Ragnar White Cliffs

SEPTEMBER 2017: Back in early 2017, I was made aware of a 24-hour relay event, to be organised by Grounded Events, who also organise Brighton Marathon.

They were to put on a Ragnar Relay race that has had huge success across a range of locations in North America.

Wouldn’t it be great, I thought, if they were to stage it around the end of September, as it could make an ideal target event for some of RunBrighton’s summer members.

The dates were announced. As luck would have it, Ragnar White Cliffs would take place over the weekend of 23rd & 24th September.

I began to put the word around and, before long, RunBrighton runners Mark Bailey and Sarah Crosier put themselves forward as team captains, confident they could each form a team of 10.

‘Seagulls’ and ‘Girls Run Ragnar’ were formed!

Several months on, I pop down to the finish line at Black Rock, on the Sunday.

The least I can do is have a little jog out to meet the incoming last-leg runner from each team.

It was around 2pm. I met Nick Poyner, accompanied by Mark Brocklehurst, by Brighton Marina, with just half a mile remaining. I was impressed at how well they were both moving after a night of no sleep, and particularly as Nick had taken a few weeks out, earlier in the summer, due to an injury.

Then an hour or so later, I found myself out at Rottingdean, trying to keep up with Sally Goddard on her last couple of miles, somehow looking as fresh as if she was on her first leg.

Tanya Taylor later gave me an insight into their adventure, which, as you might expect, had its challenges.

This is what Tanya had to say:

“Last weekend, two teams from RunBrighton took on Ragnar Relay – 176 miles of brutal coastline starting in Maidstone and ending in Brighton.

Our team – Girls Run Ragnar – comprised of 10 (bad-ass) women all eager to take on a new challenge, and the relay format appealed to our team spirit. We were excited to see what was in-store, as we’d previously competed in other adventure-style races.

Planning before the race was rather intense, almost pushing our team captain, Sarah, over the edge. Within our team WhatsApp group, messages pinged back and forth for months, thrashing out all the logistics of the race, and trust me, there were loads!

The race is split into 10 sets of three legs. Each set of three legs are ranked in difficulty to help your team decide who’s doing what. Your team of 10 is then effectively split into two sub-teams of five, and split into two vans. (We also had a driver for each van to try and keep things as safe and as stress free as possible.) The vans meet at each ‘major exchange’ when the first team have finished their first legs, and the next team take over. It goes on like this until both vans have completed 15 legs.

Our first leg started at 8.30am in Maidstone, and van one stayed the night before to help with the early start. Van two drove to Whitstable on Saturday morning, where the first major exchange would take place. We used this waiting time wisely, pimping up our vans with chalk pens and tattooing each other’s arms.

We lucked out with the weather. During the day, the sun shone, the sky was blue and there were some truly spectacular scenes to take in. We kept note of when our team members arrived back from their legs, so we could keep our eye on our projected pace times. Both vans kept in contact, sending photos back and forth. Spirits were high. We had all bought matching fluorescent pink bird onesies, from a little-known boutique on Western road beginning with P. These caused a great stir amongst the locals and fellow competitors, and we were frequently stopped for photographs. They proved to be one of the best buys on our kit list, as they kept us so warm in between runs.

With the high of the day runs, the night runs came as a bit of a shock. We had to wear head torches, high-vis vests and flashing back-lights, but nothing had prepared us for how dark and lonely some of the stretches were. The staggered start times meant we were not always running near another runner, or near to a road for our van to offer support. One of our runners ran 10 whole miles without seeing anyone, with no road lights, through quite baron landscapes. Other runs covered narrow beach paths with no lighting. And one of our runners got lost in Dungeness when one of the cones giving directions ‘went missing’. As we were an all-women team, we each found running these sections alone rather challenging.

Our experience of the exchange points was somewhat the polar opposite of the isolation of the night runs. Arriving there at the same times as numerous other teams, meant a chunk of our stay there was spent standing in long toilet queues.

We were tired and hungry, but chose not to pay the prices of the hot food on offer. Then when we were all desperate for bowls of porridge and bacon rolls at the last major exchange, there was no food to be found.

A big shout-out, though, to ‘Big Boys Fine Burgers’ in Folkstone, where we enjoyed a fantastic dinner.

Overall, we had an amazing experience. We saw places we’d never seen before and there was an incredible sunrise in Hastings.

We made new friends, we laughed, we cried, we ran hard, we ran slow, we all pushed ourselves… and I am immensely proud of our team.

Would I do it again? Probably!”

Thanks Tanya. Great to hear about Girls Run Ragnar’s adventure. Well done for completing such a tough challenge, and congratulations also to Seagulls!

And I trust all the members of both teams are now enjoying looking at their impressive, well-deserved medals.

You can join in with RunBrighton fun regularly on Sunday mornings, as we train up for half and full marathons. Click here for full details and to sign up.

By Mike Bannister