Exe-rated runners!

Exe-rated runners!
The successful Harriers team, en masse, at the Erme Valley Relays, July 2013

Monday, 18 June 2012

Harriers go Coast-to-Coast!

All the coast-to-coasters assemble at Wembury for a photo-call before the relay gets underway.

On the weekend of 16th / 17th June, many Exmouth Harriers took part in a new event: the Coast to Coast relay. The brainchild of Sir Terence Oldham, esq., this event was designed to be both a social get together, with overnight camping and food / beverage consumption involved, but also to be a challenging run across the beautiful Devonshire countryside. You will see from the report below that this first event was a huge success. Terry has of course thought to thank everyone involved for making it all go so smoothly and for making sure everyone had fun and stayed safe, however, he has, in his infinite modesty, forgotten to mention his key role in the affair: basically, without Terry, this event would not have gone ahead. It could now become an annual fixture on the calendar, with the possibility of opening it up to other clubs in the future and holding it as an extended relay race, similar to the A.V.R. organised East Devon Way relay. So Terry, on behalf of the Harriers, thank you for all the time, effort and energy you put into organising this inaugural event, which was enjoyed by all involved and will hopefully be the first of many.

Read on for Terry's report:

‘There has been some debate amongst the thinking classes as to what elements make up ‘Englishness’. On Sunday morning over breakfast at the home of Dawn Teed and Hugh Marsden, John Goss-Custard opined that the central characteristic of being English was an obsession with weather conditions. He is surely right with that, and for those taking part in the Coast to Coast, the weather was the topic of conversation for most of the weekend.

The Coast to Coast (being the south Devon and north Devon coasts) long distance footpath is some 117 miles long, linking Wembury (near to Plymouth) with Lynmouth. The distance is a challenge, as are the many hills, valleys, rivers, streams, meadows, woods, high moorland, and low swampy fields, which are crossed in making that journey. So, the best course of action is to choose a weekend in mid June when the weather conditions will be ideal, with sunshine, dry paths, and perhaps a cooling wind. Well, the choice was made but the weather clock appeared to have stopped sometime in February, so Saturday featured strong to gale force winds, and heavy drenching showers of rain whipping across the hills of Dartmoor.

Did this make any difference to the Exmouth Harriers band of runners and supporters who were going to tackle the challenge? Not the slightest difference.

The dramatic moment of the selecting of the relay pebble: which pebble would be the lucky chosen one? All the pebbles on Wembury beach looked on in anticipation that today would be their day to finally get out of the south and head north!

At 8.20 am sharp, after the ceremonial lifting of the pebble on Wembury beach, the first two runners, Bob Keast and Stan Mason, set off up the track away from the beach and heading north. Waiting at Yealmpton (pronounced ‘yamton’) was Lorraine Gilson, Dawn Teed and Nigel Dupain, to take the pebble and race on with the assistance of the strong tail wind. After what was described by Nigel as a ‘flat course’, they arrived at Ivybridge in good heart, to pass on the pebble to Hugh Marsden and Adam Miller. The next leg was anything but flat, leading up from Ivybridge and right over the top of the moor. This was when the rain came and swept with Hugh and Adam over the next 15 miles to Holne.

Stan Mason and Harriers Chairman, Bob Keast, had the honour of running the opening leg.
Here they are at the end of their leg, arriving into Yealmpton, on time for the handover.

Nigel Dupain, Dawn Teed and Lorraine Gilson ran the 2nd leg, with some welcome tail-wind assistance, from Yealmpton to Ivybridge.
In Ivybridge Adam Miller and Hugh Mrsden took over the batton... well, the pebble, and ran the third leg - a particularly taxing leg up onto Dartmoor.

Waiting at Holne church were Moira Glenn, John Goss-Custard and Dave Eveleigh. Pebble passed and away, they went heading via Hameldown to Hookney Tor. At this point, a combination of weather conditions and challenging hills slowed the group down so that Katie Comer and Terry Oldham were set off without the original pebble, but safely in charge of back up pebble no 2! Their destination, via Fernworthy, was Dogmarsh Bridge, and after an exhilarating descent down to the valley they had made good time to the change over point, so waiting but not quite ready, were Dave Backway, Scott Jordan and Marc Cox. However, having taken charge of the pebble, they were soon away heading along the Teign to Castle Drogo and onwards towards Colebrook.

Dave Eveleigh, Moira Glen and John Goss-Custard had some particularly inclement weather conditions on their leg, which took them across the high moor from Holne Church to Hookney Tor.

