The Real Relay (05/07/2012)

The Real Relay?  What’s so ‘real’ about it anyway?

After the excitement of watching the Olympic Torch Relay passing through their hometown village in Devon, the team from Endurancelife went away somewhat deflated after seeing it bundled into the back of a car to be driven onto the next community, rather than be carried there on foot.   Now don’t get me wrong, the Olympic Torch Relay has been a fabulous event, people have turned out en-masse to support it, and last week Tipton Harriers got to be involved when it visited the Black Country Museum.  But the Endurancelife team wondered if the runners of Britain could achieve a different feat?  Could they unite and trace the same 8,000 mile route, but as a continuous relay, handing a baton on as it travels around the country, non-stop, 24 hours a day, averaging a minimum of 10 minute miling for the entire duration.  With just a few days planning a rallying cry went out , and at midnight on May 28, Andrew Barker set off from Land’s End to carry the baton for the first 10 miles of its journey to Penzance.  For the first couple of weeks it’s fair to say that there was a bit of cajoling going on, particularly by Kate Treleaven to get people involved.  Whilst people were keen on the easy legs during the day, there was a real fear that there would be no takers for the legs in the middle of the night, or in remote locations.  Fortunately Kate persevered and got the legs filled so that it has continued around the country, slowly catching up the Torch Relay.  After that stuttering start it kicked into life and became what could be dubbed an ‘Internet Sensation’.  Google ‘Real Relay’ now and you’ll see it being blogged about and reported on every step of its way.

Two weeks later and I’m browsing the list of legs and I spot one ‘#452 Burton Upon Trent – Alrewas 10.5 miles’  A few seconds later and it says ‘#452 Burton Upon Trent - Alrewas 10.5 05/07 03:20 Bryan Mills’.  I’ve just signed up to run 10 miles.  At 3am.  Carrying what can best be described as a ‘Star Wars Light Sabre’.  According to the website I’m taking over from Simon Reynolds and handing over to Victoria Goodacre – and that’s as much as I know about them!  Whilst the Endurancelife team do the overall co-ordination, it's up to the runners to organise themselves and their routes, so we exchange a few emails and the handover points are agreed.  I’ll meet Simon, who’s running in from Derby, on the canal bank on the outskirts of Burton, and Victoria at the National Memorial Arboretum in Alrewas for her to continue southwards.

My mate Rob has kindly agreed to drop me off and pick me up, and so at 2:30am we’re heading off to the changeover point.  When we arrive, Simon’s team are already there and he’s expected to arrive in 15 minutes or so.   I’d planned my route to start off on road through Burton, and then pick up the canal further on before reaching the A38.  I was hoping that by the time I reached the canal it would be light enough not to need a head torch, but unfortunately even though it was a near full moon, heavy cloud cover meant that a head torch was needed.    After a heavy downpour a few hours earlier the canal bank was quite wet in places, so my pace dropped a bit to ensure I didn't end up in the canal, and the further I got the muddier it got!  By about the 7 mile mark it was light, and so I abandoned the head torch. 

The Real Relay honours the Real Heroes

5 days previously, a few hours before it visited the Black Country, the Olympic Torch had visited The National Memorial Arboretum, the flame carried in by Corporal Johnson Beharry, who in 2005 was awarded the Victoria Cross for twice saving the lives of his comrades in the 1st Battalion, Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment whilst serving in Iraq in 2004.  He is one of only six living recipients of the Victoria Cross, the first recipient for 30 years, and also the youngest.

Arriving at the Arboretum I was somewhat surprised to be greeted by my Mum and Dad, as well as Victoria who was taking over next.  I'd got in well ahead of schedule so we went into the Arboretum to get some pictures of the baton handover at the Armed Forces Memorial.  After that my last job was to ring Andrew, on leg 454 to let him know that the baton was on the way to him.

The Real Relay

Good luck to anyone who takes part in ‘The Real Relay’ as it winds its way to The Olympic Park in East London.  There's a lot more legs still to be announced so if you fancy carrying a baton that's been carried round the whole of the UK, sign up and get involved.

Endurancelife Real Relay