Green Belt Relay – Round 3!

Last weekend was the annual Green Belt Relay, it’s one of the Chasers favourite events of the year and never fails to be an awesome weekend away.

At the start line


The Facts:

  • GBR is a 220 mile running relay around London’s scenic Green Belt
  • The race is made up of 22 stages over 2 days
  • Stages differ in length, terrain, elevation, and navigational difficulty to allow everyone to participate
  • Teams of 11 race 1 leg per day across the 2 days
  • A record 40 teams entered the GBR this year, Chasers made up 3 of them
  • Although the routes are marked, you are reliant on your own navigation to make sure you don’t get lost
  • The smooth running of the event relies on participation from all teams to help marshal each stage and provide water stations
  • It is not flat!

Marshaling duties – Chasers this way, Serpies, errr, that way…image

The Highs:

  • Chasers took 9 stage wins in total
  • Bryn smashed the leg 17 course record by over 3 whole minutes!
  • Leg 3 and Leg 14 were lovely routes
  • There was a pub right next to where Graham and I were marshaling (phew)
  • We got to stay at the high class Miami hotel in Essex again
  • I got to spend the whole weekend with Gemma
  • I didn’t crash a minibus!
  • It was Nathalie’s 30th birthday so there was lots and lots of cake
  • We rescued 2 injured runners from leg 10 and safely got them back to their friends and relations


The Lows:

  • I had a bit of a breakdown on not just one, but both of my stages
  • My legs didn’t work
  • My lungs didn’t work
  • I was a little bit sick in a bush near the River Lea
  • We accidentally forgot to pick up the leg 10 runners at the end of their run – sorry 😦
  • Sleep. There was none
  • A Serpie on leg 17 rudely told our helpful marshals to ‘get out the way, I know where I’m going’ – Simon Barrett, shameful & unnecessary, you give Serpies a bad name


The Learnings:

  • There’s a possibility I still haven’t fully recovered from the London Marathon
  • It’s easier to write the route on your hand than look at a map
  • No matter how many times Gemma tells you how pathetic you are, it won’t make your legs move faster
  • No matter how pathetic you actually are, Gemma will never leave you
  • It’s much more fun to cartwheel and pirouette at the finish line than run sensibly
  • No one can beat Bryn
  • You can always count on Ross to run an extra leg if there’s an injury
  • You can also always count on Ross to wear very tight shorts
  • No one enjoys Ross’s very tight shorts as much as our Barry. He even has a special dance
  • You can’t wash your hair with a bar of soap no matter how hard you try (and Jenn really did try)
  • The Green Belt Relay was, as it always has been, a very well organised, fun and all-round brilliant event


Huge thanks to the Stragglers, and everyone else involved in organising the GBR, and Bryn for organising the Chasers.  Until next year!

The Finish Line


The only real trouble with the Green Belt Relay is that there is no down time, no time for a drink, and definitely no time to pop into a cactus fair…



3 Molehills & a Bit of a Swim

The weather forecast was grim.  Unfortunately, it was also entirely accurate and we were about to take on a muddy 3-person relay event…as solo runners.  Because we don’t believe in taking the easy option.


The 3 Molehills is a race that takes in the three hills of Moles Valley – Box Hill, Norbury Park & Ranmore.  Each leg starts and finishes at Denbies Wine Estate in Dorking and you can either run as a relay team, or all by yourself if you haven’t got any friends.  Turns out I haven’t got any friends so I was in for the solo, all 14.25 muddy, hilly miles of it.

When we arrived at Denbies on Sunday morning it was pouring with rain, soggy, muddy, cold and just a bit miserable.  Why wasn’t I still in bed?


Denbies had opened up early for us which gave us a warm, dry place to get ready with proper cups of tea and real life proper toilets (a runners dream!). Frankie and I met up with some other Chasers and set up base on one of the tables.

