HEADINGTON Road Runners A came on strong to retain their Ridgeway Relay title.
Despite only taking the lead on leg nine of ten, they finished 5½ minutes clear of second-placed Vale of Aylesbury during an exciting day’s off-road racing along the ancient route.
The senior race saw teams required to field at least two ladies, with leg selection and navigation both proving key.
Headington completed the 87-mile course in 9hrs 38mins 30secs, but it could have been very different had Aylesbury’s star man not got lost on leg one.
Sri Lankan Olympic marathon runner Anuradha Cooray was the quickest man in the race on paper, but trailed in tenth on leg one – six minutes behind the leader.
Headington were sixth at this stage, with Richard Skilbeck having completed the 11-mile route in 1hr 9mins 13secs.
John Woods took them into second after leg two and from there, they never dropped out of the top three.
Star man Chris Dettmar recorded 1.03.37 for the 10.7-mile ninth leg to take the lead, which anchor man Jason Smith retained, with his 57.22 the third quickest split for the 9.4-mile finale.
Eynsham Road Runners A enjoyed their best peformance in third spot.
A consistent display saw them dip inside the ten-hour barrier with 9.58.37 and pip Oxford City, who were fourth.
Rob Storey and Mark Tyrrell clocked the third fastest times for legs one and nine respectively with 1.07.51 and 1.06.05.
City had twice led by four minutes, but were happy enough with fourth on their debut.
They had the consolation of Maxwell Robinson, Julian Richardson and Les Newell clocking the fastest times on legs two, six and ten respectively.
Robinson recorded 41.56 for his six-miler, Richardson 1.01.50 over 10.4 miles and Newell 55.16 for the anchor leg.
White Horse Harriers achieved a best finish of sixth in 10.28.39, with Jonnie Cornish (1.05.31) second on leg nine.
Alchester were ninth in 10.42.49, while Witney A, for whom Fraser Howard had to run two consecutive legs, finished tenth.
Witney’s Tegid Jones (57.01) was fastest on leg three over 9.4 miles, while Gareth Petts (57.15) was second quickest on leg ten over the same distance.
Headington finished second in the ladies’ race where teams were required to field two men.
Bearbrook won that title in 11.46.35, with Headington clocking 11.58.28.
Abingdon (12.36.18) finished second in the veterans competition behind Bearbrook (12.00.54), with Eynsham third (12.52.49).
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