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A group of Canterbury Harriers were unexpectedly successful at the 2000 Saxon Shore Relay.


(From left) Laurence Shaw, Joe Hicks, Graham Brown, Bob Davison and Alastair Telford, the 2000 Saxon Shore Relay Champions
(Thanks to Sandra Eady for taking this photo and to Laurence for developing all the photos that we took on the day)

Laurence Shaw’s invitation to join his Saxon Shore Relay Team on 10th June seemed like it would be a good laugh – just a relaxed day out. Graham Brown, his accomplice, also sold the day well, like Laurence having done it last year. So it was that three innocents, Joe Hicks, Bob Davison and myself, were dragged into Laurence and Graham’s dastardly scheme to win the Saxon Shore Relay. (Well, okay, they strongly deny having such a scheme but all the evidence points to it!)

The race goes around what would have been the coastline in Saxon days: following the footpath along the southern cliffs and Dover, going up the eastern coast past Deal and cutting back inland to follow the Stour until heading north by the Wantsum to the coast near Reculver and then going back to Whitstable, where the race finishes by the Hotel Continental. For a race that is, therefore, 47 miles long, it starts quite late, at 11.

I was somehow persuaded to take the first leg, which was only 2.25 miles and mainly downhill. This was, of course, untrue, and after negotiating all the ups and downs and avoiding the cows in the fields, I was relieved to see Joe Hicks ready to take over the baton. Each of the 14 teams had their own unique baton to pass on and ours was a disposable camera that Laurence had bought so that we could record everywhere that we’d been. After I passed on the camera to Joe and got in Laurence’s car, I wondered how I would manage to do four more legs that day.

However, the Saxon Shore Relay is not just about running hard, it’s also about navigation. Obviously the runners have to be aware of where they’re going but the other four in the car have to be aware of the route to the next transfer point. One of the other teams made such an error at the East Cliff at Dover and so, thanks also to some great running by Bob, Graham and Joe, we found ourselves in the lead!

However, as our lead grew to several minutes, so a change came over Laurence and Graham. They started talking about how we must not relax and that there was always the danger of getting lost… Everything continued to go well, with Bob putting in a great effort on the longest, five mile leg between Richborough and Pluck’s Gutter. However, Joe then got lost on the way to Boyden Gate and we were only seconds ahead of the second team! Graham, though, really pulled out the stops on the next leg and we were once again well ahead. After a heroic final leg by Joe we eventually won by six minutes, finishing in 5 hours 36 minutes and 44 seconds, apparently the quickest time yet.

Afterwards, we went off to the celebratory dinner at the Hare and Hounds in Blean and we received commemorative glass paperweights as prizes. It was a great way to round off a brilliant day on which the sun shone without it being too hot. The event was brilliantly organised and Laurence and Graham executed their Master Plan to perfection.

PS We weren’t the only Harriers running as Carol Reid and Kathy O’Hara were running for Pfizer teams. For their benefit we tried not to look too smug at the end!