Durham Cathedral Relays 17/01/16 Race Report

The Durham Cathedral Relays are held at Durham cricket ground which sits alongside the River Wear in a picturesque Durham City location. The relays consisted of 3 legs with each leg running two of the 1.5km laps the course. Whilst the relays are a cross country event and the route was all on grass, the course was largely flat and fast. There was one ascent up a short, sharp bank to access the upper field section of the course with a more gradual return down the hill to the bottom field. The remainder of the course consisted of long straight sections which run around the periphery of the cricket pitch, and as you would expect were pretty flat. All in all, a fast course over a short 3k distance – perfect for the relay format.
On a truly cold day (-1.5 degrees C when I arrived into Durham!) the grass was crunchy and the ground below was frozen and firm. There was much discussion amongst all the runners as to whether spiked, trail shoes or trainers were the best bet for the conditions, with the consensus being to wear whatever you had brought along or felt most comfortable in. In the end I went with spikes (in true cross country fashion!) these proved to give enough grip on the accent and descent sections but felt fast and light for the straight flat sections of the route.
It was good to see so many Saltwell Harriers runners at the event, enough to contribute teams across all of the categories and multiple teams within the women’s and senior men’s races . The veteran men were up first and the Saltwell team put on a strong showing and true to form posted a time which set a challenging target for the other Saltwell teams to try and beat throughout the morning. Next up, the women’s race and Saltwell contributed 3 teams. Once again, Saltwell Harriers were competitive within a very quick field. It was good to see all those who had either finished a leg or who were waiting to race standing alongside the course to cheer on their club mates.
The senior men were scheduled to run last on the day. By this point, the temperature had lifted a little and although much of the course was still frozen, aspects of the route were cutting up around the apex of the corners and along sections of the final straight. A good turn out from Saltwell Harriers who entered 4 teams into the senior men’s race. I was running on the first leg and I entered the start pen with the other Saltwell runners. After exchanging good luck messages we dispersed ourselves around the group. A benefit of running on the first leg is that you get to start within a pack, so for the first 1k, I settled into a comfortably quick pace for the distance that kept within the group of runners. Having watched the other relays during the day, by the time I started, I was glad to get running and as I travelled along the opening straight and up the steep bank I was into a nice rhythm to take me through the first kilometre.
The majority of the course included long flat straight sections which meant you could set an even pace. For the second kilometre, I maintained my position and worked towards picking up the pace to close down runners ahead, by this point the field had evened out across the length of the course. It was good to have Saltwell runners and supporters dotted around the route providing welcome encouragement and motivation throughout.
For the final kilometre, I worked on upping the pace and closing down and passing the runners ahead. Being in a relay group, I was thinking about giving the best possible start to Chris my teammate running second leg and Dave on the final leg.
It was a great event to be involved in. As a new member to the club I have always felt ‘part of the team’ when running in a Saltwell vest and the relay format emphasised this even more. It was good to be able to support the other runners throughout the day and whilst the weather was bracing to say the least, it was an unexpected bonus that the ground was so frozen my spikes didn’t need cleaning for once!


Graeme Smith