Over the weekend, Daventry Road Runners were out in full force, tackling 198 miles of Norfolk countryside and coastline in the “Round Norfolk Relay”. This was our second year taking part in the event after being introduced to the challenge by Chris Kemp in 2022.
The event is a team-based relay race, broken down into 17 stages of various distances and terrains, with each runner only allowed to run one stage. The shortest distance is roughly 5.5 miles, with the longest section just shy of 20 miles. There is a staggered start time to allow teams with a slower predicted finish time to have a slight head start, while the faster teams set off a few hours later. We entered into the 'Club' category, meaning each runner must be a first claim affiliated club member and the team had to include a minimum of 5 females and 6 veterans. As well as rounding up our 17 runners, there's the added complexity of finding a support crew. During the day this could be a person on a bike, however once it gets dark, all runners must be followed by a vehicle to help light the road and keep runners safe. The team did a fantastic job of helping each other with several members cycling behind others after completing their own stages.
There is something magical about these types of events, where teamwork, kindness and togetherness really shines through and is what this club is all about!
We asked our runners to provide a brief overview of their individual stages and here's what they had to say:
7:00am Saturday - Race start
Stage 1 - Jack De Bokx - Kings Lynn (16.32 miles)
When selecting my section, I favoured a bit longer distance and 16.3 miles fitted the bill nicely. An early start on Saturday morning to begin our relay, with Mandy joining me on the bike for the first 6 miles. This stretch was mainly roads and a bit boring at times (not you Mandy!).
After losing Mandy it went into paths, gravel, sand and pebbles all the way up to a few km before arriving in Hunstanton and handing the baton to Ian and takin over cycling duties. I was able to pretty much hold my pace throughout and finished in just over 2 hours. A lovely run and nice to set off our club for a great performance.
Stage 2 - Ian Moser - Hunstanton (13.75 miles)
I started the stage on the cliff top by Hunstanton lighthouse just as the local parkrun was getting underway. I spotted Dan Clarke & Jamie doing their “warmup parkrun” soon followed by Jack coming in to complete Stage 1.
Stage 2 starts with a tough couple of miles on soft sand which then merged into some nice trails across the RSPB reserve. It’s then onto a road section where I met up with Jack on the bike and before heading back onto trails on my own for the finish. Lovely picturesque stage with a headwind (again!)
Stage 3 - Mandy Moser - Burnham Overy (5.76 miles)
“The Sandy one”
A short and sweltering run across sand and up and down dunes. Avoided the nudist beach by heading into a very welcome shady woodland run, before heading to the rather busy coastal path. Managed to overtake another runner which was very satisfying. The final uphill is short, but sharp. Always invigorating to get to the handover point and see your next runner head off. New shorts for me next year and a brief run-in with a dog.
Stage 4 - Steve Brooks - Wells (11.14 miles)
“The bit of everything stage but most of it into the wind”
Busy tarmac section around Wells Harbour to start (went off too fast) and then onto the Coastal Path proper. Some of it along the top of the sea defences with a decent solid surface, other areas along the edge of the salt marsh which was harder work.
Had a feeling that I was supposed to be up on the sea defences in the trees and I think that started to play with my head, but it turned out I was on the right course.
I reached Blakeney, made my way around the edge of the harbour and on to Wiverton Hall via a short steep section up through some woods. There I met up with Ian on the bike who would provide support along the road towards Cley, but by this point I was on my last legs.
Another section along the top of the sea defences towards the Beach Car Park and the final 25m or so of shingle to reach my changeover with Lee was Hell!
Stage 5 - Lee Taylor - Cley (10.81 miles)
Very Coastal. The first 3.5 miles is on shingle, but better if the tide is out. You then transfer onto a hard packed, undulating trail on top of the cliffs. The navigation is easy. The path continues to rise and fall until the promenade at Sheringham, when you have to start dodging the crowds.
The last pull goes up Beeston bump until you navigate through a couple of caravan parks and out onto the last half a mile on road to a nice finish.
