Harwich, a Haven town and port oft sleepy, tranquil and serene on a Saturday morning was curiously abuzz with activity as a record 98 teams declaring themselves fit to do battle descended on a small oval shelter along the Dovercourt seafront for the annual running of the Essex Relay Open and Veteran Championships. Thankfully the strong winds of the previous night had mostly abated leaving a brisk cross breeze that did little to deter the enthusiasm of either the competitors or the stoic yet somewhat amusing efforts of those stalwarts attempting to erect the Witham pop-up tent. It was equally heartening  to see teams from the length and breadth of the County, some surviving vast and tortuous journeys all  for the privilege of grasping the cylindrical object inside in which lay that mysteriously wondrous piece of technology that has recently transformed the face of the Essex Relay world.

Favourites for the the open races would have been either Springfield Striders or Colchester Harriers with their sheer strength in numbers and acreage of catchment area, Colchester themselves having entered a record 24 teams in total being much to their credit.  Yet there were some outsiders ....with little known about squad composition of teams such as Ilford and particularly East London who were making their debut.

After a quick briefing by the starter in which runners were admonished to carry the baton in their hand at all times and not down the back of their shorts as some runners had done last year Leg 1 went off in good spirits. Adrian Mussett ran his normal storming leg, the 2nd fastest overall of the day in fact, to put the Colchester Harriers M40 contingent in pole position and ahead of Ramadam Osman representing their open squad. Tom Gardner of Ilford was some 18 seconds adrift back in 3rd but 2nd in the open race. Also prominent were Springfield Striders with Peter Robinson and East London's Euan Brown.

Leg 2 saw Colchester Harriers surrender their dominance due to Ilford's Alex Richards passing both the Colchester teams. Meanwhile Patrick Brown of East London had already overtaken Springfield in third and was bearing down on Colchester for 2nd place. Malcolm Muir took the baton on leg 3 with the Ilford lead now well established. East London's Paul Quinton ran strongly  to move into 2nd place with Oscar Dawson of Colchester only 10 seconds ahead of a fast approaching James wright of Springfield. The scene was set on the final leg for Ilford's Kiwi Blair McWhirter to post the fastest leg bringing Ilford home to a well deserved victory  A 1-2 double soon ensued for the East London area with Thomas Grimes bringing  East London Runners home in 2nd place about half a minute ahead of a late charge by James Smith of Springfield who was too strong for Colchester's own anchor man.

Colchester  Harrier's over 40's easily held on to their category top spot with Mark Harrod bringing the trio home. The Havering squad of Steve Rand, Matt Bland and Jason Lendon all ran well but were always about a minute behind the winners. The Springfield Striders team of  Stuart Raven, Lee Martin and Antony Goodall took the bronze.

Ilford AC made it a double success in the M50 section with good consistent runs coming from Tony Hyde, Neil Crisp and Steve Philcox. It was a tightly run affair with Ilford engaging combat with  2 closely matched Colchester teams who occupied the silver and bronze positions and with only 50 seconds covering the first 3 places.

The ladies race saw a standout time posted on leg 1 from Springfield's Liz Davies. Her fastest time of the day of 16.56.73 virtually guaranteed her team the gold but nevertheless she was well supported with accompanying excellent performances from club mates Kate Mills and Sam Bilbie. Chelmsford AC settled into 2nd pace with Rebecca Luxton, Hayley Pegg and Victoria Hayles well ahead of Colchester's squad of Amanda Henry ,  Stacey Eyres  and Rebecca Cooke who took bronze.

In the F35 race Saffron Striders prevailed as Rebecca White, Fiona Halls and Marianne Naylor combined to take the gold over 2 and a half minutes ahead of Southend's Natasha Lagden, Veneass Mathers and Tracy English. Colchester and Tendring bronzed with Ellie Cumner, Jayne Atkinson and Sian Gifford.
Colchester Harrier's showed more of their strength in the F45 section occupying both gold and silver positions, gold going to Denise Morley, Debbie Cattermole and  Mellissa Dowell  and silver Steph Horner, Jennie Richardson and Fran Norris. Springfield Striders took the bronze with Rebecca Pitman, Donna Hindle and Hilda O Kelly
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Final congratulations go the Halstead Ladies squad of Rachel Roughan, Leigh-Anne Porter and Hazel Buist, winners of the non-championship ladies race.

Many thanks to all of the superb Harwich Volunteer team for providing us with a great day.

 

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