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A Visit to the Palace and not to meet the Queen

We asked Neville for a update from the races at Crystal Palace, but Katie also did a video from the event which is at:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_pmmhZehSEM

This is Neville’s report

After many month of planning and much cajoling, Sunday morning arrived and the merry gang met at a deserted carpark in Tongwell at 10am to venture down to the Big Smoke to mix it with the bigger boys and girls of the running world. Representing Redway runners in the ladies’ team were Julie Martin, Sarah Buck, Abi Gooch and Katie ‘Clean Coach’ Tucker, the senior men’s were Genci Pepaj, Andy Peak, Dan Hippey, James Down, Andrew Dodds and Ben Fairhall, the Vets team (those who should know better) were led out by Adrian Maidment, followed by Paul Clifford Jones, Neville Rowles and then Genci Pepaj.

Spirits were high as we boarded the fun bus in the sun and prepared for the trek down the M1 to Crystal Palace, unfortunately we were ‘one down’ due to injury and debate ensued as to who would ‘take one for the team’ and do a double session. The debate didn’t last long as despite putting my hand up to have a go, I was ousted from volunteering by the very fast Genci and happily let him step into the fold of a double trip on the pain train !! We were also rather nervous at this point as two members of the team were making their own way, one because he had been visiting friends in London the night before (Ben) and one because he was struggling to return from holiday courtesy of the Ryan Air rescheduling challenges (Andrew)… the fear amongst the senior men’s team could be both felt and smelt as they worried who may have to step into the breach and do a double !!

After a painless if slow journey down and the usual stop for coffee we arrived at the once grand Crystal Palace and prepared ourselves for the racing. We sought out numbers and prepared our teams for the onslaught by calmly finding seats in the stand and having a general chit chat !! Nerves were clearly showing in different ways as we looked at the activities going on around us. There were lots of people hanging around and some (most ) of them looked very fast.

Soon the ladies were called to the start line and after a brief interlude, Abi was launched into the fray and set off around the track and out of the stadium, cantering off on the alleged 4500 meter course. Apparently it was a trek up the hill , a little loop then across the flat and back down the hill and into the stadium for a lap of the track for the handover. Before we knew it the leaders appeared, closely chased by a red faced Abi completing her leg in 15.27 who handed over to Sarah, it wasn’t long before Sarah too was back, again red faced and sweaty in 16.42 who handed over to Jules, completing a much shorter event than usual, by now the leaders were chasing around in what can only be described as ridiculous speeds and were starting their final legs, I began my warm up outside of the stadium, so missed Jules coming in but was passed shortly by the fantastic ‘Clean Coach Katie’ as she shot off up the hill. Checking the results, Jules finished in 16.09 and Clean Coach did exactly as the last leg runner should do and did the fastest leg in 15.05. An amazing result from the ladies finishing 56th out of 82 teams and only just being pipped by local rivals Marshal Milton Keynes.

Now that the ladies had done their graft it was time for the men to step up to the plate and do our shift, we had a slightly different course, allegedly 6,000 meters and was two big laps of the circuit. We had split into two teams for the events, one over 40s team and one Senior men’s team, thankfully, yours truly was in the over 40s which gave me an excuse to be able to run slower!! The course was a fascinating one for us all as we shot off around the track and out of the stadium along a lovely flat road and, as most would agree, probably did the first half mile way too fast as adrenalin and nerves took over. Worry not, there was a hill, a steep one through the trees that took the speed from the legs and slowed us right down to a more realistic pace, just as one crested the hill and the slope eased we realised that it was an optical illusion akin to the old watering hole in the desert as it kept on going up but just at a more gentle pace, we then proceeded to run along a flat bit at the top of the park before coming back down the hill in a less scenic part of the park and were teased with the stadium before being sent off to do it all again !!

The senior men came in at 65th out of 91 with the times as Genci 16.16, Andy P at 18.44, Dan at 18.59 , JD at 19.04, Andy D at 18.44 and Ben at 16.45. An absolutely cracking result all told. The vets did an amazing job with Aidy finishing in 19.01, Paul CJ at 18.59 and Nev at 19.39. Unfortunately the SEAAA were unable to sort their timing process out and somehow Gencis time was not recorded so we were left as an incomplete so finishing 29th from 30 teams but Gencis watch time would have got us to 15th which would have been fabulous. SEAAA have yet to respond for their incompetence!!

We sat and watched the rest of the seniors race taking place and cheered on Ben and Andy whilst gorging ourselves on ice-cream and watching as Genci proceeded to run around and around just to get his mileage up!!

A great afternoon competing with the ‘sharp end’ of Road racing and despite the SEAAA trying to ensure that the clarity in results was clouded in mystery we had a great time and all representing green did an outstanding job. A special mention to Aidy for driving the fun bus and taking us on the longest route ever through southwest London to return home, to Abi for the provision of the essential refreshments after of prosecco and for Genci for taking one for the team and doing a double leg, despite the SEAAA not actually recording the time of his final effort. Nice job