Last year’s oldest competitor Eva Osbourne of Wymondham AC.

ATHLETICS: More than 1,000 athletes are bracing themselves for a gruelling event, which will sweep across Norfolk this weekend.

The Officescape Round Norfolk Relay has grown from 22 teams in 1988 to 60 this year, from 45 clubs, competing in its 33rd running.

The event is a 198-mile continuous run, made up of 17 multi-terrain stages, starting and finishing at Lynnsport.

Teams depart in staggered starts from 5.30am to noon on Saturday and finish about 10am on Sunday. 

The circular route, some of it off-road on sand and loose shingle, follows the coast to Great Yarmouth, before heading back west along the county boundary to Thetford and Downham Market, arriving back in King’s Lynn.

The runners are assisted by back-up crews comprising cyclists, time keepers, drivers and marshals, providing the ultimate club challenge and building a great team spirit, rewarding both individual and team achievements. 

Last year’s race had 1,020 competitors of who 36 per cent were women. The youngest runner was aged 15 and the oldest, Eva Osbourne, of Wymondham AC, 78 years old.

Ryston Runners, who ran the first race solo as a trial run in 1987, will be competing for the 33rd time, while Norwich Road Runners have made 31 appearances at the event. 

East Anglian teams dominate the field but regular visitors from as far afield as Bishops Stortford, Wellingborough and London are back again.

While the ultimate prize is to be the quickest team round the county boundary, there are a host of other categories to be won. 

Ryston chairman Robert Simmonds will receive his 20th appearance medal, while Richard Sales, of Norwich Road Runners, will be making his 22nd consecutive appearance and his 29th overall.

Last year, City Of Norwich AC were convincing winners in a fast time of 20 hours 43 minutes and 22 seconds, which is an average of six minutes and 18 seconds per mile for the near 200-mile distance.

For the first time, a wheelchair athlete will join Cambridge and Coleridge AC on the seventh leg, which is 9.24 miles from Mundesley to Lessingham.

For many years, the runners in several legs have battled against some tough weather conditions, so they will be hoping this year’s forecast of reasonable weather is correct.