Strictly speaking, the Parrett Trail relay is in fact a series of races which cover the distance from Steart, near Burnham, to Winyards Gap just inside Dorset. There are six legs of distances from 5.6 to 9.5 miles in length, with legs 2-6 beginning at pre-established start times just before the previous leg’s runners begin to arrive, meaning that out-going runners do not have to wait for an in-coming baton, making timing and the transporting of runners much more manageable. It also means less waiting around and when we consider that the slowest team on the day took an accumulative time of over 11 hours to complete, this was a blessing as night would have fallen and the pub would have shut by the time the leg 6 runner came in!
The legs vary from the pancake flat, long ranging plateau run along the Somerset Levels on leg 3, to the lachrymose hills of leg 6. Some legs are straight forward where the route can be followed easily without prior knowledge of the course (legs 1 and 2), but some legs are very complicated and even with a rekkie run in the bag runners can, and DO, go off course and get lost (the infamous leg 5 being the most higgledy-piggledy).
The Exmouth Men’s winning team were 1st in four of the six legs and finished more than 15 minutes clear of runners-up, South West Road Runners, who might want to re-think their club name if they continue to take on courses as muddy as this one was in places. These were the split times:
LEG 1 (9.1 miles) Berihu Tesfay - 57:57
LEG 2 (5.6 miles) Jamie Palmer - 35:45
LEG 3 (7.7 miles) Marc Cox - 51:40
LEG 4 (7.7 miles) Adam Miller - 51:49
LEG 5 (9.5 miles) Dave Stone - 1:00:23
LEG 6 (8.7 miles) Jamie Pearson - 1:04:07
Total team time: 5:21:41
Thirty three teams completed the competition and the Harriers took a further three sextuplets along. In 9th place was a mixed-gender team which was 3rd of nine teams in this category. With a minimum of 2 females needed for it to count as mixed, making up this team were Cathy Newman, Moira Glen, Terry Oldham, Dave Backway, Dave Wright and Scott Jordan. These were the splits:
LEG 1: Cathy Newman - 1:13:15
LEG 2: Moira Glen - 38:10
LEG 3: Terry- the dark destroyer- Oldham - 1:01:23
LEG 4: Dave Backway - 59:58
LEG 5: Dave Wright - 1:11:27
LEG 6: Scott- 2 Trigs- Jordan - 1:13:50
Total team time: 6:18:03
An all-female team placed 21st overall and 3rd in this category. That team was split evenly between youth and experience with Emma Dupain, Joan Mason, Dawn Teed, Carly Audritt, Lorraine Gilson and Ellie Sutcliffe taking on the 6 legs. Splits as follows:
LEG 1: Emma Dupain - 1:23:13
LEG 2: Joan Mason - 50:28
LEG 3: Dawn Teed - 1:07:50
LEG 4: Carly Audritt - 1:08:15
LEG 5: Lorraine Gilson - 1:35:39
LEG 6: Ellie Sutcliffe - 1:11:45
Total team time: 7:17:10
Finally there was a seasoned Men’s ‘B’ Team of Andrew Johnson, Stan Mason, Dave Eveleigh, Mike Allen, Paul Champion and Pete McKeown, which finished 22nd. Splits as follows:
LEG 1: Andrew Johnson - 1:14:33
LEG 2: Stan Mason - 46:24
LEG 3: Dave Eveleigh - 1:03:35
LEG 4: Mick Allen - 1:28:43
LEG 5: Paul Champion - 1:36:59
LEG 6: Pete McKeown - 1:11:15
Total team time: 7:21:39
Everyone had a superb day out with great camaraderie being the order of proceedings all day long. Some members brought their families along and they all seemed to have a great day too, as did former long-time Harrier member, Jan Moulton, who is over in the UK on a passing visit from her home in Australia: despite a shortage of adequate toilet facilities on route, she too enjoyed herself! Moira managed to find an inventive way of keeping herself warm before the start of her leg, giving us all a good laugh in the process! Joan overcame her phobia of mud and got stuck in (literally!) to run a fantastic leg 2 for the women's team. Pete McKeown managed to complete his leg in a superb time on the back of only 3 hours sleep the previous night and 2 Trigs managed to find his way with no wrong-turns on a self-nav course!!! ;-) And the Winyards Gap Inn is now 1 wine glass short... how did that get into the minibus... Lorraine?!
Special mention must go to Paul Champion who, living up to his name, was the hero of the day as he not only drove the mini-bus all day long from A to B, and back to A again... via C and D, but he also stepped in at the very last minute to cover leg 5 - the longest and most complicated leg - for the men's B team after another Harrier had to withdraw through illness. We are all very grateful: what a Champion!
And last but by no means least we have to thank our mentor, guru, organiser and spirit of the relay extraordinaire, Hugh Marsden. Despite not being able to run himself this year as he was called out to work down in South Georgia earlier than usual, he still did all the organising of the times and the driving drop-offs, of the teams, taking into consideration each runners' strengths and preferences; he ensured that each runner knew their leg and helped to arrange for them to rekkie it beforehand, if not accompanying them in the process, and he inspired many Harriers to sign up and get involved so that we were able to field 4 teams: only the very big local club, Yeovil Town R. R., had more teams entered. So Hugh, if you are reading this from way down south - thank you, and we hope we did you proud by bringing the eel trophey back home to Exmouth!
Lots and lots of photos that capture the spirit of the day to be found below....
Leg 1 runner assemble! Cathy, Berihu, Emma and Andy raring to go at the start, in Steart!
Berihu negotiates a gate and a lot of mud on leg 1!
Andy Johnson making light work of the muddy conditions
Emma raced this 9.1 mile leg then jumped in the car to go and play in a hockey match: what a trooper!
This was just one method that Moira came up with to keep warm before the start of leg 2...
Marc leads the runners out on leg 3, then 7.7 miles later leads them all home
Leg 3 runners disappearing off down the River Parrett near Bridgwater
Dave Eveleigh enjoying a flat and relatively mud-free stretch along the Somerset Levels on leg 3
Terry on leg 3 - he had a cracker!
Mick Allen running alongside the Parrett near Langport on leg 4
Paul and Lorraine dashing to the start line of leg 5 in Kingsbury Episcopi
Leg 5 - the longest and most complicated - gets under way
'I get by with a little help from my friends'! Paul helps Lorraine with the navigation on leg 5 and Lorraine helps Paul up Ham Hill!
Pete McKeown has a superb leg 6, the hillest leg of the course, on just 3 hours sleep!
Scott '2 Trigs' nearly at the top of the last hill and heading for home... well, the pub!
I was happy: I'd just been told the finish (and the pub) is just around the corner!
Parrett Trail crew assemble! (Minus Carly, Adam and Pete who were at the bar!)
And the eel trophy comes back home to Exmouth for the third year running: GO HARRIERS!!