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Owairaka at the New Zealand Road Relay Championships

Updated: Oct 13, 2022



1st October 2022

Traffic Management issues meant that there was a late change to the relays this year from the historic Takahe 2 Akaroa course where Owairaka have had so much success over the years to a closed circuit in Bottle Lake Forest Park. Kevin Norquay's story summarises it nicely and includes a couple of choice quotes from our president, Tim Morrison. Credit to Athletics Canterbury for putting on a really fun day of racing with very very limited lead in.


We had three teams down there this year and were so very close to sending a senior women's team. Next year it will happen, Owai wahine! And we should also be able to get a junior women's team together led by Bella and Nina (who ran this year in a composite team). Well done to everyone who committed to the relays this year and put your bodies on the line again. It remains a great event and a fantastic thing to be a part of.


Senior Men's Team (by David Bagot)

The senior men’s team was competing in the B race. Pre race preparations weren’t helped when team captain James Marsh was struck down with flu. Luckily James Parker was able to step up at very late notice and fill his place - thanks for stepping in James, very much appreciated! It was great seeing our new O’Hagan recruits Harvey Walsh (26.26) and Mitchell Carlyle (27.58) in action, putting the team in 4th position at the end of leg 3. Pram free Adam Berry put in a solid effort, leaving us only 20seconds down on 3rd place at the end of leg 4. James, Oscar, Kieran and Dan finished off, bringing us home 5th in the B race against some strong teams. The team enjoyed the trip, with many of them getting their first experience of the national relays. It was great having more senior men representing the club, compared to the composite team entered at the last relays in Fielding. Hopefully we can continue strengthening the team and push towards finishing higher in the B league or maybe even the A league going forwards!


Senior Men's runners L-R: James Parker - a late call up for the SM team, Mitchell Carlyle looking super strong, David Bagot running down Steven Day


M35-49 Team (by James Clendon)

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. Hearing the talk of the NZRR on literally hundreds of runs over the last few years from Tim Morrison, Simon Mace, James Parker and many others built it up in my mind as a must do event. I felt very lucky to make the MM35 team for Owairaka at the final trial event at the Auckland Road Champs in August just sneaking in the last slot. From that point on it was all nerves. The idea of getting injured or sick beforehand or not running a respectable time on the day weighed on the mind. As older runners, the key to success is first just getting a full fit team to the start line!


Flights were a drama. Being the first weekend of the school holidays meant full planes and last- minute changes by the airlines. Arriving in Christchurch on the Friday afternoon was a relief and as each team member confirmed they had arrived I could visually see the relief in Nick and Simon’s faces. All that build up and we might actually have 8 competitive runners to toe the line. We went straight to Bottle Lake Park. Not the original venue and I won’t try to explain the complex story of why it was no longer a relay from Takahe to Akaroa here. It was calming to jog the course. We all took it very slow preserving our legs for the big day and enjoying the scenic course. It might not be the race we had expected but it was going to be an amazing day.

The morning of the race was cold. So very cold. Julian Ng was first up. Out for a gentle warm up jog while the rest of us tried to stay warm. I think the temperature was only 1 degrees C when we arrived. The organisers had provided gazebos for the teams, so we all had ‘homes’ for the day. There were 178 teams entered with most being 8 person teams with some 6 person teams. It made for a lot of runners and spectators and a venue buzzing with nervous runner energy. It was great sharing a space with the Senior Mens and M50 Owai teams and being able to catch up with friends from all around the country and this was definitely one advantage of having a race ‘base’ unlike the normal course.

Seeing Julian’s nervousness build was hard to watch, and it was a relief for us all when the gun finally went. We progressively took turns warming up between watching the runners come in for baton change. We saw one of the Whippets miss their first baton change costing their team maybe a minute. None of us wanted to be responsible for that! Watching our teammates Julian and Ben run solid legs and seeing Julian trying not to throw up on the finish line made it clear this run was going to hurt. Harry had stormed out running strong, so it was not going to be long before my day started. Keith had done the maths and given us all targets that we needed to hit for a chance to make the podium. Now it was time to put up or shut up. It was very hard to stay warm after my warmup jog and I learned a lesson there. Setting off fast, while still cold made for a tough run. Maybe a blanket would help next year?


