Banned on the Run

Alan Stevens

Within Wellington Scottish we are lucky to have several hard-working, knowledgeable, and highly qualified officials.  Two of them are Alan Stevens and David Lonsdale. In this regular column, Alan and David put their heads together and answer our questions about the rules of running and walking.  

In our latest instalment, Alan tells us what to expect at National Road Relays. Road relay events have been held in New Zealand for many years. Since the 1930s, Scottish has participated in most of them, including Round the Harbour (Auckland), Kaimai, Wairoa-Gisborne, Round the Mountain, Marton-Wanganui, Wellington- Masterton, Motueka- Nelson, and Takahe-Akaroa.

These were memorable trips. Legends were made (and broken!), and the away trips to relays were often the climax of our Scottish season. Sadly, many road relays have disappeared, mainly due to increased traffic on public roads. The classic Takahe-Akaroa Relay across Banks Peninsula is the last remaining on its original route, although some others have been rerouted and new ones have been created.

In 1977, NZAAA (now Athletics NZ) designated a specific relay each year to be the National Road Relay, using the rules of the particular event chosen. Subsequently, a standard set of rules was adopted for consistency. This is the only national championship held between clubs and is therefore fiercely competitive – before, during and after the race! As a consequence, many teams have resorted to questionable tactics, resulting in additional rules being added so as to maintain the integrity of the relay and keep it as a genuine competition between club teams.

At Rotorua this year, each team captain will receive a packet with a race number and programme for each member. Read the race rules published therein: they are very important. Take note especially of the rules relating to replacement, road safety, and infringements and penalties. Penalties include time deductions and, in some cases, disqualification. During the heat and stress of the race, instant decisions have to be made – so know the rules! Please do not give other clubs the opportunity to lodge any protests. It will embarrass me as a member of the Jury of Appeal and I will be excluded from deliberations!

The long-term future of this iconic annual event depends on the preparedness of relevant authorities for our use of public roads – usually still open for traffic. This requires a professional traffic management plan, the cost of which takes a large portion of the $330 entry fee for each senior team. So it’s not just the athletes: the drivers of team vans must also take care.

The Senior A grade races are regarded as the premier events. In the men’s, we are the current titleholders.

There is also a competition for the best overall club, which is calculated from a club’s best three results over the eight championship grades. Over the twenty years since this award was instituted, Scottish has won eleven times! We lost in a four-way tie last year, so need to claim it back this year.

The relay is a great event, which is why so many of our members make the journey each year. It is not just the excitement and drama of the race, but also the realisation that the future of the team is in your hands while you run solo on your lap. And there is the team spirit, the camaraderie of the whole club, the fun of celebrating successes, and the Saturday night club dinner and the legendary socialising. Enjoy the weekend!