Whilst Ross tucked into a pile of sandwiches (breakfast…I have no idea how he can eat so closely to running?!) we discussed the benefits of making a pact to sod the run and just tell everyone we had done it anyway – you know, throw some mud around, take a few snaps running around in the rain and then enjoy the rest of the morning having a chat and a nice cuppa….

Then we remembered how badass we are and badass runners don’t let the weather get in the way of race day fun.

The before shot…


There wasn’t any chip timing but, as the race was quite small (141 solo runners and 82 relay teams), it wasn’t a problem.  It took me most of the morning to decide what to wear, trail shoes? road shoes? long sleeves? waterproof jacket? just a vest?, but I was quickly grateful for the waterproof jacket and gloves I settled for, it was the kind of rain that just wasn’t going to stop.

We set off up London Road for about a mile before turning offroad and heading up Box Hill (it was so wet and misty you couldn’t even see the top at this stage).  The route should have taken us across stepping stones over the River Mole but the water had risen so much you couldn’t see them so we were diverted over the bridge.

This then led to the bottom of 270 steps up to the top before a quick turnaround and down the Burford Slope to the bottom.  We were warned it would be very muddy and slippy and I skated around a fair bit whilst managing to stay upright.  The 1st leg should have been 4.5 miles but my Garmin clocked less than 4, this was dubbed the toughest leg so I didn’t mind!


Back to race HQ and through the handover point we were off on the 2nd leg, Norbury Park.  I think this was my favourite, there was a good mix of road and trail and, whilst the hill was longer, it wasn’t as steep so I managed to keep up a jog for the most part.  At the top there was maybe 1.5 miles on the flat which went down a muddy path and I had a great time running through all the puddles!  I was a bit confused by the man desperately clinging onto the bush at the side of the path to avoid the puddles (maybe this event isn’t for you matey?!) so I powered past and showed him how it was done.

Back into HQ again and nearing 10 miles, I was getting tired.  Little did I know at this point that Si had not only finished the whole thing but he had won the race!

This is Si collecting his winner’s prize whilst I was scrambling up the last hill in the rain trying not to cry.  It’s OK, because Si’s on my team… Well Done!


The final leg, Ranmore Ramble, was a simple out and back, up and down, on the North Downs Way, it was mostly road with a short muddy stretch near the turnaround.  The most depressing thing was that all the quicker runners were coming past me on the descent and heading to the finish, but it did mean I got to see a lot of friendly faces (especially Frankie…I’m not sure I’ve ever seen her as happy as she was flying down that hill in the freezing rain in shorts…must have been the beer at the finish line…)

I ended up walking more of the hill than I should, it seemed to go on forever even though I knew it was only 2 miles before I got to come back down again.  I enjoyed the decline before heading back to Denbies for the final time to the finish.  It took me 2 hours 35 with 14.25 miles on my watch, not my quickest run but with hills, mud, slippy paths and the non stop rain I’ll take it.  I got my medal and was sent to get my beer and chocolate, just what I wanted to hear!

Back inside (I was the last Chaser to finish by a long way) I realised how cold I was when I couldn’t move my fingers to get my gloves off.  I went to get changed quickly before it got worse and noticed that Denbies had now opened to the public – it was full of little old ladies trying to enjoy a peaceful day at the craft fair – sorry!

….and the after shot, I love these guys!


The 3 Molehills is a great little race with a good mix of on and off road, amazing views, fresh air, lung busting hills, enjoyable descents and, with a range of distances available, there’s something for everyone.

It was also superbly organised, with plenty of water stations stocked with sweets and Powerbar gels, and some of the friendliest and happiest marshals I’ve ever come across (much appreciated, THANK YOU).  I really felt for them having to stand still in that miserable weather for hours, they must have been colder than us.

Cheers Mole Valley, I might even be up for this one again 🙂



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Green Belt Relay

Sunshine, map reading, cider, a bus called Phoenix, and running round the M25 – what more could you want from a weekend?!

The Green Belt Relay is a 22-stage race around 220 miles of the Green Belt round the outside of London over a weekend.  Each team has 11 people and the Chasers had 3 teams participating with around 30 others – it looked like it was going to be a scorcher.


