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Green Belt Relay – SJ Member Highlights

Last weekend saw the 23rd edition of the Green Belt Relay, an event extremely popular amongst many members. So, who better to introduce it than the man who organised it all for us? Enjoy his overview, and the various recaps from fellow members….

Weekend Organiser – Dave Breslin (mass applause etc):

  • 2 days
  • 220 miles
  • 22 stages
  • 5 Marshal points
  • 5 Vehicles
  • 2 Teams of 11 Runners
  • 17 Pre-Ordered meals
  • 130 individual drop off, and pickups.
  • 2 Helpers
  • 1 Baby

We were already short of runners leading up to this years Green Belt Relay (GBR), then we have a couple more dropouts, due to sickness/injury.

We managed to get some last-minute replacements, but not enough for full teams so some of the runners had to double up on the weekend. After some last-minute changes to the logistics plan we were set. We met at Sandhurst Library at 7:00am on Saturday, sorted everyone’s kit, and runners into the correct vehicle, and set off.

The GBR starts at Hampton Court, and goes all round the outside of the M25 on the Green Belt Way, and end at the Hawker Centre. It’s basically 2 days of socialising, visiting some beautiful villages, pubs, and countryside in the Green Bely of London. Oh, and with a bit of running thrown in.

The first day went without a hitch, apart for a slight miscalculation of how many people were on one vehicle for one marshal point. This was corrected by a quick phone call. The day finished at 8:45pm when we got to the hotel, and after a quick shower, and change, and out for Food in Epping.

Sunday was another early start, and the vehicles loaded again, and we were off. Sunday went very smoothly, with everyone getting to where they needed to be on time. At the Hawker Centre finish everyone cheers all the last stage runners in. There are drinks, and burgers available, and prizes are given out.

The 2 Sandhurst Joggers teams came 24th, and 34th. A great achievement considering the last-minute changes needed. I would like to thank the Sandhurst runners who drove, marshalled, ran, and followed all the directions given to them. Without their co-operation the planned schedule would not be possible.

Stage 1 – Dave Ayling: “Flat fast and fun. Paired up with a lady from BA and we pushed each other the whole way. Could not go full out as had second stage 11 at end of day but a 1 hour 32 felt very comfortable. Great support at Walton bridge from SJs members!”

Stage 2 – Alison Jones: “I ran this route of the Green Belt 2 years ago, so I asked if I could run it again, hoping I could still remember the route. Sharon Burfield sustained an injury and was unable to run the first leg from Kingston to Staines, but was kind enough to take Alan Kirby and I to the start and collect us at the finish.

The start was the usual mad rush for 20 yards, until we came to the first set of steps on the route, and then it was down onto the towpath and everyone shot off like it was a sprint. Being a slow starter, I jsust settled into a steady pace and followed the person in front, who was a chap from Queens Park Runners. We took spells at pacing each other, until he dropped off the pace I was setting. By then I was passing runners who had gone off too fast, until I found myself with only 1 girl in front of me, who then decided to stop and walk for a bit since she was struggling.

That left me at the front, and although I had my with me, I did not have my glasses, so I couldn’t see it. My plan of always having someone to follow was falling apart, however my mate from Queens Park made up the ground he had lost and we were together again. We then proceeded to go up a cycle path and although I could not see my map I was pretty sure that running along the M4 was not mentioned, so back down the other side of the cycle path and we found the correct path. Then it was on to the finish, to loads of cheers, from all clubs, and that was me done until 5:04 on Sunday, when I would run stage 22, the ‘glory leg’!

Stage 2 – Alan Kirby: “Sharon and Alison collected me, and off we went to Staines. The leg started at 9:42 and I went off at a steady pace conscious of the fact that I normally start too fast. The first 6 miles felt great. I was running very well and thought this is going to be a good day. I then started to realise that the training I had been doing was geared towards 10k or 6 miles and I knew I had to slow down. This was annoying because I gave away 6 places in the last 3 miles, but I hung on and eventually the finish line was before me and I finished with a time of 1hr 15mins and 58 seconds which I was quite pleased about.”

Stage 3 – Claire Hobson: “My first stage was Stage 3, along with Carl. After a brief stop at Walton bridge to cheer on our runners, we made our way to the start. This stage was 11miles, so I knew I had to pace myself and also preserve some energy for Sunday. Stage 3 is fairly flat and a very pretty course going from Boveney Church to Little Marlow and runs along the river for most of the way, meaning you have to dodge the rowing clubs along the route!! It was clearly marked and well supported with friendly Marshall’s. As soon as we crossed the finish line, we were handed water and biscuits – perfect for refuelling – before I was ushered back into the car to go to the next stage to pick up and drop off runners.”

