2002 Race Story

Notes > Official reports > 2002 Race Story

by Dick Kearn

2002 Race Story

"Tales of the Canal Bank" The story of the 2002 GUCR

The Prologue

Well here at last is the story of the 2002 Grand Union Canal Race. If the above title conjures images of rodents, in balsa wood boats and cardboard aeroplanes, twitching their noses to Johnny Morris’s voice-over you are probably old enough for this Ultra nonsense. If you are under forty you may like to ask your parents about “Tales of the Riverbank” and look forward to growing into Ultras. Whatever your age you should be aware that not everything you see on TV is fact and that not every story is true. Most of what you are about to read is, but I cannot guarantee all.

Perhaps I am being presumptuous in assuming that you would want to read further. If you’ve any sense you’ll go straight to the results and timings like proper runners do. Then again, if you’d any sense at all, you would not have become involved with this funny ‘little’ race in the first place.

In the first place I should have started this account with an apology for taking so long to send it to you. Having read this far though, you perhaps already have an idea why it takes so long. Second to the first apology there should be another to those who finished (Glyn, Stan, Anthony, Simon and Nevil) while I was away from Little Venice. Having finished with the apologies I now realise that I should apologise to the first finishers (Rob and Sue) for not mentioning their achievements in the first place.

As the previous paragraphs sound a bit ‘Harry Worthish’ and as this is the second reference to TV shows of the fifties and sixties, I will endeavour to recount the ‘official’ race report in a more straightforward manner. Then again...

The Race

A record number of 44 runners came together (Should it be pooled?) in Gas Street, Birmingham for the start of The Eighth Grand Union Canal 145 Mile Race. Of these exactly half were making their first attempt at Britain’s Longest Annual Event. This fifty-fifty ratio was maintained throughout the race, but from the start Steve Broadbent was the only newcomer matching 2001 winner Chris Fanning’s pace. At 10 miles they were leading Rob Goodwin by 2 minutes and were already 6 minutes up on last year.

The lead extended to 3 minutes at Hatton (22 miles) with Rod Palmer, the record holder, arriving fourth fully 14 minutes behind Rob. Chris took a break here, which left Steve in front, now a quarter of an hour ahead of the record schedule. Penny Elliott was making the running in the ladies race coming in 45 minutes ahead of Pat Cummins, Sharon Thompson, Louise Clamp and Louise Jordan. Sue Clements was last to arrive, but left in second lady place, having stopped only briefly.

The weather and race had both warmed considerably by 11:30 am when the three leaders were approaching quarter distance at Birdingbury Bridge. Only 3 minutes covered Steve, Rob and Chris. It was not so hot in the ladies event as Penny (20th overall) was a full hour ahead of Sue (37th), now half an hour in front of Sharon and Louise.

The heat was beginning to tell on some competitors though, as three were not to make it as far as the Buckby check at 48 miles. Here Chris came in with a 10 minute lead but his longer stop meant that he left only 3 ahead of Steve then Rob. Rod still held fourth with Jeremy Sharpe, Mark Cockbain, Anthony Watts, Glyn Marston, John Hogg and Walter Eberhard making up the top ten. Positions and relative times had changed little for the ladies.

The section from Buckby to the cut-off point at Navigation Bridge is often the turning point of this race. The prospect of the night section ahead and the realisation that they are not yet half way prompts many to reconsider their undertaking. An unlucky dozen were unable to make the seventy mile mark and another seven did not continue beyond. Steve had fallen by the wayside at 55 miles so Rob and Chris were well out on their own when they arrived only 3 minutes apart just before 7pm. In a strategic move Rob stopped for barely a minute and thus extended his lead to 10 minutes by the time Chris was on his way. When Chris threw in the towel 3 miles down the line, Rob’s 3 minute lead at the check had effectively stretched to 2 hours over Mark when he set off at 9pm. Third away Anthony was closely followed by Glyn and then Bob Brown making strong progress since striking out on his own. Fifteen minutes later Nevil Stonehouse was on his way pursued by Simon Laporte, Stan Dolan, Neil Shepherd and John Hogg. After a 10 minute rest Penny trotted off into the darkness at 11.32pm. Sue strode out at 25 past midnight and Sharon, accompanied by Louise, left half an hour later. Last away from Navigation Bridge, Bryan Jones was sadly forced to stop before Fenny.

At the Fenny Stratford check Rob still held first place, but other positions had changed considerably. Bob was up to second and Glyn third. Mark and Anthony slipped to fourth and fifth and Simon was now ahead of Nevil. Stan, Neil and John held their places, and Chris Sanders was up in eleventh. Penny, still well ahead, came in twelfth overall, while Sue arrived sixteenth only 6 minutes ahead of Louise and Sharon up from twenty-ninth to seventeenth. Only 22 runners continued beyond the check and these were reduced to 18 before The Grand Junction Arms at Bulbourne.

