Report by Peter Hatley
Essex Way: Epping to Harwich: 82 miles
Assembling before 8am at the carpark of Epping Station on a Sunday morning Running Clubs from all over Essex and beyond prepared to take on the Essex Way relay from Epping to Harwich ~82 miles.
A relay but every leg had a start time so no worrying about dropping the baton. Leg 1 was Epping to Ongar. ELR had two runners in Aaron and Stuart. As was to become customary, photos were taken at a suitable landmark and in this case the start of the Essex Way sign and they were off. Although Stuart nearly missed the start while Aaron was fully prepared at the front of the pack and determined to get on to the footbridge over the railway line and on to the path the other side at the front of the pack.
On to Ongar they ran to be greeted by the best finish line place marshals of the day (our Chair and The Don). Then it was over to Maud to run to Good Easter only 9.5 miles so Maud ran back too. Although this was a massive plus on the logistics front.
At Good Easter, Grant was waiting and must have considered that with a name like that there would be no car thieves around so he left his car door open. Luckily the ELR support service spotted this. While Grant also had to give out Essex Way etiquette lessons to participants advising them if someone had saved you from getting lost a few times in is not really in the spirit of things to race past them in the last ten metres. No such lessons needed for Dave Knight an Essex Way veteran who was running the Little Leighs to Cressing Church stage. Dave had a great run and made some friends from Essex Casuals and his only disappointment was that Juno was not there. To give support CiarÃ¡n and Lance and their dogs Flash and Jinx had turned up at this point.
Elvis Captain Tommo was next up running from Cressing Church to Great Tey. By all accounts Tommo had an excellent run and was very well placed on the stage. Unfortunately for him, he was upstaged by Jinx making off with someones sausage sandwich at the pub by the finish line. Replacement sausage sandwich was purchased and ELR continued along the Essex Way with Fiona taking the non existent baton from Great Tey to West Bergholt.
Each stage had a starter, with very basic send off such as 3, 2, 1 GO, The Stage 7 West Bergholt to Dedham one used a very deadpan â€œwhen I say go, go (very short pause) go. Peter running this leg.
Then there was the case of the missing leg, Michael running from Dedham to Bradfield but unfortunately in the eyes (blind) of the finishing marshals not making it. Bigger numbers needed next year.
Jonathan took the penultimate stage from Bradfield to Ramsey having been driving all day it must have been a relief to be running. Finally starting at 6pm Carlton bringing it all to end with the leg from Ramsey into Harwich. Then it was time for more photos and enjoying the specially commissioned ELR ale. Athletes food of fish and chips followed and on to the pub for a few pints.
Everyone who ran had such a fun day out, and anyone fearing getting lost, being unsupported or other worry, need not. No one gets left behind and the camaraderie from both ELR and other clubs is second to none.
At the end of leg 3, we met a lady who we recalled was in tears at the start of her leg, fearing that it was going to be a horrible run, into the wilderness and beyond. But as we greeted her at her finish, she was beaming and the quote of the day goes to her where she casually said â€œWell I didnâ€™t get murdered or lost!â€. What was going on in her mind before the race?
This race covers the 82 miles of the Essex way from Epping Station to Harwich Old Lighthouse in 10 stages. The route is mostly cross country and can be difficult through crops and across ploughed fields. Nevertheless it is a very enjoyable day out in the most attractive rural parts of Essex (with an excellent fish and chip shop and pubs waiting for you at Harwich). The course is NOT marked and it is essential for all competitors to have reconnoitered their section before the day to avoid getting lost.
While East London Runners have fielded full teams completing the whole distance in the past, recent years have seen a falling off of interest since Edward B has been unable to organise the ELR team along with the logistics of completing each stage including travel arrangements etc.
This year, as in the past, ELR are jointly responsible for the First Leg with Ilford AC, Epping Station to Chipping Ongar. Our duties include gardening the first le in the week before(checking no obstructions, cutting back any overgrowth on the trails etc.) We also assist in the results recording of Stage One at Chipping Ongar.
