Oct 03

Round Norfolk Relay 2016

Thetford AC took part in the 2016 Round Norfolk Relay last weekend, an event which was celebrating its 30th anniversary this year.


The race heralded the 10th appearance from Thetford AC and the club celebrated by commissioning a bespoke hoodie for the 69 runners past and present who have taken part over the years.

The course of the Round Norfolk Relay roughly mirrors the county boundary over a distance of approximately 198 miles, divided into 17 unequal stages.

The race starts at Lynnsport in Kings Lynn and then, from Hunstanton, follows the stunning coastline through 5 multi terrain stages taking the Norfolk Coastal path as far as Cromer. The 35 miles from Cromer to Great Yarmouth are on the road. The course then turns inland towards Belton, Earsham and Scole before heading towards Thetford, where the majority of teams run along Mundford Road between 1:30 and 4 am. From Thetford the course then heads out towards Feltwell and the remaining 33 miles are run across the flat Fens through the early morning mist. Finally, the race follows the Great Ouse River into historic King’s Lynn with runners passing by the old Custom House, through the famous Tuesday Market Place and then on to the finish at Lynnsport.

This year saw 58 teams, from across the whole country take part in this historic event. The weather on Saturday was less than ideal for running, and the early participants battled 40mph headwinds, high tides and tough terrain. A staggered start based on anticipated finish times saw Thetford AC starting their team challenge at 6am.

First to run was Sean West who battled the last 8 miles of his 16 mile stage through fierce headwinds from King’s Lynn to Hunstanton Lighthouse, to hand the baton to Craig Goldie. Goldie, despite taking a nasty fall following a trip from a loose dog, managed to to pass the baton over safely to Clare Slattery at Burnham Overy. Slattery completed her run under her predicted time, passing it onto Tony Tyler at Wells-Next-The Sea. Another fall due to treacherous underfoot conditions, Tyler continued and handed over to Cliff Lear who was running the notorious stage nicknamed “The Leg of Doom” which included a shingle beach course and the Beeston Bump at Sheringham. At Cromer Tony Cantle took the baton from Lear and it was onwards to Mundesley. Gillian Paremain who was taking part in her 10th Round Norfolk Relay, the only member from the club to achieve this so far, took the baton to the next stage. As the course turned inland and away from the wind, the athletes began to claw back the time lost on the earlier stages. Paremain ran into Lessingham to hand over to Steve Norbury who ran a seasonal best to hand over to Louise White who was waiting at Horsey Mill.

As the light faded, White took the baton through Great Yarmouth and onto Belton. The next runner to take up the challenge was Paul Rayner who was using the 18 mile stage as his last long training run before the Chester Marathon on the 2nd October. Rayner ran a strong leg into Earsham, and passed the baton onto Karl White, who was being supported by his father Brian Wright on the bike. Wright ran exactly to his predicted time to pass onto Sabine Schaefer who was tackling the longest stage of the race (19.67 miles) into Thetford.

Schaefer produced an incredibly strong performance, overtaking many other teams in her run into Thetford. Thetford AC have also for many years provided safety support at the Thetford changeover point. They also provide free tea, coffee and cakes to all the tired runners and supporters, who pass through in the middle of the night, whilst the town sleeps.

Russell Slattery then took the baton from Thetford to Feltwell, and ran well ahead of his estimated time before handing over to Charlie Stone, who was stepping up from the junior section of the club to compete in his first major senior event and take part in his first Round Norfolk Relay. Stone, aged 16, then proceeded to overtake 8 teams in the 7.2 miles before handing over the baton to Adam Sheward, who was also taking part for the first time for Thetford AC.

Sheward produced an incredible run, and finished strongly into Downham Market, to then hand over to the penultimate runner, Amy Spearpoint. Spearpoint managed to claw back even more time and passed the baton over to the final runner, Lucy Tyler at Stowbridge.

Tyler then brought the team home for Thetford in a credible 27 hours, 38 minutes and 34 seconds, an estimated 22 minutes ahead of their predicted finish time.