Welsh Castles Relay 2019

Helen Carter

With the men looking to secure a hat-trick of victories and the women in the hunt to retain their title, we knew we would have an epic weekend on our hands.

Welsh Castles Relay 2019, you did not disappoint! Here’s how it all unfolded…

Day One: Saturday 8th June

Having led the race out last year as defending champions, we were asked to do the same only this time with the international team Freedom of Movement, Palestine. We opted to run behind them around the castle and it was a powerful experience to run behind their flags. 

Last year’s glorious sunshine was a distant memory as the rain coats and umbrellas were out in force on Saturday. Richard Edwards and Julia Reynolds bravely led the SHM charge on Leg One. With the men boasting a strong contingent across the board, the women were looking to fight to match their victory from last year. The sheer determination on Julia’s face as she came across the line set the tone for the day – the ladies had turned up to defend!

Leg Two saw a strong finish from Sam Aspinwall to beat Chorlton by 10 seconds, securing the men’s first yellow jersey of the day. Rachel Rozhdestvenskaya ran an impressive 5 minutes quicker than her 2018 performance and finished second to Serpentine by 18 seconds. She gave a truly brilliant performance and will be hunting that yellow jersey next year! Phil Robertson repeated his Leg 3 2018 victory, this time with a staggering 1 minute 26 seconds over second place. Helen Armitage tackled the mountain for the women’s team with a strong run for 4th Lady.

Legs 4 and 5 were tackled by the Cordingley sisters, Victoria and Beatrice. It was wonderful to have Victoria back in the team and she powered her way along the coast with an ecstatic smile – no mean feat in that weather! Beatrice ran hard to finish as second in the Ladies Category and the women’s team was starting to gather momentum. Ben McIntyre added to the SHM yellow jersey collection with second place and first vet on Leg 4; Nick Tynan had a confident run on Leg 5 for a strong second place.

Leg 6 saw Rob Fairbanks make his WCR debut with a brilliant fourth place, whilst Jane Thomas in the women’s race epitomised the camaraderie of the weekend by running with a huge grin and high fiving as she went past the pub! Leg 7 appears to be a hideous hill! Not to be deterred, Nathan Harrison and Hayley Ashby powered up…and down… with Nathan extending the men’s lead, winning by 1 minute and 37 seconds from White Rock Runners. In doing so he set a course record by over a minute – brilliant work Nathan! Hayley battled to third place and will be back to grab that yellow jersey next year – we could see it in her eyes!

Leg 8 is a gruelling leg and used to be a mountain stage. Up stepped Ken Hunt and Clare McCarron. Ken ran a great race to finish in second place and Clare smashed 10 minutes off her previous attempt at this leg in 2015 to finish 8 seconds behind first place. Brilliant running! Leg 9 saw Pete O’Neill race hard to finish in 5th place and Sinead Ferguson put in an astonishing shift, displaying absolute grit and determination to finish the race despite taking a nasty fall and running with blood pouring down her leg for the last few miles.

Leg 10 is a very hard half marathon over the hills from Llanfair Caereinion to Newtown. Callum Rowlinson finished a brilliant second and Harriet Hamilton stepped up strongly to tackle this hard distance for the women. Overnight the men had a comfortable lead over their nearest rivals, Aberdare Valley AAC, of 11 minutes and 34 seconds. The women lay in 4th place, only 17 seconds behind Ealing Eagles, 2 minutes behind Serpentine and 11 minutes behind Les Croups…all was to play for the next day and those women left to run were set to battle till Cardiff. They weren’t giving up without a fight!

Day Two: Sunday 9th June

Leg 11 is an excruciating 7am start but this did little to deter Dan Kashi who stormed through 10.8 miles of this mountain leg in a jaw-dropping 59.08, gaining another yellow jersey for the men. This is a course record due to the new route this year but it should only stand until Dan’s next run at it in 2020! Anne Chinoy secured vital minutes for the women in her usual strong run on this leg with a 3 minute gain on rivals Les Croupiers. Leg 12 gained Steve McCarron a yellow jersey as first vet runner and second place overall with Wendy Terry debuting for the women, putting in a strong run to gain precious time over Ealing Eagles. Leg 13 saw a debut for Richard Brown in the men’s team who ran a brilliant race to finish in fourth place. Carla ‘Team Stalwart’ Ousey ran really strongly for the women’s team, gaining precious time from Serpentine. Summing up the attitude in the women’s team, Carla had practised her leg whilst on holiday the week before. That’s dedication!

