In years gone by, the Test Way, a long-distance footpath running from Inkpen Beacon in Berkshire to Eling Tide Mill in Hampshire loosely following the river Test, was the setting for an interclub running Relay event. It became so popular that parking at the handovers was a problem, and so eventually, the event was shelved.
Back in April this year when Romsey’s Matt Hammerton won the Test Way Ultra, the seed of an idea germinated in the brains of friends and fellow RRR members Karen Keane and Sue Stileman to reintroduce the event for Romsey Road Runners and so, last Saturday, the revamped Relay returned.
Three teams entered: The Test Ticklers (Karen Keane & Moira Sankey, Louise Holliday & Jane Jackson, Lin Winsor, Derek Kelly & Lin Webb, Charlie Brett, Dorota Koschmidder & Lauren Freestone, Liz Slade, Anna Duigan & Julia Abab); The Trail Trundlers (Alice Lane & Sue Stileman with their dogs Jim and Poppy, Gemma Quarendon, James Byrne, Ray Webb, Steve Edwards, Matt Cheales, Lottie Budd & Ian Ralph, Duncan MacDonald) and the Test Icicles (Jonathan Pillinger Cork, Neil Jennings, Matt Hammerton, Mark Stileman, Hannah Shutt, David Morrison, Tim Parker and Ryan Snell).
The route was divided into eight legs of between 7-11k, and the finish was the Salmon Leap pub in Totton. This made a total distance of 44 miles. The starting times for the teams were staggered to get everyone to the pub for 5pm to avoid the high tide flooding the boards across the marsh. This meant the teams set off from Inkpen at 0845, 0930 and 1143 respectively. There were no marshals out on the route as the event was self-supported and some of those taking part elected to pair up and run their leg with a buddy. Everyone had done their homework and been out on various recce runs over the summer to make certain they knew their section well and wouldn’t get lost on the day and thankfully no one did. Volunteers from the club had been out the weekend before the event to cut back nettles and brambles from the later sections which were a little overgrown in places, so stings and scratches were also minimal!
As this was a relay, the teams each had a ‘baton’ – a rucsac – which was swapped between the runners at the handover points. It contained route maps, a charged mobile phone and the team first aid kit. By the end of the run the rucsacs were in a pretty unpleasant, sweaty condition. “Ripe” was the word most frequently used to describe them!
We were blessed with fantastic weather throughout the day, making perfect conditions for running, and everyone taking part thoroughly enjoyed it, particularly the celebratory drink at the pub at the end. The only drama came at the end of the day when Ryan, the final runner for team Icicles, fell over in a bog on the marshes and lost a shoe in it. The shoe quickly disappeared from sight, and Ryan, ever the true professional, carried on running without it, covering the final kilometre with just the one shoe to finish just ahead of Ian and Duncan who were hot on his heels for the Trundlers.
The team times were as follows: Ticklers 7:44 hours; Trundlers 6:53 hours, Icicles 4:43 hours, so it was a great effort by everyone.
Also out on the course was Steve Geary, who set off from Inkpen Beacon at 8am to run the whole 44 miles (with a little help from Sue Sleath and James Battle) to finish at the pub with everyone else. A fantastic effort by Steve.
A toast was held for the Queen at the end of the event as a mark of respect at her passing, along with a “God Save The King” for King Charles III.