The run itself was a relief to start. The course was lined with spectators for roughly the first half km and last km. It was scenic in a pine forest with about half asphalt and half gravel forming an 8km loop. A nice little gravel path up a small hill near halfway to mix things up. With so many runners out, it was a game of just pushing to pick off the runners ahead of you and moving from one to the next. I found my run hard and not as fast as I would have liked but I was smashed at the end with my vision clouding. I would have liked to have beaten the time Keith gave me by a bit more and the reality of the science of fitness can be very annoying at times.

L-R: Ben Winder looking super smooth, Harry Harris passing on the outside, Mitch Cantlon, elbows out


I handed off to Mitch who was running with a mild cold. He dug so deep he was laid out on the grass for about 30min after his leg. We thought we might lose him! Keith as reliable as ever, also stepped up taking us back from 5th to 4th place. We had backloaded our team with Nick and Simon taking the last two legs. When Nick took the baton, it really did look like 4th place might be it. Takapuna was way out in front by about 7 minutes and 2nd and 3rd were both about 4 minutes ahead of us.

Nick Moore after his 2022 NZRR leg
The image of a man who has done his job

Nick smashed out an incredible race closing on the 2nd and 3rd place teams Don Greig Racing Stable and Wellington Scottish. Handing the baton to Simon with the competition in sight was a bit like letting a greyhound go after the rabbit – in this case still two very fast rabbits. The rest of the Owai team was buzzing at this point. Back in the race and a chance for a medal.


Simon ran a solid leg and caught both the Scottish and Don Greig runners by about 3km. As he passed both he apparently gave a friendly greeting while hammering as fast as he could. He pushed on and finished with third fastest Mens Masters time of the day, 11 seconds behind the fastest lap. Takapuna Harriers claimed their first national men’s master’s gold medal in 24 years as their eight-strong team came home for a strong win in 3:33:39. Owairaka AC (3:40:02) for second and Wellington Scottish (3:41:10) pipped Don Greig Racing Stables by a 35-second margin in the scrap for bronze.


Astonishingly after 3 hours and 40 minutes of running we were only 1’45” from 4th place. Every bit of the pain and each person doing what they had to do got us to the podium. If anyone had blown up it could have been so different and each of us knew that. Each member had done their bit on the day and ran for the team. Knowing what I do now I will be buying flights for next year’s event before knowing if I’m in a team. It is such an exciting event; I plan to participate in whatever way I can. In a ‘B’ team, mixed team, social team or even just spectating. The mistake is not just jumping in as soon as the date and venue is announced and booking those flights. Thanks so much to Nick Moore and Simon Mace for organising everything and making the logistics silky smooth.

Julian Ng 0:27:19 Ben Winder 0:28:58 Harry Harris 0:27:23 James Clendon 0:29:35 Mitch Cantlon 0:28:17 Keith Burrows 0:27:32 Nick Moore 0:25:48 Simon Mace 0:25:10

M50s (by Tony Plowman)

The M50 team were pleased to be able to put a team together after the original 13 available runners were reduced to just the required eight due to injuries. The team consisted of Adrian Earl, Bazyl Piotrowski (running with an injured foot), Tim Mitchell, Tim Morrison, Pete Kenny, Tony Plowman, Grant Clifton and Troy Harold. Simon Aspden came along as well for support. After several Air NZ cancellations and hurried re-bookings we all made it to Christchurch in time for Friday dinner, except Grant who had to drive to Rotorua to catch a flight to Wellington and a connection from there to Christchurch, arriving late on Friday evening.

Due to troubles obtaining the traffic management plan the organisers of the event had to quickly change the race format. Instead of the usual hilly eight leg course from the Sign of the Takahe over to Akaroa, this year’s relay was run through the forest at Bottle Lake north east of the city centre. Each runner had to run the same 8 km (approx.) lap. While the camaraderie of the van was missing, the replacement course still challenging but enjoyable, and made for some fast lap times times.

This year the Owairaka M50 team came 5th out of seven teams. Not the result we had hoped for but we were glad to be able to have a team on the day and are already planning to come back stronger next year. Thanks to Tim Morrison for managing and also Simon for the support and driving.

Tim Mitchell cruising through the forest, and Pete Kenny on the home straight.


Lead image: Simon Aspden

All other photos: Greg-Jules Bramwell



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