Apologies. I know this blog is called Watching Wildlife and this post is not quite what you might expect to see here. It is however, something that I want to share with as many people as I can – you included.
Last Sunday morning I travelled a distance of about 9 miles… At not even 6:30am… and on foot… and in total awe of a baton….
Let’s go back a few weeks and I’ll explain all.. It started with a tweet sent to me by Louise, a fellow runner. Something about a relay being organised by some bunch called EnduranceLife. It all sounded way out of my league so I pretty much dismissed it – sorry Louise! A day or so later, another tweet. I felt it only right to have a proper look this time. I am so glad I did! (By the way, do feel free to follow me. Somewhere on this page should be a link to my Twitter feed – I hope!)
The relay was precisely that – a relay. It was however, the scale of it that got me. This was a relay, carrying a GPS tagged baton, following the route of the Olympic Torch. There was a twist though – and this really sold me on the idea. This baton was not ever going to be placed in a van to get from A to B. No, this baton was going to go from Cornwall to London and all points in between by being passed from the hands of one runner to another.
I had, perhaps naively, envisaged that the Olympic Torch would do just that – and be a celebration of the Olympics coming to UK, passed around the route from person to person. To see that it simply was driven from town to town somewhat took away a lot of the ‘ethos of the Games’ for me – and it seems, a lot of other people. I was therefore absolutely thrilled to see that grass roots runners up and down the Country were prepared to do their bit to prove that it was indeed possible to run the relay – every step of the 8000 miles or so. I was even more thrilled to learn that all I had to do was sign up for a leg and I could be a part of it! Everyone running the relay donated money to CHICKS, a Charity providing respite break for disadvantaged children in UK, a very worthwhile cause indeed.
I followed the route every day using the Tracker map on the website, eagerly awaiting the time when the Dorset legs would be online and available for grabbing! Eventually, at half time in one of the Euro 2012 matches (no idea which one – I was busy refreshing my screen every few seconds!) there it was – Sunday 15th July at 06:50 Wallisdown to Christchurch, via Bournemouth and Boscombe. I was on it in a flash and couldn’t believe it when I completed the submission, refreshed again and saw that my name was down for that leg!
Fantastic! I would be a part of the Real Relay!
Training ramped up over the next few weeks. With 2000 runners involved in this relay there was no way I was going to be the one to break the chain – and there was added pressure as the baton was booked onto a ferry to the Isle of Wight the same day as my leg.
To cut a long story short (I know, it’s already quite long!) it was suddenly the night before my leg of the relay. I was fully prepared, the alarm was set and it was time for an early-ish night. Within a minute of lying down I knew I had to go and double check the timings. What if I had mis-read the times and 06:50 was actually the time that I was handing over the baton? Panic set in (as it would) and I checked the website. Surely, it could only be read one way – but I had to check. A quick text to Stuart, who I was handing over to in Christchurch, confirmed all was well and I had got the timings right. Phew!
At 04:40 the phone rang. I was told that the baton had just started out on the leg prior to me – about 30 minutes ahead of the plan, but not to worry as the runners were aiming to lose a bit of time to bring it back onto schedule. Not worry? Like that was going to help!
Just to be safe, Carole (my wife – who offered to drive me to the start and pick me up at the end!) and I were ready and waiting at Wallisdown by 06:10..
By 06:15 Ann and her friend Lorraine had arrived, handed over the baton to me, we all posed for photographs – and then I was away. Running.. with the baton.. on my leg of the Real Relay.. towards Bournemouth at very early o’clock on a Sunday morning.
I had loads of time. Stuart was not expecting me to arrive until 08:20 so I had about 2 hours to run 9 miles. I knew I could easily do that in about 80 minutes and I had to consciously keep slowing down.
In Bournemouth Square I did a quick lap then headed off up the hill towards Boscombe. Passing a couple of lads I heard a quip about being late for the Torch, so stopped for a chat.. When I explained what the baton was, and the reason I was running with it at that time of the day they were absolutely blown away by it all! I left them as they were reading all about it on their smart phones – chuffed to bits that they had been able to witness the ‘proper relay’ (as they called it!) as it passed through the town.
As I headed steadily on, through Boscombe and Pokesdown I found myself thinking of all that the baton had been through since it left Lands End at the end of May. I was thinking of all those runners before me, who had carried it through rain, sun, floods, up and down mountains – all with the singular aim of getting it safely into the waiting hands of the next runner in the relay. I realised then, that this GPS tracker and baton was heading into history. I was, as I said at the start of this post, in total awe of what I was running with.. It wasn’t just a baton – it was a baton that proved just what can be achieved by a bunch of runners who are determined to do their bit to make things happen.
The miles passed far too quickly, and before long I was nearing Christchurch and the handover to Stuart. Carole had been stopping every mile or so, taking loads of pictures – it was always such a welcome surprise to look up and see her just ahead, snapping away!
I was even more surprised to then see my in-laws were waiting up ahead to cheer me on! A few quick pictures with them and I was off again, with just the last mile or so to enjoy as I made my way through Christchurch and into the car park where Stuart was waiting, along with Tamsyn – who was running the next two legs!
I had been wondering how I would feel when I finally handed over. I thought I’d be a little deflated that it was all over. Not a bit of it! I was just so pleased to have been able to take part and to see the baton head off on the next stage of its journey – soon to arrive in London!
So, that’s another running challenge completed for now.. I’m already looking for the next one – any ideas?
Why not tweet me? 😉