As the women’s race ebbed and flowed between the teams, Luisa Candioli stepped up to defend her Drovers title, which she did with ease clocking 23 seconds faster than 2018! The climb on Leg 14 makes some of us feel nauseous – not so Luisa and Nigel Martin who was taking on the men’s leg for his first attempt at Drovers. Nigel has had a phenomenal season on the track and his run here showed why – he ran an unbelievable 59.14 for the 10.8 miles of uphill slog, taking 3 seconds off the 2014 course record in the process. Well done to our King and Queen of the Mountain! A Double Drovers victory is just superb!

Leg 15 saw another yellow jersey for Tim Kennedy who adds to his collection every year! He won his leg by an impressive 2 minutes and 5 seconds margin. Jenny Fox ran for the women and in intermittent sunshine and driving rain clocked an impressive 7 minutes faster than her time from 2018 – take a bow Dr. Fox! You know Leg 16 is tough when Paul ‘Greeny’ Green refers to it as relentless! He ran brilliantly to secure first vet on the stage and Lydia Briggs stormed into second place for the ladies team.

Leg 17 saw a welcome return to the WCR team for Jenny ‘Clinky’ Clink and, despite needing to take her trainers off at one point to ease her feet, she had a brilliant run to finish fourth lady. Mike Ashby was superb on Leg 17, winning first vet on Leg 17 and adding to the men’s already impressive yellow jersey collection. Olly Gaillemin raced well to finish 6th in the men’s race on Leg 18; Sarah Goulden, who has gone from strength to strength all season, ran a brilliant fourth place.

Leg 19 saw a great run from Mark Fox to finish inside the top 10 in 9th place. Due to some unforeseen circumstances, Helen Carter stepped in to run Leg 19 and gave it some Yorkshire grit for the team! Equally on Leg 20, Tracey Taylor gave it her heart and soul to bring the ladies home in style, leaving everyone in anticipation of the final placings. Gaz Raven drove the width of the country to make it to Cardiff in time to bring the men’s team home to an unprecedented treble victory! He stormed home in an eye-watering  51 minutes and 41 seconds, taking last year’s course record away from our very own Tim Kennedy in the process.

Once again, both teams had performed brilliantly throughout the weekend. The SHM men are an unstoppable force and the women epitomise team spirit and dedication.

Due to some processing errors, the results were not announced in Cardiff.

We know that the men have completed an outstanding treble – hat trick heroes! They have smashed the opposition, winning by 46 minutes and 39 seconds. Unbelievable.

The women are yet to know their overall result but we should definitely be on the podium.
Whatever the outcome for the women’s team, they should be very proud of how they performed this year - they were over 1 hour faster than the previous year!

Whilst the uncertainty of results is frustrating, the manner in which both teams fought so hard and supported each other over the two days is both powerful and emotional. The Sale Harriers WCR family is one we are all proud to be part of!

The club support along the route is simply amazing and we would like to thank everyone who came along. People’s partners and children line the route and it’s lovely to see so many people no matter what the weather – thank you for doing this!

Nigel and Marinda Breddy provided outstanding support, and photographs, over the two days and we are very grateful!

We would like to thank all our supporters and in particular Dave Rodgers, Glenn and Bernie Savage, Lesley Green and Sarah Goulden’s mum (and dog!)  for their unfailing support and assistance in getting people to legs. Frank and Jackie Cordingley, Lynda and Gary Rowlinson, Jan Nicholls and Joe Webb and anyone else who popped up along the way – THANK YOU!

One person deserves a special mention for playing the long support game from his house in Sale: Richard Ousey, please take this as your official invitation to travel with us next year as social media entertainer / data tracker! We need you!

And finally…Chris Donnelly and Richard Edwards. You two are simply amazing. The effort that goes in behind the scenes is unbelievable and we all appreciate your hard work. Thank you, from all the SHM runners.

Here’s to 2020 and another adventure through the hills!

Welsh Castles 2019