Rob Goodwin was comfortably ahead by 2¾ hours at the 100 mile check. He must have drawn further comfort from running straight through this point where he had retired previously. Bob too was looking well, pausing only long enough to change the batteries in his Walkman. The night section had seen Mark drop to seventh and, with Neil’s withdrawal, Chris move up to tenth. Ian Webber was now eleventh and Mark Pierce twelfth. In the ladies race changes were more dramatic. Louise and Sharon appeared first, thirteenth overall, just 2 minutes ahead of Sue who was now 13 minutes in front of a suffering Penny. By virtue of a shorter break Sue was first away, seven minutes ahead of Louise and Sharon and a further twelve before Penny. Event regulars Ray Willet at 10.57am and Anthony Taylor at 2.55pm were last away.

Having led the ladies race for so long Penny Elliott succumbed to her blisters soon after Bulbourne. Anthony Taylor and John Hogg were also unable to reach Springwell. Here the first three were unchanged. Mark Cockbain arrived fourth but left fifth behind Stan. Anthony and Simon were equal sixth then came Nevil, Chris, Ian and Mark P. Sharon and Louise were again 2 minutes in front of Sue but left 4 minutes behind her. Ray in fifteenth place was last through.

Rob ran through the Hanbrough Tavern check at 9.37am, exactly 66 minutes quicker than Chris Fanning’s 2001 time. Although he could not now match Rod’s record he only had to keep things together to set a new second fastest. Bob and Glyn were next to pass then Stan followed by Simon and Anthony, still running together as they had been since before The Grand Junction Arms. Mark C. was down to seventh then came Nevil, Chris, Ian and Mark P. Sue Clements had consolidated her lead and was on her way half an hour before Ray who left 40 minutes in front of the two girls.

Rob Goodwin did indeed keep it together over those last 12.5 miles. After running through two of the hottest days of the year so far, his time of 30:11:41 is a remarkable achievement. In Second with 32:37:00 Bob Brown finished very strongly. The chart shows a time of 2:21 for the last section, the fastest of the day. Despite slowing on the last leg, Glyn Marston held on to finish Third in 37:26:43, an improvement in time and position over his 2001 finish. Stan Dolan came home Fourth in 37:30:50, again with a strong finish. Convinced that he had seen another competitor gaining on him he was spurred on to be one of only three taking under 3 hours from The Hambrough Tavern. Simon Laporte, the first unsupported runner, and Anthony Watts crossed the line Equal Fifth in 38:50:16. First timer Anthony may well have been glad of Simon’s experienced company. Although not as quick as his 1999 winning time, Nevil Stonehouse’s 39:46:58 Seventh place meant that he has now notched up an impressive four finishes from five starts. Mark Cockbain was Eighth with 40:14:02. He had struggled a bit since Springwell, but has the distinction of being the first to be supported the full trip by one person on a bike. Canal race regular Ian Webber moved to the top of the “must get to the end next time pile” in 2001. He did with 40:28:58 in Ninth place. Mark Pierce and Chris Sanders were another new boy / old hand combination. In Equal Tenth with 41:32:22 they were just 4 minutes slower than Chris’s finish in 2000.

First lady and twelfth overall Sue Clements’ time of 41:49:36 is, like Rob’s, the second fastest ever. As testament to the benefits of even pacing Sue power walked her way from the back of the field early on, to be among the fastest over the final section. Six places lower than in 2001, Ray Willett finished Thirteenth, unlucky when you realise that his time of 42:08:02 was 1½ hours quicker this year. Together from the start, Louise Clamp and Sharon Thompson finished Equal Second and Fourteenth overall, having run the whole race to a pre-planned schedule. Their plan worked well as they came home comfortably within the limit in 44:26:24.

The Traditional Twaddle

As you will know this was the Eighth GUCR. Phil Gadd and I have organised, I use the term loosely, seven of them. Over this period it has become apparent that several traditions have established themselves. It has occurred to me recently that, although we and our more regular competitors are aware of these, first time entrants might like to know what they are. For the benefit of all, this year, I will recount the story of the race pointing out which events are novel and which fit the established pattern. I hope that everyone will draw comfort from knowing that things that they might have thought a tad unusual are in fact routine.

You should all know, for instance, that it is a tradition for me to write an overlong (just like the race) and boring report of the proceedings. Every competitor and helper should get a mention and the whole thing be posted much later than was intended - in much the same way as the pre-race info. Another routine is that some entrants will leave their T-shirt orders too late and a few will not return the postcards. It goes without saying that I will forget some part of the registration info.(this time it was the contact phone list [but I did remember the menus]) and some of the van kit (proper knives would have made cutting cheese easier). A tradition that seemed to have been broken this time is the frantic call just before 6am from someone who can’t find Gas Street or is the wrong side of the Basin. After the Start I realised that there had indeed been a call to my mobile, which I’d left in the van. On returning the call I found myself talking to Chris Spink’s crew who were all of ten feet away having made it in the nick of time. An absolutely unbreakable tradition is the one where immediately after the start I remember all the things I should have announced - in particular, this time, that the result could be found on the Compton Harriers website. How much would my conscience have been eased, if only...

Definitely new this time was the use of Jimmy Currie’s van. Jim had intended to run but was forced to postpone his effort for another year. He was most keen that we should still use the van for the extra bags and very kindly delivered it to Gas St. himself. One of the best things about race organising is that you get to meet some very nice people. (You do of course come across some right a' holes too!) I can only say that it was a real pleasure to meet Jim and I look forward to seeing him take his place on the start line next time.