Stage 4 – Steve Casey: “Warm-up for a race can be a nerve-wracking time. Kit check, last minute fuelling and, in the case of the GBR, map check. I didn’t have time to scout it, so I was hoping my Google Satellite and Streetview tour of the route was enough to stay on course. Then the inevitable toilet queue. Looking back, it makes sense – the run organisers described stage four as “Difficulty: 10/10”, “Complex”, “Brutal” and “Disorientating”. Other runners waiting for a free cubicle simply asked, “what did you do to piss-off your club captain?”.

The first 5km wasn’t bad – gently gaining 50 meters, then it started. According to Strava, 75 meters up in just a few hundred meters then, 4km later drop down and repeat then, 4km later repeat then, 4km later repeat then, 4km later repeat. It was 11.5 miles of really difficult terrain and a challenge that is going to be hard to forget. But, despite the pain and despite having been reduced to a walking pace at times, I knew the memory of having succeeded was going to be fantastic, and indeed it is. Not my finest running achievement but definitely among the times I’ve tested my resolve and come away happy. But the question remains, Mr Breslin, what did I do to piss you off?”

Stage 6 – Sarah Hyatt: “I’ve been with SJ for many years now and I’d never done the GBR as it often clashes with my birthday weekend. I hadn’t planned to do it this year either but Dave Breslin sent out an SOS about a week before for more runners so I bit the bullet. Dave gave me a 10.2 mile leg on day one and a 10.7 mile leg on day two. Which was fine, I had enough distance in my legs as I ran London in April. I had a look at the course profiles and day 1 leg had a 2 mile hill that looked quite savage…what had I let myself in for? Dave also asked if I could be a driver for the weekend.

On Friday morning I got a message from Dave. ‘Hi Sarah, are OK to do a double on Saturday?’. ‘Yes sure’, I say as long its not leg 1 (13 miles) or leg 9 (10 miles). It wasn’t, it was legs 6 (8.2 miles) and leg 9. Checking the details of leg 6 it was down as difficulty 3, aaah that’ll be nice and easy…ROFL at me, no it wasn’t, it was constant undulating hills, with some tricky navigation. The navigation was fine when there were others around that you could follow but I ended up running alone for some of it and completely lost sight of the people in front. A group was behind me which I was thankful for when I heard shouts to find out I had missed a turn, a solo girl had followed me and missed it too.

I turned to see a group of 4 people running through a field, I ran back and realised that the turning was some way off so in my infinite wisdom decided it would be much better to clamber through brambles instead. I dropped 5 places by going wrong and couldn’t catch them back up which was rather annoying. When I finished I noticed that my legs were stinging, looked down to see that they were cut to shreds…that will teach me for going though brambles.”

Stage 7 – Graham Robinson: “Stage 7 is a fairly flat 11-mile leg starting in St Albans and follows the Alban Way over to Hatfield. From there it winds through a few housing estates, a golf course, a forest and ends on a nice downhill section of the Cole Green Way. Unfortunately for me the stage record, which had stood since before I last ran it, was smashed by about 4 minutes(!), and the 2 leaders were out of sight after the first mile. Still, I was pleased to just about scrape a 3rd place finish and a respectable time.”

Stage 9 – Ian Watson: “This year I had one Stage I’d not done before – Stage 9 on Saturday from Dobbs Weir to High Beech, better described as “From between Hertford and Harlow, along the Lea Valley and then up into Epping Forest”. This stage is 7 miles along a canal, 1 over fields, then 2 miles of pretty relentless and tough 8%, Dell Rd-like hill.”

Stage 9 – Sarah Hyatt: “Leg 9 was 8 miles of lovely flat canal running followed by 2 miles of THE HILL…pretty much all of the run was in heavy rain (so glad I had my sunglasses on the top of my head) which was in contrast to my previous leg, which was in glorious sunshine. I love running in the rain so it didn’t bother me. Ian Watson started this leg with me but had said ‘you go on ahead I’ll be starting slowly’, ermmm he was off like a rocket, he got smaller and smaller as he disappeared into the distance!

For the whole of this run I had a couple of people just in front so no chance of getting lost on my own. It was a fab run until the hill, it was hard and went on and on. I was so glad to get to the top. When I finished we headed straight to the Motel where we were staying to meet everyone else, we were the first ones there and as we pulled in the first thing I thought was ‘Bates Motel’ (if you know what that is you’ll know what I mean!!). There was intermittent signal for phone and tinternet.

I text Claire to tell her I was already there and warn her that we may not survive the night, explaining it looked like the motels in America where serial killers hang out and that we were sharing a bed as I didn’t want to be alone when they got me…. safety in numbers right??”

