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1998 Race Story
1998 Race Story
"The Long Race Story" - The story of the 1998 GUCR
This is not intended as a race report, it is merely a chronological account of the “goings on” during the 1998 GUCR as seen and heard by the organiser. Please don’t take it too seriously.
0230 - Bloody hell, that is the alarm already. No sound from Phil’s room. Get the kettle on and give him a few more minutes.
0245 - Wake Phil - time for breakfast - we need to be gone by 0330.
0340 - Heading up the A34, time to think and try to remember anything we may have forgotten. Two things come to mind - a menu board for meals and name tags for helpers. The tags will have to wait until next year, but ask Phil to write up a menu when we get to Gas Street.
0430 - Stop for diesel, marvel at two cyclists sleeping on garage forecourt - perhaps we don’t have a monopoly on nutters this weekend!
0510 - Arrive Gas St. People already here - perhaps a good omen. Mark Green tells us he has been there ages, but it looks as though he didn’t get much sleep! Phil gets coffee, tea and biscuits on the go while I try to match names with faces. Several are very familiar, Pat, Laurie and Richard - the Worthing crew; Rod, Barry, Gary M, Gary B, and Ian all from last year; Christian from Hamburg who was at Compton introduces Sigrid and Hans-Joachim. Sigrid becomes the third person to ask “Where are the toilets?” For the third , but not last time I say “There aren’t any.” Friend Trevor Leigh from the TRA comes to say hello and see how things are going. We meet more new faces to match with names; Rob Goodwin is vaguely familiar - he’s done Compton; Andy and Luke from Bristol who didn’t make it there; Rory Coleman, can get T-shirts printed - pity we didn’t know that sooner! Then there is the Cambridge crew, Daves Steel and Tull and Ian Marshall; the Army Boys who have “done the Sahara” Iain, Shane and Chris; the mysterious J.T. Marriott who is apparently known as the duck man; Mike, Chris, Barry, Ian, Nevil and Bryan (who thoughtfully got his thank you letter in before the race). All these I have never met, but seem like I have known for ages as the names are so familiar.
0555 - Blimey is that the time already! We are still three short - four if you count John McDonagh, but we know he is stuck in France. Nobody seems keen to move down to the Start. I call “5 minutes“ and leave Trevor to look after registration while we go through to the towpath. Call 1 minute. Forget everything I’m about to say. Make a complete hash of a simple Good Luck and Ready, Steady, Go! Set them off 9 seconds late. Maybe one day I’ll get the hang of this.
0601 - Wander back to the desk. Trevor is trying to find Mark Green on the list -”He rushed past just as you said go.” The reason Trevor cannot see him is because Mark is already crossed off - typical, first one here and last one to leave. Actually not quite last, here come Ron and Anthony just in time for the second (0603) start. Only Geoff Terry has failed to show.
0625 - It seems Mr. Terry, who if I remember correctly made a fuss about prizes for age categories, is not coming. We had better go to Catherine de Barnes for the first drinks point. Damn, forgot the menu, but we can do it when we get there.
0640 - All packed up and on the familiar route. Plenty of time to claim our usual site and await the first arrivals.
0715 - Phil has the kettle boiling as we look up the path for the front runner. I take a leak against the van just as the lady from the shop walks her dog past. Not sure who is more embarrassed. Trevor has followed us here and we have time for a chat about the TRA in the good old days. Call Jan to let her know all is well and we have 31 starters.
0734 - Rob Goodwin heads the steady procession that takes 50 minutes to pass. Some have a chat and drink, but in these early stages most wish to be quickly on their way.
0820 - Nevil is last through, sticking to his battle plan of starting at the back and taking it easy early on.
0845 - We’re on our way to Hatton Locks for another drinks stop. This year determined not to miss the turn into the car park. Ian Hope with our car as transport for retirees should be meeting us there.