Also at Gas St. making up the full team of early help were Shane Wilkinson and Big Dave Millard who were taking the photos and also booked to man the dreaded graveyard shift through the night at Fenny; Joan and Ian Clarke, booked for the Buckby check and game for “anything that needs doing” throughout the weekend; Diccon Kearn, truck driver and general assistant to his uncle Phil, the official deputy organiser.

For the benefit of those unable to make the start I will attempt to set the exciting scene as 44 runners and 30 support crews make their final preparations. The Clarkes sort those final T-shirt sales. Names are crossed off lists and phone numbers added to lists. The photographers’ flashes catch the poseurs and the unready. Phil and Diccon offer sustenance to the masses and I receive loads of money for those BW keys. At three minutes to six the street begins to empty through a small door in the wall as everyone makes their way onto the towpath. After a few inadequate words from the organiser and a rather pathetic toot on the megaphone, at 6 am precisely, 44 fairly happy souls set off on the epic journey to London.

While we packed up our kit and stowed the unsupporteds’ bags, back home in Compton Jan was well prepared. The clock, maps, road atlas, entry forms, postcards, checkpoint crew lists and, most important of all, the phone and notebook were all to hand. Unusually this year she did not receive any calls before the start. In another break with tradition I have reproduced all her jottings, with their original timings, as the basis for the full story. My additions are the bits in italics. This account bears the usual Government Warning that it is extremely tedious and may put you off running for ever.

Saturday 1st June 2002:

