2003 London Green Belt
Relay: We Did It!
The Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde personality of the Wissahickon
Wanderers emerged in the 2003 Green Belt Relay around London
on May 10 and 11.
The performance turned in by the five regular Wanderers in
the 211-mile race can only be described as brave..... but
pathetic. However, the running of the five new Wanderer recruits
during the race was absolutely stunning. The finished product
was a 19th place finish in a very strong field of 23.
The race consisted of 20 legs ranging from seven to 14 miles
over varied terrain including country roads, forest paths, canal
and river towpaths, and pilgrimage trails. Anyone who believes
that southern England is essentially flat should think again.
The many hills encountered on the course could only be described
as punishing. With each team made up of 10 runners, competitors
ran single legs on both Saturday and Sunday.
to view the photos
Wanderers' Rock Steady, Simon Newman and
British Bulldog prepare final logistics just prior to
the start of the Green Belt Relay. Does it look like
this job is in competent hands?
Considering the difficulties encountered, even completing
all 20 legs of the race should be chalked up as a Wanderers
victory. The Wanderer squad was depleted by a series of injuries.
When the British Bulldog David Brough came
down with a pulled calf muscle two weeks prior to the race,
the situation appeared desperate. With the Wanderers one runner
short, it was beginning to look like a suicide mission.
However, the first good omen appeared on Wayne Hamilton’s
flight from Chicago to London. Midway through the flight,
his neighboring passenger reached up into the baggage compartment,
where there were 12 boxes of Krispy Kreme doughnuts. It turned
out that the Crusher’s fellow passenger
was a Krispy Kreme executive traveling to London on business
(look for the Krispy Kreme concession opening soon at Harrod’s
department store on your next trip to England).
Luck suddenly began to turn for the Wanderers. Upon arrival
in London, they discovered that a final replacement, Richard
Xerri, had been recruited. Showing up in his bicycling
kit while out on a long ride to volunteer for the Green Belt,
Richard was like a dream come true for the Wanderers.
to view the photos
Richard Xerri won glory for the Wanderers
with his brilliant third place finish on the last leg
The Wanderers line-up was as follows: Crusher, Rock
Steady, Axel, Simon Newman, Space Ghost (Tad Sperry),
and newcomers Richard Xerri, Francois Barou, Ralph
Herrgott, Martin Hintze and Mike Farmery, all from
London. Mike had been visiting Santa Barbara, California,
this past December on business at the same time that Rock
Steady and Snake Bite were running their
Peace Pipe Marathon. Mike made the mistake of asking directions
from the pair during a water stop, and things went all downhill
from there until Mike found himself running in the Green Belt
for the Wanderers.
Twenty-three teams lined up at the start of the race at
Hampton Court along the banks of the River Thames. The quality
of competition was very high, and included former London Marathon
winner Hugh Jones who by the way won both the fifth and 14th
legs. Slow pokes in the field were very hard to find.
The Wanderer veterans performed their work in the nether
regions of the competition finishing in an assortment of last
, second to last and third to places although Simon Newman
did climb to fifth to last in the 10th leg.
The new Wanderers on the other hand sparkled. Richard Xerri
ran third on the final leg to accompany his eigth place finish
on the demanding leg five, when he got lost and conceded a few
minutes. Mike Farmery also had some navigation problems on the
second leg but still finished fourth, and returned the next
day to place ninth on Leg 18. Francois Barou grabbed 8th place
on the 13.1 mile leg 7 traveling at seven minutes a mile and
then repeated the performance the next day with another 8th
place finish on the run up to the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge
in Dartford. This time he ran at a 6:50 minute a mile pace.
to view the photos
Wanderer Down! Axel gets medical attention
for blisters after his 11.2 mile leg. His performance
despite the blisters attests to the valor of the Wanderer
Ralph Herrgott excelled finishing 15th on the sixth stage
into St. Albans and then returned the next day to run 12th
in the 9.2 mile 13th stage. Martin Hintze drew the demanding
4th leg through the Chiltern Hills and battled to 13th place.
