The last two weekends have seen 52 runners from Winchester Running Club complete 300 miles across the South Downs from Eastbourne to Winchester and slightly further afield from Caernarfon to Cardiff down the length of Wales.

The South Downs Way Relay took place on Saturday, June 1 and involved teams of six taking on 18 stages ranging from 3.7 to 8.6 miles. Each runner is allocated three legs, the first starting from Beachy Head in Eastbourne and the last finishing at Chilcomb in Winchester.

With a mixed and veteran team taking on the challenge and three drivers to transport them from stage to stage, the day started at 4.00am in order to arrive in Eastbourne in good time for 7.00 and 7.30am starts. The mixed team of George Belfield, Alex Lane, Mags Gregory, Adrian Fautly, Ellie Swire and Caroline Carr made excellent time, exchanging leads with Ranelagh Harriers on several occasions. In the end, it was a two-horse race for first place between these two teams with Ranelagh eventually triumphing on the final stage to push Winchester into second place. Over 100 miles and over 11 hours of running just 3 minutes separated them with Winchester crossing the line in a total of 11 hours 20 minutes.

The Veterans team of Karla Borland, Andy Parkinson, Justin Corrie, Dean Rawlins, Stephen Lowy and Paul Horler finished in a very creditable 6th position in a time of 12 hours 34 minutes. A massive thanks goes to team manager Jackie Ducker for bringing everything together and driving runners on the day along with Kate Green and Bruce Ayling.

If the South Downs relay was not enough, the following weekend saw two teams of 20 runners travel to Caernarfon for the Welsh Castles Relay. More than 60 teams from across the UK take on the 200 mile challenge with individual stages ranging from 8.5 to 13.1 miles.

After a parade lap around Caernarfon Castle, the 10 stages on Saturday wind their way along roads and cycle paths taking in mountains, rivers and the coast on the way to Newtown in mid-Wales. Runners are accompanied on route by a procession of minibuses, cowbells and vociferous support from all clubs taking part. Impromptu feed stations are set up by the side of the road to provide water to the runners.

For the first time in a number of years, Winchester was represented by a women’s team racing alongside an open team made up of the men of the club. A highlight of Saturday was Stan Parkinson achieving a stage win and receiving the much coveted yellow stage winners t-shirt. What made the win even more special was that despite this being Stan’s 8th Castles, it was the first he was old enough to race in completing the 8-mile stage in a little over 44 minutes.

Both teams navigated Saturday’s stages successfully and met together for a communal meal at accommodation just outside Newtown. It was a chance to share stories, compare sore muscles and prepare for the second day of running.

And so at 7.00am on Sunday, it all starts again with the race heading into the Brecon Beacons before following the Taff Trail through the valleys to the finish in Cardiff. It is fair to say that every runner, no matter their age or speed gave their all and with the sun shining James Moore crossed the finish line for the open team in 22 hours, 23 minutes and 1 second and a very respectable 16th place out of 36 teams.

Caroline Carr saw the women home in 25 hours, 53 minutes and 58 seconds in an excellent 6th place. Team manager George Belfield was delighted with the weekend’s outcome saying "Castles in more than just a running race, it is a chance for the running community to come together and support each other no matter how fast or slow their opponent is. Winchester has managed to remain competitive and inclusive and it is fantastic to be involved with such a friendly and supportive club."

If that was not enough, a number of juniors were involved at the same time as their senior clubmates were in Wales in the Hampshire Schools track and field championships in Portsmouth. Well done to Poppy Taylor, Tom Savile, Ethan Skipwith, Ruben Price, Grace Baker, Ieuan Thomas and Will Atkins on their selection to take part.