0910 - We arrive just as Barry, Rod and Rob go on their way. No sign of Ian. At least we have not missed the first of our unsupported runners. We set up the table and pour some drinks. Phil has the kettle going in time for coffee with Gill Webber who we met here last year. To my great relief we see Hopey driving down the towpath the way the runners are coming! He has been waving his arms off at us from up by the stamp box. He was there in time see the leaders through and has recorded their times. Well done Ian. Jan calls - Kevin Fox rang to see how things are going.
1115 - Only the Worthing crew to come so we had better be on our way to the Birdingbury Bridge feed station at 36 miles. We leave Ian to check Pat, Richard and Laurie’s times.
1130 - Slight disagreement in the van regarding the route through Warwick. Stuck in traffic at Leamington. We are going to be late to feed Ron who was the first unsupported at Hatton.
1150 - Still on the road, we have a call from Barry’s support - the first three left Birdingbury at 1147. Disaster, we have turned up a dead end - going to be even later.
1210 - Arrive at feed station in a panic. Thank goodness Gill has saved us a parking space. Hopey saw the Worthings through Hatton and beat us here - we’re supposed to be the experts! I take some comfort from the fact that my son Diccon is here too - at least we are up to full strength and he has recorded the passing of the Cambridge Crew. I am bitterly disappointed to have let Ron down, but we press on to get food and drinks ready for the next unsupported. It is Hans Joachim. Phil swings into action and will soon have a meal on the table. The microwave is too big for the generator, we have to keep resetting the trip. Hello, here’s Ron! Joy, we have not missed him. He has obviously dropped back a bit. Come to think of it he is a supported runner this year - I worried needlessly.
1245 - Andy Ives goes through without Luke Smith. I thought they would be staying together.
1249 - Anthony Taylor stops for his meal - Diccon does sterling work trying to keep the rain off Anthony and his food with the big brolly. This drizzle may be good for the runners, but it is bloody miserable for the rest of us.
1315 - Message from Jan. Luke has retired injured at Br.27 (34 miles). He is with his crew and is OK. So that’s why Andy was alone.
1400 - Sigrid the leading lady arrives for her meal. She talks constantly in German, which unfortunately none of us understands, and does not seem at all happy. As soon as the meal is ready she sets off down the path, plate in one hand - fork in the other, eating on the trot.
1425 - Jan manages to call. Apparently I had pressed the call button on the phone in my pocket. She has heard 15 minutes of generator sound and a lot of childish banter about sour krauts and the Radio 1 catchphrase “Hello Mark”.
1459 - Mark Green and Chris Styan have left together. This is good as Chris will perhaps keep Mark on the right track so that we don’t loose track of him as we did last year. The Worthings arrive so we have checked everyone through and should just about have time to visit Bruce Harding at the Braunston Boat Show to collect the T-shirts. We must also remember to write a menu for the unsupporteds when we get to Navigation Bridge.
1530 - At the trade gate to the show we convince the attendant that we have authority to leave the van blocking the gateway for ten minutes. We set off through the crowd to find Bruce. Phil bumps into his neighbours from Compton.
1600 - Bruce eventually returns from deliberating with his colleagues to inform us that the promised T-shirts have gone and that we have to clear the gate. Trying not to let frustration show too much we hastily depart for the cut-off point feed station at Navigation Bridge.
1635 - On the move and having a good old bitch about Bruce. Time to reflect that, T-shirts apart, things are not going too badly. Diccon left Birdingbury armed with twenty quid to buy more food and drink as we seem to have used quite a lot there. Ian has gone ahead to feed point two in case we are delayed at the show, but we should be at the bridge in time to see how the tussle between Rod, Rob and Barry is shaping. We decide to drive the road section above Blisworth Tunnel in the hope of seeing one or some of our runners. We pass Rob on the road and go on to Stoke Bruerne where Sue Goodwin informs us that there are two ahead of Rob. Right on cue here comes Barry with Rod a few yards behind - there is a proper race on. We wait to see Rob again and set off for Navigation Bridge at Cosgrove.