Stage 10 – Jon Green: “Stage 10 started fairly straightforward but I was soon at a confusing junction near Epping station which required a bit of navigating through. Luckily there was a friendly girl from Clapham Chasers to discuss our route with and we were quickly back underway. Unfortunately though the heavens decided to open shortly before this and we were quickly soaked. I lost her on a long dragging uphill road section and as I crossed over into Epping Forest the terrain became more and more challenging.

After the forest the last part was over rutted farm tracks. Only wearing road shoes made this like the most difficult cross country ever and I almost fell a couple of times. Still it did make it quite good fun and took my mind off the running part. I kept smiling and even managed a sprint to the line where Janice, Al, Steve and Claire were waiting to pick us up to go back to the motel to warm up with a shower.”

Stage 11 – Dave Ayling: “Apprehensive as the mornings run was harder than planned but most of the leg was on an old training route. Heavy legs for the first mile then really enjoyed having an all out run on an old but not so pretty route.”

Stage 12 – Sarah Hyatt: “Day 2 and I had the first leg which was nice because I was done early on but that also mean I had an early start. Erol dropped me and Krzysztof at the start. When we started my right hamstring was really tight so I took it easy and tried to run a nice even pace. It wasn’t long before I found myself alone again but I could see people in the distance so it wasn’t so bad. By about mile 4 Krzysztof caught up with me and we stay together for a couple of miles before I sent him on, my hamstring was hurting on any incline and was slowing me down.

With about a mile to go a girl caught me on a hill, I tried to stay with her on the up but I couldn’t, I did catch her quickly on the flat though, I sat on her shoulder for a bit until she let me through and I gained about 20 metres on her. I then saw the crowds and people cheering, I could also hear that she’d put on a sprint to catch me, I wound up my pace a little but let her get on to my shoulder and then I kicked for the line, I won the sprint battle! The rest of the day was fab jumping in and out of the vans seeing people finish and sending them on their way.”

Stage 14 – Ian Watson: “Stage 14 on Sunday from Jobbers Rest to Davy Down is better described as “Upminster to Thurrock near the QE2 Bridge across the Thames”. It is a flat and scenically varied 8.2 miles – trails through winding fields and woodland, a few residential streets, up a golf fairway (yes, the golfers are out there playing (!)) and country lanes, usually charming but also which very occasionally show how a few of the good citizens of Essex dispose of their fridges and old carpet.

Oh, and despite Facebook impressions, it’s NOT a pub crawl. There’s actually a pretty decent amount of running to be done and refreshments are more likely to be coffee stops in woodland car parks. GBR – missing you already!”

Stage 15 – Claire Hobson: “My next stage was Stage 15, this time 9.4miles, starting at Stone Lodge and finishing  at Lullingstone Park, a long with Jon Green. I knew this stage would be slightly harder and I had to keep some in the tank for another stage later on. I wasn’t quite prepared for some of the hills we had, but again the scenery was amazing! It was slightly tougher with a few undulating climbs, but some nice downhills too. Coming towards the finish line, a supporter from The Stragglers cheered on a runner that I realised was just over my shoulder. I was 100metres from the finish line, so sprinted – well I couldn’t let him beat me!!!! That was when the lovely Stephen Casey caught an awesome photo of me, thanks a lot ‘mate!’”

Stage 15 – Jon Green: “Stage 15 started at 10:40 and after spectating the early stages Claire and I were feeling confident. The first few miles were on the road and had some nice downhill sections. Later on it was more like narrow grassy trails but the weather was lovely and dry compared to the day before. At mile 6 I was starting to struggle, not being used to running two consecutive days and I had to walk up one of the hills as we passed through a sleepy village. I got overtaken by a few other team runners but carried on running and made it to the finish line by the riverbank.

As we made our way to the end of the next stage to watch Patrick and Dave Ayling finish I was happy to find a pub to grab a nice cold beer to celebrate. Green Belt Relay wasn’t quite the tour of pubs and cafes I was promised by Nikki but was still a great experience and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a running weekend away now that the Sandhurst running weekend is no longer away but rather more local in Crowthorne. It had everything you want from a running weekend; running, banter, competitive spirit, navigational challenges and beer.”

Stage 16 – Dave Ayling: “Woke up on Sunday very tired from the Saturday apprehensive about having the hilly lullingstone stage to do. The stage itself was stunning when I had the energy to look around. Great support on the way from Maria at BA (lady u ran with on leg 1), friends from Burgess hill and SJ.”

Stage 17 – Graham Robinson: “I’d convinced myself that Stage 17 (10 miles, ish) was essentially a downhill leg (running from the highpoint at Tatsfield, down to Merstham), so the few steep climbs on route were a bit of a shock (I had obviously blanked them from my mind). Day 2 always presents its difficulties due to tiredness from the Saturday. As ever, I had my fingers crossed before the start that I’d have less opposition this time, but sadly the stage record was smashed again and I was left to trail in in 4th position (not helped by a navigational issue near the end and then being out-sprinted to the line).