Stage 6 - Darren Berriman - Cromer (7.90 miles)
“Undulating to Mundesley”
My first team relay event with DRR! A really fun stage starting off with a steep drop onto the promenade, weaving between the beach goers followed by a climb up to the lighthouse. Met Steve on the bike outside the golf club and ran the rolling hills into the next handover in Mundesley.
Stage 7 - Scott Kingsbury - Mundesley (9.24 miles)
“The hot one”
As we all do, started off with excitement and far too quick! However had a nice sea breeze, a view of some power stations then some lovely (didn’t say that at the time) hills to finish…
Luckily in the last mile as I was flagging, I spotted a runner in the distance and set my sights on passing him and somehow pulled some more out the tank! Deja vu for me from last year, same stage and had my trusty support cyclist Steve Brooks to keep me going!
Stage 8 - Joanne Kemp - Lessingham (7.52 miles)
"Just keep going straight"
After having some changes to childcare at the last minute we arrived at Lessingham to find a play area (with whoops of delight from the kids) behind the hall, so the kids went mad on there whilst I got ready for my run, which felt like fate!
Once ready I went to wait for Scott and was told there was 3 runners coming in and he was 3rd. So I stood getting ready and a lady started chatting to me “Gosh you’ve come a long way!” after seeing Daventry on my top! 😂
The first person came and went, then I saw Scott storming down the road towards me! It was a quick scramble to set my watch and get ready to go! After our handover and a brief well done I was off with Steve on his bike, who was brilliant company.
After a tiny moment of nervousness that we had gone the wrong way, we were soon reassured when we saw a van with a runners sign heading the same way as us, phew! I wasn’t worried though as had total faith in Steve’s maps rather than my own directional skills! Although I had read my directions beforehand, my mind went completely blank when I was trying to recall the places I was supposed to be running through and probably wasn’t much reassurance to Steve when I said I would know the places when I saw them on the signs!
I started off a bit quicker than I thought I would but managed to maintain a steady pace. I was able to catch up with the runner who went off just before me and then also another about 2 miles thereabouts from the end. Had a lovely wave and cheer from Mandy as her and Ian passed us on the way to Horsey which gave me a boost.
Was lovely to arrive at Horsey hearing the kids and Mandy – I heard them before I saw them, and pass the baton to Chris. Steve continued with Chris whilst I had a moments breather before setting off with the kids as support for Chris. It felt like a little adventure and not how we usually spend our Saturday nights!
Stage 9 - Chris Kemp - Horsey (16.60 miles)
“The Family Affair”
After a few last minute changes due to childcare we made our way to sunny Norfolk to take part in my second RNR. An event I am so pleased to have brought to DRR, seeing so many members enjoy it 😀.
Sharing the event with my family made this extra special. A perfect start to my stage was being greeted by the only two people I know who have reversed the ageing process (the Moser’s). Thank you both again for all your help.
As the sun settled I saw my wife running towards me and for once it wasn’t to tell me off, but to hand me the baton. As I started, a familiar face joined me for the first 3 miles, my partner in crime from last years event Mr Brooks – a true legend. Running with Steve was familiar and I settled in nicely to my target pace, something I failed to do last weekend at the Great North Run.
Anyhow the first three miles flew by and I was soon being followed by my wife, children and a flashing orange light! I was enjoying the scenery and shouts of support from Edward and Elizabeth and this gave me an extra bounce mile after mile.
Once I hit the 10 mile mark the scenery changed from idyllic to idiots, as night time fell and I found myself being heckled from the local drunks.
I had wanted a strong half and this was accomplished and staying relatively consistent I now started to think about the finish, although as mile 15 was completed I couldn’t hold my bladder any longer so had to stop and then I became very aware that I was not feeling good and still had a mile to go.
Parting from my amazing suport team I now had 1 mile of solo running feeling like I was hungover and knowing Lou was patiently waiting I kept going. Handed over to Lou and at this point was now in my usual post race condition of absolutely f@#? My saviour at this point was Scott who managed to not only work out what I was saying, but also submit my time to the group.