07.34 First 3 thro’ C. de B. Chris in lead - update list of starters - total 44.
We left the truck outside the pub and used the van at the check. Someone warned me that I shouldn’t drive down the path until Steve the organiser is there! Pity he didn’t warn the chap who’d already parked in the wide bit making it hard to turn the van.
08.34 HQ ‘phoned for Neil Shepherd’s contact numbers.
Somehow we all managed to miss Neil’s passing. Although there’s photographic evidence that Shane didn’t.
08.41 HQ ‘phoned for Neil’s previous best performance - none recorded on entry form.
Not yet thro’ C. de B. - tried home tel. number - no reply. Joan and Ian will wait. Being a new boy we didn’t know how long Neil was likely to take. We were getting no joy from the contact number (one digit was wrong on the postcard). We moved on to Hatton to join Ian Hope who was manning that check. Joan + Ian waited for Neil. We though about sending Diccon back on his bike, but as we were one driver short (Diccon’s mate Paul couldn’t make the trip) decided against it.
09.29 Support crew ‘phoned for Dick’s mobile number - needs to notify him of diversion on canal.
Once upon a time there was a troll who lived by a canal. Whenever the troll heard a runner trip-trapping along the towpath she would pop out of her house and give them a right old ear-bashing. That’s how the story went until Bruce Stonehouse (Nevil’s crew) took the trouble to hear this public spirited lady’s version of how she’d instigated the resurfacing of the path and was concerned for the safety of those foolish enough to ignore the closure. The fact that Bruce listened and acted on her righteous tale seemed to pacify the troll and she became a nice lady who bothered no-one.
10.11 HQ ‘phoned with updated list of runners’ contact numbers.
10.24 Ian Clark ‘phoned - they’re leaving C. de B. - still no contact with Neil.
10.49 HQ ‘phoned to say Neil passed through Hatton “some time ago”.
It suddenly dawned that if we had simply missed Neil at C de B he would be on Ian Hope’s list! I hope this tale illustrates the value of wearing numbers and why we ask for your previous performance. It has also reminded me to keep the time-keepers separate from the drinks crew in the early stages - a lesson long since learned but recently forgotten.
11.49 Nos 273 and 274 retired at Hatton - ref. Ian Hope - he is now leaving Hatton - 42 runners through. ‘Phoned HQ to inform - busy parking.
Oops! I must have sounded a bit tetchy trying to squeeze the truck between the cars at Birdingbury. Pat and Derek Cummins retired at Hatton. Pat was going well but pulled out as she’d only entered again to accompany Derek, who, having done loads of training, was simply “having a bad one”. This was very sad for them both, but a great bonus for us as they stayed and helped all the way to Little Venice.
12.03 ‘Phoned HQ to finish update on contact numbers (see 10.11).
Diccon fixing puncture. Reminded HQ to check with Neil Shepherd’s crew re. their correct number. Jan is fond of elephants and, like them, doesn’t forget anything.
12.35 Les Pullen ‘phoned - just to know how things are going - aiming to be in position by 08.00 am Sunday. JK to ‘phone later tonight to let him know if it seems that runners will be ahead of schedule. Les and Dave Steel of The Famous Cambridge Crew have manned the Hambrough Tavern check since 2000.
12.42 HQ ‘phoned with Neil Shepherd’s crew number.
14.45 Spencer Summers going home now - didn’t see Dick, but says Hello. Spencer has been a competitor in the past and hopefully will be again. He was due to meet us on the day for a natter. Sadly our paths didn’t cross, but we have made contact each other by e-mither since.
15.14 No 245 at Birdingbury - ref. Ian - Louise Jordan out, with her crew. Louise had started with her friends Louise Clamp and Sharon Thompson with the intention of staying together. There has never been a female trio complete this event, so I hope they’ll all be back sometime.
15.44 ‘Phoned HQ to remind that trophies need collecting before 5.00 pm. I told you she doesn’t forget.
15.56 HQ ‘phoned with correction to Ian’s mobile number - Ian will collect trophies. The winner’s miniature water cans were hand painted by Julia at Stoke Bruerne- and collected by Hopey in the nick of time! He is a star.
16.00 No 259, Steve Broadbent, retired at High House Bridge (No 29) - 55 miles? (2nd position) - sunstroke? (“not feeling too good”) ref. HQ. Jan’s note pretty well says it all. It’s not the first time that the early pace setter has pulled out and it probably won’t be the last.
16.54 No 211, Jeremy Sharp, High House Bridge - 55 miles - OK, just had enough (“there’s more to life than this!”). We’d be fools to disagree, Jeremy.
16.57 ‘Phoned HQ to notify of above - advised to ‘phone Diccon at Navig. Bridge. Normally I’d be with the HQ truck but was in Jim’s van.
16.58 ‘Phoned Diccon at Navig. Bridge to update his list.
17.29 No 286, Walter Eberhard, Bridge 26, Stowe Hill Bridge (at 17.25) - will get a lift with HQ van to Navigation Bridge. I picked up Walter from the bridge. He said that his heart was OK and his legs were OK, but, because he didn’t feel able to eat or drink he thought it best to stop - seems fair enough. He commented on the large number of dead animals on our roads and asked why. I blamed their parents for not teaching them to cross properly - but would love to hear any other theories. I would like to thank the unknown support crew who reported Walter’s withdrawal and accurate location.
17.53 Shane Wilkinson ‘phoned with his mobile contact No.
18.05 HQ ‘phoned to notify that progress is approx. ½ hour ahead of last year - Chris Fanning in lead - JK to let subsequent crews know. Our crews have approximate opening and closing times for their checks but these can be varied.
19.03 No 211, Phil Soanes dropped out at 19.00 hrs (approx.) at Bridge 43 near Gayton - ref. HQ. (“Too much sun”.) He won’t thank me for this but it has to be said. It seems the heat was too much for ‘Phireman Phil’. Yes, he really is a fireman! He was also our last ‘last-minute’ entrant, so did well to get this far having had next to no time to prepare for the race.
19.18 ‘Phoned Jonathon to update him on progress - they will be leaving home soon, to have evening meal in Grand Junction Arms. Jonathon and Liz Lee were leaving home in Romsey coming via Newbury (where Jonathon was to pick up the Treston Car and Trailer for The Springwell Check) and be in time for food at Bulbourne. Unfortunately the pub was so busy, owing to a wedding party, that they had to eat elsewhere, but were still on station, with their impressive facilities, in plenty of time for the leader.
19.21 Hannah ’phoned - due into Didcot soon - has made contact with Simon - just wondered how long the journey from Didcot to Navig. Bridge will take - I guesstimated 1½ hours. Daughter Hannah is a pharmacist in Bristol. After a busy day in Boots (that’s why she wears flip-flops off duty) she came via train to meet Simon for a lift to Cosgrove.
19.25 Simon ’phoned - expecting Hannah at 7.30 pm. Also has another friend going - meeting her at 8.00 pm, so should be a Navig. approx. 9.30 pm. The plan was for Hannah and Simon to take over duty at the cut off while Phil, Diccon and I had a break. As Simon had enlisted Debbie’s help, Hannah too would get a rest before moving on.
19.30 JK ‘phoned Mave and John to give progress update. No reply, so left a message inviting them to ‘phone for more details.
19.33 HQ Van ‘phoned for Shane’s mobile No.
19.37 Mark Brunning ‘phoned, just for a chat to find out how things are going. He hopes to go to the Finish on Sunday. Mark is another canal runner. He had to cry off this time because of a knee problem. Duty at the jubilee celebrations meant that he didn’t meet us at LV.
19.41 No 232, Jules Taylor, Bridge 43 near Gayton at 19.35 hrs. “Walking on razor blades.” Rob Goodwin is now in the lead, approximate 20 minutes up on last year’s time. Jules was due to run last year but couldn’t make the date change. Many of us will associate with his reason for stopping.
20.00 No 253, at Whilton Locks Pottery, Malcolm Croft - crew ‘phoned “His leg has given out on him.” JK ’phoned HQ Van to notify. The canal race is hard enough with two legs, it is a long way to hop.
20.12 No 228, Chris Fanning, ref. Henk, retired in 2nd place, near Wolverton Station (Bridge 17?) - 71 maybe?, at 20.08 - “throwing up.” Obviously last year’s winner had been going well. Like others this time the heat seemed to have an unfortunate effect.
20.15 JK ‘phoned Sue Goodwin to let her know the above info. Rob was with her when I ‘phoned - very excited. They’re at Milton Keynes, thanked for ‘phoning.
20.25 No 249, Glenn Mead (“twisted knee”) ref. Ian Clarke - will take him to Navig. Bridge. - last one thro’ Buckby. Always near the back of the field Glenn was last on the Clarkes’ list. I guess they took him to meet his crew at Cosgrove.
20.26 Shane ‘phoned to update his list of runners.
21.14 No 209, Rod Palmer, at Navigation Bridge, at 21.10 - “not enough training” - ref. HQ Van. ‘Record Rod’ was - even by his standards - a fairly late entry. Because of the lack of training I think he was in two minds about the race and this may have contributed to his early retirement.
21.25 JK ‘phoned Shane to notify him of Rod’s retirement.
21.43 Alan Kiff, No 236, Bridge 21, next to Watling Bridge, at 21.20 - ref. his crew (they have let Dick know). Here are some excerpts from Alan’s letter -By 30 miles, reduced to walking. Nearly pulled out at Braunston, but change of clothes and warm-up, plus high volume on Alice Cooper, got me going. When the temperature dropped, felt cold, just before Bridge 21, where crew was waiting. By the time I got to our van I was shaking, spent half an hour in sweater, space blanket and sleeping bag, shivering so violently I was bouncing up and down.
21.53 No 210, Barry Gould at Blisworth (“pain in groin and being sick”) - Barry ‘phoned himself. Though obviously suffering when I’d seen him at Buckby, the ever cheerful Barry (he was even joking between chunders) managed to press on this far. How typically nice of him to phone in person.
22.20 Hannah ‘phoned, looking for her toothpaste. Mum had packed a bag to go in the truck.
22.38 Les ‘phoned - just for a chat and an update. They are planning to be in place by 08.00 am - I couldn’t persuade them to leave it any later.
23.47 Navigation Bridge, 23.45, No 207 Andy Ives, unable to eat and drink. No 244, Rory Coleman, snagged his handbag. No 272, David Turnbull, trouble with balls - ref. HQ Van. All of these three are previous finishers. Andy fell foul of the problem that had bothered Walter. They say some like it hot but Andy plainly does not. Big girl’s blouse Coleman was upset that the brambles had spoiled his handbag and laddered his stockings. I think David was referring to his feet, but who’s gonna check?
23.58 JK ‘phoned Shane, to update on retirees - the only runner thro’ Fenny Stratford so far is Rob Goodwin. ‘Phoned HQ Van at Nav. Bridge to update them on this info.

