We can run like the wind blows.........
Saturday 23rd September saw Grantham Running Club and their entourage of partners, pets and paracetamol pour into the grounds at the foot of Belvoir Castle for the fifth annual Equinox 24 hour endurance race. The race attracts a massive spectrum of participants who have the opportunity to run as few or as many 10km laps as they can in a relay as part of a team, a pair or solo. The field is diverse and so is the pace.
Shortly before twelve noon on Saturday the green army made the procession from their camp to the start line. Among them: a Forrest Gump doppelganger and a rather butch looking Wonder Woman. Paul Durham, who was part of the team, "Nathan's Runners and Walkers." The team had an emotional return for their second year, tragically with one very special member missing, Nathan Walker. Dedicating each of their laps to their much loved team mate, each of them wore a cape with the hashtag #runbymyside in Nathan's memory. Ahead of their half marathon in Nottingham the following morning, Nathan's parents, CJ and Ady made a special visit to the camp and the run family spirit of the club was palpable.
Adding to the magic of the weekend was the kindness of the weather, the sunset over the vale of Belvoir is stunning from the side of "that hill" and the howling Belvoir hounds and swirling mist at Dawn is goosebump inducing as runners can finally dim their head torches after bobbing, regimentally along like a parade of fireflies.
By morning the camp had leapt back to life although some runners had already retired and collected their medals. With the cut off for the beginning of the last "one more lap" being 12 noon on Sunday, still we kept on moving forward, be that, running, walking or crawling. The sight of a flock of sheep "laying down" in the dewy morning grass was tantalising and felt somewhat like a middle finger from nature to all those that were still willing themselves and each other to achieve their goal.
Fuelled by Gordon's Grasmere gingerbread and a beer delivery from Edina, GRC were victorious. Pairs, Paul and Caroline Davis narrowly missed out on a podium place despite Paul's screaming knee pain. SJ Willis aka Forrest Gump topped last years ten laps with help from her pit crew totalling almost 75 miles. SJ commented, I couldn't have done it without the support of my partner, family and the club. I was so tired at one point in the night that I took a wrong turn after a stop at a portaloo but didn't realise until I'd run a hundred metres in the wrong direction! Then I had to explain to the marshalls that I wasn't cheating, just delirious and disorientated!"
Andrew McAllister, inspired by Thunder Run earlier in the summer, completed a heroic 15 laps, earning himself the coveted silver pin. His running watch and gadgets had all run out of charge by his last lap but Andrew's legs, however, had not. He opted for recording the number of laps in marker as a five bar tally on his forearm.
Nicholas Jones, part of Nathan's Runners and Walkers, found his second wind and steamed around the course after teammates had, in his words "emotionally blackmailed", him into getting back before noon so his teammates could walk a final lap together. Heroin of the weekend goes to Holly Durham though who did not disappoint. Supported by sister Penny Hodges and Dad, Paul Durham, Holly overcame an upset stomach and knee injuries to produce a truly epic and inspiring distance of ninety nine miles. Topping last year's fifteen laps with sixteen Holly said she had hoped to reach seventeen to reach 100 miles. With a glass of prosecco in one hand and a link to Strava in the other she said, "Maybe I'll have seventeen laps in me next year!"