Lee Mill Relay. 4 legs . 4 runners.
Report by Richard Stott, Race organizer
Well, that seemed to go OK. The inaugural Lee Mill Relay was held on 14th December as Rossendale’s new 4 runner fell relay event, and hopefully to become an established fixture on the Fell Race Calendar.
I thought it might be interesting for runners to take a look at a race from the organizers point of view. Perhaps providing them with a better understanding of what is involved in organizing a race, rather than just competing in one.
For me, when racing, a winter fell relay was always a great way of ending the year. I’ve done the Calderdale Relay, probably over 20 times, and always enjoyed the relay format and atmosphere of all the club members being involved, but especially the added challenge that winter brings. I have to admit I was quite critical on the Fell Running forum when the event was moved to a summer slot, but its done now, and I realize some of the reasoning behind it. It’s just a shame.
After thinking about the big winter relays, and the logistical nightmare of miles of footpaths to marshal, bad weather possibilities, car parking and land access problems, I thought why not a fell event based on the Cross-Keys four stage format staged by Saddleworth Runners? Logically, a race where all runners run the same route makes sense. Far less marshals. Same start/finish area with the entire event run in probably, 3 square miles of terrain.
The first question I asked myself was where? Earlier on I’d had thoughts of a mountain bike/fell race relay at Lee Mill Stacksteads. So why not just a fell event? I went over one day and had a look, plenty of tracks but nothing that thrilling. I had a chat to Scott Hitchen (Rossendale Harriers) and asked him to have a look. The result is more or less what we have as our race route, far more radical than I came up with! A true fell race was on.
Next step was getting permission for land access, which as it turned out was no problem thanks to Lancashire Council who approved our route and use of quarry area. I set a date of Sun 14th Dec and registered at Sportident for entries.
A nagging voice in the back of my mind told me this was all going a bit to well, and sure enough obstacles started to appear, or not as the case may be. The hoped for ‘Trail Head’ centre, that we were to use as a venue, just wasn’t going to be built. Plus, on- site portaloos were being removed because of vandalism. So, Phil Taylor (Rossendale Harriers) suggested I have a word with Rossendale Council, who the offices on the site belong to. The council guy was great, agreeing to the use of a room on the Sunday for registration and results, as well as some portaloos!
So, after weeks of worrying and sorting out the bitty things that make up for the whole, race day was upon us. Then the ice hit (what do you expect in December? Yeah, thanks, I know). When we went to flag the course the previous day, the lane up to the quarry was treacherous, but fellow course flagger Max Cole (Rossendale Harriers) was confident that there was sunshine forecast and much warmer weather was on it’s way. Err….OK then.
Race Day. Sunday. Up at 5am to pick-up Scott Hitchen to double check and finish off the flagging. Registration opened at 8.30 and with another 6 entries on the day we have 25 teams. Brilliant.
With a bit of a talk to the first leg runners and they were off. Bang on 10am, as planned. Then came a massive fright, straight after, when we thought the leaders had set off on the loop in the wrong direction! Fortunately, this turned out not to be the case.
After what felt like a bloody long day Calder Valley Fell Runners men came home first, along with Clayton ladies. Both victorious teams walked away with unique stone trophy’s cut from the quarry (again thanks to Scott and Daltons printers). All the post race, feedback seemed really positive. With teams saying that it was great for a relay to be that straight forward logistically. As for the route itself, everyone thought it was a great challenge. Ask Darren Fishwick (Chorley) he did it four times, he liked it that much, but then again…
I’d like to thank all the Harriers for help. Rossendale council for office space and portaloos. Pete Bland for race numbers and Dalton Printers for help with the flyers and trophy.
I’ve changed the race date for 2015 to last weekend in November. The 29thh to be exact. So hopefully the event can grow. It’s a much quieter weekend, fixture wise and hopefully weather as well. The race route is also to be first in the Rossendale Harriers Mid-week series, along with Whittle Pike, Pilgrims Cross and Golf Ball, best 3 out of 4 format.
Results can be found here