing over to Rebecca; as Sally (04:54) took her team up to 3rd and handing over to Lizzie. Carol meanwhile had run a cracking lap (04:38) to take her team to from 6th to 4th place, before passing over to Maia; leaving Paula (05:10), Colette (05:14) and Victoria (04:32) crossing in 5th, 6th and 7th place, before handing over to Claire Warner, Sarah and Rachel respectively for their last leg.

Given the commanding lead, it was inevitable that Cecily crossed the line in 1st place and this she duly did in 03:51, realising a cracking total team time of 25:53 for herself, Sonia and Kelly. Lizzie ran yet another blistering lap (03:34) for her team to pinch 2nd place, with a total team time of 26:50 for herself, Sally and Katrina; while Rebecca brought it home in 04:04 to take 3rd for her team, and a total team time of 27:03 for herself, Clare Day and Ruth. Congratulations to our first 3 teams!

As per convention, Frances awarded the winners – Cecily Day, Sonia Pham & Kelly Thomas – their well-deserved prize; this year’s being a neck buff instead of the traditional pair of socks. After a genial cool down, everyone headed back to the clubhouse to say their goodbyes, ahead of others making their way onwards to the Roebuck for some well-deserved drinks.

Well done to everyone who participated! As with every Ratchford Relay, any sense of competition was vastly overshadowed by the wonderful camaraderie, solidarity and fellowship amongst all present. Kudos to Lizzie Broughton who was the fastest overall; as well as to Paula Maguire who despite being designated as a 1 lap runner, had run 2 laps to help spread the load equally for teammates Kathy Henry & Claire Warner.

In closing, a huge shout-out must go to the organisers and volunteers – Frances Ratchford, Katie Walton, Suzy Whatmough, Carol Aikin, Deborah Blakemore, Pete Vox & team mascot, Magnus – who were instrumental in making the event a huge success. Great work team!

💙 PDF of Team Results @
💛 PDF of Lap Times @
💙 PDF of Speed Order @–uCCtaj66O6K_TnRB/view?usp=sharing

Photo credit: Ruth Gledhill


Photo credit: Ruth Gledhill


Photo credit: Ruth Gledhill


Photo credit: Ruth Gledhill


Photo credit: Ruth Gledhill


june, 2024

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Surrey cross country league standings

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