A few weeks ago I found myself standing in a car park in the middle of the highlands just before midnight, waiting for someone I’d never met before to arrive at a predetermined time and pass me a large white baton. Welcome to the Real Relay! To find out more about The Real Relay and what it is about click here to read my first article. To support it in it’s bid to get into the Olympic Stadium when it finishes click here to be taken to the petition. Or to simply read about this stage and find out how I got on click the next link to read on.
Earlier in the evening I found myself getting increasingly nervous. I had driven up to Inverness from Ivybridge, 637 miles, a couple of days before and now here I was about to drive for thirty minutes into the middle of the Highlands at night to run 14 miles totally unsupported. Not only that, but I had just finished a long day at work, and I had to be back there at 9am. I ate my tea as normal, laid out my gear and at 9pm went to bed to get a couple of hours of sleep. That obviously didn’t work due to the excitement/anxiety. To be honest I think I was more nervous about running 14 miles at a time of day when I would normally be fast asleep than I was about running countryside lanes in the dark in the middle of nowhere. In particular I tend to have a fragile stomach and I was a bit worried about my nutrition, but in the end it went just fine. I took a couple of energy gels and a 500ml bottle of SiS Electrolyte Energy, with a bottle of SiS Rego for after.
At 23:30, after 30 minutes of wildlife dodging on the drive to my start point, I was sat in my car at Carrbridge waiting for James Tullie to arrive. My start time was planned to be 23:55, but after speaking to the next runner, Brenda, I was hoping that I could make some time up. When I spoke to her earlier she indicated that she was with a bunch of friends and that an extra few minutes would be appreciated if possible. I had my trusty Elite 3 bumbag on with a Cateye LED light clipped to the back of it. I also had a bright white light fastened on my front, just in case. James arrived fifteen minutes early and after a handshake, a couple of pictures and a quick chat I was off.
There was still enough light to see by, as darkness doesn’t last too long in the Highlands at this time of year, and there was very little traffic. The 7 miles to Aviemore was quite peaceful, only being disturbed by the occasional vehicle and the noises of startled wildlife rustling in the hedgerows (definitely not zombies, wild locals, orcs or lions as my imagination kept trying to persuade me…) A couple of miles before my designated turnaround point I entered the streetlights of Aviemore to have the most humorous encounter of the trip. A policeman drove towards me and then turned into a side street, however he must have “clocked” the funny looking guy running down the road with a large white club as he slowly reversed back out again, winding his window down and giving me a long hard stare. “Evening” I said. “Hello” he replied. And that was that. He obviously came to the conclusion that I was likely to cause myself more harm than anyone else…That and the bright orange Muscular Dystrophy Campaign (donate here please) vest probably took some of the threat out of my visage.
A few minutes later further cries of “May the force be with you!” Echoed out from a nearby restaurant, followed by cries of “oooh he’s coming back” a few minutes later after I’d turned around at Aviemore train station to do the return leg. Just before leaving the comfort of the streetlights a young guy (20 ish), a little bit the worse for drink, staggered up to me and asked me if I knew where the golf course was. He seemed quite genuine and was perfectly polite, but looked totally gutted when I didn’t know. I can only assume that some local willing lass had arranged to meet him there and he was having difficulty finding her, poor chap…
On the way back some of Brenda’s friends drove past me a couple of times cheering out of their car window. Then when I got closer to Carrbridge one of them peddled back on her bicycle to meet me, very politely asking if I’d mind if she cycled with me. We then chatted for the last mile before I reached my starting point and handed the baton over to quite an amazing bunch of people. I handed the baton to Brenda, pausing for the now obligatory photos and then we had a couple of group photos and a chat before they all headed off. Brenda was running and her friends were cycling with her, she also had a couple of people in a car for further support. She must have some very dedicated friends to pitch up and help out at that time of night!
By now the sun was starting to come back up and it was time for me to slurp my Rego recovery drink while driving back to my accommodation in Nairn. I think I managed to dodge all of the errant wildlife on the way back too! I even made it to work a bit later on, although I was an hour late….
Please support the Real Relay in its bid to finish in the Olympic Stadium. You can find out more here.