1715 - We reach Navigation to find Ian chatting to fellow Compton Harrier and ultra runner Simon Bolton who “just came up to see how it is going”.
1730 - The howl of a Mini exhaust announces the arrival of my son and heir with £19.95p worth of food and drink. He can keep the change.
1740 - Tables and chairs set out ready and the water is hot. Ten minutes or so should see the coming of our first runner. Instead Trevor (who is actually a runner) returns having been to Wales and back since we last saw him. With Ian, Simon, Trevor and me we have the minimum requirement for the rule that states, “Whenever four or more S.D.W.80 runners are gathered in the same place, they must commence a discussion about Saint Harry and his event.”
1750 - A figure is spotted running toward us round the distant bend. Barry Gould is in the lead with Rod Palmer less than a minute behind. For the first time they both seem prepared to stop for a few minutes. Although well up on previous times they both claim not to be racing. Barry goes to his crew’s vehicle and then almost makes it back on to the towpath unnoticed. When Rod sees Barry trotting off he jumps to his feet and is after him - “I just need to keep him in sight.” - of course they’re not racing!
1809 - Rob arrives ten minutes or so after the others leave. He looks fairly comfortable, but admits he can no longer match them. He too spends ten minutes with his crew. Gary Barnes’ wife has come to see how he is doing. As we chat Gary phones. He has missed the track at the end of the Blisworth road section and has reached a road junction and doesn’t know which way to go. Having recently driven that way I am able to direct him to Stoke Bruerne and tell him he has only added a few yards to his run. He is not convinced. Mrs. Barnes is directed to Stoke B. to meet Gary - thank goodness for the GEOprojects maps.
Navigation Bridge is a good place for the cut-off. This is definitely the point, or rather time, in the race where things get tough. We confidently expect the event to take shape while we are stationed here.
1855 - Message from Jan. No.40, Chris Styan is at Middle Moore Farm above Braunston Tunnel. We last saw him paired up with Mark Green. He has obviously had enough, but whether of running or Mark’s chat we’re not sure. Ian sets off in the car to collect.
1915 - Jan receives a call from Ron Pattenden - just a progress report to say he is OK.
1923 - The first unsupported, Hans-Joachim makes it to Navigation. Although not looking too happy he is well and, after a meal of beans and chips, methodically prepares for the long night section to Tring.
1930 - No.19 Barry Coleman calls Jan - he is retiring at the New Inn Buckby owing to stomach cramps. He has a crew and requires no action from us.
1957 - As H-J leaves Gary arrives still angry with himself for missing the turn. With the aid of the map I am just able to show that there really is not much in it.
2017 - Ian Stone makes a fast pit stop and is on his way 3 minutes later.
2035 - Mike Briggs calls Jan to ask for transport. He is outside the canal shop at ‘Stretford under Fosse’. There is no such place on our maps so Jan goes through the road atlas index and finds a Stretton under Fosse which is on the Oxford canal north of Rugby. To our horror we realise that Mike must have gone left at Braunston Turn.
During the frantic searchings of maps and atlases the Cambridge team arrive. I wish I had time to chat, but can only imagine how miserable it must be for poor Mike waiting for someone to show. Just as 2 x Dave and Ian depart the cheerful pairing of Christian Hottas and Rory Coleman breezes in. They are soon followed by Ron - things are quite busy. Another call from Mike informs Jan which bags are his and, as she relays the message to us, Ian Hope returns with Chris.
2100 - Ian and passenger set off the way they have just come hopefully to collect Mike before he freezes to death.
2106 - Ron and Rory have gone and I realise that Phil and Diccon have very efficiently been getting on with all the checkpoint business leaving me to concentrate on the worrying.
2113 - The well supported army squad of Shane Wilkinson, Iain Blackwood and Chris Jenvey come in, but require no assistance from us.
