Members from Ryston Runners and West Norfolk Athletics Club’s were part of the largest-ever field for the 31st Round Norfolk Relay at the weekend.
More than 1,000 athletes from 61 teams tackled the gruelling course, which mirrors the county boundary over a distance of 198 miles, and is divided into 17 unequal stages.
A staggered start, based on anticipated finishing times, ensured that teams of similar ability started together, with faster teams chasing.
Starting at Alive Lynnsport and then, from Hunstanton, the race followed the stunning coastline through five multi terrain stages taking the Norfolk coastal path as far as Cromer.
The 35 miles (four stages) from Cromer to Yarmouth took place on the road.
From Yarmouth, the course turned south-west, following main roads for 67 miles (four stages), and was run in darkness.
It is during the mostly flat stages through Breckland that the time stagger unwinds and the race is invariably won or lost.
From Feltwell (stage 14) the four remaining stages covered the last 33 miles across the flat Fens and through the early-morning mist.
Following the Great Ouse River back into Lynn, the race reached its climax at its starting point.
Ryston were placed second in the open, masters and women’s sections.
As well as having teams placed in three categories, there were a number of individual successes for Ryston members.
They were: Susan Matthews, second female (stage one), James O’Neill, first male (stage five), Nicky Wnek, second Female (stage seven), Matt Allen first male (stage 12), Lorena Latisaite, first female (stage 13), Darren Easter, second male (stage 14), Neil Stapleton, second male (stage 16), Callum Stanforth, second male (stage 17).
Ryston’s vintage star Jane Ashby won the female masters’ age grading award in the relay, and recorded the second best aggregate time overall.
For West Norfolk, Ben Collison, running the first leg, went off knowing that the weather conditions last year got the better of him.
Collison paced well, reaching the changeover point by Hunstanton Lighthouse in a time 20 minutes faster than last year of 1.57.3.
Martin Koenigsberger took the baton towards Burnham Overy Staithe. Despite going the wrong way at one point, like several other competitors, Koenigsberger soon got back on course to finish in a time of 1.47.0.
Hannah Marsters ran to Wells before handing over to Richie Walker who took the stage to Cley. Although pulling a calf muscle early on, Walker ran well before transferring to Bex Cousins who was taking part in her first-ever relay.
Cousins, who won the award for the fastest lady on leg five, ran 1.25.5 before handing over the baton to Matt Gingall in Cromer.
Gingall ran a steady pace to Mundesley, where John Greenhalgh took over Lessingham.
It was then the turn of Debbie Schwarz, also in her first relay, who took the baton onwards to Horsey.
Schwarz ran almost four minutes quicker than her estimated time.
Stew Kelly headed onwards to Belton, before Neil Watson and Natalie Garrard took on the next two legs.
Garrard covered her 12.45 miles to Scole in 1.36.0 and Jason Moore negotiated the longest stage of 19.67 miles to Thetford.
Lee Tunmore – a late replacement – took the baton to Feltwell and Andy Milnes took over proceedings to Wissington.
Katrina Wasteney, running the 10.59 miles to Downham, ran strongly considering the big step up from her usual track distances. At Downham, Wesley Houghton, a partially sighted athlete running with a guide, covered the 5.49 miles in 39 minutes.
He handed over to Gavin Lane, making his tenth appearance in the race, at Stowbridge and the team completed the race in an overall time of 27 hours and 44 minutes.
The City of Norwich Athletics Club team recorded the fastest overall time of the relay, clocking 20.23.40.