Gazelles planning virtual relay – with a difference

Norfolk Gazelles have a special event on May 31 Picture: Ceri Theobald

Norfolk Gazelles have a special event on May 31 Picture: Ceri Theobald - Credit: Archant

“Don’t pass it on!” – weird and wonderful batons are the name of the game after more than 30 teams signed up for Norfolk Gazelles Virtual Relay.

With legs taking place in Dubai and Australia, as well as throughout East Anglia, Norfolk Gazelles’ Virtual Relay is a truly inclusive event bringing together teams from all over the county (as well as Suffolk and Cheshire) and has already raised several hundred pounds for two local charities.

The local road-racing calendar is empty because of the coronavirus pandemic and clubs cannot meet up to train in their normal ways. Norfolk Gazelles have set their members a few challenges since lockdown began, including a treasure hunt and a 5km personal-best competition, but they wanted to find an event that would be truly inclusive.

On May 31, Norfolk Gazelles should have staged their annual Alex Moore Relay. Of course, there’s no way this event can take place this year, so Gazelles member Stephanie Brighton hit upon the idea of a virtual relay.

“It’s an inclusive event that isn’t only about the fastest runners but also makes space for walkers, couch-to-5km-ers and those who just enjoy running,” she said. “No matter your ability, you can take part.”

In a ‘normal’ relay, you’d pick a team to cover the distance as quickly as possible – in the Norfolk Gazelles Virtual Relay, everyone’s effort contributes to the team result. In fact, Gazelles already have people taking part who wouldn’t normally enter events or challenges because they don’t think they’re quick enough. The “Don’t Pass it On” relay means that everyone can feel as if they are part of something and their effort – no matter how long – really counts.

And it has caught the attention of the local running community too, attracting runners from more than 30 clubs and workplaces across Norfolk and beyond.

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“We’ve been bowled over by the response from other clubs and workplaces,” said event director David Murrell. “They’ve grabbed it with two hands and are rallying their club members to get involved – we have such a fantastic local running community.”

Starting at 6am on Sunday, May 31, over 17 hour-long legs, runners can take any route they like, as long as they’re moving for the whole hour. Any number of people can run or walk their leg – respecting social distancing rules, of course, and no cycles! The distance everyone covers is turned into a score, and the hours’ scores are added together to create a score for the day.

Obviously runners in the Virtual Relay can’t pass an actual baton to each other, so Gazelles have asked participants to come up with the most absurd, funny, or downright weird batons they can create – as long as they can be carried for the whole hour! As the day progresses, the club will post pictures of the batons on their social media channels.

So how do you score a virtual relay in a way that’s fair to every team?

“A club with more runners would have an advantage,” said Murrell. “But two of our members, John Moore and Nick Ross, have designed and created from scratch a scoring system where every metre run counts. Their online scoring program allows each team captain to enter their team’s distances at the end of each hour, giving us a live leaderboard.”

There will be plenty of competition between running clubs, but the Virtual Relay is really all about bringing runners together.

“It’s based on honesty and fair play,” said Murrell. “We want to bring the wider running community together, be inclusive, raise money for two great causes – the NNUH Charity and Nelson’s Journey - and have fun with a baton while we’re doing it.”

For more information please contact David Murrell on