News & Updates

28 September 2022 • Road

Bottle Lake will maintain the road relay magic

Oska Inkster-Baynes and Brigid Dennehy will be competing at the 2022 New Zealand Road Relay Championships at Bottle Lake Forest Park in Christchurch (Photo: Michael Dawson / Alisha Lovrich)

The 2022 New Zealand Road Relay Championships at Bottle Lake Forest Park in Christchurch will represent a huge focus for so many of New Zealand’s harrier clubs on Saturday. We chat to two prominent Kiwi distance runners to find out more about what the event means to them.

Oska Inkster-Baynes

Few athletes better embrace the spirit of the New Zealand Road Relay Championships than Oska Inkster-Baynes. The 2022 national 10km and marathon silver medallist has competed in every edition bar one of the historic club relay competition since his debut in 2010, and has snared a grand total of 11 medals including three senior men’s team golds.

Yet for Oska the annual team event means far more than medals and honours to the experienced 31-year-old athlete.

“It is the only event where you are competing with people often with a really wide range of abilities,” explains Oska, who struck senior men’s gold with the University of Canterbury’s eight-strong team at the last edition of the event held in 2020. “But I think the real fun is being in the van with your mates and that camaraderie that comes with that. To be able to help bring the other seven guys in the team with you, and say, come on fellas let’s win this title. I like that feeling of helping raise standards and making all the athletes the best that they can be.”

Oska, who made his New Zealand Road Relays debut with Caversham Harriers and later competed for New Brighton Olympic AC before switching to his current club, was disappointed to receive the news last week that the 2022 New Zealand Road Relay would not be staged on the historic Takahe to Akaroa route.

However, he is delighted that an alternative venue at Bottle Lake Forest Park – just 3km from his home – was found and has since readjusted his thoughts to the new event in which the eight-lap relay is run over an 8km route on a combination of tar sealed and gravel roads.

“I’m grateful we have just been given the chance to run. There’s a national title on the line and we’ll run our guts out. There will be quite a cool atmosphere at the changeover point (at Bottle Lake Forest Park), so we’ll be able to have a bit more inter-team banter. We just have to crack on and do our best.”

There is little doubt the change of venue has altered the race strategy and tactics of the University of Canterbury team led by team manager Craig Motley.

No longer are athletes carefully selected for the individual demands of each lap, and the race has become more of a “drag race,” according to Oska.

“Craig Motley will still have his spreadsheets open to work out statistically who is best placed to run each leg,” explains Oska. “He’ll have put a lot of thoughts on where to position his team.”

As the club is based in Christchurch, the University of Canterbury intend to make the most of their local advantage and on Monday (26 Sept) all five competing teams from the club met for a training run on the course.

So, what does Oska hope to achieve on Saturday?

“Well, because we (as a club) have five competing teams, we have to make sure we all turn up and encourage each other. For my team, I have to make sure I do the best run I can and so do the other seven guys. If we do that, hopefully it will mean we will win another piece of goldware.”

Brigid Dennehy

Brigid Dennehy may be a native Irishwoman, but the adopted Kiwi of North Harbour Bays Athletics is already sold on the New Zealand Road Relays despite only making her debut in the last edition of the event two years in Feilding.

On that occasion the 28-year-old featured in the triumphant senior women’s team, and she was blown away by the unique nature of the event.

Brigid, who arrived to live in New Zealand in 2019, said: “My first road relays were fantastic, they were great fun. I grew up in Ireland and lived in England for six years before heading over to New Zealand and I’d never quite experienced anything like road relays. Running is such an individual sport, so it was great to be part of a team event, driving around in a van and cheering each other on. Our team won by five or six minutes on the day, it was so special.”

Following the cancellation of the New Zealand Road Relay Championship component because of Covid in 2021, this year represents an eagerly-anticipated opportunity for Brigid, who placed second in the Reboot Marathon in May, recording 1:18:56, to taste that road relay magic once again.  

Her and the team have been forced to reassess their tactical approach under the guidance of team manager Paul Hamblyn following the change of venue to Bottle Lake Forest Park, but Brigid added: “We had been hoping to set the course record (at Takahe to Akaroa) but we’ve had to have a re-think and as some of us are coming off injuries, so it might be that the flatter course might suit us better.”

Such is the strength in depth of the North Harbour Bays senior women’s squad that following a recent time trial in Devonport a sub-38-minute time was “more or less” required to make the A team and Brigid says the Auckland-based club has some big ambitions for Saturday.

“I can’t wait,” she says. “I feel there is a lot of pressure on us to perform and take the win, but I’m feeling pretty confident and we are all very excited. We hope for both of our teams to be in the podium and preferably one-two.”

“The road relays is great craic. It is talked about all year and Paul is thinking of making it compulsory for everyone in his group to compete at it. If you are new to running and new to New Zealand, I would definitely encourage anyone to participate in road relays.”

**To find out more about this year’s event go here