Runners push the boundaries

Runners stream away from the Cranbrook start

The inaugural relay run from Cranbrook in Kent across the County boundary to Rye, took place last Sunday July 12. Teams of runners – mainly from Rye Runners and Cranbrook Joggers, with a few triathletes as well, ran in pairs from Jockey Lane, behind Cranbrook Church, in four stages, finishing at the Cricket Club on the Salts at Rye.

An early short stretch along the road
An early short stretch along the road

The route travelled across country following the High Weald Trail, so keeping the runners off the roads for the majority of the way. Air temperature had dropped from the heat of the previous days making the prospect of a run totalling the 23.6 miles (nearly the length of a marathon) much more palatable and at 11am they were off!

Much of the route was fairly straightforward. However, other sections exercised both the stamina and navigational skills (and in one case, bravery) of the runners. Two of the running pairs take up the story for the third and forth stages of the run:

London marathon veteran, Ted Wilson and his friend Andrew decided to run the last 2 legs of the race which went from Tenterden High Street to the finish line in Rye. He says, “We saw our team mates thundering through Tenterden High Street, where we met them to receive the sashes that travel the whole route. (each team had a different coloured sash that acted as a baton – ed.) We quickly slipped them across our shoulders and made our way down a small alleyway from the busy high street into a big open field where we would then navigate our way back to Rye. It was very strange going from the excitement and cheers of the High Street to being alone in the middle of a field and we struggled to find our first stile, but once we did, we were on our way.

The blue sash of winners Weald Tri Club crosses a field
The blue sash of winners Weald Tri Club crosses a field

“It was a real adventure, of running through woods, jumping over fallen trees and wading through nettles that were taller than me. It was great, we were telling each other how well we were doing for time, and then we arrived at a main road, not the main road we were expecting to arrive at and not the main road we wanted to be at. We were horribly lost. We stood for a few minutes trying to work out how to get back on track as quickly as possible and decided the only way was to return the way we had come. We felt a little deflated but after about a mile we noticed one of the markers for the route and were on our way again. Before arriving at the next change-over station, we took in the countryside, ran up some challenging hills and talked breathlessly about the route.”

Katie Gurney and her running partner, Claire had a more disconcerting experience: “This stage of the run” she remembers, ” started by going down a twitten off Tenterden High Street which quickly took us out into open fields.  We ran up hill and down. We crossed bridges, went over stiles, into spooky woods, where we had to negotiate a fallen tree, and through a corn field where the ground was so dry and cracked we had to watch our step. The most challenging part of the route was having to cross a large field with an enormous bull standing right on our path. With our hearts in our mouths we rose to this challenge by bravely and cautiously skirting the whole field keeping an eye on the beast at all times and adding probably a quarter of a mile to the route.

“The last part skirted around pretty Wittersham,  the final mile being on the road, as the path was overgrown with nettles. This did mean, however, that we could pick up the pace as we approached our team mates to hand over the sash, so they could take it all the way home to Rye. Total miles covered 7.29.”

At last the finish line approaches
At last the finish line approaches

Wilson continues, “At the change-over station at Blackwall Bridge there were people cheering us on, which was much needed at this point as wewere starting to tire a little. The route then carried on up into Peasmarsh where we had a much better understanding of our surroundings. We ran through corn fields and small farms and by this point my legs were starting to tire badly. With no water left and nothing to eat, we knew it was going be a very tough last few miles. It was such a great feeling to see our home town of Rye in the distance, it gave us that little boost we needed to get home. During the final mile we were greeted by fellow runners cheering us in along the way; what a great feeling it was to run all that way and being able to share the experience made it even sweeter. I can highly recommend the route whether you walk, jog or run it, you won’t be disappointed.”

Gurney summed up the experience,”it was great to be a part of such a fun event, we enjoyed it enormously.  It was good to meet members of the other teams and to share an excellent BBQ and a drink with everyone, at the end. I hope this can be repeated in future years.”

For the record, first to cross the line were Stephen Barkess and Matt Briton of Weald Triathlon Club arriving at 2.30pm, although, at the time of writing, their official running time has yet to be confirmed. All participants were agreed that it was splendid event and there seems to be every reason to believe that this could become a regular annual fixture.

Photos: John Minter and Stephen Barkess