9 February 2018
It didn’t take us long to get to the final stop of the day. The forty mile point was on Test Lane, near the old Redbridge bridge. We parked in the car park of The Anchor pub and waited. An icy wind was blowing up off the River Test and the sun was beginning to set. It was getting close to four o’clock. We shivered and pulled our coats around us. My hands and face were numb and I couldn’t remember when I’d last felt properly warm.
It would be a while before the runners arrived but a steady trickle of people joined us in our vigil. First to arrive were Spitfires Emma and Michelle. Both were wearing their running gear and would be running the last ten miles with the five ultra runners. They must have been frozen. Next came Teresa, who ran some of the first miles, Mitch and Kirsty who were there to cheer and Gerry who would also be running. The last to arrive was Scott Dawson, a man who knew exactly how our runners would be feeling at this stage. Spitfire Scott is the only person to have circumnavigated the sixty odd miles of the Isle of Wight by sailing, swimming, cycling and running. Tonight he was there to cheer but his support and advice were very welcome.
Finally, after what seemed like hours of waiting, all five runners appeared. Steve, who’d begun the day cycling then switched to running was still with them and parkrun RD, Kate, had joined the cycling team somewhere along the way. Now the whole team looked exhausted. The runners feet were burning from the constant pavement pounding and the cyclists were struggling with aching shoulders and cramping toes, not to mention the cold. Cycling at running pace for forty miles is not easy.
Snacks were eaten and drinks drunk but the main focus was on the pub toilet. The landlady was not impressed. She came out of the pub scowling and rattled a charity collection tin at us, demanding that everyone who’d used the toilet make a donation. Even when we explained what the run was about she didn’t let up. Obviously the runners weren’t carrying any money so I made a donation even though I hadn’t been inside the pub. It seemed the only way to stop her grumbling. Maybe, if she hadn’t been quite so nasty, we might have gone inside for a drink once all the runners had set off again. We could certainly have done with at least a coffee, maybe even some food. As it was we got back in the car and left. It’s unlikely I’ll be going back any time soon.
The last ten miles were always going to be the toughest. Having the extra support of Emma, Michelle, Gerry and Kate certainly helped lift flagging spirits but nothing was going to make it any easier. The road crew all drove back to the View Bar at the Sports Centre and waited anxiously with the friends, family and Spitfires who’d gathered for the finish.
A little after five o’clock Kim and Nicole set off for the Chilworth Arms to meet the runners and run the last three miles with them. A little before six o’clock we all went outside expecting the runners to appear at any moment. We waited until we were too cold to wait any more. There was no sign of them. A call to Kim told us they hadn’t appeared at her end either. This was when I began to worry in earnest.
After a while Pete the Meat set off to see if he could find them. Later he rang to say one of the runners had had a blood sugar crash and they were taking a walk break. He said there was nothing to worry about as jelly babies had been consumed and everyone was ok, they were just going to be longer than expected.
Just before half past six we all piled out of the bar again. Thankfully it wasn’t a false alarm this time and, before long we saw lights bouncing along in the distance. The relief was palpable. Personally, I don’t think I’ve ever been so relieved to see Commando running down the road.
Finally, after fifty miles and eleven hours, the five runners could stop running and the rest of us could stop worrying. Although they were tired, none of the runners was any the worse for their epic run. Over drinks and food Commando gave me a run down of the highlights of the day. For him the highlights were the wonderful welcome at the hospital and the children lining up to high five them as they ran through the school, not to mention the support from everyone who’d run or cycled parts of the route and everyone who’d turned up at stopping points to cheer and offer encouragement. Best of all was seeing everyone waiting outside the bar as they ran those final few yards.
There were no medals at the end of this run but Kim had made some framed certificates for the five runners. There was also birthday cake. This was Rob’s fiftieth birthday after all.
10 February 2018
Finally, after all the planning and preparing and running, the epic fifty mile run was done. You’d have thought the five mad runners would have had a lie in the next morning at the very least. You’d have thought wrong though. Commando dragged me out of bed on Saturday morning to go to parkrun as usual. The famous five were all there. Admittedly, with the exception of Ian who ran at his normal stupidly fast speed, they volunteered en mass as tail walkers.
As we sat in the Bellmoore drinking our post parkrun coffee and eating much needed bacon rolls all the Talk was about the run the day before. Commando admitted he was the runner who’d crashed and burned at mile forty three. He hadn’t eaten enough and, with no fat reserves to call upon, ran out of energy completely. When he said he needed to walk there were looks of relief all round. They were all feeling the pain right about then and were glad of the excuse to slow down for a while. They all agreed they’d learned lots of lessons from the run, not least about nutrition and hydration.
“Next time I’ll be better prepared,” Commando said.
For some strange reason I found the idea of a next time rather worrying.
If you’d like to be part of this epic endeavour there’s still time to make a donation. Rob’s Just Giving page can be found here.
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