Ekiden 2022 Review and Annabelle Reed Trophy

7 August 2022 - By Ben O'leary

The Race

For the uninitiated (let’s face it almost everyone) Ekiden is a marathon relay with a particular format. Teams of six runners pull together to complete a 42.2km (marathon) distance over a series of 7.2km, 5km and 10km legs. It’s always been a popular event  but has been virtual through the pandemic. Even earlier this year, less that a week before it was officially confirmed, we were told confidently it wouldn’t be running this year.

Picture the scene, it’s 6am, the sun is already heating up, it’s a SUNDAY, and the alarm goes off. No one needs to be up at that time. Fortunately our intrepid team captains Liz Prior and Ben O’Leary were willing to do what had to be done for the glory of WRC, and were more than happy to drag local Social Secretary Rachel O’Leary along for the ride. It all paid off as arriving at 0745 we had our pick of the spaces and plonked our gazebo right between the starting straight and the half-way point of the running route before promptly cowering in the shade to eat some breakfast.

The lead up to the day was stressful with a few reluctant drop outs in the final few days but we went into the day with a full compliment after Annalise Tye, Sam Hajder and Liz Prior were called up from reserve, and Owen Dare boldly stepped in to fill a gap at the 11th hour.

With the junior race underway, and less than an hour to go until the senior race start time we still didn’t have any Witham Runners, and the large gazebo was getting some funny looks with just three sat inside. Soon enough though, they were coming in thick and fast armed with cool bags and camping chairs. We had 4 full teams out, ready to flood the leader board with black and gold.

Ladies Open Ladies Vets Men’s Open Men’s Vets
Jodee Mayer Angela Read Andrew “Roo” Smith Andrew Read
Leanne Andrews Celine Elson Pete “Banksy” Banks David Carey
Liz “doesn’t race” Prior Jenny Layley Clive Smith Geoffrey Reddin
Rachel O’leary Kerry Townsend James Attenborough Gerry Greenwold
Annalise Tye Lisa Leader Shane Ketteridge Owen Dare
Sarah Naughton Sam Martin Steven Alder Sam Hajder

Of course we couldn’t kick off without another last minute adjustment; with Clive Smith running late James Attenborough stepped in to run his 7.2km leg to kick off the day leaving Clive with the 5km glory leg at the end.

Sarah, Sam, James and Owen took on the A-legs and started us off in fine form with Owen opening up an early lead against the other WRC runners. By the end of the first half lap (less than 2km) it was hard to see who people were through the sweat but eventually the first runners were done and the batons were passed to their worthy successors.

Steven Alder was keen as always, taking on the B leg for the men’s open team, but in his keenness he forgot James had just run 7.2km (in what histories will no doubt record as 50 degrees heat) and set off at a handover pace which James couldn’t possibly have matched. Eventually he had to turn around for the baton and was on his way!

The rest of the day became a whirlwind of activity with supporters darting back and forth between the track on either side of WRC HQ to scream at club-mates from all teams to “keep going” and “well done”. Extra credit to the four nominated captains, Rachel, Kerry, Steven and Dave, for keeping their teams under control and in the right places. We had no one miss their handovers, which I call a great success, and when Roo had an unexpected need for an inhaler (turns out breathing is the secret to his success) a call over the speakers saw at least six different people come running over to WRC HQ to offer theirs. Anyway crisis averted, Roo was back to it smashing out his 10km C-leg.

Everyone will stop reading if I run through the whole event (even if i had the memory to get the finishing orders right) so you’ll have to look out for this week’s results post to see how well everyone did. Spoiler alert, we saw some excellent running throughout and Annalise and Celine claimed PBs for their respective distances. The winners of the day came in at around 2 hours 20 minutes, about 10 minutes off the race record.

Sadly all good things must come to an end, and fortunately for the men’s vets team their race came to an end first with Andrew taking the F-leg and finishing his two laps of the course (5km) with all due cheer. While this was great news for the men’s vets, don’t let it take away from the men’s open performance where Clive, less than a lap behind at this stage, managed to bring their race to a close in around 3 hours 11 minutes.

This left the ladies out on the course with Leanne and Lisa working through the 10km E-legs, and promptly handing over to their final teammates Annalise and Angela respectively. Annalise absolutely smashed the 5km F-leg bringing the Ladies open in next for WRC. She may not have been aware of it, but Jodeehad set her a target to bring the team in under 3 hours 45 minutes with an unpleasant penalty for failure which fortunately she’ll never have to experience!

This left Angela as our final runner out on the course, and while Annalise was just remembering how to move at a normal speed again the whole club got behind Angela. Much to her dismay we took this far too literally and got onto the course for the final 2.5km lap in a tornado of black and gold, which everyone was in support of until one of the marshals coming into the final half km told us off!

All in all, a very good day out for WRC!

The Annabelle Reed Trophy

For me, the reason we’re part of a club rather than a bunch of lonely solo-runners quietly nodding to one another as we pass on our runs before going home to cry in the shower, is the social side to running, the support of your fellow club-mates and occasionally the friendly rivalries.

Some years ago we had a member, Annabelle Reed, who sadly died far too young. Annabelle was always first to throw out her support to the team, and so quite understandably, to her, Ekiden was the gold standard for club events. In her honour we award the Annabelle Reed Ekiden Trophy every year to the member who embodies the WRC team spirit, a team player award if you like.

This year, team spirit was STRONG. With a number of members stepping in at relatively short notice to fill spaces, people offering to run extra legs if needed (luckily for them it wasn’t) and overall a really solid showing of support with almost all of the members staying right to the end to support the later runners.

Throughout the day there was one person that we heard, and heard mentioned far more that any other. Always with one eye on the track to make sure no runner got missed on the way past, haunting the final corner to make sure everyone got a solid cheer coming into the end of their legs. Bullying Incentivising a number of members into superb performances in her usual coach-y ways and masterminding the final club victory lap.

I don’t think there’s a single person present today who would dispute that she earned this award, and get first words on being announced were “that’s not why I do it” which is frankly exactly the point!

Congratulations (and thank you!) to Jodee Mayer!

This is Annabelle, who you may recognise from the endless gallery on the WRC homepage!

And here’s a team photo. It was taken at the end of the day, so sadly a few racers were unable to stay, but everyone managed to get their kit back on!


  1. Steven Alder Steven Alder says:

    Great day and great write up. Well deserved Jodee, your encouragement was excellent 🙂

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