Hereward to appear at The Hereward Relay & Ultra Cross-Country Race
for 25th Anniversary
Sunday 26th November.
39.7 miles from Peterborough to Ely along the Hereward Way Long Distance Path
Start at Peterborough Embankment Athletics Track (7.30 & 8.30am Ultra & 9am Relay)
Finish at Ely Leisure Complex, Rugby Club CB6 2SH (first runners home from shortly before 1pm)
The folk hero of the Fens Hereward the Wake will be making an appearance at this year’s Hereward Relay and Ultra Cross-Country race along the Hereward Way on Sunday November 26th.
The Hereward Relay & Ultra is celebrating its 25th Anniversary and is the major cross-country race that takes place in the Fens every year, organised by March Athletics Club. The route stretches almost 40 miles along the Hereward Way Long Distance Footpath from Peterborough to Ely crossing over bridleways, fields, bridges and tracks and passing through villages and towns.
To mark the 25th Anniversary, local medieval re-enactor Rory Gibson will be appearing throughout the duration of the race as local folk hero Hereward the Wake dressed in full Anglo-Saxon war attire of chain-mail, helmet, sword, axe and spear and will be encouraging all runners on their way for showing the ‘Hereward Spirit’. It is a role that Rory as Hereward has now become recognised for across the Fens over the past two years. He will be making an introduction before the race begins in Peterborough and presenting medals and prizes at the finish in Ely as well as cheering runner on en-route in West End Park in March and Whittlesey Market Place.
The Hereward Relay & Ultra is actually two races across the same course.
The Relay consists of 4 runners in a team each runner runs one of the 4 stages along the Hereward Way. The Ultra is not a team event but for individual runners racing the entire length of the course of 39.7 miles, which is just about equivalent to a marathon and a half!
The 4 Stages of the Hereward Relay & Ultra are:
Stage 1: Peterborough to Whittlesey (6.9 miles)
Peterborough Embankment Athletics Track, Bishops Road PE1 5BW to Whittlesey Manor Leisure Centre Athletics Track, Station Road PE7 1UA
Stage 2: Whittlesey Manor Leisure Centre to March West End Park, PE15 9LT (10.5 miles)
Stage 3: March West End Park to Welney Village Hall, Bedford Bank, PE14 9RB (11.5 miles)
Stage 4: Welney Village Hall to Ely Leisure Complex, Rugby Club CB6 2SH (10.8 miles)
Total Distance: 39.7 miles.
The Start Times for the race from Peterborough Athletics Track:
The Ultra race will have two Start times 07:30am and 08:30am (faster Ultras)
The Relay Race (team race) begins at 9:00am
The Projected Times when the runners are expected at the Handover locations based upon last year’s race statistics:
Peterborough: Start 7.30 & 8.30am Ultra Runners and 9am Relay Runners
Whittlesey: First Ultra Runner 8.45am. First Relay Runner 9.34am. Slowest 10.09am.
March: First Ultra Runner 10.41am. First Relay Runner 10.41am. Slowest 12.25pm.
Welney: First Ultra Runner 12.30pm. First Relay Runner 11.50am. Slowest 14.43pm.
Ely: First Ultra Runner 14.01pm First Relay Runner 12.52pm. Slowest 16.08pm
The Hereward Relay was first run along the Hereward Way in 1998 when 14 teams took part and has since grown with as many as 117 teams taking part in 2018. So far, approaching 70 teams have registered this year for 2023 and 16 Runners are registered to run in the Ultra. Teams travel from across East Anglia, the Midlands and the South to take part in this annual Autumn Cross-Country Challenge that brings the Hereward legend back into active memory and enriches local understanding of our cultural heritage as Fen folk, while staging an outdoor sporting activity of national significance along the Hereward Way Long Distance Path which is the only national ‘monument’ we have of Hereward.
Hereward is known regionally across the Fens and beyond as the ‘last man standing’ during the Norman Conquest of England, where, after burning down Peterborough and raiding the monastery of all its gold and silver he then set up a base on the Isle of Ely and fought a resistance campaign against the rule of William ‘the Conqueror’. Ultimately Hereward was defeated but the spirit of his resistance was written about by 12th Century monk chroniclers and later embellished into a 19th Century romantic novel, ‘Hereward the Wake’ by Charles Kingsley (Macmillan 1866) which catapulted him to fame as a folklore figure in late Victorian England, where he was held up as ‘England’s Patriot’. Hereward’s legend has undergone a recent revival here in the Fens and Rory Gibson will be appearing at all of the Handover points of the Hereward Relay on the route. If you see him say hello and get a photo with the Folk Hero of the Fens! But be careful, he may try and get you to join his band of rebels and go raiding!
Towns and Villages along the Hereward Way passed through by the Hereward Relay & Ultra where Hereward can be seen with approximate times of his appearance:
Peterborough Athletics Track 07:30 am to 09:00 am
Whittlesey Market Place 9.30 to 10am
Turves Three Horseshoes Pub brief stop.
March West End Park 10.30am to 11.30am
Christchurch The Dun Cow brief stop
Welney Lamb and Flag Pub brief stop
Little Downham no stop
Ely Leisure Complex 12.45pm to 4pm Presenting Winners Prizes and Medals.
The Hereward Way Long Distance Path is 110 miles long. It begins in Oakham, Rutland and ends at Knettishall Heath, near Thetford crossing the Fens in between. It is the 39.7 miles Peterborough to Ely section of the Hereward Way that the Hereward Relay & Ultra is run. The Hereward Way was created in 1986 and links the Viking Way at Oakham in the west to Peddars Way near Thetford in the east.
In June 2021 Hiker, Medieval Re-enactor and Charity Fundraiser Lewis Kirkbride hiked the near 40 mile section of the Hereward Way from Peterborough Cathedral to Ely Cathedral dressed in four and a half stone of chain-mail armour and raised over £2500 for ManHealth Charity in commemoration of the Hereward Rising in Peterborough on June 2nd 1070, in an event arranged by the WakeHereward Project.
Now in its tenth year, recent charity fundraising events arranged by the WakeHereward Project raised £254 towards a Hereward Hiking Waymarker at Aldreth on October 27th commemorating Hereward's Last Stand, £238 raised for Alzheimers Society at Thorney Abbey during the Thorney Festival in August and over £600 raised for the Bourne Town Hall Trust in April.
Prizes & Medals
All runners receive a medal for competing. There are prizes for first Male and first Female runners in the Ultra. In the Relay there are prizes for the first three teams and the first female team. There are also cash prizes for the winner of each Stage for first male and first veteran male and first female and first veteran female.
For 2023 and the 25th Anniversary the runner that finished 25th in each Stage will also receive a prize.
The Hereward Relay & Ultra is sponsored by the local haulage and warehouse storage company Knowles Transport who are based in Wimblington and Wisbech.
Certain parts of the course have recently been flooded with organisers planning an alternative route back to March if floods at Welney prevent runners from progressing on to Ely. As of 14th November the whole course is now clear again. Regular updates are made on the Hereward Relay Facebook G.roup.
Parking can be difficult particularly at Welney, all drivers are asked to be considerate to the surroundings and the locals when parking. There is ample car parking in the towns.
March Athletic Club (Race Organisers) For all Race Details and links to maps and routes http://marchac.co.uk/races/
Hereward Relay & Ultra Facebook Group
Hereward Way Long Distance Path Map
First man home last year was Relay Runner Ali Steele of C Squad.