Cotswold Way Relay 2021

09 July 2021

The Cotswold Way Relay returned last Saturday after being cancelled in 2020. The event consists of 10 legs of varying distance that combine to cover the entire 102mile route. The event requires a great deal of preparation as the route is mostly unmarshalled so athletes have to practice the route in advance to ensure they don’t get lost.

This year Cheltenham Harriers was able to field 3 teams, with 29 distance runners taking on the challenge (one team was unfortunately short of 1 runner that would have made up 3 complete teams). Mixed teams had to have a minimum of 4 female runners, whereas the open team could be made up of any athletes.

As a result of the pandemic the organisers used a timing and tracking app meaning everyone was required to run with a phone, although this resulted in a few tech issues it was largely a success and we were just very grateful the event could take place

Leg 1 runners, Martin Foster, Petra Vymetalova and Mike Ede, had the extra challenge of a 7am start in Chipping Campden. Due to Covid the event used staggered starts with small groups going off together, which proved helpful and reduced the buildup of athletes at gates and styles along the route. Foster was the first Harrier of the day home finishing 6th in 1:29.16 for our Open Team. Running in our 1st mixed team, Vymetalova completed the route in 1:47.12 19th in the category and 3rd female overall. Bringing our 2nd mixed team home in 26th Ede ran well to finish with a time of 1:55.00.

Leg 2 features the most ascent of any route with athletes tackling 525m of elevation over the 11.9mile route.This didn’t phase Simon Critchley who was in brilliant form finishing 3rd in 1:32.26. Making his debut at the event Ross Swain felt like he was struggling in mid section of leg 2 but pulled it out the bag to finish 10mins faster than he expected in 1:49.18 and 11th in the mixed category. Ross Ruck was also debuting for Harriers and ran well to finish 24th in the mixed category in 1:58.13.

Sarah Barter looked amazing on her event debut finishing as 3rd female overall on leg 3 and a brilliant 9th in the open event. Barter completed the 8.3mile route in 1:11.18. Competing in the mixed category, Jo Fletcher wasn’t far behind as 4th female overall on leg 3 and 7th in the mixed event with an impressive time of 1:12.19 despite some injury worries. Also running well Holly Derrick completed leg 3 in 1:21.51.

While the early leg athletes had to deal with slippery conditions by the time leg 4 rolled around the course had mostly dried out. Elliot Prince was the 1st of 2 Harriers looking to be crowned King of the Cotswolds, an honour given to an athlete who has completed all 10 legs. The last leg Prince had to complete was leg 4, the longest leg of the day covering 12.8 miles. Although Prince struggled with navigation a few times, support from teammate Mig Mundinano helped him complete the route in 1:37.56 for 7th in the open category. Mudinano eventually pulled ahead of Prince, finishing in 1:36.37 and a brilliant 4th in the mixed category. Rowan Tibbs hasn’t raced since 2019, but made the trip to support the Harriers team on leg 4, finishing in 2:18.25.

The ever reliable Andy Gore ran for our Open team on leg 5, Gore tackled the 11.8mile route well to finish in 1:25.39 for 5th. Despite recent injury issues, team stalwart, Nicola Whiteman, managed to keep the injuries at bay, proving her strength to finish in 1:48.34 and 16th in the mixed category just ahead of fellow Harrier Ian Giles who finished in 1:49.15.

(Photo: Nicole Knight, Beth Hawling, Andy Gore and Vicky Wilkinson)

Experienced Great Britain international athlete, Beth Hawling, was making her Cotswold Way Relay debut finishing as 2nd female overall on the leg and despite struggling with dizzy spells throughout the leg her time of 1:10.32 places her as 7th on the leg's all time list. Nicola Knight and Joan Shaw competed in the mixed category running strong to finish 14th in 1:27.07 and 34th in 1:42.26 respectively. 

The 2nd Harrier who was aiming to be crowned King of the Cotswolds was Roger Mullins. Mullins took on leg 7 which goes from Dursley to Wotton Under Edge and impressed with a 2nd place finish in 55:13. A huge well done to Mullins and Prince on achieving the King of the Cotswolds crown. Sharing the leg with Mullins were debutantes Erin Bush and TracyAnn Whitfield. It was a baptism of fire as the start of leg 7 is a tough uphill climb, but both athletes ran brilliantly with Bush finishing 7th in the mixed category in 1:05.33 and Whitfield smashing her target by around 30minutes to finish 31st in 1:18.11.

(Photo: Erin Bush making the steep hill at the start of leg 7 look easy)

Sadly Leg 8 saw injury strike for Tom Evetts, despite his best efforts achilles pain caused him to have to withdraw, the best thing to do to prevent any further harm and we wish him a speedy recovery.  Due to this the Open team received the cut off time as a penalty. Steve Bradley and Michael Imeson competed for our two mixed teams. Bradley squeezed in under 2 hours in 23rd with a time of 1:59.54 and Imeson ran well to finish 44th in 2:24.29.

Athletes on leg 9 had to deal with a big downpour soaking the course as well as multiple busy road crossings. This didn’t deter Dan Minors though as the Harrier ran a determined race to finish 3rd in the open category in 1:05.10. Jo Wilkie ran a brilliant leg to finish as 4th female overall on leg 9 and 9th in the mixed category in 1:15.53. Not far behind Wilkie, Paul Barnes finished 14th in 1:19.29.

Sadly, on leg 10, we only had 2 runners meaning our 2nd mixed team had to take the time penalty of 2:15.00. Bringing our Open Team home was Russell Forsbrook and bringing our 1st Mixed Team home was Mel Schofield. Forsbrook and Schofield had 8.9miles to cover finishing at Bath Victoria Park. Forsbrook finished the day strong with a 4th place finish in 1:04.37 and Schofield ran well to finish 37th in 1:31.33. 

All our athletes did incredibly well and showed brilliant team spirit throughout the day, supporting one another and travelling along the route. Overall, our Open Team finished in 5th with a combined time of 14:04.07, an impressive performance, especially considering they received the penalty time for leg 8. The 1st Mixed Team finished in 16:25.41 to take 13th place and the 2nd Mixed team finished in 17:30.18 to take 28th, both great times with lots of athletes making their event debuts.