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. 🙂