Tension, drama, tears! Latest blockbuster? No! More exciting than The Da Vinci Code. More twists and turns than a James Peterson novel. It's the annual Emsworth to Basingstoke relay - perhaps we should call it the Hampshire relay as most of the teams, not satisfied with the straight route, covered large parts of the county that weren't on the plan.

The Basingstoke team took a new approach this year. We would reccee the easy legs and leave the more difficult ones to chance and a good map. This would leave all the teams with the same burden of not having a clue where we were going - much more fun.

Margaret and the Victory Vixens were using her famous route plan (she won't let any of us lesser teams a look but I hear that you can run the course blindfold with the instructions so I don't know if she has put them on an MP3 player and the runner just keeps up with the commentary).

We sent our first runner, Richard, off with his map at Emsworth. The last time he had run the race was back in the old Wayfarers Walk days so we waited at West Leigh, half expecting to get a phone call from Portsdown Hill. The map must have been ok as he appeared in good time.

Southampton A meanwhile had lost there 2nd runner so the first leg gazelle started of towards Rowlands Castle. He reappeared a couple of minutes later and the 2nd leg runner, along with our guy Tim, then set off in pursuit of Victory A and Southampton B team.

At Rowlands Castle Victory A had a 2 minute lead over Basingstoke and Southampton A. Mark set off after Victory and arrived at Finchdean only 3 minutes behind. Southampton meanwhile had dropped 2 minutes but were holding Victory vets of by 3 minutes.

Finchdean saw the first of the real hills but no problems for everyone except Victory vets who had Southampton B close them down to 1 minute with the Vixens and Colemen 3 minutes further back.

The next drama was at Petersfield when Neil from Victory took the wrong turn just before the bypass and appeared at Steep in 2nd place for the first time behind Nick from Basingstoke who had run a 14 minute leg.

Mark set off in the lead on the steepest section of the course with the advantage of a reccee the week before with a solid 25 minute leg.

At Hawkley Richard (map in hand), still in the lead for Basingstoke, set off on a short but difficult to navigate leg to Vann farm. Victory still in 2nd. The mud and camber in the woods makes this leg a difficult one and easy to get injured. On the right day is can be run in 10 minutes but the rain put paid to the times. H handed over to Nick who had the unenviable task of running over the hanger into Selborne.

Our next worry was at Selborne when Peter was to run the leg with only the map to guide him. He had never run the leg before and even runners who reccee the course get lost here. He put in a good 21 minute leg and handed over to Mark for the short downhill leg (where I got lost last year) to hand over to me for the worst leg of the race, Alton.

Alton is difficult to navigate, has 3 hills, you run through the town centre, need I go on. A good runner can do it in 21 minutes but I took 24.

Shalden to Avenue nurseries (good Sunday lunches here) is a short 9- 10 minute fast leg with a couple of tricky junctions. We hadn't reccee'd it or produced a good enough map and this proved our undoing. We took 16 minutes here, Peter appearing from the Lasham road.

Richard set off, with Victory A only just behind, on another mainly downhill leg, to Weston Patrick.

Tim took over, still in the lead, but with one of the Victory gazelles just behind. He held him off as long as possible but Victory appeared at Hackwood lodge in the lead.

Neil set off with Nick from Basingstoke in hot pursuit. At Down Grange we waited to see who would appear first. Neil however made no mistakes and put in a first class last leg to clinch it for Victory A by 3 minutes. Nick, on his 3rd hard leg of the day cam in 2nd.

On a day when navigation proved to be the key the next 3 teams all finished within 3 minutes of each other, the Colemen closing the proceedings a further 15 minutes behind which for a group of non runners is a stirling performance. Their aim is to raise the most sponsorship, a challenge they have one for the last few years.

Final times

Victory A 5:11

Basingstoke 5:14

Victory Vets 5:55

Southampton B 5:57

Southampton A 5:58

Victory Vixens 6:22

The Colemen 6:37

I have put a copy of one of the leg maps on the site for the run between Selborne to West Worldham (leg12). During the next year I will produce similar maps for all the legs so that teams will be able to run them without and recceeing, just a bit of savvy.

The race this year was run in aid of the Brittle Bone Society and was organised by Cyd Hill of Basingstoke & Mid Hants Athletics club; he even organised a seemingly endless supply of rolls, tea and cakes at the finish with help of his daughters.

Don Powell

Basingstoke & Mid Hants A.C.