Part 2 available on demand (the sickness and McDonald’s) 🙈
Stage 10 - Lou Balloch - Belton (18.13 miles)
"The full moon 18-miler"
I was pretty nervous going into this one, as training hasn’t exactly been on point this year, but I did the classic go out a bit faster than you think you can run and hope for the best, and it worked up until around mile 14 when my stomach had other ideas!
Night running might be a new favourite of mine, the headlights from the car lit up the road ahead, and seeing the orange beacon of a runner in front gave me some extra motivation to keep going and have a friendly chat with the runner and support crew as I went past!
10/10 would do it again 💜
Stage 11 - Dan Henderson - Earsham (12.45 miles)
"Take a left and just keep going..."
After tweaking my ankle seemingly doing nothing a few weeks ago, this run was further than I'd managed in total over the last 2 weeks and my longest in 3. With my ankle strapped up in official club colours, I took the baton from a relieved Lou and headed out into the night with only Scott in the car for company.
After a 5K downhill start, I realised I was over dressed for the Norfolk night and shed my hat and pack to avoid overheating, before tackling a seemingly endless gradient. After about 8 miles my lack of training started to show, as the hills started to bite and I got overtaken by the only other runner I saw on this leg.
With a handful of squashies from Scott to "power" me through, I shuffled on up that hill, glad to pass the baton over to Dan! And if that wasn't enough fun, after 3 hours sleep it was time to chase 22 6-8 year olds around a rugby pitch. 😴🏉
Stage 12 - Dan Clarke - Scole (19.67 miles)
"Daniel vs 19.6 miles - take 2"
A dead of night stage, with 2 turns in Scole, 18 miles of straight on, and then 2 roundabouts in Thetford, with a uphill finish.
Last year I was over the moon just to finish this stage, as I went into it with a nasty chest infection. The drive of doing it for our club and team meant I got round without stopping or even walking in 2:18:31 (7:03min/mile pace).
This year, I was in better health and with a point to prove. I picked off all 5 teams that started the stage before me, trying to stay at a comfortable/steady pace throughout. It got tough in the second half, but I held on, finishing in 2:03:22 (6:17min/mile pace), over 15 mins better than 2022.
Stage 13 - Stuart Clarke - Therford (13.25 miles)
“The lonely half”
This year’s stage was a very quiet and lonely affair, compared to last year. As I took the baton from Dan, he’d already worked his way to the front of the pack, meaning I had absolutely nobody in front of me to focus on or chase down. My only goal was to make sure I didn't get caught and still on a bit of a high from last weekend’s Great North Run, I set off like a rocket. The stage was surrounded by woodland and there were some eerie noises coming from the trees, which only made me run quicker. I was running well and was in two minds about pushing hard to try and set a new half marathon PB or easing off to ensure I made it to the finish without walking.
As my legs started to fade in the final 3 miles, I took the sensible option and backed off the pace slightly. I pushed through to the handover point, only to find that the next stage had been cancelled and the checkpoint was virtually empty. On a personal note, I managed my second fastest half marathon, only 50 seconds slower than the GNR - not bad for a pitch black, solo run in the woods!
Stage 14 - Harpreet Chawla - Feltwell (7.27 miles)
"The one that got away"
Unfortunately my stage was cancelled due to a police incident in the next village. Nevertheless, I made sure the baton was passed to our Stage 15 runner by car.
Special shout out to Harpreet for traveling all that way to not be able to run and showed what a team player she is by still supporting in anyway she could.
Stage 15 - Jamie Moule - Wissington (10.59 miles)
I set my alarm for 3:30am to ensure I had enough time to get to Wissington, as the team were smashing their times, and finishing much earlier than predicted. However as I arrived into Wissington I was greeted by Harpreet at my car who told me that stage 14 had been cancelled due to an incident. So, all the teams were held and my start time rolled back to 5:20am.