He followed this performance with another hills run, this
time through the South Downs of Surrey, on the 10.4 mile 17th
stage, in which he came 15th.
But it was Crusher Wayne Hamilton who once more drew the
toughest assignment when he was given the murderous 14th leg.
The course description written in typical English understatement
reads as follows. “The climb up the side of the wood
is a good one, but don’t think it finishes where you
enter the wood. The steepest bit is yet to come.”
Last year, Wayne earned the name Crusher by his dramatic
conquest of Mt. Smokey in the Cabot Trail Relay on Cape Breton.
But this year, the Crusher was crushed by Leg 14.
to view the photos
Mike Farmery, right, set a blistering early
pace on Leg Two along the Thames River.
“The course went upbut never came down,” Crusher
recounted afterwards. “By the end of the race, I was
walking and I was just about to sit down. Then I saw David
(Brough) who told me the finish was only 200 yards away. But
I did not believe him.”
Considering this is the third straight race where Crusher
has been assigned a different, and much tougher leg than requested,
don’t be surprised to see him show up at the next Wanderers’
relay accompanied by his lawyer.
Meanwhile, it was a delight to see Simon Newman back in
action. Simon who had been a Wanderer stalwart during the
club’s formative period had been knocked out by injuries
for almost two years. He looked strong on both the 10th and
Space Ghost Tad Sperry showed his experience in the first
leg pacing himself nicely and producing a strong finishing
kick on the long 13-mile first stage. With the same patience,
he waited in the pack and then passed runners at the end of
Stage 16 up Box Hill on the North Downs.
Axel also made his return to Wanderers competition. Although
training was suspect, courage was not. Axel finished despite
suffering gruesome blisters.
As difficult as running the hilly course was, perhaps a tougher
task was actually driving the course in the support vehicles.
Traveling the windy English roads sometimes in heavy traffic
and delivering and picking up runners on tight timetables could
only be described as chaotic. Luckily the Wanderers were in
the hands of the crack navigational team of Space Ghost and
Simon Newman who were then supported by another logistics ace
in British Bulldog on Day Two.
to view the photos
Wanderer fixture Simon Newman gets ready
for his first race in more than two years. He's also
keeping a close watch on the Dulwich Runners-Ladies
who battled the Wanderers for all 20 legs before finally
succumbing by a mere 20 minutes.
Watching Simon at the wheel with Space Ghost in charge of
navigation was a thing of beauty. Even then a few pickup points
and marshalling duties were missed.
Telecommunications was also of vital importance in the race.
Communications between runners and support vehicles and between
the vehicles themselves was absolutely key. Unfortunately,
these telecommunication skills were sorely exposed over the
course of the Green Belt. These duties had been handed over
to Rock Steady operating with the Bulldog’s cell phone.
Through some creative dialing, Rock not only managed to get
Bulldog’s phone turned off, but also got his service
cancelled so that the main support vehicle was virtually operating
blind during the second day of the competition.
No description of the Green Belt Relay can be completed
without a huge thank you to the Stragglers Running Club for
organizing the event. The work involved was prodigious, and
the atmosphere was positively supportive. The Wanderers were
even treated with respect. It was a delight to see the English
running clubs running hard during the races but enjoying themselves
so much immediately afterwards.
Oh, by the way, the race was won by the Sunday Night Shandies
in 21 hours and 21 minutes followed by the West 4 Harriers-Wombats
who trailed by an hour and 18 minutes. Third were the Ranelagh
Old Dogs a further 12 minutes back.
The Wanderers were locked in a see-saw struggle throughout
the competition with the Dulwich Runners-Ladies team with
the Wanderers prevailing in 19th place by 20 minutes in a
total elapsed time of 27 hours and 52 minutes. The Wanderers
finished 24 minutes behind the Silver Fern Harriers of New
The prestigious toilet bowl seat awarded to the last place
team was won by the Ranelagh Bloodhounds in a time of 32 hours
and 56 minutes.