Sunday the 18th of September saw the 05:00 alarm of the 26th Sheffield Way Relay, always a well-attended popular event on the annual running calendar this one was no exception; however, it did have its own challenges and solutions!
With construction work on the canal path between the Canal Landing and Tinsley Viaduct taking much longer than anticipated an alternative start was devised starting at Weedon street with a loop onto Carbrook Street to pick up the 5 Weirs Walk, passing through the start again following the River Don along Meadowhall to pick the canal route up again at Tinsley.
It’s getting close to 06:30 at Weedon Street and out of the darkness 5 hardy souls appear preparing to run the whole 46.4 mile route as an Ultra, questions are asked whether they need to run the “loop”, of course I reply and then I set them off on their long running adventure, as they pass by me again through the start I clap and encourage them and then they are gone and I’m on my own for a while.
As the dawn breaks 17 eager teams slowly assemble and are started in “Handicapped” waves between 07:30 and 08:30, in between the waves I learn numbers have been forgotten (I can fix that), photos are taken, hellos and hugs are appreciated, home-made cakes are given to Race Directors to enjoy later in the day.
After I’ve set all the teams off it’s a quick dash up to Penistone road to say my annual hello and thank you to the running legend volunteer that is Dave Palmer, Dave and I chat for a while and I get to see the first teams coming through his marshal point, I also take the opportunity to run across the road into Grenoside Woods to see the path that had been cut with a strimmer by the partner of a Totley AC member (thank you).
Back in the car it’s up to Wheata Wood car park where volunteers Jane Huws and Jamie Smith are timekeeping at the Leg 01 changeover, Jane has done timekeeping before on SWR for me, Jane and I can see that the timekeeping software working correctly as teams cross the line, more of that later.
There’s a healthy atmosphere at Wheata Wood and I’d like to stay longer but it’s back in my car to Hill Top, I get hopelessly lost on the way (it happens every year) but finally make it to volunteer marshal Nick Kirk, we have a chat and I stick around for a little while to see some of the Womens teams coming through.
Next location is Wyming Brook Leg 02 changeover, always a challenge to park at Rivelin and this year is no exception, I arrive to find all the car parking full, some cars are parked on double yellow lines (hopefully not SWR) and a very unhappy homeowner photographing the offending vehicles (I always suggest parking at the top and walking/jogging down). I turn around and head back onto the A57 looking for a parking spot, there are none, there is only one thing to do, drive up to the top of Wyming Brook and drop back down the valley on foot.
I arrive and as expected the car park is almost full but I manage to find a space, then I am quickly jogging down to say hello to volunteers Bob Hartley and Keith Bell. I arrive at the Leg 03 changeover and have a quick chat with them and some of the runners who had already assembled. Then I’m back up Wyming Brook to the car with teams coming past me on the way up. I forgot to tell teams at the changeover that My Wife is marshalling at Stanedge Pole (not to be confused with Stanage Edge if you look at your OS maps) and to send her my love and thank you from me, oops!
I am a bit tired by the time I reach the car but in good spirits, things are going well, it transpires though that one team have become very lost on Leg 01 so my phone is pinging with messages and voicemails from marshals, questions are asked about how much longer they needed to stay in position. I tell them that it’s up to them, I understand that they are volunteers and they have given their time for free. (Marshals also record times through their positions, this helps me plan where they need to be and for how long each year, if teams become lost this can have a knock-on effect on my predicted timings).
Next stop is Totley AC Pavilion Leg 03 changeover, unfortunately bypassing My Wife marshalling at Stanedge Pole, Racheal Rea marshalling at Hook’s Car Trig on Stanage Edge, Chris Walker at Burbage Bridge North and Neal Pates at Burbage Edge, as these locations are quite remote and time consuming to get to it’s impossible to visit all the volunteers on the route.
Arriving at Totley AC Pavilion teams are already there, volunteers Victoria Hawkins and her son, Toby are very capable timekeepers for me, I’m offered a lovely coffee by Totley AC Helen Young (and I have some cake), I decide to pull out my laptop to check in with the timing software. I check the Leg 01 changeover to find that no times have been recorded for anyone at all, I convince myself that everything is ok, teams come and go and I’m fortunate to see 4 of the ultra-runners pass through in good spirits. It’s here I’ve started a tradition, I ask them what is their drinks order is for when they arrive at Ford, 3 Lager Shandies, a Lemonade and a Water is the reply!
Then I’m back in the car and on my way, Chris Walker has been in touch as he is concerned about teams not reaching him yet, I’m concerned too as Chris is not only volunteering at Burbage Bridge Car park but is also recording final finish times for me at the Canal Landing until I get there, I tell him to abandon his post and make his way to the canal bearing in mind that it’s Student moving in weekend and some city roads might be heavily congested.