2118 - The next in is Andy Ives who has had enough and is retiring. Bringing the dropout total to five.
2130 - The very chatty Christian resumes his race.
2135 - The army is on the march again. Peace settles over our camp while I have time for some serious worrying. Gill Webber joins us, which means Ian can’t be far away.
2215 - Hopey calls Jan - he has picked up Mike from the canal shop and is on his way back. When Jan relays the message I am much relieved and vow never to do this again. Jan notes this in her log.
2218 - Mr. Webber joins us. Gill is planning to see him once more tonight before retiring to a warm comfortable hotel bed. This sounds an extremely attractive prospect to all.
Ian returns with his two passengers who show no inclination to vacate the car or, for that matter, any discernable sign of life. We let them rest in peace.
2245 - Two gentlemen runners arrive. Anthony Taylor, making his third attempt at the distance and determined to reach at least 100 miles, is accompanied by Nevil Stonehouse. Nevil’s game-plan is working as they are no longer at the tail of the field.
2320 - Jan calls to say that the 100 mile checkpoint crew, Jim and Jane Locke, have just left home and are on their way to Tring. For info she also says that Christian and the Army are stopping at Gifford Park for 2 hours’ rest. I am relieved that the third feedpoint will be manned in time for the front runners and that runners are keeping Jan informed.
2233 - Gary Moss and Bryan Jones arrive together. Gary disappears into his crew’s van. We wonder what he gets up to in there as he can be gone for an hour or more!
2340 - The Duck Man Marriott, although not looking too quackered, decides enough is enough and retires. During his meal at our table in the romantically flickering lamplight, he is entertained by Bryan repairing his feet with Elastoplast.
2350 - We are waiting for only two unsupported runners now. I have given the Worthing Striders group special dispensation to continue outside of the cut-off time which they expect to exceed. In view of their experience and expert support they are well able to fend for themselves.
Phil and I admit to each other that we are ever so slightly intimidated by Sigrid. We have each been trying to find something to do to avoid having to deal with her.
2357 - Sigrid arrives and, as Phil prepares her meal, she prepares for the long cold night - all the time talking to herself in her native tongue. As none of us understands, I imagine that she is being highly critical of the event and is probably heaping curses on my family and friends. In return, all I can do is nod inanely and smile hoping she doesn’t think me too much an imbecile.
Ian leaves to take J.T. to the station. He still has Mike and Chris aboard and will go on to the checkpoint at Bridge 134.
0000 - Ron P. tells Jan that he is resting (for 3-4 hours!) at Wroughton on the Green. She also has a call from Fred of Ian Stone’s crew. They haven’t seen him since 2115 and wonder if she has heard anything - possibly from Rory’s crew. Jan calls Rory’s number and is surprised to be chatting to the man himself as he runs. Rory has no news. She asks us - best advice is for Fred to sit tight and wait.
0010 - The lure of that warm bed has proven too much for Ian Webber. Gill calls to say that he has stopped at New Bradwell, about 5 miles from us. Seven have now retired.
0025 - Christian, Iain, Shane, and Chris let Jan know they are moving on and Sigrid leaves us at Navigation. We are now waiting for Mark Green. He promised to keep us informed this time and not leave us waiting all night like last time. We can only assume that he will be here by 1 o’clock. Perhaps he has joined up with Pat Cummins, Richard Harwood and Laurie Bishop. We can but hope.
0100 - Still no sign of Mark, though we have all imagined a runner coming round the bend many, many times. We know that Rod Palmer has been through the 100mile check over half an hour ago so we should be moving on with the unsupporteds’ kit bags.
0130 - Diccon is youngest so he is given the rotten job of waiting on his own. We leave him with Mark’s kit, some food and drink and our spare mobile phone.
