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Newton Johnstone reports back from his leg of the Green Belt Relay

Run at 8:30 means porridge at 6am. Porridge with dates, topped up with some muesli, a few Shreddies and Raisen Splits and I’m full.

Set off for Staines Bridge car park at 7am, arrive at 7:20, and do a few laps of the car park to warm up. Legs feel like lead, and I’m as stiff as a board, I still haven’t recovered fully from injury nor man-flu, and am worried that I won’t be able to run the full 20.5 kilometres.

“Odd” minibus driven by Patrick arrives at 7:30 to pick me up to ferry me and Brendan to Hampton Court, and the start of this great event. I shed additional kit into my car, and jump on the bus. It takes longer than I remember to get to Hampton Court – wow! Have I really got to run this far?

Arrive at Hampton Court at 8am, and jog a bit more to warm up – my legs gradually loosen up and by 8:15 I’m feeling as if I could run a pretty good time. I shed my jacket onto Krystoff, and I’m ready to run.

The usual banter at the start of the race, safety announcements, a record 45 teams, then 3-2-1 go – kicked off by Kirsty, we’re off. Over the road, across Hampton Court Bridge, and I’m actually feeling good and feel like I can keep up with Brendan. Start to tire after 200 meters, and realise that the former thought was silly, so slow down to a pace I think is more sensible.

First kilometre in 4:49 – I would have laughed at this 6-months ago, but today I feel it’s a good pace. We were warned that the rowers are permanently grumpy – but they don’t seem too grumpy to me. I like grumpy, According to Catriona, I’m grumpy most of the time. We pass fleets of rowing boats, some in the water racing, some in the water ready to race, some being readied to go in the water, some still being assembled.

Kilometre 8, water station at Walton Bridge, I slow down to grab a cup and I get passed by 2-runners. That smarts, so I dig in to catch them, but one is too fast and has pulled away, also, it’s a “hill” to get up to the bridge, and my time has slowed to 5:30.

Kilometre 10 – Ferry Lane, and my work colleague John with his wife Linda are standing at the side of the road to cheer me on. I happened to mention to him on the Friday that I would be running by the end of his road at around 9:30, ever the optimist, he’d been standing there from 9:10, just in case I was quicker than I’d estimated. He takes a snap of me, and Linda offers me some refreshment. I’m half way there, and I can now start to count down the kilometres.

Newton GBR

I catch the girl in front of me, only to find that was an effort too much, as she passes and pulls away from me, as do two more people behind me (one of whom was carrying a rucksack). My pace is now 5:40, but the weather is beautiful and I think I’m going to get a tan. Kilometres 18 and 19, and I’ve slowed to 5:50, KM 20 is 5:59, and two more people pass me. Around 500m to go and I’m almost there, bridge in sight, rats I’m passed again! 200m to go and heavy breathing and foot steps behind me, I find the energy for a sprint finish, cheered on by SJs waiting for me at the finish line, I hold whoever it is behind me off. Finish in 1:51:51, slow, but I finished.

Shoes off, a drink of water, a chocolate bar, and a quick change, I head off to Boveney. My instructions were to pick two people up from the beginning of stage 3, but I can’t remember who, I wish I could remember what Graham said in his email. I arrive at Boveney to spot Patrick driving the “Odd” minibus away. Strange that they didn’t wait for both SJ runners to arrive!?!? They had arrived, and jumped on the mini bus with Patrick. So off I go to stage 4 – Little Marlow to pick up Krystoff and Emy. Find out that it was Alison that I should’ve picked up from Boveney and she’s now at Great Kingshill. I totally forget about Stuart.

Fantastic organisation – from so many people. Hats off to The Stragglers running club for organising such a great event and those who organised the SJ teams. Two legs next year rather than the pathetic one.

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