Sunday 2nd :
Just to fill you in:- The plan was for Hannah and me to leave Navigation early in Jim’s van to take bags on to Fenny and then go on to GJA. We would leave the van at GJA and take the Treston trailer on to Springwell ready for Mave and John, before returning to GJA for the van. When all was done at Navigation. Diccon and Phil would call at Fenny in the truck, drop the rest of the bags, collect any from those gone through and proceed to GJA. Ian Hope with Joan and Ian Clark (and any retirees in the cars) would stay at Fenny until all the unsupporteds had passed before moving on to GJA. Simon and Debbie would go home to their nice comfy beds at Didcot. Simple.

00.55 Jonathon ‘phoned to update his list of runners.
01.31 No 293, Andy Burr, at 01.30, “worn out” - ref. Phil at Navigation Bridge. I somehow had managed to lose race regular Andy’s name from the list of entrants. Perhaps by this time he was regretting reminding me that he should be on it.
01.46 Jonathon ‘phoned to report Rob Goodwin thro’ Grand Junction Arms (arrived 01.43 - departed 01.44). After all their efforts to be ready in time, Rob was in and gone within a minute.
02.10 No 217, Gordon Knight, dropped out at New Inn, New Bradwell at 02.10 (“everything sore”) - reported as “New Inn, at Newbury, near Basingstoke” by crew. Info. from Shane, Bob Brown, 2½ hours after Rob and Glyn Marston 3rd thro’ Fenny - ref. HQ, with Shane. JK ’phoned Jonathon to relay above info. When Gordon’s crew called with the news of his retirement I asked why and where? I hereby announce them winners of this year’s “Widest of the Mark Award”.
03.42 No 270, Neil Shepherd “Very, very tired” - ref. his crew at Soulbury Three Locks. Jan reports that the lady making this call sounded very, very tired too - I wonder why.
05.19 No 267, George Payne stopping at Fenny Stratford - will be collected by his crew - ref. Shane. Sorry George, we don’t have a record of why you stopped, but I honestly didn’t mean it when I cursed you for losing your number.
05.36 No 276, Bryan Jones, Milton Keynes, Bridge 81A on A509. “Legs giving out” - needs transport please, will wait on top of bridge. Ian Hope’s mobile switched off; ‘phoned Ian Clarke - he will go back for Bryan. ‘Phoned Bryan to let him know Ian on his way. ‘Phoned Shane to let him know - mobile switched off - left message. ‘Phoned Jonathon to let him know, he gave the following progress: Bob Brown 04.28, and Glyn Marston 05.32 thro’ Grand Junction Arms. Bryan is a GUCR regular. A finisher in 1998 he returned to help in ‘99 so knows the ropes. Notice how precise he was giving a meeting point - that’s how we like it. Ian Hope was taking a break having brought Derek and Pat from Hatton to Navigation Bridge and on to Bulbourne. They were all catching up with some Zs in my car.
06.13 Phil ‘phoned to let me know Joan and Ian are calling into Fenny Stratford for a Camelback
06.14 Shane ‘phoned - had received message left re. Bryan Jones. He pointed out that he has two of Bryan’s bags - JK ‘phoned Joan to ask her to call into Fenny for Bryan’s bags. She confirmed that they are almost at Milton Keynes. I’m afraid I can’t shed much light on these notes as we’d all been on the move, but I gather that everyone was reunited with their property.
06.45 Mave ‘phoned - Rob Goodwin just arrived - 1¼ hours up on last year’s time. JK updated Mave on list of runners - total 22. For those who passed this check, Mave was wearing the Kerry badge. John, by the way, was wearing the John badge.
07.12 Mave ‘phoned - no pots or pans - if anybody is going that way perhaps they can look in with some. JK ‘phoned HQ Van with above message - “Bollocks!” Oops, I left the box of pots in the back of the truck. They were delivered in time for the first unsupported.
07.30 Joan Clarke asked me to let Shane know No 206 has retired - no details (HQ Van knew?) JK ‘phoned Shane, who had walked 1½ miles up towpath to look for No 206! He will leave Fenny now, and will deliver remaining bags to Grand Junction Arms. (Anthony Taylor’s and Pat Cummins’ bags.) Big, oops! John Poole had retired at Navigation at about the time Simon, Hannah and Debbie arrived. A note was made on the progress sheet, but during the changeover no-one told Jan. I am more guilty than most (Sorry Shane) as I can remember John saying cheerio when he left looking, as I probably did, pretty weary. The bag mix up was not my fault, but no harm was done as Anthony’s bags were at GJA in plenty of time. Why Pat’s bag was left at Fenny is a complete mystery as she was travelling with the crew!
08.11 Les ‘phoned - to say arrived at Springwell - JK told Hannah. Jan was obviously getting tired by this time - Les and Dave were at Hambrough.

