"If you are losing faith in human nature, go out and watch a marathon."
I have to say I was very confused when I saw two women in the race changing rooms wearing full length head-to toe white outfits, until I realised they were in fancy dress as Princess Leia and it was May the fourth. Not being a Star Wars fan, it took a while for the penny to drop that it was Star Wars day. There were two relay teams in full Star Wars costumes, which looked like it could prove a struggle on a relatively hot day on an undulating course in the Dorset countryside (no sign of Chewbacca, I guess that costume would have been a step too far).
When I ran the full marathon in 2011, I had seen the relay teams at the changeover points, so thought it would be a good race to enter with potential for a ladies team to do well. HERC had 3 relay teams in the race: Team Cake (a ladies team), Team Gump (a mens’ team) and Team Cougar (a mixed team, including our “ladies man” Rocket Robson). Team Cougar had ran the race in 2013 and given positive reports. We also had several Hedgies running the full marathon and I have to admit as we were standing around in the school before the race start I was quite relieved to only be running 4.8miles, rather than the full 26.2.
Claire Powell got our team off to a great start and the HERC convoy, led by Giuseppe, managed to get to the first changeover point in the middle of rural Dorset without getting lost. There was a great feeling of excitement and anticipation as we watched the first runners coming through, cheering them on loudly in true Hedgie style, whilst keeping an eye out for the relay runners.
Claire handed over to me to run the second leg, described on the website as the shortest, but most undulating leg. It was tough going running in the rolling countryside and I found myself wondering how on earth I had managed to run the full race a few years before. I was very glad to see Kelly jumping and waving enthusiastically as the next changeover point approached. Kelly’s leg was the longest at nearly 8 miles, so it gave us a bit of time to wait at the changeover point, chat to other Hedgies and have a bit of banter, before getting in the car to drive to the last changeover point.
Kelly ran a superb leg and as she passed the baton over to Anna (our secret cake-eating weapon), we were the 2nd placed ladies team. We got in the car for the final drive to the finish (passing Jo Labram, looking strong at 20 miles). We took the Team Cake name literally and managed to feed Jo some chocolate crispie cake out the window of the car (it was her birthday after all!). Unfortunately my navigational skills were not up to scratch and we got slightly lost amongst the country lanes, but managed to get back to Sturminster Newton, park the car and run to the finish line, just as Anna crossed the line. Strong running by Anna meant we finished 2nd ladies team and won a nice “flying pig” award and bottle of Dorset cider each.
Overall it was a really friendly, well-organised and excellent value event. When not running and driving about, it was inspiring to watch and cheer on the full marathoners. The last 1-2 miles of the race is on a disused railway line. I found a nice vantage point by standing on a bridge about 400m from the finish line and it was wonderful to see relay runners pacing and encouraging the full marathoners as they pushed on to the end. A good Hedgie turn out and hopefully we will have more teams entered in 2015. There was free cider at the finish line if that helps to persuade anyone to get involved!