Five run fifty at fifty – the hard miles

9 February 2018

Shortly after half past twelve we’d watched our intrepid runners and cyclists leave Southampton General Hospital. We had an hour before their next stop, outside Eastleigh College but we had things to do before then. This was Rob’s fiftieth birthday and Kim wanted to get some balloons to decorate the View Bar at the Sports Centre where the run would finish. This meant a trip to the Swan Centre and a chance to grab another coffee while the grabbing was good. 

Parking in Eastleigh is difficult so it took us a while to find a spot close to the college. Even so, we arrived with plenty of time. Here we met up with Jill, who would be keeping the runners company for the next few miles. Our dash around the Swan Centre had warmed us up a little but we soon got chilly again standing on the corner of the street waiting for our ultra runners to appear.

We saw the cyclists first. Gill had a close encounter with a large lorry as he turned but survived to tell the tale. Behind the bikes the runners were in tight formation. Some even managed a smile and a wave as they approached but there was no mistaking the tiredness etched on their faces. They’d run thirty miles after all and had another twenty ahead of them.

The stop was short, just time for a protein drink and a snack. Then they were off again and we were left alone on the cold pavement. We wouldn’t be there for the next highlight of their run. There would be no stopping and no need of food. They would be running through the school Rob works at in Shirley.

Originally the plan was for one more stop at mile forty. Rob decided to change the game though and asked for an unscheduled stop in Regents Park Road a little while after the school run through at mile thirty six or so. We had no real idea when they would arrive but we drove there and parked up. For quite some time we sat in the car admiring the view of the dockside cranes at the far end of the road.

It was almost three o’clock. Until now the day had seemed to speed by, even with all the waiting around in the cold. Now though time felt as if it had slowed to a crawl and it was beginning to feel like a very long day. Goodness only knows what it must have felt like for the runners at this point? It was more than twenty minutes before they appeared. For most of those we’d been standing shivering on the pavement, each of us quietly worrying about our runners or cyclists.

It was a great relief to see Dan, finally wearing his new sunglasses, cycling along the pavement towards us with the runners right behind him. Steve, who’d started out at St Mary’s Stadium cycling alongside them was now running with them. They looked tired but were in great spirits. The school run through had been a great success. The children had all come out to high five them as they ran by and the buzz and noise had given them a much needed boost.

They stopped for more drinks and snacks. All were in need of food but none could eat much and the bags and bags of easily digestible snacks were still almost full. Running and eating don’t go together very well. On a long run extra energy is needed for tired muscles but stomachs protest. The act of running makes digestion difficult and all the blood that would normally be used by the stomach to digest snacks is being used by those hard working muscles.

While they were standing around trying to force down bananas and the like an elderly lady hobbled slowly along the road. She stopped when she reached the knot of munching runners. For a moment I thought she was going to grumble about us blocking the pavement, instead she asked what was going on. When Commando explained what they were doing and why, she fished around in her pocket and produced a handful of coins to add to the sponsorship pot. Her lovely gesture made us all smile and remains one of the outstanding moments of the day.

All too soon the runners and cyclists were off again. The next stop would be the last one before the finish. We were hoping a few Spitfires would turn up to cheer them as they started the last ten miles of their epic run. Maybe some would even run with them…

Donations to Alzheimer’s Research UK are still welcome no matter how big or how small. Rob’s Just Giving page can be found here.

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Writer, walker, coffee drinker, chocolate eater, lover of nature, history and the little things that make me smile

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