“What a must do event, thoroughly enjoyed by the lucky thirteen Les Croups pioneers that took part in this relay”.
I had thought about making enquiries on whether Les Croups could take part in this mini Castles relay, many times, but with my many other roles in athletics and this relay date always close to our own “Castles” it was always only just a thought. It was Tracy Newman that the club can thank for prompting our final decision on applying to enter. Tracy canvassed various people, including the organisers Fairwater (Cwmbran) Runners and they more or less verbally agreed. Our club committee agreed, with a proviso that none of the Castles Committee would be able to give any of their already committed time to a relay race taking place only six days before our own huge relay event. I then offered to take on the role of manager and formally applied online and we were successfully accepted.
The club agreed to pay our entry fee and the next step was selecting a team. The whole ethos of the club entering was to give a “second chance of competing” to members that narrowly failed to get into our very strong Castles teams.
Now the work began as the Rack-Raid (Ruins and Castle Keeps) is no ordinary road relay! They actually start and finish at these ancient sites, irrespective of terrain and use the “B” roads as much as possible to avoid traffic. Their cut off time is much tighter than our Castles, nine minutes per mile and the average stage is about 7.5 miles. With 60 already chosen for the Castles, selection would have to be spot on to choose a team to represent our club and also do well in the event.
My first hurdle was to wait for the names of the 60 selected Castles team members and then start selecting from the reserves. This was the biggest hurdle, as nobody on selection would send me the chosen Castles teams and for the first time I had doubts about getting involved. Luckily some members rallied around and sent me the three selected teams, to enable me to start on my selection, without this information I would have certainly walked away from the event, as the Rack-Raid organisers needed names urgently.
Choosing the team was much easier than I had first expected, as I had members desperately wanting places and it was a case of actually having the unenviable task of asking people to go on reserve/standby for the event.
The team was eventually chosen. (2 Women and 11 Men) Next was the task of putting them on suitable stages for their ability. Ralph Davey and I, went on a recce of the course and were taken aback by the severity of the terrain, we couldn’t report it as too arduous, as this may have deterred members from competing. Next was the complex issue of getting runners to their starts, not that easy, as they were often within remote villages accessed by “B” roads. This is where the cavalry came in, Dave McDonald assisted by Tim O’Sullivan, they mapped the course and timings and decided that 3 cars would cover the race.
Now for the Big Day, how would this eager team of 13 runners perform on this arduous event against some clubs that would not be competing in our prestigious Castles Relay and were mostly from this hilly Gwent area?
Well, “we were tremendous”. Everybody gave over 100% and nobody had a “bad run.” As it is a team competition it is always difficult to single out particular names and sometimes not fair, but I have to mention a few. Matt Hooper 5th on his stage, Matt Hopkins 6th on the most difficult long stage (13.1) and Mike Davies a creditable 9th on his. We mostly held 10th position from the 24 teams throughout the race and after stage 11, looking at the scoreboard; we decided that we may have a chance to improve our position. Caldicot were 5mins-15secs ahead in 9th and Fairwater (Cwmbran) were 8 mins-42 secs ahead in 8th position, but as the last 2 stages were very hilly, anything could happen. Evatt Cummings was on this stage and although he reduced the lead of Fairwater, Caldicot slightly increased and were now in 8th with a 6 min-03 secs lead and Fairwater in 9th with a 5min-07 secs lead. It was all down to Matt Parkes on the last leg, very hilly, with the last mile being the famous “Newport Masochist Mile” to finish. He did us proud, finishing 4min-47 secs ahead of the Fairwater runner and 8 mins-23secs ahead of the Caldicot runner. Putting us in 9th overall position (losing 8th place by just 20 secs to Fairwater) and putting Caldicot into 10th. Tremendous! We were also the first non-Gwent Team!
I thoroughly enjoyed putting this team together and I enjoyed even more seeing the sense of achievement in the faces of the thirteen proud team members that competed and will be wearing their unique fluorescent finishers T/shirts with pride. Was it tough, just ask them, would they do it again, just ask them. I know the answer would be yes!
Without Tracy’s original idea, the support of the club and the backup of Dave Mcdonald, Tim O’Sullivan, Judy and Ralph Davey the event could not have taken place. Thanks again!
I hope that the club will support a team entry for next year; it was a great decision to give our club members the opportunity for some extra competition and they excelled.