Beginners Guide to Relays by Alan Squire

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It’s that time of year when your captains will start asking for names to be entered in the relays. I realised from some questions I was asked that that some of you didn’t know what this was all about. Hopefully there are a few tips for the more experienced runners too.

Running is normally something of a solo activity. Most of us like that part of it too. Occasionally we get the opportunity to run as part of team. These events have often been my most enjoyable and memorable during my running career.

As a club we take part in several relay races. I’ll begin with the biggest two. The Leeds Country Way and the Bradford Millennium Way. Please excuse me for adding that Horsforth Harriers has won these events. They are circular routes of about 50 miles run off road on public footpaths, divided into sections (legs) of about ten miles. Runners compete in pairs and categories vary from men, women, mixed and vets.

It is the responsibility of the runners to learn the routes. The routes and maps are available on the organising clubs websites. Other club members (especially group leaders and captains) will be happy to assist and provide advice on learning the legs. Normally it is necessary to run the leg beforehand (a recce). This can be fun and may be done in groups, with your partner or (if you have to) on your own. Running with others makes it easier to car share as it is usually needed to leave a car at either end of the leg. It is often worth finding out the other pairs who are going to run your leg. Pace is not too important as the purpose is to learn the route. Sticking to the given route on race day is essential and leaving it can lead to disqualification of the whole team.

Teams are chosen from people who put their names forward by the captains. It is reasonable to suggest legs that you may already know or prefer and partners who may run at a similar pace. As captains we will do our best to accommodate people’s wishes but ultimately we will decide where and who you will run with. Obviously volunteering does not guarantee you a place in the team as a precise number of people is required to make a team. We also need reserves for the teams as runners often have to drop out due to injury, illness or personal reasons. Don’t worry if you think you may not be quick enough of are too inexperienced. You do need to be able to run the required distance but normally several teams of varying pace and abilities are entered. The substantial entry fee for these races is paid by the club.

You must be ready to run your leg when it is your turn. Looking up previous results is good way of finding out when arrive. If you’re not sure ask your captains. The later legs are going to be more difficult to anticipate than the earlier ones. Work out how long it will take to get there, warm up and get ready to run. I have underestimated the speed runners can get round in and narrowly avoided being late myself. So look at the guide times and arrive at least half an hour earlier. The recce is also a good time to learn how to get to your leg. Remember that there may be parking restrictions on the race day. Being late lets the whole team down.

You need to wear your club vest with the team number on the front. Other clothing is down to personal choice and what you are comfortable in but it is recommended. Off road or trail shoes are usually required unless conditions are very dry when road shoes may be ok. Water stations are not normally provided. Carry with you what you think you will need to drink or eat on the way round. I like a PB bum bag that I’ve used for years to put things in. Others prefer camelbak type backpacks or don’t need to carry anything at all.  I also like collapsible type water containers as they fold up when empty and bounce around less. Don’t be shy to ask for advice on energy gels and food. Experiment yourself and find out what you are comfortable with and what you need. At this kind of distance most runners find that they don’t need to carry anything.

Always stay with your partner. Ideally every pair will consist of two perfectly matched runners. This is rarely the case. Even if you normally run at the same pace one or the other will be faster on the day. If you are the faster runner let the slower runner dictate the pace. You can help you partner by opening gates etc or carrying the others’ water or gear. Never leave your partner. If you are the slower runner don’t be afraid to ask your partner to ease off. The leg is not completed until both runners have finished so there is nothing to gain by running ahead. If you are both quicker runners it is good to set off at an even, comfortable pace. Unlike a normal race when you’re on your own you may feel good or bad at different times. After a couple of miles pick up bit and towards the end you should be running at full pelt. Don’t race your partner. Try to run side by side if possible. There are prizes for pairs who complete the leg the fastest. I do have one of those.

Paired with Reece Milton on the Leeds Country Way

The club may ask you to take part in several other events.

The Calderdale Relay is a fell race run under FRA rules. This means that teams must carry the required safety equipment. Checks are done and teams not having the equipment are disqualified. This list is copied from the Fell Runners Association website:

  • WATERPROOF whole body cover (i.e. covering the torso from head to ankles) • Other body cover appropriate for the weather conditions including, as a minimum, hat and gloves but also e.g. a fleece • Map, preferably waterproof, of the race route and surrounding area • Compass suitable for navigating the course (GPS type equipment is not acceptable) • Whistle • Emergency food (long races).


These are minimum requirements. Other equipment may be advisable depending on weather conditions. The Calderdale Relay has some technical terrain and only those comfortable with fell races should apply.

Golden Acre and Danefield relays are short courses run by teams of individual runners. Teams consist of three runners doing the same route of about three miles.

We just need names. If you are interested in taking part in one of the above relays please get in touch with your Club Captains.

Men’s Captain: Alan Squire

Ladies Captain: Bev Elliott

I hope this is helpful and encourages you to take part.

Alan Squire

By |April 19th, 2017|