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Green Belt Relay 2024- Charles, Hardik and George

Charles Tatham

After all the juggling to see that we could still have a complete team - thanks to the heroics of Maryam and Tim, I had a relative period of calm with my Chipperfield to Verulanium stage (no 6). Fitting to start a GBR leg at the boundary of a village cricket game, we were soon in deep woods hoping that there would be sawdust to guide us through, which there was, and no fallen trees to climb over or crawl under. The race guide notes mentioned ‘tricky navigation’ but the GBR team had done an excellent job so all I had to do was look out for a curry house landmark in West Langley to make a key right turn. No mention about the hills - over 500 ft gained on my Strava. Had to run through a cornfield and go across the grain at one point so picked up quite a few scratches! Soon into St Albans - and across King Harry’s Lane so then sure I would find my way - even though the final park bit was rerouted due to flooding. As a bonus I caught up with a Ranelagh runner on a twisty section - just waited for an open bit of the park to lift the pace and get to the top of that silly finishing mound well clear of her.

Charles and Luc waiting for Tim to finish at the end of day 1.

Stage 18:

Why on earth did I volunteer for this notorious Box Hill stage? Also why was I surprised that I was allocated this stage - didn’t loads of others put no 18 as their first choice…

So after yesterday’s prelude on a shorter flatter stage, this was going to be a tough one. Remember though as this is the GBR, the actual running is still secondary to team logistics. The plan was to send me out early - so I would need to know the way with my eyes shut and also judge the pace. One advantage of rushing about with last minute preparations the warm up kind of takes care of itself. At least I thought so and the downhill start would get me moving quickly! Going across the golf course was the first uphill bit just to give me a taste of what was to follow - TWO big hills! Just settling into a reasonable pace the Reigate hill climb started and I slowed dramatically. Our speedster Harriet mentioned she actually walked part of this stage - so for me this was going to take ages. 

Charles ready to race with map in hand

No issues with the navigation so next thing - when would the field catch me with my fifteen min start? Time to briefly admire the view passing some monument at the top of Reigate Hill. Then the leader swept past me, either a Serpie or a Hare…Someone to follow for a few minutes on this flat out wide section of the stage. As more runners passed soon I was back on the narrow section with a mix of v shape gullies, roots, twists and turns and ups and downs. Then came the treacherous steep downhill section and luckily it was dry. A Chaser had just passed me and was descending this section in a crouched position applying the brakes as though she was on a black run! Even moving like this she soon disappeared…

Now the long ascent of Box Hill would start with more of the same terrain. On a very steep walking section I could keep up with another runner for the first and last time. Finally, after a welcome water station - we had a nice road section - even a little uphill was ok. Despite not making the pace I had planned I could speed up now, soon enjoy the Box Hill view, skirt round the visitors centre and charge down the military road to the finish.

My GBR legs are completed!

Another mountain stage chalked off too!!

Top Tip - do a recce of the whole course to pace it well.

The whole GBR team at dinner at the end of day 1

Hardik Rathod

Green Belt Relay was a lot of firsts for me. It was my first team racing event, the first time I ran such a long distance for 2 consecutive days, my first race wearing the Hoops and obviously my first GBR. It was such a great experience not only because we were running through some green patches around London but also because unlike other races, we had our team supporting each other before and after every race. Although it was 2 days long it didn’t feel like it at all and I think it means that I enjoyed it a lot!

Charles, Roma, George, Hardik and Brian eating ice cream

The 2 stages that I ran were the 1st and the 15th one. The first one was also really long for me(as I have done only 1 half marathon before) but the team were really supportive about it and gave me confidence that I can do it and there’s no pressure on completing it fast, but just have fun. It went through a riverside, some footpaths and mostly flat green patches. I also set some PBs in the first stage which was a great personal achievement. 

The second day I was a bit worried about whether I would be able to complete the run or not as I had never ran 2 races on consecutive days, but I was able to do it with the support and encouragement from the team. This stage was much more up and down and went through multiple forest/farm patches which was great to run around. There were a few times when I lost the way but there were other people who helped me get back on the route. 

Hardik running

During these 2 days, except running around some beautiful green patches we also had to take care of a lot of logistics in terms of who will be dropping each runner and who will be picking them, and when and where these things would happen. I really enjoyed the late night planning with Tim and Harriet on this. All in all I feel it was an experience that I’ve never had before and I totally loved it and will definitely try to take part next year as well. Special thanks to the organisers from QPH who took care of arranging all the logistics like managing the vans, hotels, dinners places etc. One of the most important things that I got to take away from GBR as a new club member are the bonds that I formed with the rest of the team, and now I can say that I am much more involved in the club than just running track.

Hardik running making a V sign

George Hicks

I was also a Green Belt Relay newbie and didn't know what to expect. I ran stage 3 on the first day along a lovely stretch of the Thames from near Windsor to Marlow. It was a really nice route with little to do in the way of navigation. I definitely got a bit excited and went off too fast, flagging a bit before the end.

George waving the QPH flag before the start of his first stage.

The rest of the day I did a lot of van driving getting everyone else to their stages. You quickly get into the rhythm of it with a drop-off+pick-up in one location, before leap-frogging the other van to do the same again at another location. The cheat sheet telling us where to be, when to be there and who to take with you was essential and it was great to just be able to rely on it. Special thanks to GBR organising crew for that!

George looking tired after stage 3

On day 2 I ran stage 12 from Blackmore to just south of Brentwood in Essex. I was glad for the early start as it was going to be a very hot day! I knew I had to start a lot slower than the day before and managed to stick to it this time, even managing to pick it up a bit in the 2nd half and overtake a few other runners. All in all an exhausting but very fun weekend and a great way to get to know other runners in the club.


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