Last weekend (13-14 May) QPH took on the annual Green Belt Relay - a 22-stage, 220-mile clockwise race around London. We finished in 18th place out of 32 mixed relay teams with a time of 30:23:54. We won three stages with Ali Matheson winning stages 4 and 14, and Harriet Preedy winning stage 10, with stages 14 and 10 also being course records. While these are fantastic achievements and the team and club should very proud, the Green Belt Relay is about so much more; it’s about the laughs, blunders, and special moments that happen along the way. We asked the runners to recall some of these moments. If you only knew what we had to cut out …
Green Belt MacGyver
Tim: I planned to run stage 16 with my hydration pack so on Sunday morning I woke up early and filled it with water so I wouldn’t need to worry about it while I was driving or at the stage start. When we got to the stage, I got ready to race and when I put my hydration pack on I noticed it was wet. So, I took out the bladder to see what was going on and, sure enough, there was a small but steady leak. I began to panic and rethink my whole race strategy when James “Green Belt MacGyver” Walerych was struck with a moment of what he later called “pure clarity” — he suggested I use a Compeed (blister plaster) to cover the hole. It worked a treat. No more leak.
Field of Dreams
James: Stage 11 was the same stage I ran when I debuted at the Green Belt Relay and it was basically the same. However, there was a slight twist for 2023 as they decided to have about a mile running through some fields of rape seed. Running through these crops I had my own Field of Dreams moment but instead of ending at a baseball field it brought me to the end of stage 11.
Tim outsmarts a faster runner
Tim: On stage 2 I found myself up against a strong female runner. She passed me about 2 miles in on the 9.5-mile course but didn’t drop me. I hung on and caught her when she slowed slightly in a muddy patch. I was only ahead for a few seconds, and she passed me again effortlessly, almost as if to send a message, but she still didn’t drop me. I was on her heels but didn’t think I would catch her. I hung on and in the last mile I thought I might have a chance to beat her if I chose the right moment. I knew the course and remembered the course narrowed in the last 800 metres as it re-joined the canal. If I could get ahead, she would struggle to pass because the towpath was too narrow. When I saw the narrow point, I made my move and beat her to the towpath but was redlining. Lucky for me the QPH team was there to cheer me on, and I held on and dropped her in the last 400 metres.
Charles vs. the chicane
Charles: This was my 8th Green Belt Relay - most of those with the Hoops and all eventful and fun in some way! This year’s was particularly eventful for me for a number of reasons. From being called up to a team race just 90 mins before the event even started to getting stranded on the course … but more on that later! On the second day I got stuck in chicane on stage 15 when a van passed me but then got blocked by a horse box coming the other way under the spectacular viaduct - so the van held me up rather than me blocking him! Later, another runner with whom I had taken turns with to set the pace gave me a jelly baby. With a boost of energy for the last uphill, what do I do? — just kicked on past, even if it was a bit mean after he helped with my refuelling.
Afternoon tea in the midst of chaos
Tim: The Green Belt Relay is about living in the moment. Everyone is in constant motion; you eat when you can, you get in the van when you’re told, you solve problems constantly and hop around from start to finish. But it is also punctuated by random moments of calm, where sometimes you find yourself with nothing to do for half an hour, so you take advantage of what is in front of you. While waiting for John Brosnan to start stage 5 and waiting for Ali to finish stage 4, Gabby, James, John, and I found ourselves in such a moment. The weather, despite forecasts predicting otherwise, was cold so we looked for a warm place for a tea and coffee. The place we found was … interesting. Was it a pub? Was it a restaurant? Was it a tearoom? Nobody knows. But it was perfect.
Fawad: After dropping off Ali at stage 4 start and picking up Matt Peffers at the stage 3 finish we piled into the van for our next destination. I was at the wheel. One of our runners, who will remain nameless — but let’s just say Matt, Saikat, Charles, Maryam and Harriet were the passengers — was sorting out their kit in the boot and was the last to get in after “closing” the back. We took off in good time. After a few minutes on the road, we turned a corner and I started to accelerate as we joined a busier road, and I was struck by how loud the traffic was suddenly. Then I noticed how clear the view out the back window was. We realised at the same time the tailgate was wide open. After an emergency stop and kit check everything seemed okay. We might’ve lost a minute or two but it’s lucky that’s all we lost!
Charles “Mr. Green Belt” Tatham was called up as an alternate at the last minute and basically saved the weekend, and how did we repay him? By leaving him on the side of the road in Epping Forest.
Tim: I wasn’t there but I can explain my view of what happened. I wasn’t driving the van that was meant to pick up Charles, but I was in the GBR captain’s WhatsApp group getting a stream of messages about a stranded runner, who was quickly identified as QPH’s very own Charles Tatham. I checked our itinerary and made sure I didn’t forget anyone. I confirmed it wasn’t me and then looked at the other van’s itinerary, which VERY CLEARLY indicated they were responsible for picking up Charles. At that very moment I received a photo in the QPH Green Belt group of all the passengers in the forgetful van … IN A PUB. SMILING. RAISING SOME PINTS. In the end it wasn’t that they forgot to pick him up after his run … they left him after a toilet break at another stage end. Luckily the race volunteers brought him back to us - here’s to Charles!
Some of the chatter in the GBR captain’s WhatsApp group:
Fawad: We asked Gabby to jump in the van after her stage without even parking as we had to leave promptly to stay on schedule. Charles popped out for the toilet, and we changed drivers as I wanted a break and in all the rush, we forgot we were meant to wait for him. Or rather I forgot because apparently no one else saw him leave or heard him telling us about it…
Charles: I went for a quick toilet break just as Gabby jumped into the van. On coming back out of the pub the place was deserted with just a few stragglers finishing the stage. How to get home? Help! Where are our captains? Well, I knew one was deep in Epping Forest on the way to a stage record! So, I was cut off in the cold and a race organiser (must have been a straggler) rescued me!! Worth it for the story and a pint of pride. “Where is Charles” became the mantra for the rest of the weekend.
Congratulations to the 2023 team: