I hope everyone has been enjoying the look back at 50 years of the Glastonbury Festival this past weekend? For many of us the weekend is synonymous with the Cotswold Way Relay – 103 (+) miles of tough hills and a very sociable day out in beautiful countryside. Here we look back at Harrier efforts on the Relay and look forward to the possible return to training and competition.
Photo above shows one of the Harrier 'Kings' of the Cotswolds - Andrew Deamer on leg 8 of the Cotswold Way Relay 2016
I first camped at Glastonbury Festival back in 1982 - £8 for the weekend ticket! I can’t remember too much but do recall Judy Tzuke headlining on the Saturday night with the first ever lazer show. Fast forward a decade to 1994 and the first Cotswold Way Relay the Wells City Harriers took part in was the very first that Team Bath organised on a formal basis – they’d had some social runs on the Cotswolds before then. We were one of 13 teams to enter and tackle the logistics of covering the 100+ miles over 10 stages with each leg being between 7 and 14 miles in length. A number of us compete at the Relay, held on the Saturday, and have then gone to the Festival on the Sunday for a really enjoyable weekend!
In 1994, Helen & I recruited our Wells Harrier team of 10 from the Wednesday training group and signed up our final team member, Tim Wray, at the last training session before the Saturday. None of us had recce’d the route but we each carried either an OS map, or a guide book, or just crossed our fingers so that we might follow the official route – in those days it was relatively poorly signed so there was plenty of scope to go wrong…Anyway we all finished and that was the main point. As the official results show we were 10th, 3rd Mixed team and Team Bath inevitably dominated with 3 teams in the first 4.
Above - the Harrier team in 1994 in front of Bath Abbey Doors at the end of the Relay. left to right, at back - Chris Storie, Helen Rutter, Phil Marsh, Terry Shawe, Paul Chadwick, Terry Kingham, Stuart Marsh, & at front Angela Thomas, (supporter) Christopher Storie, & Tatiana Storie. The 10th team Member, Tim Wray, took the photograph.
Since then we’ve competed every year in this Relay with stages changing a little bit over the years – I’m sure it was 106 miles (in total) back in the 1990’s but now with route changes the official distance is 103 miles, and in addition to improved signage along the Way, there has also been a significant amount of improvement to the actual path. That doesn’t mean it’s a tartan track of course and the height gains especially for legs 2, 4 and 8 are really challenging – proper fell running on every leg.
1995 brought our first Relay success! The Harrier’s women’s team (aka Mendip Mudlarks) won the first of a trio of successive victories. The Men’s team were a creditable 4th in their category, 5th overall that year and we have never been as high again. In 1999 the Club won the Veterans category, and we were 2nd in that category last year, 2019, so maybe there’s life left in the Club’s Relay teams after all!
Above: 70% of the winning Harrier women's team in 1997 having won the womens category for the 3rd year on the trot. Left to right at back: Angela Thomas, Elspeth Turner, Helen Rutter, Rachel Wray, Liz Green; front Helen Kelsey & Sue Rushforth, Missing from this 1997 team photo are Denise Hoogesteger, Rosie Wych and Nicky Lynham
What is important about this Relay of course is that each stage is run as a separate race in its own right – so everyone on that particular stage starts together and this avoids long gaps opening up across the day. Stage one starts at Chipping Campden, up in the Midlands, and the runners are away at 7am. Over the years, a number of Harriers on this stage and the next few stages have often camped the night before in order to get to the race in time, although I remember that very first year (1994) being picked up in Somerset by Tim Wray at 4.30am to get to the start line.
Above: Damien Pick and Chris Walker before the start at 7am at Chipping Camden in 2019
The final stage, the glory leg, sees the leg 10 runners set off from Cold Ashton, north of Bath, and run into the City Centre to finish by the doors of the Bath Abbey at around 6pm in the evening – it’s great way to finish a race! Traditionally the Harriers, or at least those left standing, gather up by the doors for a team photo.
Below: Team photos from 1996, 2000 & 2006 - who can you recognise?
Kings of the Cotswolds
We’ve got a few Harriers that have completed all 10 stages of the Relay over the years. I‘ve competed 22 times, in sequence, so have been round the block a few times. Andrew Deamer is a King of the Cotswolds, as is Liz Green who was a member back in the days of the Mendip Mudlarks successes. Helen Rutter and Terry Kingham have completed 9 of the 10 stages but it seems impossible to get them to come out of racing retirement to finish off the set.
Above - the Harrier's first King of the Cotswolds (that's me!) in 2012 on leg 5 (already half way round my 2nd circuit) & below - the 2nd King Andrew Deamer in 2016
Team entries – & choice of legs ?
The policy over the years has been to enter as many teams as we’ve got Harrier volunteers for - one year we entered 4 teams – and for the past few years that has meant 2 teams, with one designated to make a really competitive effort and the other being to complete the course. It's often been interesting to see how sometimes the so called ‘faster’ runner in the pair of Harrier runners ends up finishing after the other due to some navigational error, and many a bog-seat has been awarded that year as a consequence.
We encourage runners to try a different leg each year as part of the challenge but we’ve also had some Harriers in the past who have insisted on running the same leg year after year – I guess if they win the leg that year then that’s their perogative for the next year. A number of Harriers have won stages, and indeed set stage records over the years, and, as with most races, it certainly helps to have recce’d the stage beforehand to know how to run the stage.
VIRTUAL COTSWOLD WAY RELAY 2020?
The Relay has been held every year since 1994, apart from the Foot and Mouth year of 2001 when all off-road races were cancelled. Team Bath have, on the whole, done a good job of organising and administering what is really a complex set of races on the same day (over 1000 runners as there tends to be at least 100 teams of 10 nowadays).
LATEST FROM ENGLAND ATHLETICS on training & Competitions
Please make sure you keep up to date with the current England Athletics guidance for our sport and follow UK Govt advice to keep safe. It may be that the guidance will be further updated in early July. Check the EA website.
We are still waiting to hear from Millfield about the possibility of us resuming group training at the Track, and surrounding fields. This website will carry the latest updates and an email will go out from Graham to all members to notify you of when group training at the facility is possible. We have carried out a Risk Assessment and have insurance in place which is valid as long as we keep to the Rules that apply at the time.
Keep on Running safe!
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