My alarm went off at 5am on Saturday morning, which seemed slightly outrageous, but I tried to remember it was supposed to be a fun weekend and dragged myself out of bed.  I met Frankie and we walked to Clapham Junction to meet the rest of the group where our 3 minibuses were waiting.  

As the most important factor of the weekend was to simply enjoy ourselves, Bryn had done an amazing job organising us into teams with a good mix of runners so we could all have a bit of banter and compete amongst ourselves.  This also meant the strongest runners opted for the tougher legs (chose/forced/blackmailed….) which I was eternally grateful for  – I think some of the legs would have almost killed me!

This isn’t your usual kind of race, as there were only 30 odd runners on each leg chances are you would be by yourself for at least some of the race.  One of the race rules is that you carry a copy of the stage map with you, however, for the navigationally challenged (me…Ruth…Hayley…) a map doesn’t always have the answer so I was worried!

Bryn and Hayley had created packs for everyone that included maps of our selected legs, our race number, and details of which minibus we would start and finish the day on so we knew where to put our ‘pre-run bag’ and ‘post-run bag’.  It was quite a logistical challenge to organise 33 people over the course of the weekend and Bryn had clearly put a lot of time into a very complicated spreadsheet outlining timings and locations.  He  really couldn’t have made it any easier for us – which obviously meant we were all confused…turns out we’re not that bright (sorry Bryn!)

We all headed to the start at Hampton Court to collect some race bits and see our first stage runners, Pete, Luke and Marcus, off at 8.30am, before going our separate ways.  We had a group WhatsApp which allowed us to all stay in touch (particularly useful when people still ended up on the wrong bus…Cat, Chris…) and have some banter.  We came up with some team names – Team 1 – Luther Van Lost, Team 2 – No Direction and Team 3 – Marooned 11…

Pre race briefing at Hampton Court


I was in Team 1 and on the second leg with Ruth and Kim which was 9.6 miles from Staines (aaaiiiiii) to Boveney Church.  The route went through Runnymede, Datchet and Windsor, mostly along the river, and had a difficulty rating of 3 out of 10 (with 10 defined as bloody hard!).

All the stages start at a fixed time, rather than when your runner reaches the finish, to make the event run smoothly.  Clutching our maps, the stage was set off at 9.42 and we had a fair few Chasers cheering us over the start line.  It was hot, very hot considering how early it was, so my energy started draining at some point running through a field, getting stung by nettles, that I desperately hoped was the right way after losing sight of the guy in front of me…  Maybe it was time to check the map?

I heard someone shouting my name and realised Kim was just behind me – never been so happy to see her!  We finished the rest of the course together which was helpful as she was a brilliant navigator (having studied the map much better than I had seemed to).  A fair amount of the route was off road, which slowed us down, but it was pretty with a good view of Windsor Castle and there were several marshal points offering water which was gratefully received in the heat!


There were people waiting for us at the finish, cheering us on, and I was done, hot, hot, too hot.  Laying on the grass in a heap Chris said, ‘sorry to rush you but we really need to get going – one of the other buses has broken down’  Uh oh…

Back on the bus I found out that Pete, who ran the first stage for our team, had won it outright!  I wasn’t surprised, he’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-him kind of runner, but I had very much not won my stage so I felt sad about knocking us some way down the leaderboard after we had such a strong start (goal for next year – learn how to run).

The 2 functional buses made their way to the broken bus (later to be named Phoenix after it was resurrected) so we could rearrange people and get runners to stage 5 at Great Kingshill.  Unfortunately, this meant we were delayed and Mike, Frankie and Cat started 25 minutes late – not ideal for a 13.5 mile leg rated 10…aka bloody hard.

A broken down Phoenix…


We collected the stage 4 runners from Great Kingshill (having also ran a 10/10 leg) and headed to stage 7 in St Albans to be reunited with Phoenix (which was now working) so some of us could marshal and welcome the stage 6 runners, Chris, Clare and Sophie, home.  