A bit more in fill:- Everyone seemed to have gravitated to GJA. Apart from Jonathon and Liz, who were manning the check, there was also Ian H. with Pat and Derek in my Tempra; Diccon and Phil with Rory (who expressed surprise that they’d managed to find the way given the amount of swearing over navigation) in the truck; Hannah was with me in the firm’s Mondeo and Joan and Ian, having dropped Bryan at the station, were in the Clarkemobile. We needed fuel for Jim’s van and the generator. We needed pots and bags at Springwell. We needed a plan. Rory was left to be collected for a nice family day out at Legoland; two Ian's and a Joan stayed to cover dropouts and bags; Derek had “volunteered” to drive Jim’s van so a convoy of Mondeo, truck and van left for the petrol station. After fuelling, the van followed the truck to Paddington to set up the finish. Hannah, Pat and I in the Mondeo dropped pots and bags at Springwell. We then went to pay a social visit and drop off supplies at Hambrough where Dave and Les were anxiously waiting for the pub to open.

08.24 No 271, Chris Spink retiring at Tesco, Leighton Buzzard - “swollen knee”. JK ‘phoned Jonathon to let him know - he says 9 thro’, and John Hogg there at present. JK ‘phoned Mave to let her know and asked her to mention to Hannah when they deliver pots and pans. Chris of the last minute arrival fame was making sure not to be late home with his shopping.
08.49 Les ‘phoned to update his list. Rob’s crew arrived while we were speaking. Hannah, Pat and I saw Rob through the check as we’d timed our social to perfection.
09.13 Bruce Stonehouse ‘phoned for the mobile number of the group of 3 girls’ support crew (one of whom has dropped out). I gave him support number for Sharon Thompson.
09.24 Bob Brown just passed thro’ Springwell - ref. Mave.
09.32 No 278, Luke Cunliffe, Slapton Lock Bridge, 94/5 miles - needs a lift. ‘Phoned Shane, who has two Ians with him - one will go. ‘Phoned Mave to let her know. ‘Phoned Les/Dave to let know - Rob Goodwin just passed through. Luke was collected by Ian and taken to the station. He has since written expressing his intention to do better next time - just what we like to hear.
09.54 No 266, Allan Pollock, Bridge 116, 92 miles, Grove. “Sore feet and pride.” All 3 girls with Jonathon when I ‘phoned to let him know above. 15 through, therefore only 3 more to come through GJA. JK to tell Mave and Les next time they ‘phone. Allan’s pride might be injured but he went further than last time and has the look of one who will one day make it to the end.
10.05 Mark Brunning ‘phoned - asking for general info.
10.10 Mark Brunning ‘phoned - forgot to ask how many still running.
10.15 Rod Palmer ‘phoned for a chat - telling me about having supper with Rob Goodwin’s Crew last night, sitting on up-turned shopping trolleys at Tesco, Leighton Buzzard. These canal runners really know how to live the high life!
10.21 Jonathon ‘phoned - just to ask if Rob has finished yet - I promised to let him know.
10.35 Jonathon ’phoned - No 201, Penny Elliott, retired - reported back to GJA. Big blister on ball of foot. JK ‘phoned Mave, Les and HQ Van to update. 17 runners still in. Les in pub - will ‘phone me later. This was a big disappointment for us all. Penny had been going very well and I was sure this was to be her year.
11.20 Les ‘phoned - I told him about Allan Pollock and Penny Elliott.
12.23 Bob Brown through H.Tav. at 12.21, ref. Les.
12.34 Rob Goodwin finished 11.41, ref. HQ Van. JK ‘phoned Jonathon to let him know - just waiting for Anthony Taylor. JK ‘phoned Les to let him know. Well, things do get distorted through Chinese whispers. See 13.15. What a great performance by Rob.
13.08 Mave ‘phoned - reported that Glyn, Mark, Stan, Anthony and Simon all through Springwell.
13.09 No 225, Bridge 153, John Hogg, “badly blistered foot” - ref. his crew, at Hemel Hempstead. JK ‘phoned Mave and Les to notify. John came to the race as support and ran in to Little Venice with Chris Fanning last year. He must have been gutted to pull out so ‘near’ to the end.
13.15 HQ Van ‘phoned, to correct Rob Goodwin’s finishing time - 12:11:41 not 11:41. JK notified HQ Van of John Hogg’s retirement.
14.19 Anthony Taylor just arrived at GJA, ref. Jonathon - ‘phoned Mave to let know. Bob Brown finished looking very strong at 14.37. I’m too lazy to check previous results but his time for the last section must be one of the quickest ever. He was met by Jules Taylor and Phil Soanes who had resisted the urge to go home to bed, in order to cheer their mate on.
14.54 Phil ‘phoned to check how far Nos 217 and 218 had got before they dropped out. No 218 is still running! 217 retired at New Bradwell. I think Phil had some sort of a bet on with Dave Turnbull about how far these two would get. I don’t know the details but I think they both found reasons to keep their money.
14.56 Athletics Weekly ’phoned for results - I told her to ’phone back Tuesday! Would you believe it, I spoke to A.W. on Friday and told them it wouldn’t be over until Monday!
15.06 HQ Van ‘phoned for Glyn’s support crew number. No number given on card, just Glyn’s mobile. It had occurred to me that perhaps one of Glyn's crew might take Jim’s van back to Birmingham.
15.34 Glyn Marston passed through H.Tav. at 15.30, ref. Les. JK ’phoned HQ Van; Bob Brown has finished at 14.37 hrs (2nd position). Oops, we forgot to tell Jan when Bob came in.
16.34 HQ Van requesting Jim Currie’ details. JK ’phoned back to relay info. More van return planning

