The second Bertha Relays were held on Thursday 3rd August. They’ll be back in 2024!
The Bertha Relays are a new creation. They arguably replace the erstwhile North Inch Relays, organised by Kenneth Stewart. Introduced by Kristen Bain in 2022, the following concepts apply:
+ They are run over a 5km loop. The route (clink this link for an interactive map) heads east from the Bertha Park school to pick up the cycleway along the north edge of Ruthvenfield Industrial Estate, back along the Almond and then uphill into Bertha Park to finish. The course is on both tarmac and good gravel trail.
+ It’s a race of two-person relay teams, i.e. each team runs 2 legs with each runner running a 5k leg over the full course.
+ This is the key thing: they feature matched teams, to create a balanced and competitive race for all teams. That is, each team should be capable of roughly the same overall time.
+ To achieve this, runners present on the night will be notionally ranked in order on the basis of their estimated, current parkrun/5k time (vetted by the organisers to avoid the usual PRR ‘sandbagging’). The fastest runner present will be paired with the slowest, the second-fastest with the second-slowest, etc.
+ It is up to each team how they deploy their forces: that is, either a) send out their slower runner first and hope their fast-pacer can close the gap, or b) send out their speedster first and hope their slower runner can hang on….
+ Unusually, club kit is actively disfavoured for this particular event. Leg 2 runners need to be able to ‘sight’ their incoming leg 1 runner, and this is made much harder if all runners are in green. After some chat (and the appearance of a historic Cheltenham Harriers vest) at the 2023 edition, participants are (mildly) encouraged to run in the vests of former or other clubs.
Bertha Relays 2023 – dramatis personae
The second (2023) Bertha Relays were, again, a very competitive affair, this year narrowly won by Dean Abberley and Robin Livingstone by a margin of 12 seconds from Barry Campbell and Mark Crawford. 25 runners (12 complete teams +1 solo runner) completed, with 5 of these teams finishing within a minute (or very close to that) of the winners. Results table below.
Bertha Relays 2023: (from left) winners Dean Abberley and Robin Livingstone; the first leg runners head out into the country; organiser Kristen Bain and the first two (spent) second-leg runners home await the other teams
Thus far, it remains hard to know if the fastest-runner-first (FF) or slower-runner-first strategy (SF) is more effective. SF seems more favoured across the two races so far held. As demonstrated by the first two teams in 2023 (and the first three in 2022), this choice – of one team closing fast on another hanging on for grim death – creates some highly watchable and engaging finishes.