0200 - The drive to Tring is going well. The worry of what to do about Mark is keeping me awake. Phil is doing his best to head-butt the windscreen. I must remember to ask him to write a menu when we get there. As we come in to Bulbourne there is a car stopped in the road - it’s Hopey trying to find the checkpoint. We flash him up and he follows us for the final mile and a half to Bridge 134. I had not realised that in pinching his clipboard earlier, I also took his maps of the checkpoint locations.
0225 - Breaking the monotony at this bleak spot, Barry Gould arrives 2 hours after Rod. Barry has had a chunder or two along the way and judging by his sudden departure it will not be long before he is at it again.
0230 - Jan hears from the Cambridge crew that they are stopping for an hour’s rest at Fenny Stratford. Jane is shivering.
0300 - Phil falls asleep with his mouth full of pastie. I amuse Jim by trying not to fall either asleep, and/or, out of my chair. Jane shivers more.
0330 - Phil wakes with a start dreaming that someone is choking him!
0400 - Pat Cummins retires at Stoke Bruerne. The other two Worthings are pressing on and still hope to beat the 50 hour limit.
0445 - Rob Goodwin pauses for five minutes at CP3. I’m so tired I’m hardly aware he is there, but wish him well. The wonderful Lou Myers phones to say he is on his way to man checkpoint 4 at Springwell Lock. With any luck he will be in time to check Rod through. I am relieved that the last piece of the support jig-saw is in place. My sister Mavis will join Lou at Springwell later so all should be OK.
0545 - Hans-Joachim Meyer, well on his way to a new unsupported record, stops for a quick drink. It must be terribly hard and lonely for him but he is looking good. Lou calls, he was able to see Rod through 120 miles at 0539 - Rod is going so quickly that we may have trouble being at the finish in time, but we’ll worry about that later.
0600 - Ron Pattenden resumes after 6 hours rest at Milton Keynes.
0615 - Gary Barnes limps into CP3. A swelling on his heel does not look good.
0635 - Rod’s crew inform Jan that Rod has left Mount Pleasant.
0640 - Jan calls Diccon - still at Navigation Bridge. He has seen Richard and Laurie (who are moving quicker now), but, despite walking 2 miles up the path, there is no sign of Mark. We take pity on Diccon telling him to give up his vigil and come on to Tring. I am angry, frustrated and very worried about Mark. In view of his failure to make contact for over 24 hours last year, we decide to ‘sit it out’ and not call the emergency services.
0710 - Gary goes on his way at last - not looking very comfortable. We shiver, doze and eat to pass the time.
0801 - Rory Coleman arrives. He is so lively and cheerful that we are shamed into brightening up a bit, but fatigue is making it very difficult to think clearly.
Ian Hope still has his two passengers. As we may need their seats for other retirees, he will take these two to the station and then continue to Springwell with Hans-Joachim’s bags. Diccon stays with us, but is almost immediately despatched to collect Gary Barnes (whose injury is now too bad to continue) and his buddy Ray Willett and take them on to Berkhamsted Station.
0835 - Dave Steel and Ian Marshall check in and are soon on their way. I am getting twitchy that we may not be at Little Venice in time for Rod. We had intended to stop at Springwell with the stove etc. until Jim and Jane were able to bring theirs forward. Rod is so far ahead we will just pay Mave and Lou a quick visit and be on our way to the end.
0902 - Chris, Christian, Shane and Iain make it to Tring. Christian is anxious to know if Sigrid made the cut-off, she had an hour to spare. Diccon returns just as Phil and I set of for CP4. Apparently we still have one of Gary’s bags so will try to catch him at the station as we are going that way.
0920 - Barry reaches CP4.
0942 - Ian Stone arrives at CP3 and leaves soon to meet a herd of 300 sponsored-walking schoolchildren on the path. (These children are later to take great delight in jumping over Diccon - asleep on the bridge!)
0950 - David Tull decides to pack it in at Tring.
