Tuesday, 24 January 2017

LC24 - Return of The Warriors

London to Cardiff relay is a race for up to 12 runners and 4 support staff.  The aim is to get from Kneller Hall in Twickenham to central Cardiff in under 24 hours, this is only a 9 min/mile pace continuously - uphill, cross country, through city centres and trying to keep on the right route.  There are no marshals and very limited signs on route.  There are 24 individual stages and 3 team stages.

Most of the team assembled in the overcast car park of the Devizes Rugby Club mid-morning on Friday 10 June 2016. We were to meet 3 of the team at the start at Twickenham and then meet another in Maidenhead after finishing work.

After the team's compelling finishing time of 24 hours and 10 mins in the 2015 race, our start time had been pushed further up the leaderboard, which enabled us a more leisurely journey towards London. The weather was due to be changeable but warm.  We set off with a wave from Mark Owen and arrived in a sunny Twickenham, 2 hours later, to find my brother Richard reading under the shade of a tree.

Inspecting the minibus
The team comprised of 12 runners, 2 drivers and a cyclist to keep the runners company during the longer stages, a task also shared by the runners.

I booked the team in and we changed ready for the task ahead. The start time arrived and the team did a loop of the Kneller Hall sports field, handed the tracker on to Crazy Sam and Matt to head out for the first two stages - Matt cycling the first stage and running the second.  The plan almost worked, had the tracker not been mislaid at the first Check Point (CP) and bike swap over.  Mistake sorted, they ploughed on towards the team now waiting at CP2.  With Richard living locally he drove the minibus for the initial part of the race, avoiding known traffic hot-spots and getting us to the CP's in plenty of time.

Majority of the team assemble at Twickenham
Team briefing time

The first half of the route starts at Twickenham, heads up the Thames to Brentford to pick up the Grand Union Canal.  Through Southall and on to Slough along the footpath, then through Taplow and on to Maidenhead along the roads.  We collected another team member in Maidenhead, we also got a torrential downpour in which Phil was caught.  Sensible Sam, with Helen, then set out in the rain but finished in good time before handing over to Mark.  The race turns north and headed to Henley as the sun was setting.  Cross country and along minor roads from Henley, west to Goring/Streatley.

A quick stop at the Boat House by the Thames in Streatley where they stayed open late for the race to prepare toasties, soup and hot beverages at a sensible price.

Pete finishing his stage at Goring while Matt laughs at his time/pace!!

From here the race goes up onto the Ridgeway, Alan had a long slow 8-mile climb up, under the A34 to the layby north of West Ilsley where the next runner, Ali, took on another 12 miles of trail in the dark.  I took over for the last 6 miles of the Ridgeway then headed north to Wanborough (east of Swindon).  These stages along the Ridgeway are easy enough to follow, however, the path is extremely uneven and even with head-torches very dark.  Only running the stages in daylight during Race to the Stones do you really understand the effort put in to cover these sections at pace.

The last stage of the first half led us to Coate Water Park where a team effort of 2 miles is required.

Don't upset Crazy Sam!!!

Helen set off again across Swindon at a great pace, followed by Matt to Royal Wootton Basset before heading NW to Malmesbury for breakfast, shower and a well-needed change of clothes. The route set off West again to Didmartin, Hawkesbury and then a few long stages out to Thornbury.  The route then headed to the M48 River Severn bridge.  The clouds were low and the rain had started yet again. The far shore kept disappearing behind cloud banks and vertical rain but Nicky and Mark shot off at pace into the gloom.

Nicky ready to run!
Shortly after crossing into Wales the clouds cleared and the sun almost shone!  The route headed south into Mathern, into Caldicot and then on into Newport.  Through the housing estates of Newport (Duffryn) and follow the A48 into the heart of Cardiff.

Breakfast in Wales, somewhere.

I took the last stage.  A dash through the streets of Cardiff, past the City Hall to the finish in Sophia Gardens on the banks of the River Taff.  I arrived a few minutes before the minibus due to traffic but was greeted by my daughter (who was studying at Cardiff University).  Eventually, the bus arrived and we finished the final stages (less Helen who had got stuck in more traffic with husband Craig).

Finally, all reunited, we relaxed for a short while before boarding the bus for a quick exit back across the Severn and home.

The final time 23:30.  We had not only beat the 24 hours, we had done it convincingly.   Would we do it again - HELL YES!!!


The Team:
Drivers - Gordon & Richard
Cyclist - Steve
Runners - Crazy Sam, Ali, Pete, Alan, Malcolm, Matt, Mark, Sensible Sam, Helen, Nicky, Phil and me.

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