Next stop is Mickley Lane/Rod Moor Road to meet up with marshal Jo Gleig, Jo and I had some discussion earlier in the week about the best place for her to marshal given the traffic on the road, it takes me a little while to find her, we have a chat and then I’m on my way again. With the Leg 01 timing issue and another matter that had occurred earlier in the day around parking I’m a little pre-occupied in my thoughts so totally bypass (forget) Toby Carvery where Jo Rose is marshalling (sorry Jo) as I head straight to the Bridge at Ford for the 14:00 mass start, I find out later that our amazing Chairperson Helen Smith had been keeping Jo company for some of the time.
Arriving at Ford at about 13:20 I am in good time for the 14:00 mass start, Catherine Emma and Jane Evans are the timekeepers here, a quick hello and check in that they are ok and I’m off to the bar for that round of drinks. Drinks acquired, navigating inwards opening doors and a heavy drinks tray I am back at the Leg 04 changeover, I get to see a number of teams passing through and then the Ultras appear again, their drinks very gratefully received and swiftly drunk.
14:00 looms and in my usual shouty voice explain about the mass start and how it works, teams are lined up in the race number order and I set them off one by one. With teams gone and my timekeepers still waiting for Leg 04 finishers it’s a goodbye and I am heading over to the Canal Landing.
I arrive to be met by Chris Walker and his children who have been out with him all day, I am incredibly grateful and say thank you to them all and take over from Chris on Finish timekeeping duties. As the next hour or so passes all the teams and the Ultra Runners finish. After the last team comes in I’m on my way home to process the results, I arrive home and sit down in front of the computer, I have to merge 2 races together as there is one race for the main timekeeping and another for the mass start, I sit there and I sit there staring at the screen, I just can’t remember what to do! It takes about 30 mins for my brain fog to clear and then I remember. Results are processed and then I’m back in the car over to Nether Edge Bowling Club to announce some prize winners and indulge in a long overdue beige buffet.
I arrive at the NEBC to a very packed room, it’s amazing to see so many people from so many clubs in one room, it takes quite a while for everyone to get a drink and sit down but then it’s time for the announcements, wrong winners are announced in one category (I blame brain fog), prizes are given out and low flying dangerous Haribos are in the air.
The day has caught up with my and it transpires that my results processing wasn’t quite right, it’s always a challenge to process results from such a complicated race in such a short time frame before the results are announced at the NEBC, the longer it takes for teams to finish the shorter my processing window is, this year was no exception, and my brain fog didn’t help.
After the announcements it’s time for the infamous beige buffet, this is demolished very quickly and I stay around for a while talking to different club members, then home around 21:45 to enjoy a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon as I’d been driving all day (67 miles), I manage one glass and fall asleep on the sofa!
Bank holiday Monday is spent acquiring teams Leg 01 Strava “elapsed times” to fill in the gaps in the results, the individual leg times do not impact on the overall race times, they are only required to work out if any leg records were broken but this is an ever-changing landscape with alternate starts and diversions etc every year so it’s always a weird one.
Overall, another SWR and Ultra Success with some unusual challenges this year, next year 17.09.23.
A huge thank you to everyone who ran and especially the volunteers, here are the results:
Womens “Roy Kitsons Founders” Trophy
1st: 03 TAC “Spinach” 6:29:41.1
2nd: 06 HRRC Womens “A” 6:36:58.3
3rd: 04 TAC “Sprouts” 7:00:26.5
Mixed “Janet Price” Trophy
1st: 09 SCS “Swallows” 6:57:30.9
2nd: 10 HRRC “Mixed” 7:25:44.0
3rd: 11 UHHTG “Unofficial and Unhinged” 7:28:22.6
Open “Janet Price” Trophy
1st: 13 TAC “Foxes” 5:34:14.8
2nd: 15 HRRC Mens “A” 6:04:33.06
3rd: 14 TAC “Badgers” 7:00:06.2
Handicapped “Sheffield Way Relay” Prize*
1st: 13 TAC “Foxes” 6:04:14.8
2nd: 03 TAC “Spinach” 6:29:41.1
3rd: 15 HRRC Mens “A” 6:34:33.06
*handicap has then been applied to both the Mixed (15 minutes) and Open (30 minutes) Category split over all legs to give an overall winner on the day.
No leg records were broken this year however TAC Spinach came very close with 6:29:41 on Leg 5 to HRRC Womens A record of 6:29:19 in 2021.
SWR Event Director