1015 - The HQ van arrives at Springwell just before Rob Goodwin. Lou and Mave are well established and require nothing from us. Lou has erected boards showing words of encouragement. These are definitely lifting the runners and attracting lots of comment from the public. Hopey is having a nap in the car, but rouses to see us. As he is not sure of the route to L.V. he will follow the van. (In our haste to move on I forget to update the crew on the retirements.)
En route down the A412 it occurs to me that Ian and the car would be more useful back at Tring where he could transport retirees and then bring “our” runners’ bags forward. We pull over and after a hasty roadside conference he departs Northwards as we continue South. The urgency of our journey is sufficient to keep me awake, but Phil is having a go at the windscreen again.
1100 - Sigrid arrives at Tring as we cross the bridge that marks the finish only to see Rod and his buddies catching their breath below. They have beaten us by 2 minutes! We rush down to congratulate him and are able to draw some comfort from the fact that he was too quick for his support. At least we are first on the scene.
1105 - At CP3 Nevil Stonehouse passes Sigrid once more.
1110 - Sigrid runs off with another plateful!
1127 - Ron Pattenden pulls into CP3 for a brief stop and drink.
1130 - Jan calls. She is wondering if we have any news as a call she was receiving was cut off and when she calls back is diverted to Army Public Relations! We are able to tell her of Rod’s fabulous record and reassure her that Today’s Modern Army should be able to look after its own. Rod’s crew reach L.V. and, after a few pictures have been taken, the entire Palmer party heads for home. Phil and I belatedly hang the finish banner on the bridge.
1240 - Anthony Taylor, the last of “our” unsupporteds, arrives at Bridge 134 accompanied by Jim who had walked up to Marsworth to meet him.
1241 - At Springwell Hans-Joachim refuels for the last leg of the trip. He is on course for a new unsupported record. Unfortunately there is only cold fuel because the stove is still at Tring.
1255 - Making steady progress on his third attempt at the race, Gary Moss passes straight through CP3.
1300 - Anthony, having achieved his 100 mile target, finds a lift to the station with Ian a more appealing prospect than continuing to L.V.
- As the Worthing pair, Richard and Laurie, have sufficient back-up Jim, Jane and Diccon close the checkpoint at Bridge 134 and take all the bags and remaining provisions on to the party at Springwell.
1400 - Rory Coleman comes into CP4 for a heart transplant.
At L.V. we set up our “information desk” and pass the time explaining what is going on to residents, tourists and boaters . We also have plenty of time to worry about Mark. We try to be flippant, but what if something dreadful has happened?
1420 - Ian Marshall and David Steel the surviving Cambridge pair are entertained at Springwell.
1500 - At about the time Iain Blackwood is calling it a day at Rickmansworth, Barry Gould arrives in style at Little Venice. Although second again to Rod he is pleased to have finished in a new P.B., three and a half hours quicker than before.
1518 - Rob Goodwin is home third - 18 minutes behind Barry after 145+ miles makes this almost a photo finish for the place.
1530 - Chris Jenvey is the first of the now slightly disjointed Army squad to CP4.The other member, Shane Wilkinson, is 9 minutes behind. Shane goes straight through to make up 5 minutes on Chris.
Concern for Mark Green is such that we ask Jan to look up his number to phone home. We do not wish to cause his wife any alarm, but we need to know if she has heard from him. Frustratingly the number on Mark’s entry form is incorrect and, as he is ex-directory, we are stumped. I am, as they say, on the horns of a dilemma - if I call out the emergency services it will be expensive and embarrassing if he turns out to be OK. Of course if he is not OK...!? In the end fatigue and exasperation take over - sod him, I hope he is in the cut!
1608 - Now running together, Ian Stone and Christian Hottas take in the Springwell experience.
1735 - Nevil arrives at Springwell followed five minutes later by Sigrid who makes the most of this final opportunity to run off with a plate and cutlery.