16.48 Mave ’phoned - 3 girls now gone through - only waiting for Ray Willett and Anthony Taylor. Chris Sanders’ bags moving on with girls’ support crew to Hambrough. JK ’phoned Les to update - he says Stan has just gone through 4th. This is what we like to hear - crews helping out in the best tradition. (Actually I did hear a rumour that some low life refused when asked to take a bag, can this be true?)
19.12 Anthony Taylor - retired at Kings Langley, Bridge 155. His partner Polly will drive to Springwell to collect his bags (as agreed with Dick?). JK ‘phoned Mave to let her know Anthony had retired. They are driving home - Ian Hope is waiting at Springwell. Anthony is one of the all time stars of this event. His finish last year will always be a great memory for me. This time he had been going exceptionally well, but had slowed significantly since Fenny. I had spoken to Polly earlier and had to leave LV. about this time to meet her at Springwell and fetch the trailer so that Ian Hope could go home. Derek came with me as prodder - to keep me awake. Despite leaving as late as possible we were not to see Glyn home third. Fortunately his crew had arrived in time to finalise details of the van return to Birmingham. I sincerely regret missing Glyn, Stan, Simon with Anthony and Nevil crossing the line, it is after all, the reason for doing it. Glyn gets better and more cheerful each time I see him. I wish him well at the Buck House garden party.
19.22 JK ‘phoned Les to let him know about Anthony’s retirement - spoke to a lady who was looking after the Checkpoint because “Cambridge boys have gone to the Pub”. Ah-ha caught them out!
19.50 Glyn Marston 3rd at 37.26; Stan Dolan 4th at 37.30 - Phil ‘phoned with this info. As I said it was a great shame to miss these finishes. Stan had looked strong throughout. His time from Hambrough to the end shows that he had taken more than an hour from Glyn. This speed was possibly due to Stan having seen a runner behind gaining, but as it happens this was a jogger unconnected with the race. I wonder if this person realises that he was out-run by someone who had already done 135 miles!
20.19 Simon ‘phoned - to check on progress and to offer to call over this evening to help man the ‘phone. Very good of Simon to offer further help, but things pretty much under control by this time.

More infill. Soon after 9pm Derek and I returned with the Treston car and trailer. We’d visited Les and Dave at Hambrough and collected Chris’s bags from Sharon and Louise’s crew. We parked at Delamere Terrace just in time to say cheerio to Simon Laporte and his family (who had made several welcome visits while we were waiting earlier). Simon has now completed 3 out of 3 GUCRs without ever looking as though there is any possibility of not finishing. When most runners at the end are in the “I’m never going to do that again.” stage, Simon always asks for an entry form for next year!

Sadly we missed seeing Anthony Watts, who seems to have kept pace with Simon since Fenny, and his crew depart. The Whizz-kidz girls had been eagerly awaiting Anthony’s arrival holding a celebratory bottle of Champagne. So excited were they that a little too much fidgeting with the neck caused premature ejaculation with most of the bottle’s contents deposited on Phil Gadd! Makes you wish you were there.

