A Baton Named Rod


Elizabeth Ayres recounts her involvement in the world-record-breaking I Move London Relay.

Sometime in June I saw Facebook ads for the I Move London Relay happening throughout July. Runners were asked to sign up for a stage to help break a world record for the ‘longest continuous relay’ and raise funds for three charities. The current record stood at 3,500.28 miles and runners were required to run 10k loops of the Thames non-stop over the duration of 30 days.

After I struggled through the Manchester and London marathons with injury, my coach and physio practically cut me off at the ankles by restricting me to only ‘easy’ 5k and 10k runs until I got fighting fit again – definitely no races! Well, the relay wasn’t a race and despite the stage cut-off time being very close to the PB I set months ago I figured ‘easy’ was all relative, so, of course, I signed up.

Shortly after word of the relay had reached the Serpie ears-that-be, I was asked to coordinate a club takeover day. The only thing I can pretty much coordinate is my running attire so, this was going to be a challenge.

I went through our event planner to find a convenient date that would ensure participation without scuppering our members’ attempts at podium places or stop us achieving maximum points at various leagues being held. This was no easy task as Serpies are extremely busy in July, but the date was finally set to the 12th and so began my online torment of finding members to fill up 24 hours of the relay (especially the extremely unsociable night-time /early-morning stages when all good little runners should be asleep). Thanks to our amazing members who signed up, and with help from Sid Wills and Eda Korkmaz, I was able to get all our stages filled with almost two weeks to spare – phew!

(L-R) Sid Wills, Sharyn Jaques, and Elizabeth Ayres (Photo credit Alison Barty)

During this time I had been talking more with the organiser Danny Bent and discovered that not only was he an ex-Serpie but there was more to this world record attempt than meets the eye. The aim of the event was not only to log the most miles and raise money for Sported, Laureus, and The Running Charity, but also to unite the London community. Often the focus between clubs is rivalry but this relay aimed to bring us together through our love of running; no matter what club you ran for we had to work together to ensure Rod the Baton made it from start to finish of each stage without being dropped. I’m happy to say, mission accomplished.

Our takeover day was fabulous! A full 24 hours of red and gold Serpies running around with smiles on their faces. My apologies to the competitive Serpie (you know who you are!) who asked what the current fastest time was to run the loop – no-one was keeping track and I may have just plucked a random time out of my head to try and get you to enjoy the run and experience rather than having you attempt to add another feather to your cap. The ‘wake up London’ stage at 6.30 am was great to behold as 13 of you stepped up to the plate – the most red and gold in a single stage barring the end of relay final 5k where a whopping 25 members ran, including one of our juniors.

Serpies during the final stage (Photo credit Fliss Berridge)

I was also talked into marshaling a few stages and somehow ended up having the second highest number of shifts by a relay marshal, resulting in reams of paperwork to fill in afterwards for the Guinness World Record team. I have some amazing stories from being on the ‘other side of the baton’ :  there was the runner who decided that as he had run 5 stages equaling 50km that he may as well add 50 ultras to his list of things to do before he was 50 (as you do of course); the time I almost ended up being carried into the Thames due to the wind and the relay gazebo conspiring against me, only to be saved by little old ladies; and the one story that sounds like the beginning of a joke… the runners dressed as a monk, nun and bishop (one of whom is a Serpie) who foiled a mugger on their stage!

The 'Wake Up London' stage of Serpie take-over day (Photo credit Emma Watts)

Many Serpies ran throughout the whole of July and not just on our takeover day. Some ran several stages because of training or because they were just bling addicts and wanted the full set of Rainbow Ribbons, some ran for the experience, and some of us had no choice but to run because others ran their stage super-fast and left us holding the baton – cheers for that.

I had a total blast during July and feel a little empty now that my ‘duties’ are over, but I’ve been reliably informed the new and improved relay will be back next year. Oh, and yes, we unofficially broke the record at 4,014.23 miles, just in case you were interested; the application is in and awaiting review.

I will never run fast enough to claim a podium place unless there is one for ‘tried very hard’ (hint,  hint, committee), but like many of my fellow relay runners I’ll hopefully be able to add ‘World Record’ to my running CV.

Elizabeth Ayres began running in 2017 and has decided after four marathons that the only podium place she will win is for ‘best marathon partier.'