The 2005 Race Story

Notes > Official reports > The 2005 Race Story

by Dick Kearn

The 2005 Race Story

The official report of the 2005 GUCR

Now, thanks to Mat Dowle's brilliant efforts, that the Canal Race has its own website - - most people will have had the opportunity to read previous accounts of what happens during these races and should have some idea of the difficulties posed for runners and organisers.

Because it is impossible to witness every change of leader or pinpoint the location of each occurrence I usually give an ‘official’ account of the race, mostly featuring those who have led or actually finish, based on the checkpoint timings. Since those competitors who gave email addresses have had access to these timings (apart from the ones I managed to lose when the box containing them all tumbled from the side door of the bus) for some time now, and since I’ve done it too many times before, this year I will not bore with my version of the race but leave you to deduce your own.

Instead I’ll get straight on to boring you with the ‘unofficial’ story which I hope will at least mention all competitors and possibly record some of the happenings behind the scenes.

For this year’s tale I’ll aim to list everyone in the reverse sequence of appearance in the full result - a sort of first in last out, or, save the best ‘til last approach. I know this will cause problems later with the chronology of the event, but then these tales never have made much sense, so why should this year be different?

At Registration in Gas Street most things went fairly smoothly. I, to my intense embarrassment, created a problem for Amy, who was handing out the t-shirts, by giving Neil Kapoor’s order to Alan Kiff. Alan had other things to think about and didn’t notice that he had the wrong items until later in the day. Thankfully Neil too had the race on his mind and took my failure his team’s shirts with good grace. That two others were short of their orders was due to my not receiving them until the Friday before race-day. C’mon guys give us a fighting chance!

Having messed up the t-shirts the best thing for me to do was keep out of the way and let others do the business. This proved a very effective policy and is likely to be adopted in future. Wandering around, chatting to friends old and new, the time passed very quickly. So fast in fact that, without the club megaphone to attract attention, we only just managed to get competitors to the Start Line for 6am. Those of you who have been there will be all too aware that Start Line is actually rather a grand term for where it all begins. Considering the magnitude of the trip ahead you‘d be forgiven for expecting more. (Considering the miles covered, the Finish is equally modest, but people always seem very pleased to reach it.) Anyway, it has to start somewhere so, at 1 minute past the hour, a record field of sixty two canalrunners began their journey.

As usual there were a few unannounced ‘no shows‘. (This is always disappointing but one doesn’t like to complain too much in case they have been abducted by aliens or have some equally valid reason for letting us down.) Just in case some were still making their way to Gas Street, Diccon and Hannah waited there until 06:30. The rest of us left to join Shane, who had gone ahead with the clipboard to catch anyone on a suicidally fast pace at Catherine de Barnes. A call to The Samaritans was not required, as the leaders arrived within ‘normal’ time limits.

Thanks to all support crews leaving the way clear, our vans were able to be ready and waiting for the front runners. Ian Clarke, having unloaded from his Tardis the half tonne of bags that he’d so neatly packed only an hour earlier, began reloading them as each of their owners passed. He was to perform this unrelenting task many more times over the weekend - sometimes taking the leaders’ bags and then returning for the later ones - without ever missing a bag. A job very well done.

Ian took the Catherine de Barnes bags on to Hatton where the HQ lorry was already waiting, crewed now by Ian Hope with Phil and Harriet Gadd who had all gone there directly from Compton by car.

With all runners safely through CdeB, Shane left to rejoin the real world while Amy and I rejoined the gang at Hatton. Again things were going to plan with the entire field passing uneventfully.

Rory Coleman left the race at Warwick. I cannot say that Rory dropped out as he had pre planned only to go this far. Knowing that he was not& fit enough for the whole trip Rory decided that he would still come to the start, look up some old mates and savour some of the atmosphere. He had earlier left a car at Warwick so was able to make his own way home.

Because the lorry was needed for the first ‘proper’ feed station for unsupporteds at Birdingbury Bridge, Amy and I stayed with Ian at Hatton to give The A-Team time to be ready for the first arrivals there.

This plan almost worked. Unfortunately, among the early arrivals, Mark Wittering managed to slip through to his crew on the other side of the bridge unrecorded. His wife realised that his passing may not have been logged, called Jan at home and had the list amended - whatever the problem it’s usually sorted by a call to Jan. Apart from this slight hitch the only other problem was the gusty wind (a bit beyond Jan’s scope) blowing cups, and anything else not tied down, from the table. Another irresistible force (the urge to stop) was to overcome our first proper retiree here.

