My run in the EnduranceLife Olympics Real Relay
I love a challenge – and when an email popped into my inbox on Thursday morning calling for a runner to fill a gap in the Endurance Real Relay event I couldn’t resist. Ok, so I’d need to be in Inveranan by 4.50pm the next day and I’d need to run 11 or more miles on a section of the West Highland Way that I’d never set foot on before, and I’d need to find my way in time to hand over to the next relay runner at Tyndrum. Oh, and I had a few big work deadlines to meet before I set off. Oh well, whatever, I thought. I just love a challenge. And so I signed up within about 5 minutes of being sent the email!
The Endurancelife Real Relay is following the entire route of the official Olympic Torch around the British Isles in one continuous non-stop journey, running every step of the way.
Starting from Land’s End at midnight on Monday, May 28, 10 days behind the official Olympic Torch, the Real Relay will involve hundreds of runners running through the day and night on an 8000-mile mission to reach London in time for the Olympic Games opening ceremony.
And the bit that got me: “Take part and you’ll be helping achieve one of the greatest Olympic endeavours of all time – and raising funds for charity.” The charity is CHICKS, which provides free respite breaks for disadvantaged children from across the UK.
How did the Relay Run go?
Friday was very, very wet and windy – and very busy! I worked like a very hard working thing to meet my deadlines. I packed a weekend bag because the G-Force and I were heading up north to go walking. I aimed to eat at all the right times and be ready for a pick up at 2.45pm by a fellow tri club pal, the Green Demon. (He is in his early 40s but recently scored a PB at a 10k in 38 minutes. I am very jealous!) The Green Demon reckoned it “might be fun” to run with me, despite the torrential rain. Tri club people are great like this. If they can help out or support a fellow club pal they will. I am grateful to the GD for his support.
Via Facebook and mobile phone numbers, I had been able to make contact with the relay runner before me, Matthew Shelley, and the relay runner after me, Alison Marshall. The start would be the Drover’s Inn at Inveranan. En route to the start I had a text message from one of the Real Relay organisers suggesting that if I wanted to run a bit faster on my running leg that would be fine. The Relay folks were thinking of sending the baton up Ben Nevis as it journeyed through the Highlands but they would require some leeway in the timing schedule to fit this in.
Crikey, I thought. Run a fast 11 miles on an off-road section. Hmmmm.
The handover went smoothly. Matthew was in great shape (despite incurring a knee injury the day before). And the Green Demon and I set off to follow the WHW. For the first few minutes (or was 5 minutes?!) GD kindly carried the baton. Let me explain: The Real Relay baton is about 3ft long and has a large GPS taped to it. It’s not an easy shape to carry while running, nor is it light.
As I was carrying a rucksack I suggested that we try to put the baton in that. The only problem was that it kept hitting me on the back of my head as I ran. Finding some string tied to a fence by a farmer (sorry Mr Farmer but our needs were great and the string seemed to be redundant) we managed to tie the baton into my rucksack so that it leant slightly to the right of my head. This wasn’t ideal but it was certainly more comfortable that running for 11 miles holding the baton under an arm.
For some reason, I had it in my head that this section of the WHW wouldn’t be too demanding. I had glanced at route details on-line and it didn’t appear to show that much ascent and descent overall. I don’t think I can have read the details correctly, however, as the run was generally uphill, often steep and very undulating. A few smoother track sections were light relief but the majority of the route was on rocky off-road trails. And we had a headwind!
Our route needed to go through Crianlarich. This isn’t officially part of the WHW but it is officially part of the Olympic torch route.
This was the halfway point and we took the opportunity for a couple of miles of ‘verge on the side of the road” running before rejoining the WHW.
Although we didn’t run fast and the going was quite demanding, the run was very enjoyable. The scenery was gorgeous and the GD and I chatted amiably, laughing every few minutes over the ridiculous size of the baton! With the baton in my rucksack I kept getting caught on overhanging trees and I almost crawled on my hands and knees as we passed through various pedestrian walkway tunnels.
The run actually totalled almost 13 miles. By the time we reached Tyndrum we were delighted to see the next runner, Alison, doing a few stretches and clearly ready for the off. She would be handing the baton on to her partner David some 10k further on. We exchanged a few cheery words, had our picture taken and then Alison was off.
This Relay doesn’t come with the fanfare or support of the Olympic Torch procession but it did feel great to be part of this year of British sport. I would have liked a wee massage tent, a protein milkshake, a banana, a goodie bag and a t-shirt as we finished our relay run but a trip to the real Food Café in Tyndrum was pretty good, too.
The Relay has since made it’s way north, been over to Orkney and is now in Shetland. It will be heading south again this week. All places seem to be filled except on June 25 when the baton reaches Brigswath. Check this out if you can run a section. You can also keep check of the real Relay baton progress on the tracker