Grand effort as runners get set for unique Round Norfolk Relay challenge
- Credit: IAN BURT
Almost 1,000 athletes are bracing themselves for a gruelling event which will sweep across the county this weekend.
Fifty five teams – containing a total of 935 participants – will begin departing King's Lynn at 5.30am tomorrow to take on the 29th staging of the Birkett's Round Norfolk Relay. The 24-hour race, which has 17 unequal stages over 195.73 miles, begins and ends at Lynnsport after taking in a host of terrains and coastline while runners carry their team's baton through their leg and, in some cases, darkness.
Race director Neville Knights said: 'Back in 1987 this race must have been unique, but nowadays there are an assortment of testing races, some over 24 hours, but our race offers a great team event.
'The runners are assisted with a back-up crew comprising cyclists, time keepers, drivers and chauffeurs. Many of the teams also provide marshalls on the course. It provides an ultimate club challenge and requires great team spirit.
'Whilst the ultimate prize is to be the quickest team, there are a host of other categories to be won. In such affection is the event held that individuals cherish the 10 and 20-year mementos that are given out. Some runners like to compete against a certain stage whilst for others the aim is to compete all stages over the years. The event offers individual and team achievements.'
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Forty two different clubs will be represented during the non-stop action – which sees groups of 17 share the responsibility of tackling five- to 20-mile stages that head out to Great Yarmouth and eventually returns to Lynn along the county border.
Cambridge & Coleridge will be difficult to beat if they show last year's form, which saw them set a course record and win by 16 minutes in a total time of 21 hours and 32 minutes.
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Competition will come from, among others, City of Norwich, North Norfolk Beach Runners and Ryston Runners.
Pete Goddard, a regular participant and partner in Birketts' Norwich office, said: 'The race has become an established event in the British Athletics calendar and it attracts top runners from across East Anglia and further afield.
'It is the longest continuous running relay event in the UK and teams will be expected to complete the course in a maximum running time of 28-and-a-half hours, which is an impressive pace of eight minutes and 40 seconds per mile.'
Since its inception about 13,000 runners have taken part in the event, which last year was shrouded in tragedy following the death of Darryl Davis. The 46-year-old collapsed at Cley-next-the-Sea while competing for City of Norwich.