The Real Relay

[Sun 24th Jun] 


On the 15th of June, we ran 12.5 miles taking in some of the Olympic torch relay route which came through Newbiggin and Ashington.  Despite getting absolutely saturated we were uplifted by the whole experience.


When we got in we had a message from Pauline Aitchison of Wooler Running Club about a stage of the Real Relay from Widdrington to Newbiggin still being up for grabs.  We had read about this: basically The Endurancelife Real Relay is an exciting attempt to follow the entire route of the official Olympic Torch around the British Isles in one continuous non-stop journey, running every step of the way.  It started out from Land’s End at midnight on Monday 28 May, ten days behind the official Olympic Torch, and would involve hundreds of runners from across the British Isles.  Buoyed by our earlier Torch excitement I signed up straight away and Karen said she would do it too.  However I had not quite grasped the continuous bit, and was perturbed to see that our 10.5 mile stage was scheduled for 1:15 am on Sunday 24th June. Ah well, we mused, it would be a different experience.


As we got to the weekend, it was difficult to gauge what to do to prepare.  We usually do our long run in the morning so it’s wake up, breakfast, 2 hours later out the door, job done by mid-morning.  We had some friends round for lunch so that filled in a few hours. 

Had numerous texts from Pauline who was doing the stage across the border to Lindisfarne Causeway.  Everything was running to schedule.  Karen made me watch The Wedding Singer and Love Actually (for the umpteenth time).  I was keeping an eye on the Live Tracker.  We managed to stay awake and eventually we had a call from Manuela who was doing the previous stage to say they had reached Amble, our trigger to drive up to Widdrington.


We pulled into the car park of the Widdrington Inn to find a guy with a van in a viz vest.  He was the boyfriend of Marion who had run the leg before Manuela and who was accompanying her by bike on her run.  They had chosen to take the coastal path from Amble rather than the A1068 which is a bit hairy.  After a quick drive down to Druridge (the girls had gone a bit awry on the coastal path) they turned up and we did the baton handover with pictures.  Manuela is Italian, Marion is Austrian, boyfriend is Spanish, Karen is Scottish and I am English.  Surely this must be the most international gathering ever to be had in the car park of The Widdrington Inn at 1:45 in the morning.  We bade them goodbye, and set off at about 1:50 about 35mins behind schedule.  Rang Dan to tell him we were running late.  Garmin did not get a signal for quite a while.  I think what it was really saying was ‘Why the hell are running at this ungodly hour when I’m usually asleep in the drawer of the sideboard?’ 


The baton is about 3ft long and is a bit difficult to carry so we swopped periodically.  I have to say the run was a quite liberating experience.  It had started to rain but the time seemed to go quite quickly although we were not running very fast.  On the road from Cresswell we both got the fright of our lives when a horse leaning over a fence let out a very loud neigh.   We got to Lynemouth and toyed with giving Heather a knock to put the kettle on, but all was quiet in the Barrass household so we continued.  Karen found a very large pothole on the cycle path near Alcan which nearly resulted in a broken ankle.  We got to Woodhorn.  There was a boy racer Corsa parked in a lay by.  Inside there were 4 oiks, all with the trade mark IQ diminishers on their heads (that’s baseball caps with the peaks at the back).  I thought ‘aye aye’ as they glared out, however was reassured with the knowledge that I had a 3ft baton in my hand.  I think they were bemused into inactivity by the sight of Karen and me.

As we approached home getting on for 3:30, I spotted the Newbiggin based taxi parked in a turning opposite us.  Funny what comes into your head when you are running, but I thought I must book him to take us to Newcastle Airport for our forthcoming trip to Paris.  I decided against doing it there and then as I was unsure whether he would accept an airport run from Luke Skywalker/Princess Leia look-a-likes.  We got back to our house in Newbiggin where Dan was patiently waiting.  We did the handover with more pics.  Dan was keen to get going and we really felt for him as the rain got heavier.  He did the stage to Morpeth; his boys came out to see him in Ashington which must have been brilliant.  He then ran home and did 13 odd miles in total, very impressive on his own in those conditions. 


I guess our little escapade pales compared to Dave Bradley’s recent 100mile epic, and our effort was hardly of Phiddipdean proportions, but we were proud to be part of it in this Olympic year.

Then again Phiddipides only had the Persian army to contend with and not a neighing horse and 4 oiks in a Corsa.


Happy Running Brian and Karen Singleton


See the Endurancelife website for more details.