I crossed the start line at 5:22am with Dan and Becky following me by car. The course was all road and mainly flat which made it a lot easier for me. With it being my first race, I wasn’t sure what to expect. On my last mile Becky stopped the car ready for Dan to jump onto his bike.
I arrived into Newmarket at 6:55am handing the baton to Kim ready to tackle stage 16. Harpreet showed just how much of a team player she was by driving all the way to Downham Market, then taking me back to my car in Wissington.
Stage 16 - Kim Wakefield- Downham Market (5.49 miles)
"The Short One" I thought Norfolk was flat, but I had not 1 but 2 bridges to cross! Highlight was definitely playing bingo with Dan using the race numbers on the passing support vehicles – seeing 22.... shouting "2 little ducks" and hearing Dan quack from behind.
Stage 17 - Trevor Dockeray - Stowbridge (11.73 miles)
“The Last Leg!”
So, we arrived at the handover location to secure the last parking space in the small rough carpark – in a puddle! At least there was a loo that Becky took advantage of.
A warmup – yes I warmed up – back and forth across the bridge over the river Great Ouse which will be my constant guide to Kings Lynn.
My original start time was planned as 7:48 – quite reasonable! But with those great runs throughout, the start time was moved forward to a predicted 7:21 – needed to change the alarm clock. With both excitement and nervousness (hot hotel room too) I couldn’t sleep much and spotted that Stage 14 was abandoned due to a Police Incident. Stage 15 would start at the initial predicted time, so back to 7:48 – result! Oh wait I'm wide awake still!
So warmed up, ready to spot Kim running over the bridge, I'm feeling a little tired boosted by the excitement of the moment. Kim ran in and spotted two runners waiting!? Then realised that someone else was running in behind her. A big grin and her face lit up when she spotted which runner was me.
Off I ran, forget about Dan on the bike – he will catch me up. Soon dropped by the faster runners both around me and those behind me, I get the comforting words from Dan on the bike – "just settle into the run you have a long way to go."
I soon caught up a veteran runner first then another runner who initially we spotted missed a turn and needed to double back. As I passed them I promised I wouldn’t tell anyone.
Now its time for Dan to cycle off to Kings Lynn whilst I take the long riverside trail path… I didn’t stop to take photos as I didn’t want to drop time – I'd liked to run the same if not quicker this year, but my legs didn’t have it in them – maybe the poor sleep in a hot room.
Several swift runners passed me along this long section but more spectators cheering me on than last year – I asked the usual question – "are we nearly there yet?". Oh and again the warning about the Bull – didn’t see one!
One faster runner was unclear where to go so I caught them up and suggested he followed me – well you need to try! It was clearly a lot warmer this year – I was melting…
Kings Lynn my favourite running stalker (Ed) found me again, then I found Dan wondering if he’d lost me. Knowing the route always helps, navigating the streets to the finish. Did I mention it was hot?
More runners pass me, we missed the wildlife crossing the road this year – one less obstacle. The closer you get the more marshals to see cheering you on. I could hear someone getting closer behind – just the encouragement I needed to pick up the pace and not to be seen by the awaiting crowd being passed! Dan split off giving an update that I was managing to do enough to maintain the gap.
The longest 400m to the finish line – I can hear the voices of Mandy Moser and Kim shouting – and of course Ed shouting ‘go on Forrest!’. Oh now that’s all over – off to breakfast in the Sport Centre!
Kings Lynn - Finish - 9:32:50 am - Sunday
Support Crew - Becky Wheaver
While I was fully awake for the driving shift behind Dan, I don’t recall much of what happened after. Garmin informs me that between the hours of 5:24 and 9:23 I was asleep, however I was in fact driving behind other runners during those hours.
Overall time: 24:59:31
Overall Result: 20th out of 56 teams
What a fantastic weekend and event, which showed what can be achieved when a fabulous team of people come together!
Already looking forward to next year and think it would be a great event to have even more people involved in, whether that's running a stage or helping out as the support crew!