Should you wish to volunteer to organise an ELR team, run in the race or help with the event then please let us know.
Complete route in 10 stages
Stage 1 Epping Station to Chipping Ongar - 7.5 miles - 8am Start
Stage 2 Chipping Ongar to Good Easter - 9.5 miles - 9am
Stage 3 Good Easter to Little Leighs - 9.5 miles - 10.15am
Stage 4 Little Leighs to Cressing Church - 10.1 miles - 11.30am
Stage 5 Cressing Church to Great Tey - 9.4 miles - 12.45pm
Stage 6 Great Tey to West Bergholt - 5.7 miles - 2pm
Stage 7 West Bergholt to Dedham - 11.2 miles - 2.40pm
Stage 8 Dedham to Bradfield - 8.0 miles - 4.15pm
Stage 9 Bradfield to Ramsey - 5.3 miles - 5.15pm
Stage 10 Ramsey to Harwich - 5.5 miles - 6pm
ELR's team of 10 (+1) finished 24th out of 58 teams. Ciaran & Aaron finished 33rd.
It all started with a random text received from Arron Williams back at the start of July, 'Fancy doing the Essex Way, but as a team of 2'. 'Yes', I replied, then promptly forgot about, but the commitment had been made.
Over the next 8 weeks of what should have been training for this challenge, work, holiday, parkrun, Orion 5k on the rides and Sunday morning lie-ins all seemed to take precedent to longer runs & substantial training. Somehow before I knew it, it was Wednesday 31st August, Aaron and I were both at club. Essex way 4 days away, and tonight's 10k club run hurt. How on earth will I manage the tandem team for the Essex Way on Sunday? To top things off, Aaron had jumped the gun, totted the mileage and declared he was doing the even legs, 39miles, leaving me to face 43 miles.
The challenge was daunting. I would be in uncharted territory after 28-29 miles having never run longer than this, and the interval nature of the challenge, would this help or hinder?
T-1 day to go: Saturday I spent the day planning the logistics. Post codes, start points, start times, distances, running time, drive time, recovery time, all pulled together into a nice spreadsheet. Maybe less time in Excel and more on my feet training, but the logistics are an integral part of the day ahead.
Epping station marked leg one of this challenge. Martin Clark & Sally Gillam greeted everyone, beaming gleefully at the start of the day. News of Arron and my task ahead had been rumoured among the other Essex Way team entrants. Quote of the day came at Epping station when I was told 'You know there are good psychiatrists in East London', referring to our obvious level of madness.
Timing for the day in my beautiful spreadsheet had been based on the 'uber achievable' 9:30 minute miles. All we got to do is start slow, resist temptation, and stay slow. Today is more about personal challenge and achievement, than about times. Great, no hassle, that was until the off on Leg 1. Oops! 5:45/km was my target. 4:25, 4:30, 4:45, 5:10, clocked the first 4. Finally on the fifth, 5.30. Somewhere close to target. From here I attached myself to a runner who knew the route, but therein came the disintegration of my plan. He was running 8 minute miles. A price worth sticking too to avoid having to self-navigate.
Legs 1, 3 & 5 were shared with Billy Rayner, Dave Knight and Dominic Dragonetti. With Julie whizzing me from the ends, to my following starts. For these legs, I pretty much stack to 8 minute miles, and I found the rest was working in favour. My downfall came at Leg 7. After my shortest rest period and 'race' to get to leg 7, I was starting to hurt. By now 27miles in, and beginning to enter that 'New Territory' in terms of distance. Maud Hudson was my ELR partner in crime for the next 11.2 miles. I had run this leg before, but didn't know it well. The first Â½ was tough, but bearable. The second half terrible. I was trying to concentrate on running form, but by now this had gone to pot! It was more about putting one foot in front of the other and not stopping. I started to feel queasy and dizzy, needing my emergency energy bar from my back pocket. By now the miles were ticking by with what seemed to be an lifetime in between, however the energy bar got me to the end of the leg, and with a break to the water and Lucozade, Full Fat Coke! Y-E-S!
