Around this time of year it’s really easy to spot the Club Captains, both male and female, as they look unusually tense and have a vein throbbing on their temples and a slightly hunted look about them. This is because we are approaching the Leeds Country Way and they are hoping – usually against hope – that nobody drops out of the teams at the last minute.

Now this is where the mathematics comes in. If I read my minutes correctly we have about 250 members of the club. Of those a little more than half are women (this is a Good Thing!) but roughly there’s an even split of around 125 of each sex. So how come when we advertise relays and ask for people to come forward and make up teams to participate there’s such a comparatively small number, a tiny percentage of the overall membership, who volunteer?

Maybe it’s thought that the relays are for the elite. Let me put that one to bed immediately. I’ve run in almost every relay the club enter and nobody has ever described me as ‘elite’. It’s meant to be and is, fun. I can recall in the not too distant past being part of a winning team at the Danefield Relays, when as part of the ‘Horsforth Fat Lads’ (Andrew Charles, Gordon – who maybe wasn’t quite as svelte in those days as he is now – and myself) got a spot prize (of course we didn’t beat the ‘pencilnecks’ – what were you thinking?). Whatever, we ran hard, supported each other and generally had a laugh. And I went home cradling my six pack (and I’m not talking about stomach muscles here).

The point is that all relays are for all members of the club, and, better yet, currently the club pays the entry fees. Of course this might not be the case in future, due to the club subsidising membership of our new facilities – those mathematics again – but it is currently, so I would urge you, dear readers, to take advantage of this while you can.

It may be that we’ve mined the Leeds Country Way seam out for now (personally, I don’t think so) and need to look for another relay/races to enter and see if that floats the club membership boat. But there is nothing like running a relay as you get to bond, possibly with someone who you are not overly familiar with, and discover the delights of parts of the world you might not have seen before and might not be able to find again. Julia Day will regale you with tales of me and her scrabbling about in the gathering gloom on a reccie of Leeds Country Way Leg 2. We could see the finish, but could we find the route to it? Could we figgy. When we finally picked up Julia’s car in the dark at Stanley I suggested we celebrate with a swift half in the nearby boozer. I wouldn’t say it was rough, but if they’d had a piano, it would have stopped when we walked in. Only on a relay reccie can such delights be sampled. My first Leeds Country Way proper was with Ralph George, a really class runner in his day – elite even. He charged off ahead of me but seemed to have a tenuous grasp of the route. I on the other hand had a firm grasp on the race instructions but was following a polite fifty yards behind him simultaneously gasping, trying to read and bellowing the route directions to him – ‘LEFT!’, ‘NO, STRAIGHT ON!’, ‘WAIT FOR ME!’ etc., etc. It was hard work, but it was great fun.

So, teams for relays like the Danefield and Golden Acre can be sorted a week or so before, sometimes on the night, but the Calder Valley Relay, The Bradford Millennium Way, Leeds Country Way and Fell Running Relays etc., require pre-planning and route reconnoitres with your running partner (ideally, but not always). I reckon almost everybody in the club could run in and, yes, enjoy one of the bigger relays. We need twelve people to form a Leeds Country Way team plus a few more to be reserves to avoid potential aneurysms in the Captains. But if only around fifty maximum come forward to say they’ll run, then that leaves about eighty percent of the club of whom, say sixty-five percent are ‘relay potentials’ who aren’t responding. But you do the math(s)!

The Fat Bloke

This year’s Leeds Country Way takes place on 4th September 2016. So this blog is an exhortation to consider 2017 relays…’s never too early!