The route of the Coast to Coast (which is now following the Two Moors Way) is less than straight forward at times, and a few route variations were thrown in by the trio, as clearly 12 miles was never going to be enough for them. However, they were safely scooped up by the support vehicle at Colebrook and delivered safe and sound to Thorne Orchard which was the overnight stop for the event. So, that was day one of the running all done, and it was time to get the tents up and the barbecue on. Remarkably the rain had stopped, and with the kindness and hospitality of Dawn and Hugh, this was a wonderful evening chatting about the adventures of the day and consuming the odd glass or two of wine.

The next day brought some better weather and left Scott questioning Dave's dubious choice of footwear...

Too cool for school! The boys contemplate day 2...

Day 2 dawned bright and sunny and promised much better conditions for the day. After a leisurely breakfast, the first two runners of the day, Lorraine Gilson and Dawn Teed, were kitted up and ready to go. Off they went leaving Thorne Orchard at about 8.05 am and once more heading north. Little did they know just how far they were going to be running that morning! As they were running north, the support vehicles headed out and were safely waiting at Withyridge village hall

Lorraine Gilson and Dawn Teed kicked off the proceedings on day 2 and left the overnight camp venue (Hugh and Dawn's house - thank you for the hospitality!) in the sunshine!

 Unfortunately, a combination of factors meant that Lorraine and Dawn were delayed (including a land owner deliberately removing and or destroying footpath signs), so Dave Backway, Scott Jordan and Marc Cox, set off without them, their destination being Knowstone some 8 miles away. Waiting for them at the church was Elaine Kale and John Goss-Custard, who set off in bright sunshine, just as Dave, Scott and Marc came careering down the hill in to the village, looking tired but relieved to have made good time without deviation.

Here come the lads! Dave Backway, Scott Jordan and Marc Cox take an 8 miler from Withyridge to Knowstone in their stride.

Following a few navigational hiccups, Lorraine and Dawn ended up running farther on their leg than they had bargained for, so a welcome dip in the river to refresh the legs was called for!

Waiting at Hawkridge, the full complement of runners and support team were now back together, and Nigel Dupain and Chris Dupain, set off along the valley of the Barle towards Withypool. While Lorraine washed her legs in the river surrounded by the paparazzi, Hugh Marsden and Adam Miller were limbering up for the short but fast leg from Withypool to Simonsbath. Pebble in pocket, following a cracking run by Nigel and Chris and handover, they shot off along the road out of the village.

Father and son team, Nigel and Chris Dupain, ran a lovely stretch along the Barle Valley to Withypool.

Once again the vehicles rolled north, and as Hugh and Adam made their way by a more circuitous route, the final team of Katie Comer and Terry Oldham, were getting ready for their arrival and the ascent out of the valley to Exe Head. Once again Hugh and Adam made short work of their leg and the last 12 miles of the route lay ahead. Those 12 miles sum up the footpath in that it gives you close to a heart attack on the climbs but leaves you with wonderful memories of views across the hills and valleys, and on this leg the added bonus of the sea and the south Wales coast in the distance. In addition, the steep sided valley leading to Lynmouth has an almost Alpine feel to it, particularly the cruel zig zag descent followed by a crueller zig zag ascent, and the final adrenalin descent to the finish at the beach by the Rising Sun pub. Waiting their, refreshed by fish and chip suppers and a glass of beer, the support team clapped Katie and Terry in, who once again made good time, and the run was over.

The final ritual was played out in front of the cameras as the south coast pebble found itself nestling amongst its north Devon counterparts, watched by a curious and slightly baffled set of tourists and Manwell, Katie’s dog.

So, what was the score? A total time taken of approximately 20.2 hours to do the 117 miles (although that time is adjusted to take account of various factors) and so giving an average of 10.2 minute miling. A number of runners, Hugh and Adam in particular, were a lot quicker than that, and others were slower, but overall the team effort gave the predicted pace of 10 minutes a mile, which is not bad going for cross country running and on a course many had not even seen before.

It is hoped that all who took part will have some fond memories to take away with them, and a few smiles too as to comments made and jokes shared. A very big thank you must go to Janice Comer who drove the mini bus and miraculously took the bus through some of the narrowest lanes in Devon without a scratch. But the biggest thanks must go to Dawn Teed and Hugh Marsden for their hospitality and the never ending supply of tea and good food at their home on Saturday evening and Sunday morning.

Will this event happen again? Well, there was already talk about ‘next year’ on the Saturday and a suggestion that we go from North to South, so why not?’

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