- Phil and I pass the time explaining to passers-by that there really are people crazy enough to run 145 miles. We move the finish banner from the bridge to the towpath gate where it will be more easily seen when darkness falls.
1837 - Ron Pattenden pays a quick visit to Mave and Lou.
1844 - Bryan Jones reaches Springwell for his final top up before the home leg.
1905 - Richard Harwood and Laurie Bishop, making up well for lost time, arrive at CP4.
1915 - Lou calls Jan to confirm that J.T. had retired (I should have told him this earlier, of course) and that only Gary Moss is still to come.
1916 - Jan calls to check that J.T. is with us - I ask her to request that Lou comes on to Little Venice as Hans-Joachim may arrive at any time and will need his bags. Gary has his own support so should be alright. Diccon, Ian and Mave return home to Compton and C.P.4 at Springwell Lock closes.
2000 - We have been joined at the finish by Mrs. Jenvey and various well wishers from the moored boats - there will be quite a welcoming committee for the next arrivals.
2005 - Hans-Joachim Meyer completes his long solo run - a fantastic achievement considering the very limited support he had received. Right on cue Lou arrives with all the paraphernalia from CP4 and Hans’ kit - timed absolutely to perfection.
2009 - Rory Coleman is fifth to finish greeted by his own crew as well as the small crowd now gathered. people unconnected with the event can barely comprehend what is happening, but cheer and clap anyway.
2025 - David Steel and Ian Marshall finish together, making four arrivals in half an hour - amazing considering the total distance.
2045 - Having offered Hans advice on local hotels, Lou takes his leave. We will miss him.
2130 - Hans, too tired to bother with hotels is asleep on the van seats. Phil, Chris’s family and friends and I continue to peer up the path hoping to be the first to spot the next arrival. Phil and I know from previous experience how quickly you begin to see imaginary runners approaching.
2200 - Gary’s crew let Jan know that he has reached Bridge180 at Harefield (approx 123 miles).
The Army supporters arrive, announcing confidently that they expect their runners to take at least another hour to cover the few miles since they last met. Almost immediately though, one of them looks up the path, imagines she can see runners approaching, and runs to greet them! We know the hallucinations can be very convincing when you are as tired as we all are, but Phil and I are not caught this time.
2225 - Nevil’s brothers call Jan, Sigrid and Nevil have 11 miles to go and are travelling at about 3½ miles per hour.
2230 - Jan calls with the above info., but I am too tired to make any sense of it. I tell her we will be here when they make it - whatever time it may be.
2323 - Chris and Shane arrive together. It must be difficult for Iain Blackwood to see them in, but he seems quite cheerful and is happy for them.
0000 - Phil decides to try for some shut eye in the van. No sooner has he left than I see runners approaching. I wait to be certain before running to the van to fetch Phil. He is already asleep, but rouses to put the kettle on. I rush back to the towpath to greet our heroes - nobody comes. The light I thought to be a swaying torch is as distant and fixed as ever!
0200 - It is now very difficult to think clearly and hard to believe that this is Monday. Fred has apparently lost Ian Stone again, but we gather they have been re-united. The brothers Stonehouse, Graham and Bruce, are here helping us to stay awake.
0218 - Ian Stone and Christian Hottas arrive together and are understandably very happy to finish.
0223 - Sigrid Eichner and Nevil Stonehouse make their triumphal entry. Hans joins the celebration. Thank goodness all the Stonehouses speak German and are able to translate. We are all very happy. Our first ever lady finisher turns out to be very pleasant and not the dragon Phil and I feared.
- Somewhere in the back of my mind there are things to worry about, but I can hardly remember.... Of course, Mark Green is still unheard from and Hans must be at Heathrow early in the morning! Oh well - nothing to be done at present.
0300 - Derek Cummins and the Worthing support pull into Delamere Terrace. They expect Richard and Laurie soon.
0331 - Having made up loads of lost time Richard Harwood and Laurie Bishop - both veterans of the original 1993 Grand Union Canal Race - reach Little Venice.