Phoenix had turned everything into a bit of a logistical nightmare with some runners not getting their bags at the end of their runs, people in different places than planned, more drivers needed (Pete ended up spending most of the day driving) and people having to swap legs, but we wouldn’t let it ruin the day! 


A group of us on Phoenix went to marshal stage 10, somewhere in Essex, and we found out Hayley had also had a fantastic run to win her stage, not only for the ladies and Chasers (and Team 1) but outright – she’s pretty phenomenal! 

During my marshaling responsibilities I accidentally sent a Serpie the wrong way – I genuinely didn’t mean to but it put Chris in second place who was conveniently a Chaser!  After we sent the final 2 runners in the right direction (who ignored the map and got completely lost) it was time to head to the end of the last stage of the day to welcome the Chasers home.  

We also discovered that bloody Phoenix also didn’t lock very easily – you wouldn’t have though it was a brand new vehicle…maybe Phoenix is an ex Serpie bus?

Chris and I trying to be helpful


As it was now about 8pm, and we had a table at Strada booked for 9, we needed to go straight to the restaurant without a post run shower, lovely!  The Saturday night Chelmsford clientele were clearly unimpressed with our efforts, and we got more than one  funny look – Steve still had mud on his face!  

I suppose it might be the first time they’ve seen a group of sweaty, smelly runners, possibly ever, but definitely traipsing through their town whilst they were ready for a night of twerking in 5 inch heels, 2 inches of make-up and an orange tan – there was definitely twerking, we witnessed some (poor) twerking.

After some food and much deserved wine we headed to the Miami Hotel (Essex’s finest) and got to bed sometime around 1am.  And how did the teams stand?  We were in 9th, 10th & 11th overall (pretty good considering the 25 minute penalty) – Chasers 3, 1 and 2 respectively – with very little in it there was all to play for in day two!


Sunday’s 6am alarm was delightful and we were off again.  I was on the second leg on Sunday, a shorter 6.6 mile stage from Thorndon Park to Cranham, with Clare and Sophie.  It was only rated 2 out of 10 but it warned it was a complex, twisty course with a mixture of fiddly urban turns, woods and fields – what could go wrong?  Our minibus headed straight to Thorndon Park  and we sat in the sun studying the map – I was determined to be more prepared today, it felt a bit like revising for an exam.

As we set off I was pretty confident I knew the map – but that didn’t mean it would make sense in real life (for example, does coming off of a dirt track onto grass mean the end of a path?? Apparently not…).  I enjoyed the run a lot more than Saturday even though it was still hot – the course went through some wooded areas and there was a fair amount of downhill.  It went well until around 5 miles where I came across the is it/isn’t it the end of the path bit but eventually I came out of the woods and down the home straight.


Sunday went a lot more smoothly with all buses in order, although I think Sophie would say her stint behind the wheel through very narrow country lanes was tougher than her running stages, I didn’t envy her!  There were some more tough legs today, including a hilly 13.3 miler, which the boys nailed, and a technical route along the North Downs Way finishing at the top of Box Hill, everyone ran really well.

Our bus (Phoenix, obviously) didn’t have marshaling duties today so we concentrated on dropping off and picking up runners before finding a spare half an hour later in the day for a vodka and diet coke in a can – cheers!

Yep, we took a selfie..


The final leg finished at Hawker Leisure Centre in Kingston where there was a lot of support for the final runners, Juan, Natalie (first lady!) and Ruth, and there were drinks and a BBQ.  It was time to celebrate!

The final results put the Chasers teams in 8th, 9th and 10th overall with Team 1 in the lead clocking a total time of 27 hurs 56 mins – job done!  After some drinks in Battersea, Frankie, Sham and I couldn’t resist last orders in the pub on the way home…



The Green Belt Relay was an awesome weekend with awesome people – thanks to everyone who came, especially Bryn, for being an organisational genius, and all the drivers who became experts at maneuvering minibuses everywhere from country lanes to car parks to motorways.  

