Long distance running (part 2)… The JOGLE, 1983

The sun has been shining brightly in the Val d’Hérens, but the temperatures have been double digit negative (degrees C, single figures F) and the ski runs are not completely pisted, so it’s time for a blast from the past…

I mentioned in April last year that I’d run my first marathon (London) in 1982.   The following year, I took part in a long distance relay race, from John O’Groats to Land’s End, or The JOGLE for short.
(For non-UK residents, these two locations represent the furthest, NE and SW, tips of mainland Britain).

The event was the brainchild of a guy called Gordon Cairns who, for 5 or 6 years, had organised an annual event called Computastars.  This competition pitted teams of IT staff in a series of quasi-athletic ‘events’, which varied from bouncing tennis balls into a bucket on your head, to an 800 metre steeplechase, complete with water jump.  But I digress…

The pre-set JOGLE route was around 860 miles (or 1,385 km) long and the only rules were that you had up to 15 people in a team and each runner had to spend a minimum of 15 minutes on the road.  Otherwise it was a straightforward, non-stop relay.

Six teams took up the challenge, all running for the two charities of the Arthritic and Rheumatism Council and the British Heart Foundation.   We added a 3rd, a local Children’s Hospice, and we spent 9 months planning, organising back-up crews and raising sponsorship.  In total, I think we raised about £3,500 for the charities.

In terms of organisation, we decided to have 3 groups of 5 runners and each group would cover a prescribed distance (usually around 60 miles) before handing over to the next group.  CB radios were used to keep in touch with each other and we had three stop-over points pre-arranged en route for a bit of rest.

Incredibly, after 50 miles, there were 3 runners side by side on the road.   Gradually though the Barclays team pulled ahead of the Computastars team with our Rowntree team about 30 minutes behind them.  I should reiterate that this was a non-stop relay and so the runners continued into, and indeed through the night, with (in our case) cyclists or the minibus ferrying the runners, lighting the way ahead.  In essence, each group was ‘on the road’ for just over 6 hours, before getting 12 hours rest, though in this time they also had to travel 120 miles or so to their next changeover point.

By pure chance (or was it just brilliant planning?) we had arranged for all 15 of our team to be together for the last 50 miles, just in case we had any injuries.  It turned out that 5 had problems, so we had 10 ‘fit’ runners available to complete this last section.  It was also around this point that the organisers decided to scrap the 15 minute rule – just to make the finish a little more interesting.  So we set about catching the Computastars team who, unfortunately for them, only had 4 people available for this part of the route.   So, instead of the usual 2.5 to 4 miles, we began to run 1 mile at a time and we were prepared to drop people off ‘parachute style’ if necessary to catch them.  The buzz of excitement in the minibus as we closed in on them was incredible.

In the event, the Barclays team won the race, in a time of just over 3 days and 18 hours.   We managed to catch the Computastars team in the last few miles to finish 2nd, but only by a mere 46 seconds!   Our times were 3 days and a little over 22 hours.
For the runners amongst you, (to save you doing the maths), this works out at a little over 9 miles per hour, or 6.5 minutes per mile.  (If only I could do that now!!)  Each runner covered an average of 57 miles (or 92km).

Unfortunately I have no pictures of the event myself, so I’m very grateful to Cliff Baughen, of the Computastars team, for the pictures below.  He published a similar post here some years ago.  You’ll see Cliff stonking along in the last picture. 🙂

8 thoughts on “Long distance running (part 2)… The JOGLE, 1983

    • Thanks Tammy. That Swiss Gigathlon sounds like something I took part in a few years ago, called the Terrific which was based around Crans Montana. Some of the guys and gals in the office entered the event, which involved mountain biking (up), running (up), cross country skiing, ski touring, running (down), mountain biking (down), swimming (in a lake), road biking then finally a 10k run. I was due to do the last leg, but there was snow on the run (up & down) course, which our lady didn’t fancy doing, so I swapped and did those two instead. (I’ll send you some pics). 🙂

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  1. Great post…wow that sounds like quite the adventure! Long distance team relays are becoming pretty popular over here, though not quite at those distances…but you were doing all this way before any mainstream events, so even more impressive with all that planning you had to get sorted. Not to mention that’s a blinding pace to maintain! Cheers!

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    • Thanks Jamesie. It certainly did take some planning. One of the biggest issues was what time each group would arrive at the changeover point. I asked a colleague in Operational Research and we came up with a spreadsheet (a printed booklet actually as it was before mobiles and ipads, etc) which said that if we were averaging, say, 6.25 miles per hour (and we could read this off the page by saying we were at point X at this time) then we would be at point Y at such and such a time. The pace slowed gradually over the 4 days so it was invaluable. The CB radios were used to ‘fine tune’ the arrival of one group handing over to the next. It all worked like clockwork, apart from the cyclists – who were lighting the way overnight. Sometimes they struggled to keep up with the runners going uphill, so we had to leave them behind and pick them up later. Fabulous memories though!

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    • Fantastic memories for sure. There was a Radio station covering the event and the reporter boarded our bus. I’m not sure if the recordings would still be around or repeatable !! I actually passed the Computastars guy, Jack Cook, who we knew well from the Computastars events, on the road about 5 miles from the finish. So we knew we had them beat! (Ever the competitor!) 🙂

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  2. Great post, took me back to some fond memories of the fellow runners and the great support team we had. I was on the Barclays team for the event and can remember the photo at the Jon O’Groats post office like it was yesterday. The Barclays runner in the photograph is Derek Wood, who ran a 2:35 marathon as an over 55 veteran. We were fortunate to only lose one runner to injury at Shap (the half way point). We got lost in the Wigan one-way system when trying to meet up with the handover team. Frustratingly people were crashing in on our CB band which further delayed the rendezvous and added further mileage for the sub-team. Funny how we take mobile phones so much for granted these days.

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    • Many thanks for your comments Steve. (I’d be interested to know how you found my post, as it always intrigues me how ‘Likes’ and Followers suddenly appear…) It was certainly an unforgettable experience. We had problems with CBers on the way through that ‘middle’ area too. (We were passing cryptic messages to switch to other numbered channels, which we thought only we would know, but they soon found us again and then gave us even more abuse!) That’s a very impressive time that Derek posted – at any age, let alone in the 55+ category!

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