My first FRA relay

Runners and spectators standing in a field. There are misty hills in the background. It's a grey autumnal day.

Last weekend I took part in my first FRA’s (or, to use its proper name, the British Athletics Fell and Hill Relays) and it was also my first relay race.

Two hundred and fifty teams representing clubs from all over the UK gathered in Braithwaite, just outside Keswick for this annual event organised this year by Keswick AC. The Westies contingent was typically strong; some of us there for the weekend, others for the day, some racing and plenty others supporting, spectating and hanging out. We had 5 teams, impeccably curated by captains Ellen and Gregor: 2 women’s open teams, 1 men’s open team, a V60 men’s team, and a mixed team. Each team runs four legs (ranging from 4.5k to 12k), two legs are paired and two are solo, so six runners per team.  I was on the Women’s B team and was paired with Alice for Leg 3, the navigation leg (which means we didn’t know what our route would be until the start of our leg, and most of it was off path).

Runners and spectators standing in a field. There are misty hills in the background. It's a grey autumnal day.

The event had festival vibes: parking in a muddy field, food vans, portaloos, mud, a field full of gazebos, and lots of standing around waiting for things to kick off. Given that there are several hours between the Leg 1 and Leg 4 runners setting off, there’s a fair amount of hanging around, providing ample time to overthink when to get changed and go for kit checks, to downplay one’s navigation skills, and to see others start their race and cheer them over the finish line.

Newly acquired thumb compasses in hand, Alice and I set off with the mass start at 2pm and were handed a map with 7 checkpoints, covering about 10k and 700m of ascent. Trods had helpfully been created by the teams ahead of us, but we dutifully planned a route between each checkpoint and took some bearings. We gained a few places in the first half of the leg, and were really enjoying ourselves until we hit some nasty knee-high heather while on our way to the last checkpoint. We finally emerged with some scrapes and scratches and set off on the final descent, trying, but failing, to catch Andrew M and Chris F from the Mixed Team. We crossed the finish line in just over 2 hours, and after Wiebke completed Leg 4, our team came in 209th overall.

All the Westies had great races, especially the Men’s V60s, Women’s Open A Team and Men’s Open Team who finished 2nd, 6th and 13th respectively in their categories.  Full results here:

It was a great day and a Westies outing I totally recommend.

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