A Bit Of Race History
1995 saw the running of the first Green Belt Relay. A two hundred mile road
race around Londonís green belt.
Welsh Castles & Round Norfolk Relays were already well established, and
with Stragglers taking part in both these relays each year, we thought, why not
organise one of our own, around London? An idea brought about by the building of
the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge, over the Thames Estuary. This would allow the
event to be a complete loop. Unknown to us, it would prove impossible to get
permission to run across the bridge. However, undeterred, it was decided to
press ahead with the event, finishing one leg north of the bridge, and starting
the next just south of the bridge. The task now was to find a safe, scenic and
direct route along which to run, and to find runners game enough to compete.
first of these took over a year to complete. Many hours were spent studying
maps and having to drive, cycle, run and walk the selected route. Often a whole
dayís work was lost because: a road was reached that was too busy to cross; a
pedestrian tunnel under a motorway had been closed, or a suitable changeover
point could not be found. What soon became obvious was that roads in general
were built to bring people in and out of London and not around it (M25 is an
exception). The final result was a tough and testing course on road, towpath,
bridleway and cross country.
second task was now to get teams to compete. This proved much easier than the
first. In total six teams took part, all coming from the South London Area.
Teams were made up of people of all ages, sexes and standards. The Relay started
on the Thames Towpath at Elmbridge Leisure Centre, heading first west then
north and east around London.
the end of the Day One, after eleven hours of running and over one hundred
miles covered, only thirty three seconds divided the first two teams. These two
teams, Ranelagh Harriers and Stragglerís "A", would widen the gap to
the rest of the field on Day Two, and turn the event into a two horse race. The
final result was a win for Ranelagh by forty minutes, in a time of twenty one
hours and fifty nine minutes.
word of praise to all those who took part. There were very few marshals, no
lead cars or bikes, only some arrows, a map and a brief set of instructions as
a guide, yet no-one got severely lost. I remember walking up to London Marathon
Winners, Hugh Jones, of Ranelagh Harriers, in the Rose and Crown Pub car park
in Sandridge, in the pouring rain. I asked him if he had read his instructions
and was happy with the route. There was no front vehicle, and he would probably
be leading. This didnít seem to affect him. He ran the eleven and a quarter
miles in fifty seven minutes, and came back the next day and produced a similar
performance. This typified the spirit of the event. The relay was treated the
same by everyone: to be enjoyed and to run as well as they possibly could for
the benefit of their team.
years on, we have over forty teams taking part. Yet I know that everyone will
run with the same friendship, competitiveness and good spirit that took place
during the first and each subsequent GBR. †
1995 to 2005 the route consisted of 20 stages totalling 206 to 214 miles. Since
2006 the route has been extended to just under 220 miles and 22 stages. These
changes are done mainly to improve the route and make it safer for runners.
They have often taken place as a consequence of the feedback provided by the
runners. Over 80% of the route is now off-road, the other 20% is on quiet
country lanes or river roads.
only main change to the route since 2006 was in 2012, where stages 2 and 3 had
to be diverted due to Jubilee and Olympic Games preparations. For 2014
we'll divert stage 2 away from the Windsor Horse Show, meaning that stages 1 to
3 are almost entirely along the Thames Path. We try not to mess around
with the course too much but sometimes we have to.
times: The record for the current
course is held by Serpentine with a time of 21 hours, 28 minutes, 40
seconds. This was set in 2011, over a course of just over 219 miles, with
an average pace of 5:53/mile. Ooof. Serpentine have dominated
the event in recent years, with three consecutive victories from 2010 - 2012,
and never being outside the top 2 since 2004.
overall record over the old course was held by Ranelagh Harriers (21 hours 10 minutes
and 15 seconds) set in 2000 over a course of 211.9 miles (avg. pace
5.59/mile). This was over 11 minutes faster than that previously held by
Reading Road Runners, set in 1999 over a course of 211.1 miles (avg. pace
6.06/mile). Ranelagh Harriers also won the event in 2002, and only in 6
minutes slower than their record. This was Ranelagh Harriers third success in
the race, their other being the first one in 1995.
misses: Poole Runners were, at the
time of Ranelagh's old record, the only other club to win the race twice, and
on both occasions were very unlucky not to set records. In 1998 they were
unlucky to have to use a substitute runner for leg 18 and incurred a 10 minute
penalty in accordance with the rules. This was Mike Hoey second run of the day
and third in the race. It was a great effort and a shame a penalty was
incurred. This meant that Reading Road Runners took first place that year by 1
minute and 40 seconds. In Reading's three other attempts they finished second
more it is only bad luck that prevents Poole Runners from holding a record. In
1997 they came close to it, and had it not been for John Boyes running an extra
mile on leg 18 they would surely have taken it (incidentally John came from
behind to win the leg in the last mile and put things right the following year
by knocking 3 minutes off Ian Johnson's (Stragglers) course record for this
leg. In the 1998 event it is likely that they would have bettered it but
John Boyes again went off-course and ran an extra 3 miles on leg 5 (he had won
this leg the previous year).
