Planning Your Race - Some Advice
1. Picking A Team
Captain: As captain, it is your job to get your team round safely. You will need to be in frequent touch with the organisers, and you will need to attend the captains' briefing prior to the event. It is a big job but one you will get a lot out of too.
Standard: The race is open to all standards of runner. Cut-off times are published for each stage, but we're not going to stop you if you're outside this - the main point of the cutoff is to make sure you are not excessively penalised if one of your runners struggles to complete a stage.
Difficulty: We have assigned difficulty ratings to each stage, and some of them are quite tough, but there's a good mix and some gentle ones. Running on two consecutive days isn't too bad - certainly there are a few stiff legs on the Sunday stages but it's easier than you might think.
Navigation: The course is complex and people do sometimes go wrong, but this race does not require any unusual navigation skill - this isn't an orienteering event. If you bring and follow your map, marshals and the course markings there's no real reason to worry. See below for some tips.
Commitment: Running the race and fulfilling marshalling duties is a major commitment, so make sure your runners understand that. From experience, the successful teams are the ones whose runners get themselves to stages on time, and who bring their maps and follow them, not necessarily the fastest ones.
If you enter a team, you are also making a commitment to help us marshalling the race. This is not complex, but you need to take it seriously and have the equipment (we will provide you with vests, "caution" boards, water, cups) and your plan needs to make sure you will be able to get to your marshal points with enough people, as well as getting your runners to and from their stages.
We will work with you to get marshalling points which suit you - some teams prefer to marshal a single stage and get it out of the way in one go, some prefer to spread this out across the race.
We have a risk assessment which lists the hazards and mitigations on which our maps and marshalling plans are based - see "race safety". Your runners must pay attention to the warnings on their maps and listen to marshals.
Public transport is a possibility for the first and last stages of the race, and access to other stages is feasible too (see here), but to follow the race you will need road transport.
Some clubs co-ordinate minibuses, some split into several different cars. The main planning point is that the race moves fast. Stages start before the previous one has finished, so it's easy to fall behind. You will need to get your runner to Stage 2 well before your Stage 1 runners has finished, and by the time they're done and recovered you'll be too late to get your runner to Stage 3. Teams need to alternate - many clubs have cars/minibus doing alternating stages (so bus A does 1, 3, 5 etc., and bus B does 2, 4, 6, etc).
It's worth having a Satnav as well as a detailed map, and it's worth reading our driving directions which we will provide in the race booklet. Some of the changeovers are in quite obscure places which you won't easily find, so you do need to look at the detailed instructions. If you haven't got your instructions with you, you're never going to find (for example) the Stage 20 start, even by asking the locals. We provide map references and postcodes for these on the maps and the instructions as well as directions and tips from experience.
This race is over a busy weekend, and follows plenty of narrow, fast roads. You may find heavy traffic (especially in St Albans) and you should drive carefully at all times - don't risk your lives just to avoid being a bit late for a stage.
The course is a complex one, and some stages can be quite fiddly. It may look clear when you read the map beforehand, but it's hard to read while running and it's easy to miss markers.
We have also had challenges in the past with route markers being removed or simply forgotten - this is a 220-mile route so it's impossible to cover everything.
If you don't want to get lost, here are some things you can do:
1. At the very least, read your map in detail before you run. Read the overall summary, the detail pages (which pick out areas where you could go wrong), and the tips at the end, and listen to the marshall instructions at the briefing and during the race.
2. Better still, read your map and spend a bit of time on Google looking at what it actually looks like. If you can get to the point where you can pick out your route on the overhead photos (which from experience takes about an hour), you'll know just where you are when you run.
3. Even better than that, you can follow the links on the "course details - runners" pages to find the route all mapped onto MapMyRun, from where you can download the GPS co-ordinates. You can load these on a Garmin or a phone app, and it will tell you if you've gone wrong. These aren't foolproof (I've lost signal on the North Downs Way before) but they're pretty good.
4. And even better than that, if you really want to win a stage, go and practice the route beforehand.
There are many ways of doing the Green Belt Relay - some follow the whole race, some just turn up for their stage and find their way home. Following it round is a great experience - support your team's runners, cheer the other clubs, keep up to date with the current race positions, or just pass the time in one of the many cafes and pubs near the changeover points.
The pretty village of Blackmore hosts the finish of Stage 11 at approx. 7:40pm on Saturday evening, with the last runner coming in about 8:30pm. Blackmore then hosts the start of Stage 12 at 08:00 sharp on Sunday morning. The village has three lovely country pubs and is a great way to end the day. Blackmore is about 90 minutes drive back to the Kingston area, but maybe the better option is to get accommodation nearby and relax and refresh with your team. There isn't a lot of accommodation in Blackmore itself, but there are plenty of places to stay around Brentwood or towards Dartford to suit all tastes and budgets, and many teams take the opportunity to relax with some refreshments, reflect on the day's achievements, and plan the final day.