Furbank stars in Round Norfolk race

Round Norfolk race director Ian Vaughan-Arbuckle hailed this year's coming of age event. A record 50 teams entered the 21st annual test of endurance across a 17 stage, 193 mile tour of the county.

By PADDY DAVITT

Round Norfolk race director Ian Vaughan-Arbuckle yesterday hailed this year's coming of age event.

A record 50 teams entered the 21st annual test of endurance across a 17 stage, 193 mile tour of the county. Home powerhouses City of Norwich AC clinched a dramatic ninth consecutive club class title - finishing just under six minutes clear of Paddock Wood after incurring a time penalty for a late withdrawal ahead of the opening stage.

History-making Riverside athlete Annie Furbank produced the stand out individual display to become the first female winner of the prestigious Kelly Holmes Trophy for best age-graded performance.

“It was another unqualified success,” said Vaughan-Arbuckle. “Things go wrong, of course, but the atmosphere at the finish with 50 teams coming in one after another was superb. It really is a UK-wide event now - we had competitors from Scotland, Wales, the south west, all over.

“City of Norwich demonstrated tremendous strength in depth. They had two or three call offs before the start and after the final cut off point to confirm teams they had another one drop out through illness. Under the rules we had to impose a time penalty but they still went onto win - although Headington Road Runners posted the fastest overall time across the entire race.

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“Annie Furbank's achievement was simply magnificent. To win the Kelly Holmes Trophy is a notable achievement.”

Vaughan-Arbuckle admitted this year's landmark event was extra special.

“I keep saying it, but this is unique,” he said. “There is no other truly continuous relay race in the country. We have events that call themselves relays, but actually they're a series of races. This is the ultimate team challenge - not just for 17 runners in each team but all the support staff. We had a special cake cutting ceremony at Hunstanton to mark the anniversary with all the original organisers and the mayors of King's Lynn and Hunstanton.”

Vaughan-Arbuckle insisted the event can still grow after stepping down from his race-director role.

“I'm proud to be signing off on such a high note,” he said. “So many people have shown such faith in the event - from the committee to the dignitaries and sponsors. We have volunteers manning change over points at village halls for eight hours at a time. Without them we couldn't have made such unbelievable progress during the last 21 years.

“We've now reached a race ceiling of 50 teams - we actually had reserve teams waiting to step in this year in but every original entrant turned up. I think in the future we can now look to attract one or two really big national clubs.”