Overall, a great weekend – and an event that I think everyone who takes part in thoroughly enjoys…”

Stage 19 – Steve Casey: “My second day, started near Rikers Café near the bottom of Box Hill, was different. Run up a hill (oh god, another hill), then along the North Downs Way. Little risk of getting lost on the well signposted North Downs Way and few hills; those that did exist were short or shallow. The leg flew past and for almost the whole run I had fantastic views of everything from the vineyards of Denby’s Wine Estate to the rolling hills and valleys below. Sharing the path with many walkers and spotting future picnic (and photo expedition) spots, my legs just got on with the business of finishing the stage and I simply enjoyed the run.”

Stage 20 – Claire Hobson: “Before I knew it, I was being dropped off at my final stage – Stage 20. This time with Alan Kirby! I had been told this stage was flat, fast and a lot downhill. And boy it did not disappoint!!! It was very very fast and felt like a ferocious race from everyone around. Alan managed to get a head start on me. There was one small hill that I managed to over take him on, but he then caught up with me. I spent the rest of the race chasing him down!! Every runner around me was pushing hard and racing. Being only 6miles, I knew I could push hard and I certainly did. The finish was quite ferocious as well, with me coming in only about 8seconds behind Alan, which made for an exciting race! I have to say I finished with a smile on my face as I LOVED that stage!!

We then bundled into the car and headed to the Hawker Centre in Kingston for the finish. There we enjoyed a wonderful BBQ and a few well deserved drinks. The banter was in full flow (like the alcohol!) and everyone was in amazing spirits! I felt so proud to be a Sandhurst Jogger!!

I ran just over 26miles in the weekend and loved every second. The GBR for me is all about amazing team spirit, with a bit of running thrown in. There is so much banter and laughter and so much support across the whole weekend, it really is what Sandhurst Joggers is all about. You feel part of something and I don’t think I stopped laughing or smiling (apart from when I was running up the hills!). Thanks to all for making it so much fun!

A massive thank you has to go to Dave Breslin. The logistics of sorting two teams and 4 vehicles across 22 stages requires immense work and we all thoroughly appreciated it! It went so well and I hope we did him proud. We cannot thank you enough Dave for helping us to be part of what I think is one of the best running weekends ever!

Bring on next year – and here’s to a rematch between Alan and I on Stage 20!!!!!!”

Stage 20 – Alan Kirby: “Claire Hobson was running the leg for the A team and I was running it for the B team. The leg started at 3:43 and even though I thought do not start too fast I forgot to take my own advice and went off much too quickly and after half a mile I thought this is not working and I need to slow down. The leg starts off running downhill which should be easy but then we turned a corner and I realised that I was just about to pay the price for so much downhill. The road climbed quite steeply for a while. On the climb Claire went past me and I thought she was going to vanish off into the distance, but we went over the brow of the hill and I was able to go back past her.

The road flattened out and from there it was a very hard slog and I knew that Claire would be chasing me down, but I hung on, but I do remember thinking that this is a tough day at the office and Claire has obviously been training hard, but I must keep going because any hesitation and Claire would have seized the chance and gone passed me. Brilliant race and at the end I were on my knees. I managed to get over the finish line just ahead of Claire by a few seconds and finished in 27
th place in 46 mins and 17 seconds.

The GBR is a fantastic event that is so well organised, and I fully intend to run it next year.”

Stage 22 – Alison Jones: “I agreed to pick up Gloria Long for her leg from Ripley to Walton Bridge so we left fairly early to arrive at our respective starts in plenty of time to register.  That done there was nothing to do but hang around with fellow SJ’s take selfies and eat chips, although I must stress Alastair and I did not part-take since we had just over 9 miles to run.

This is a very easy to navigate leg, so no problem not being able to see the map, I have run a Phoenix marathon, along the towpath and I have also run the Kingston Breakfast run twice so know this area fairly well.  Instructions given and we were off, but not as frantically as the previous day, perhaps everyone was feeling their previous day’s run in their legs. Same format for me; start slowly then try and pass as many people as possible.

After the climb up onto and over Kingston Bridge and a short run to pick up the Thames Path again it’s on to the finish at the Hawker Centre in Ham and as you get nearer you can hear the cheers so you know not far to go now, I was really pleased I managed to knock nearly 2 minutes off my time from 2 years ago, for this leg, probably helped by the cooler weather.

The atmosphere at the finish is great, meeting up with everyone, although you do see people from time to time, we are all spread out over the Green Belt so being able to all be together at the end is great. This is a great event, logistically a nightmare and great credit must go to Dave Breslin for making sure we were all where we should be, when we should be.”

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