As promised, a look at life through the eyes of the road support by Rick.
A thought crossed my mind as I followed a police car in Keswick, If I get stopped I’m in trouble. Here is the dialog that went through my head:
Officer “Good evening sir are you the owner of this vehicle?”
Me “no it belongs to Simon (Emma, Karl or Pete)”
Officer “Do they have a full name”
Me “I don’t actually know their full name”
Officer “How long have you known them”
Me “I met them in a lay by for 5 minutes”
Officer “Where do you intend to take their car”
Me “I can show you on a map it’s a car park near a slate mine”
Officer “So a person who’s name you do not know, who you have no contact details for allows you to drive their car through the night and leave it in a car park. I’m afraid I don’t believe a word of it and think that you should come down to the station to sort this out.”
Me “Wait I can explain my mates running 70 miles and I need to meet him. Give Bob Graham a ring he knows all about it”
At quarter to seven we waited to see Karl set off on his Bob Graham round. We stood at the top of the steps for a team photo. I have never felt as fat as I did standing amongst this group of runners. Karl set off and as is probably the tradition the road side team went straight for a chippy tea. As we ate our chips we contemplated the task ahead.I felt under real pressure that I did not want to be the one to mess up Karl’s attempt. We had had a couple of planning meetings during which Karl had issued our instructions. It was like a military operation with locations and times to pick up or drop off people and vehicles and details of what is required at each stop.
We drove together to our first pit stop and had time to kill and so went for a walk. Foolishly we walked towards the kennels and disturbed the pack of hounds who alerted most of the lakes to our presence. The first stop went really well with Karl and team on time and all food and drink ready. After hours of waiting the stop seemed to be over in seconds and it was time to pack up and head off to the next pit stop.
This is the first car change of the night Pete’s car was too advanced by far it would not start if the seat belt not fastened and the hand brake was a push button on the dash. I’m glad that I drove this car early on as my sleep deprived mind would not have been able to cope later in the challenge.
Me and Gem then sat in the car park in the centre of Keswick waiting to pick up Bill. Despite malicious rumours I’m not use to sitting in car parks in the early hours waiting to meet a strange man. We all then headed of to the next pit stop at dunmel raise.
Karl had problems and was about an hour late (damned inconsiderate). I was getting slightly anxious and as we watched their lights descending I prepared myself for a Taylor tantrum. I had under estimated his mental strength. He sat down and as I was about to start my deep motivational speech when he simply declared “I’m alright it’s sorted”.
As the next set of runners departed with Karl in the morning light (03;00) Jess summed up their experience on the tops with the beautifully Yorkshire poetic phrase “Fairfield were a reet basturd” before he retired to a bright pink tent for a rub down and sleep.
I now drove my second car of the night to honister pass. It was during this drive that I realised Gem had to keep waiting for me to catch up. She believes the number in a road sign is a minimum you should drive at. I left the car parked up at the youth hostel and we headed for wasdale.
Wasdale had a bad start due to teams doing the 3 peaks challenge. They had an inability to drive their hired minibuses and loudly announced how pleased there were with a time of under 4 hours! The sun was already starting to beat down so we decided that extra water may be required along with sun cream for the next leg. The pit stop went well with all runners looking well despite the heat.
We dove back to Keswick (car number 3) and decided that we just had time for lunch as we had missed breakfast. It’s amazing how good a drink and sandwich can taste when you have not eaten in a while.
It felt a long drive up to the slate mine as fatigue was starting to set in. We unpacked the chairs and decided that we deserved a brew when a shout went up “I can see them.” We promptly panicked and prepared soup, drink, clothes, food and drink for Karl and pacemakers in record time before being told it’s not them. As we had a little time we visited and left an energy bar at the slate memorial to all the competitors that had drowned on the mountain marathon 2009. This was a deeply moving moment that will stay with me for a long time.
I must apologize to all Karl’s runners at this stage as I feel I may have been a little too happy. At home I only drink decaf coffee. This weekend Gem had been making double strength coffee and it gave me a great caffeine hit (I am also naturally happy this is due to my general ignorance of what is going on).
We once again packed the car the smell of wet sweaty running clothes was beginning to gain strength at this stage. We drove down very narrow lanes to the church (I’m not religious but I offered a quick pray as I did not want to have to repeat this weekend too soon) for the change into road shoes for the final few miles. At this point I should state that Gamma’s navigation was flawless and we made it in good time. Please pass on our apologizes to the couple cutting the hedge who failed to realise that Gem could not wait while they finished off the last four meters.
At the church the tiredness really set in combined with the heat. I took a long swig from a water bottle only to discover it contained Karl’s magic rehydration solution. I don’t know if it only tastes good if you are running but it was foul! I think it was because we knew this was the final pit stop and if all went well we had finished, but the wait seemed endless. As I sat in the cool of the church I reflected on the last 19 hours. I felt really good to have been a part of the challenge and was very relieved that we had not messed up. I also thought of all the people involved this included those that helped on training runs prior to the event or who had given advice. I also thought what a great bunch of slightly strange people who are willing to give up their time to help Karl with his challenge. They carried his kit, kept on track with his pace, navigated but most important kept him focused and motivated. I also have a great respect for partners of these runners who allow them the time to enjoy their sport and even provide food and support to them. I really enjoyed meeting you all.
I was laid in my garden with my feet in a paddling pool being fanned and fed Indian snacks when Gem woke me to tell me they were on their way. It was my first ten minutes of sleep since 630 Friday morning and it felt good.
The runners switched into road shoes for the sprint Finnish into town. We drove back to Keswick parked up and waited for the triumphant finish. Karl looked remarkably well as he happily hit the hall door. It was over, job done.
I must thank Gemma I don’t know many people who could cope with spending this long in my company with out resorting to violence. I also admit that your muffins were superior to my banna bread, there I said it.
Karl what else can I say except that I have utmost respect and at the end of the day you don’t run bad for an ex fat lad.