Ladies: In the ladies event Serpentine were the first
winners and have won nine times overall. They held the ladies' course
record over the old course, running 211.6 miles in 25 hours 2 minutes and 13
seconds in 2005, and hold the current record of 26 hours 5 minutes and 49
seconds for the post-2006 course, set in 2012.
Harriers and Poole Runners have both won the ladies' event on two occasions. In
other years the prize was taken by Dulwich, Ranelagh, and in 2002 the ladies
record fell to South London Harriers in a time of 25 hours, 25 minutes and 10
seconds beating the previous best (set by Dulwich Ladies) by over 42 minutes,
an amazing achievement and one hour and 40 minutes faster than any other ladies
team that year.
Teams: In 2003 the race was won by a
pub team. Sunday Night Shandies, captained by Jim Desmond of Stragglers.
The same year also saw Ranelagh Old Dogs smash the vets course record by 28
minutes and 20 seconds, in an unbelievable time of 22 hours 51 minutes and 25
seconds. Jim Desmond was successful once again with BPTT.Net in 2006.
teams: In 2003 we also had our first
overseas team take part. Wissahickon Wanderers came all the way from
Philadelphia (USA) and finished a credible 19th overall in 27 h 52 m 46 s. In
2004 Flanders Running Club, from Belgium, won the overall prize in a time of 22
h 12 m 17 s. What makes their win even more amazing is that their runner on
stage 3 went wrong and ran 5 miles extra, their average age was 46 and they won
by almost an hour.
year there were about eight hundred arrows put around the course. This was
supplemented by four sacks of sawdust and marshals at over 100 points. This is
only possible with help from all the teams taking part and the dedicated
helpers from the Stragglers.
Davis, the race founder, knows the course from start to finish, but still got
lost in Epping Forest in 1995, Hughenden Woods in 1996 (but still
won both stages by seconds), while Peter Kennedy somehow managed to get lost at
the end of stage 11 having marked the course only a couple of hours before.
have a dedicated team for marking, starting earlier in the week and then
staying barely ahead of the race.
We have always looked forward to seeing teams
from overseas taking part in the relay. In previous years, we had Wissahickon
Wanderers from Philadelphia, Flanders Running Club from Belgium and Silver
Fern Harriers, Kiwis from London taking part. Four years ago we had and a
sole runner from New Jersey, who flew over for the weekend to run with
Stragglers. Have a look at the Flanders
Permission to Run the GBR
run the race we need permission from Hampton Court Palace, the National Trust
(at four different points), BoxHill, Ranmore Common, Hughenden Manor and
The River Wey Navigation, The Royal Estate at Windsor, Epping Forest,
Homebase, Thorndon Park, Lullingstone Park Visitors Centre, three golf courses,
four parish councils, three cricket clubs, Thurrock Hotel, five borough
councils, Emmet's Farm Shop at Little Marlow, the Met. Police, Windsor Police,
Eton College Boat Club, the Royal Parks, Hawker Leisure, Lea Valley Park,
Westminster Lodge Leisure Centre at St Albans, Latimer Park Farm, Thames
Chase, Commons Woods at Welwyn, about fifteen different pubs and a few others.
We thank all these organisations for granting us permission, please respect
their sites so that we can use them in future years.
main reason permission is given, is because the event raises money for charity.
This year the main race charity will be The Children's Trust, based at
Tadworth. Overall the relay encourages clubs / individuals taking part to
collect monies for their own charities. For future years we would like to
encourage charities, corporate, schools, college and others to take part and
raise money for their own charities and causes. In 1997 a group of teachers
from Winston Churchill School in Woking ran and managed to raise almost £7,000
for charity and for disable lifts, for their school. Two years ago the efforts of
mainly one girl from Serpentine raised £800 for charities, and between 2004 and
2009 a team of Olsgbosco Runners (some in fancy dress) raised over £10,000 for
The John Bosco Children's Project. It's amazing what individuals can do, if the
really put their minds to it.