Hill pledges to challenge local teams

Norwich clubs dominated the 25th running of the Round Norfolk Relay at the weekend – but they could face a major challenge from one of the leading names on the distance running scene.

Guest of honour, former Olympian and European and Commonwealth champion Ron Hill was so impressed with the unique event that he has promised to rally the troops from the north of England to take on the locals next year.

That will include Norwich Road Runners, who, for the second year running, won the Club class, finishing the 195-mile, 17-stage event in a time of 21 hours 41 minutes and 29 seconds. Stage winners included Paul Higham, Alex Smith, Ben Russell, Simon Millett and Chas Allen.

Club coach Ivan Colman said: 'We all had a fantastic weekend which would not have been possible had it not been for the timekeepers, team captains, drivers, cyclists and most importantly the runners. We had lots of laughs but are now all very, very tired.'

The Norwich club also won the Masters class from local rivals City of Norwich AC.

Ely Runners beat City of Norwich to take the Open class and the ARC Trophy and in the only record set this year, City of Norwich ladies completed the course averaging an impressive seven minutes and 34 seconds throughout the distance and in recording 12 individual stage wins (men & women) CoNAC easily outran their rivals.

'Ron Hill was very complimentary,' said Ian Vaughan-Arbuckle, who was bowing out as race director. 'But he now has it in mind to sort out a team from the north to challenge the Norwich teams. He was absolutely fulsome in his praise of the event.

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'It is unique, no doubt. There are other races they call relays but they are not relays in the true sense of the word - they don't carry a baton and they stop their races and start again, whereas we are continuous.'

The logistics of running part of the event through the night can be hazardous, but there was only one hitch this year – and one which was easily dealt with.

'There are always going to be little things that go wrong,' said Vaughan-Arbuckle.

'The only issue we had was concerning the two level crossings in Downham Market – the one we were told would be closed was open, and the one we were told would be open was closed.

'But we sent texts to the team, made a short diversion and no one was affected so it proved that our emergency systems worked perfectly.'

It was an emotional finale for Vaughan-Arbuckle, who has directed all but one of the 25 races.

'At the end of the prize giving, which lasted one hour and 20 minutes, I was given a standing ovation and that speaks volumes,' he said. 'Yes, it was very emotional.'

That prize-giving included Nigel Rackham (Metros) and Philippa Taylor (CoNAC) who were the best Masters, with Clare Durrant (Ely Runners) and Ben Russell (Norwich (Road Runners) the best seniors. Damian Rogers, of CoNAC, won the Richard Nerurkar trophy for the best junior (under 20) while Issy List, of Colchester Jaguars was the best junior female.

Running the 9.24 mile stage seven, 54-year-old Robert Cheverton, of CoNAC, won the coveted Kelly Holmes trophy with an 87.56pc age-graded performance.

Ron Hill presented his trophy for the best family to Martin, Robert and Andrew Simmonds, of Ryston Runners, with an impressive aggregated age-related score of 74.23pc. Great Yarmouth Road Runners received their 20-year appearance award while 23 individual 10-year appearance medals were presented.

Roman Runners, a team from 16 Air Assault Brigade stationed in Colchester, who have just returned from Afghanistan, were the best debutantes, while Coltishall Jaguars took the Best Small Club (under 80 adult members) for the second year running.