0345 - I can barely think straight, but remember to ask if the Worthing crew could take Hans to the airport. It is miles out of their way but....?
0400 - I try a walk round the block to keep awake. When I return the Worthing crew is gone but Hans is still here. Sadly we can only recommend a walk to Paddington Station for a cab or tube - do they run this early on a Bank Holiday? Who knows? Who cares? - I am getting reckless with fatigue.
0422 - The redoubtable Bryan Jones and his blisters finish the long run.
0440 - What a strange picture we make. Phil, Bryan and I sit at a patio table in a London street. Sigrid is sleeping on the van floor while Christian and Hans use the seats. People must think we are all mad.
0515 - Bryan declares that having achieved his goal he will not be running the GUCR again, but offers to help next time - a great gesture. He makes his way to Paddington while Phil and I bask in the warm glow of his appreciation. We congratulate each other on a job well done knowing that all our unsupported runners are in. We are still very concerned that we have not heard from Mark.
0527 - Ron and Mrs Pattenden, accompanied by their dog come trotting over the finish line. They have left their car and plan to catch a train back to retrieve it. A great idea. - We are pleased for Ron who last year helped Martin Bulger’s crew see their man to the end after retiring injured.
0600 - It is 48 hours since the start. In some ways it seems only a short while ago, but in others too long to remember.
Our hope now is that Gary Moss will be here inside the 50 hours. This is his third attempt and he deserves a finish.
We are cold, tired and stiff, but do not want to get into the van for fear of disturbing Christian and Sigrid. It’s a daft time to remember it, but we still have not drawn up that bloody menu.
0724 - Gary is here and all is well with the world! With just over half an hour to spare before the race limit the GUCR 1998 is over - perhaps now we can have some sleep.
As soon as we had said a fond farewell to Gary and his wife we were anxious to be on our way home and to bed. We had decided that, as it was on the way, we would take our friends to Heathrow.
Christian fancied a shower before flying so we agreed to stop at Heston on the way. It was a good job we were not in a hurry for the flight as after a “Who has the biggest blister?” competition with Christian, Sigrid had such terrible cramp in her hands and arms that she was unable to pack. Her discomfort was quite distressing for us all.
As we were about to leave Little Venice Jan called to say that Mark Green had ‘phoned at 08.30 - he had just woken up and was at Marsworth (98 miles). His message was “Tell Dick I’m OK and am going on to the end. No need to worry”. We stopped worrying. At Heathrow, while Christian had his shower, Phil and I grabbed a much needed 15 minute kip - he on a plastic chair and I on a table (Sigrid had monopolised the front seats of the van!).
You may be wondering what happened to Mark Green. Well, at 10.23 pm, as Jan and I relaxed over a glass of wine and a Guinness, the ‘phone rang - Mark was at Uxbridge, outside the Odeon. I said “Stay where you are and we’ll be there in an hour”. And so it was that Mark was reunited with his kit 20 miles from the Finish at 11.30 pm on Monday night. How he survived and what he’d suffered I can only guess at, but I have to admit he’s a trier. Jan had agreed to hold my eyes open if I drove, but could only manage this as far as Gravesend when they began to shut. To her immense credit she continued the dr
ive on to Faversham (with a detour to Sittingbourne and back as Mark didn’t recognise his home town when we woke him for directions) and all the way back to Compton. For us the Race ended at 05.30 am Tuesday.
You may also wonder what happened to John McDonagh, who was marooned in France on race day. John eventually started at 06.15 am on Friday 12th June and finished at 5.34 pm on the Sunday.
The 1998 GRAND UNION CANAL RACE was held by kind permission of the British Waterways Board and staged with the generous assistance of :-
Mavis Chiverton, Phil Gadd, Ian Hope, Diccon & Janet Kearn, Jim & Jane Locke, Lou Myers.