On Sunday morning, we took second place in the annual River Relay organised by Kingston-based running club The Stragglers. The event covers the 26.2 miles along the Thames from Virginia Water to Kingston in five stages. On a fine, bright morning ideal for racing, thirty-nine teams toed the line – the largest field for some years. Ealing ran three teams, each having to include at least one veteran aged 40+ and one woman.
With the race proceeds going to charity, the atmosphere was friendly and inclusive, attracting runners of all ages and abilities. Runners had to navigate their own way using a map, and this added to the entertainment value as a number of participants went off-course – including one or two of our own athletes (who shall remain nameless)!
Despite the light-hearted tone, however, there was a strong competitive element at the front of the field: the charities benefiting from the event are chosen by the first three teams across the line. We have won this event in the past, and our ‘A’ team set off with high hopes of finishing in the top three. Angelo John got us off to a flying start – he finished leg one in the lead, but with Elmbridge Roadrunners just a second behind.
Mark Delahunty took over at the gates of Virginia Water for the stretch to Staines Bridge, but conceded the lead to both Elmbridge and defending champions Sandhurst Joggers.
On leg three, Steve Elson managed to overhaul Elmbridge along the river from Staines through to Shepperton, but was still nearly a minute adrift of Sandhurst by the time he handed over to Alison Hopkins. By this stage, London Frontrunners had moved up the field, going past Alison into second.
On the last leg, guest runner Steve Norris fell victim to navigational shortcomings and went briefly off-course. Sandhurst Joggers had an unassailable lead by then, but Steve won the battle with Frontrunners for second.
As runners-up, we were entitled to allocate one third of the prize fund to our chosen charity, so £416 will accordingly be donated to CRY (Cardiac Risk in the Young).
A good time was had by all three of our teams, despite various misadventures along the way, and it seems likely we’ll be part of the action again next year.