21.11 Ian returned car. Well done Ian, another good job done.
22.02 JK ‘phoned HQ Van to find out what’s happening.

What had happened was that, as well as the other goings on, Bruce Stonehouse had seen brother Nevil in to his fourth finish from five starts - a very impressive record in anybody’s book.

What was soon to happen was Hannah’s camera packing up before recording Mark Cockbain’s finish in eighth place. Mark is the first to be supported for the full distance by a cyclist. Most would baulk at the prospect of riding so far, but I am indebted to Mark and his buddy (sorry for forgetting the name) for demonstrating that it can be done.

What happened after that was Ian Webber came in ninth. For Phil and me this was a momentous occasion. Ian and Gill seem to have been part of “our weekend on the canal” for ever and are very much part of the family. We have always known that he’d do it one day, but usually they have a bit if a tiff, he drops out, they show up at the finish to see how things are going and perhaps to show that they are still speaking. This time Gill was greeted by Phil at Delamere T. with “We don’t often see you here - on your own.”

What went on to happen was, in GUCR terms, a veritable flurry of activity. I returned from giving Mark and buddy a lift to Paddington Station (well it seemed only fair after they’d come so far and I needed to prove to Derek that finding Little Venice isn’t always a fluke) in time to witness three, yes three, finishes within an hour. OK so Mark Pierce and Chris Sanders were a tie, but it was three finishers. Mark ran as far as Navigation Bridge with Gordon Knight who retired soon after. He went on alone but perhaps felt a need to join up with another. Since arriving together at Hambrough Mark lost ground to Ian Webber but caught and stayed with Chris. Chris had obviously slowed in the last section - judging by the way his ankle swelled immediately after stopping, not without good reason. We failed to record Chris’s 2000 finish on camera because we were asleep. This time the camera failed. Next time we’ll get one of those court-room artists in, just in case.

Next in twelfth overall came first lady Sue Clements. Another who never seemed to be in any doubt about finishing, Sue ably demonstrated the benefit of even paced progress. To achieve the second fastest ever time on such a hot weekend makes her performance all the more remarkable.

Quicker than last time, Ray Willett made it to LV before his crew. After several phone calls and much anxious waiting they eventually came to collect their charge about an hour late for his finish. I’m pretty sure this is a new all-comers ‘time taken to reach LV record’. Running to their plan Sharon and Louise, still looking as good as they did at the start, were last ones in. After all that way I’m still unsure as to which is which because their numbers are not showing in any of the photos. I don’t wish to be too much of a grump, but from now on it will be compulsory for runners to display their race numbers if they are to be included in the results or “Hall of Fame”.

Monday 3rd:
03:11 All in and accounted for - HQ Van settling down for some sleep (so I think I’ll go to bed too!)

With everybody accounted for well within the time limit we decided on the luxury of some sleep before setting off for home. Settling down sounds so cosy doesn’t it. Chris Sanders, who was planning an early start was given the main bedroom of the Mondeo estate to himself. Joan and Ian retired to the honeymoon suite formally known as the Clarkemobile. Phil had long since crashed out in the truck co-pilot’s seat leaving Pat, Hannah, Derek, Diccon and me to argue over the very desirable top front bed in the back. Being a decent sort I opted to go in the cab bunk with Phil. Hannah, Diccon and Pat magnanimously settled for the tables leaving Derek with the broad top spot. After closing the rear shutter on the sleeping beauties, I had visited the BW facilities, and was beginning to get comfortable in the cab when there was one last call to my mobile. It was Hannah, “Can you turn the lights out please?”. This should have been the last action of the race but, finding that much sought-after space too claustrophobic, outdoor type Derek crept out and, unknown to the rest of us, spent our sleeping hours under the towpath bushes - leaving that lovely bed space empty!

The Epilogue

As ever this non profit making, un-sponsored event would not be possible without the generosity and help of friends and family. The organiser would like to record his immense gratitude to the following people:-
Simon Bolton and Debbie for taking over at Navigation Bridge.
Mave/Kerry Chiverton and John Mason for Springwell Lock checkpoint.
Ian and Joan Clarke for Buckby checkpoint and help from start to finish.
Patricia and Derek Cummins for their help and company in the HQ truck.
Jimmy Currie for the loan of his van.
Phil Gadd for being deputy organiser.
Ian Hope for Hatton checkpoint and transport.
Diccon Kearn for being a good son.
Hannah Kearn for being a good daughter.
Janet Kearn for both of the above and everything else.
Jonathon and Liz Lee for The Grand Jun ction Arms checkpoint and bringing the trailer.
Les Pullen and David Steel for The Hambrough Tavern checkpoint.
Shane Wilkinson and Dave Millard for Fenny Stratford checkpoint and photography.

Thanks are also due to:-
British Waterways for providing the venue.
Lisa Jarvis at the Braunston office for organising the keys.
Stewart? at the Watford office for the cycle passes.
The crew of Louise and Sharon who moved bags for us.
Sean Haydon of Glyn’s crew who returned Jimmy Currie’s van to Birmingham.

And finally, Stan Dolan (he of the baggy orange shorts) wishes to thank the unknown crew who helped him when his own support went temporarily AWOL.