‘Race’ report: Boxing Day Canal Relay!

Hey people! Hope you had a wonderful Christmas! It was lovely being home for Christmas. December was very bittersweet as we missed the California traditions we’d grown to love and I was a bit homesick for SF. But as expected, Christmas itself was pretty much perfect, spending the morning at our new home, having lunch with my parents at their house and then spending the evening with my Uncle and Aunt and lovely cousins.

One thing we’ve missed about British Christmases is Boxing Day, the Bank Holiday on the 26th. Such a sensible concept! A week or so before Christmas Day, an email went out from my running club asking if anyone fancied doing a relay along the Kennet and Avon Canal on Boxing Day, and, having checked with my boys, I was in!

It was a very low-key event. I never found out the name of the ‘race’, I think that another local running club organised it, but I might well be wrong! I was never asked to pay so either the running club funded it or if it was free. No idea. The race would start at Bradford on Avon, to the west, at 9.30am and six runners would take legs along the canal to Pewsey, just slightly to the east of Marlborough. Canals are pancake-flat but I was allocated Leg 3 which included the infamous Caen Flight – a series of 29 locks which climb 230 ft in just under 2 miles! Initially I thought I was running down the locks and envisaged myself flying along effortlessly…but no, I was the sole MRC runner tackling a hill.

Caen Locks. Source

Our team captain had told me to be ready to start at 10.30 so I turned up at the canalside about 15 minutes earlier. It was cold, just above freezing, and I hung out with the other friendly runners until the lady who had run the first leg in my team turned up to pick up Runner 2 who would be handing over to me. This was handy because a) she knew him and I’d never even seen a picture of him b) she had a sweatshirt I could borrow c) she had a thermos of coffee to warm me up! The first runner came through and a few minutes later, a man in a white shirt arrived. ‘That’s our guy’, she told me. Big smiles and a ‘hi’ and a sweaty Santa-hat was thrust into my hand (our ‘baton’) and I was off!

Got the team shirt now!

It was a glorious day for a run. Cold, bright winter sunshine. Decent tow-path past narrow boats. Lots of walkers out burning off their Christmas turkey, with lots of dogs to say hi to. I bowled along at a decent clip, splashing through puddles for fun with cold water soaking my feet.


I’d started this leg in second place but shortly after a man in a santa suit caught me and then a guy in a stripey prisoner-suit breezed past me. I felt a bit guilty for letting the club down but kept powering on as best I could, given the amount of food I’d eaten yesterday!

Caen Locks started after about a mile and a half. Initially the climb was pretty gradual with lots of space between locks, but as I ploughed on, it got a little steeper until I got to the famous flight itself and then it was a case of putting my head down, pumping my arms and seeing what I could do. It was steady hill-climbing but always runnable.

As I neared what I thought was the top, I saw my parents in the distance – they’d come to out to cheer me. That was pretty fab. Dad cheered as I ran past and I focussed on not having a heart-attack in front of Mum! Another guy flew past me, effortlessly.

There were several false summits but eventually I emerged at the top onto a lovely flat footpath and I could see a bunch of runners on the bridge in front of me. That was it! One final little climb and I handed over to my successor, who handed me her fleece to look after. (I may have put it on).

It was only a little run, just over 3 1/2 miles, but it was such a lovely way to spend the morning.  Fresh air, exercise, beautiful weather, friendly people and being part of a team for my running club for the first time! Meeting the parents for coffee was the icing on the cake.


(There was no actual cake. On Christmas Day, I ate enough food for a month).

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