By Now Aaron was on Leg 8, and I had my final, and shortest leg to go in #9, being 5.3 miles. I had told myself if I get to the end of leg 7, there would be no bailing out on 9. And so it was to be. With my GPS packing in by now, I relied on counting 9-10 minutes to assume each mile ticked on this final stretch. The scenery now changed from forest & farmland to encroaching coastland and marsh. I was again concentrating on form rather than speed, and declared to myself I am going to enjoy the final 5.3 miles. And so I did. Every step marked a step closer to the finish, and a step closer to bagging this incredible challenge. The miles were slow, but didn't last a lifetime anymore. The finish, Glorious!
2017? 'Opposite Legs' suggested by Jonathan Wooldridge. A stupid man may do something once, but a mad man will do it again and again. So no, I don't intend on seeking out the best of East London's Psychiatrists. Memories gained. Achievements made. Lessons learnt. 2017 = 1, maybe 2 legs only.
The Essex Way is a glorious 80 mile relay from Epping to Harwich on what always feels like the last day of summer and the change of season. I've done this race many times before, always adored it and wanted to celebrate it differently this year by persuading another nut to run the entire race with me, alternately, as two-man team.
Ciaran Canavan kicked off the first leg of our 10 x/c legs from Epping at 8am - once started I left with my driver (and wife) Julie to the second start point at Ongar. Due to pacing plans, by the time anyone of us would finish a leg, the other would have already began theirs. So five minutes after my race start, driver (and wife) Julie sped Ciaran to Start 3 (and my finish) at High Easter. Repeat for 10 legs. I didn't see Ciaran again that day until Harwich.
The first leg for me was a sinch, and felt great. The plan was to run around 9.30mm - no problem! The trick was to keep hydrated as much as possible, stretch during the short recovery times and think positively - and most importantly, dont get carried away and go to fast. I finished the first leg 10 mins ahead of schedule...
By Leg 5 (6pm) and herioc last leg into Harwich, I was overtaken by the oldest competitor of the race, an octogenerian at mile 1. Realising I was in last place, and with said woman disappearing from sight, I realised I had no clue where I was going and no map. Panic and heart rate increased big time. Luckily pity was taken on me by a Harwich lady (Elspeth) who escorted me the final four miles at a slower than walking pace. With two miles from home, her husband appeared on seafront and offered me a lift in his motor to the finish. It took a lot of willpower to turn his lift down. The thought of potentially years of piss-taking from our leader Frank, kept me from temptation (he's still lording his Orion 15 triumph over me from 2006).
A kind and welcoming cheer awaited me from the handful of runners left packing up, and although it was the thought of fish and chips and a pint of Adnams that motivated me most of the day, it was the last thing on earth I wanted or could stomach!
I love the Essex Way, but will be doing Leg 1 from Epping to Ongar next year. And will need a lift from another driver.
Much love to Jules and Ciaran and everyone from ELR who ran with us that day!
Having failed in recent years to field a full team in this very popular event ELR through the great efforts of Jonathan Wooldridge not only fielded a full team of 10 members but in addition ELR Members Ciaran Canavan and Aaron Williams ran as a team covering alternate race legs, a magnificent effort.
Starting at 8am at Epping Station, Billy Rayner and Ciaran Canavan were running the first leg of 7.5 miles to Chipping Ongar. They were seen off by Jonathan, Aaron and Edward Barnard who was to collate the results at the end of this leg.
Ciaran, Billy and Aaron at the start in Epping
Also running for ELR were Grant Conway, Dave Knight, Kate Brett, Dominic Dragonetti, James Nicholls , Maud Hodson, Sally Faulkner, Jan Webb, Jonathan and Regis Martin.
A total of 58 Teams completed the race with the ELR Team finishing in 24th and the Team of Ciaran and Aaron in 33rd place.
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