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Loburn 68: New Zealand Road Relay Champs

Updated: Jun 25

Three teams, two podiums, some unfinished business...our NZRR teams report back from the weekend in Canterbury.

Senior Men's Team

by James Clendon

At the risk of repeating myself, in terms of events, I don’t think anything quite compares to the New Zealand Road Relay Championships. In most cases running is a solo sport. As an older runner I’m largely racing myself. Pushing to perform against an arbitrary time I have challenged myself with. With the NZRR every second of every team member counts and you are now competing for your friends and club mates. After running in the MM35 team at last year’s event (and scoring a silver medal!) I knew I would be attending NZRR this year to participate in whatever way I could. In a ‘B’ team, mixed team, social team or even just spectating. I purchased my flights as soon as the dates were announced, and I highly recommend every club member does the same. As the NZRR generally sits in the school holidays flights are expensive if not purchased 6 months in advance.

I didn’t make the MM35 team this year. A few other MM club members outran me in the 10k events used for the trials this year. As it turns out however the Senior Men’s team were short a few runners and I had a team to run for. Due to the costs etc of late decision making, getting 8 competitive runners to toe the line is a challenge!

The buzz of the weekend starts even before your flight. Big groups of anxiously excited runners (often in club gear) stand out at the airport. From there the buzz just continues to grow. All three Owairaka teams (SM, MM35, and MM50) met up for some Italian for dinner at La Porchetta which I guess is now the tradition. I proudly sat at the ‘kids’ table and finally got to meet my last two teammates.

The morning of the race was fine but cold, but nothing like last year’s freezing temperatures. We arrived at the start in plenty of time so that we could watch the MM50 and SW teams start at 9am. Our gun time was 9:45am with all the SM and MM35 teams. There was a large crowd at the start and as the gun went and the runners all charged off down the road all the teammates charged off to their vans to head to the next baton change location.

The run is called the Loburn 68. Loburn Domain is the central hub of the event about 45 minutes drive from central Christchurch. The 68 is the combined distance of two loops through the central hub of 34k each.

Our first runner was James Fisher (the other SM ‘dad’) and as you would expect from such an experienced athlete, he was relaxed lining up with some of the fastest runners in the country to start the race. The team all performed incredibly well. James Marsh and Joel crushed the long 11.2k legs. Tom absolutely destroyed the hill section. Haoting (complete with an Owairaka singlet!) and James Fischer pushed solid splits on a tough 8.35k steady climbing section. Mitchell ran way too fast for someone who ran the 24 hour race the week before and Jack held his nerves all day to run the final 6.7k into a headwind home.

I found my run extremely hard and not as fast as I would have liked but I was smashed at the end with my vision clouding. I managed the hill climb and descent well but had not anticipated how hard the last two km would be into what had turned into a howling headwind by the afternoon. It was a special moment handing off the baton to my son Jack. My brother Dan (there running for Wellington Harriers) was taking pictures of the handover between me and Jack, so it was a family affair.

After a little over 4 hours of running we finished in 5th place. I feel a pang of regret that I was not able to hold our podium place on my leg but inspired to think what the SM team will do next year once they recruit and train a couple more runners. The young men in the team are all exceptional human beings with great personal and running futures ahead of them.

Thanks so much to James Marsh for organising everything and making the logistics silky smooth.

Bronze and unfinished business for the Owai M35s!

Nick Moore

On paper, with the addition of our King of the Mountain champion, Mariano Piagentini, we had our strongest team in recent years heading down to Road Relays in Canterbury but knew we would have a fight on our hands. The Whippets, including 3 members of last year’s winning Takapuna team, looked strong, as did the DGRS team that seemed to include people previously at a number of Christchurch clubs and Caden Shields on leg 2. Pakuranga also looked dangerous and then there was a resurgent Wellington Scottish with a point to prove. Simon Mace was a late withdrawal with injury but thankfully Adam Gallagher on his new cross-training regime stepped up and was able to take his place.

Julian Ng ran strongly on the first leg but a lead had already opened up with DGRS out ahead. Mariano ran a blinder on leg 2 with Mark Boyce from Whippets clipping his heels the whole way. Harry Harris held his own on leg 3, a challenging hilly gravel section of the course. Adam Gallagher was solid on Leg 4.

So, at half way, we were up to 3rd behind Whippets and DGRS. We lost some time on Leg 5 with Adam Berry suffering with a head cold. I clawed back a bit on Leg 6 and was super happy with fastest MM time on that leg. Ben Winder did it tough into the headwind, which was now extremely fresh, on leg 7 and then Keith Burrows, fresh off his NZ 24 hour title defence brought home the bronze in style showing a decent kick on the grass at the finish. Mariano took the flax baton home for an extremely impressive relay debut performance.

Well done, team, it was a pleasure doing relays again with you all. Thank you all for committing to the cause and running your hearts out on the day. Also, a huge thank you to Simon Mace who came down, drove the van and was on top of most of the logistics for the weekend. Well done to Whippets for winning it (we’ll be back) and to all the crew at Loburn68 for organising a super event. The traffic management was slick and the addition of a bar at the finish made for a great party atmosphere and a chance to catch up with people from all round the country. And the sun shone in Canterbury.

and a bronze for the Owai M50s

by James Parker

The Owairaka team had a great day on a fantastic course, albeit with a lot of wind. We came into the event, under a few injury clouds and a few runners unavailable. Dan Coates away and injured, Peter Kenny away etc, but the runners we selected stepped up and ensured that we made the podium, finishing close to Wellington Scottish in second place. Our MVP was awarded to PJ Murdoch, who joined the club this year and got us off to a great start, handing over to Troy Harold, who ran the fastest leg by 1.30 to briefly get us into the lead! The rest of the team fought valiantly to keep us on the podium, beating 4th place by 5 minutes. Everyone was very happy with the performance and wore their Owairaka colours with pride. A good building block for next year, with a few runners turning and 50 and hopefully a bigger pull for selection, so we will be aiming for top spot!

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