I genuinely can’t think of a better way to spend my weekend than running round the M25 in the sun!  It seems the only people who believe me are the ones I was with…

Can’t wait for next year, but Phoenix is most definitely not allowed to come!


Parklands Relays – My 1st competitive run for the Chasers

The Richmond Park Hare & Hounds Relays was my first opportunity to sign up for a competitive event with the new club.  The teams would be made of 4 people for the boys and 3 for the girls and each runner would cover about 5k. Easy run with some beautiful scenery right?


After the 1st track session (you remember, where I was trying not to vomit at back of the pack?!) I was a little worried about my time.  However, I was promised a fun evening that was open to everyone and all you had to do was indicate your current 5k time when you signed up so they could match the teams accordingly.

I can’t remember the last time I ran a 5k so I took a punt with 23 mins assuming, if anything, I would be faster.  Turns out that was a pretty good punt, I went through 5k on Saturday Nights’ race almost bang on 23 minutes and that was with 5k left to go so I was confident I hadn’t oversold myself.

I was excited, but nervous, not made any better by having to get a bus to the South side of Richmond Park, buses in London can be tricky if you don’t know where you’re going. Luckily I spied some fellow Chasers on the bus so I quickly made friends so we could all get lost together!

Richmond Park is stunning, even more so on a sunny evening in May. We arrived and set up camp near the start as more Chasers started to arrive.  There were several local clubs involved, including the Sheen Shufflers where I finally got to meet fellow blogger and tweeter Cat Simpson (who is so speedy she came 3rd in the Richmond Marathon just 2 weeks after smashing the London Marathon!)


Naomi & Rob, who had done an awesome job of sorting out all the teams, gave me my race number and I met Jos & Ruth who made up my team.  They both looked pretty fit and fast…I was pretty sure I was going to have to run until I felt like my heart was going to explode just so I didn’t embarrass them.

I was on the 3rd leg, not really what I wanted but, in hindsight, it was better than the 1st where everyone was on top of each other. Then they were off!  Now, these are club runners, club runners are fast and the boys (and some of the girls) practically flew, I don’t think I could ride a bike that fast!  The 2nd boy on the first lap was a Chaser, awesome work!

Jos put in a good run and was the 2nd girl Chaser to come through, a tap of the hand and Ruth was on her way. It was pretty chilly in the wind so I did a bit of jumping around trying to get my nerves under control, it’s only 3 miles, it would be fine.

Ruth was quick and she was the 1st girl Chaser through on the 2nd lap, ohhhhh the pressure! I know we’re not competing against each other but I still wanted to do a good job. She tapped my hand, wished me luck and I started moving my legs as fast as they would carry me. After about half a mile I reached the ‘feeling like I was about to have a heart attack’ phase so I knew I was on pace…

The course was well signposted which was helpful as I couldn’t see many people around at all. There were a few runners heading back the other way, I’m not quite sure what they were doing but they all gave me some encouragement which is always nice to hear!

It was obviously a trail run, and fairly hilly, so it was tough to keep a strong pace in places but it was a beautiful place to run, especially through the pond area. Somewhere towards the end I was overtaken by one of the girls from our club, she’s a pretty speedy mover so I wasn’t surprised, she shouted some encouragement and flew by. Unfortunately she pulled over to be sick for a few moments which meant I ended up finishing a few seconds before her. I felt bad, she ran the route about 2 minutes quicker than me so deserved to come in first.

Despite not wearing a club top, the Chasers recognised me and started cheering as I came through the finish, first Chasers team home for the girls!! I measured 2.75 miles on the Garmin and finished in 21.16, it wasn’t fast but it wasn’t bad and I didn’t feel like I’d let the team down. My first competition for the club and I had really enjoyed it!

Come on Chasers!


Final Result? We placed 14 of 37 (Ladies) and our fastest boys came in 3rd overall!