Ian Kendall has this entry in the home log. “15:06 No. 3, Ian Kendall retired at Birdingbury Bridge - no reason given, but he declined my offer of help organising a lift for him, by saying that he’d sort it out with Dick - so, does Dick remember why he retired?” Simple answer, no.

Alan Kiff continued to Flecknoe before ending what he claims is definitely his last GUCR attempt. Alan is moving to Malaysia so it would be quite a long trip to Gas Street, but I’ve a feeling that he may just happen to be visiting the UK at the end of May next year. We will certainly be very pleased to see the ultimate GUCR regulars, Kiff and son, again if they are able to make it.

Jonathan and Liz Lee had set out their stall at Weedon soon after 1 o’clock. This was in plenty of time for Mark’s appearance at 2:32, bang on the predicted earliest arrival. Sam Kincaid was second to visit them, some three quarters of an hour later. After this ‘slow’ start business was fairly brisk at the Heart of England, over fifty runners passing within four hours.

A couple, though, didn’t pass, instead being forced to end their race there.

Clive Weisbauer had a colourful reason to stop - suffering haematuria. We advised him to call it a day but, having personal experience of the same condition, I was also able to confirm that it is not necessarily cause for alarm. After exhaustive tests it is usually put down to ‘one of those things that affects runners (and bongo drummers incidentally) occasionally’. Ramona and Andy provided transport for Clive to Navigation Bridge to meet his crew.

Rob Weed had been struggling with a groin strain when he arrived at Weedon. The decision not to go on must have been relatively easy to make.

Sam Kincaid raced on as far as Bugrooke before stopping. His crew reporting “sore and a few injuries” as the reason. I am indebted to Sam for tipping me off about the obstruction at Gayton Junction.

Phil Soanes lists the GUCR as the only race that has beaten him. With the probable help of a virus causing a high temperature and nausea, it beat him again at Banbury Lane Bridge No 43.

The rest of the field all seem to have negotiated the small detour at Gayton without problems, though not all were to reach the next checkpoint at Navigation Bridge.

Trevor Leigh and Barry Mason may have regretted the burger and pint they each enjoyed at The Heart of England. Jan’s log doesn’t list this, or anything else for that matter, as the reason for their retirement at Stoke Bruerne, but we have our suspicions.

Hanno Nickau also stopped at Stoke Bruerne. “Bad right knee” is written in the log, but the GUCR was not Hanno’s main target this year. We all know that it is much harder to press on through the hard spells if your focus is somewhere else.

When leaving home for duty at Navigation Bridge Simon Bolton always calls Jan to see if he needs to shop for more supplies on his way there - how thoughtful is that. Because there had been little demand for transport since Hatton, Ian Hope had already been on a shopping trip for sundries, so Simon was in plenty of time to join Phil, Harriet, Hannah and Diccon at the main cut-off checkpoint.

As usual business was pretty intensive there, but the crew report that keeping the bridge clear of supporters’ vehicles did make things easier. Although as a result we caused some irritation to the landlord of the Navigation Inn, we will continue with this ruling in future. (I have contacted the landlord since the race and he is very much ‘on side’ for next year. In fact, I feel this year’s upset may ultimately be to our mutual benefit.)

As mentioned at the beginning there was an occurrence at Navigation that was not handled very well. When I began to recall the sequence of events, the song about the old woman who swallowed a fly came to mind. As a consequence I ask you to forgive the following bit of nonsense.

There once was a man, who should have called Jan - I don’t know why, he didn’t call Jan. He became very sick; so he stopped two girls, who should have called Jan - I don’t know why, they didn’t call Jan. They called on their crew who spoke to Dick; who did the wrong thing, he didn’t call Jan - I don’t know why, he didn’t call Jan. Dick went up the towpath, where he met Wayne Simpson, who was really struggling, but Dick pressed on, he should have called Jan - I don’t know why, he didn’t call Jan. Then Dick had a thought, and at last called his wife, who told him where to go, so he phoned his friend Simon, who was coming on foot, so Dick had to turn back, and pass his friend (who was now helping Wayne) to get back to the van, and collect his First-Aider; before driving to Grafton, to pick up the man, who should have called Jan. The man survived, of course.

David Lock was quite suddenly overcome by feelings of nausea and disorientation near Grafton Bridge. Running alone, he was fortunate that Denise and Steffi stopped to offer assistance. They were able to call for our transport and first aid and gamely stayed with him until it very belatedly arrived. After spending the night in the bus, David had a lift to London with Andy Smith while Ramona took a training run from GJA to Springwell.

Wayne Simpson began the race with three cracked ribs - a strategy not frequently recommended in the running press. With this handicap it is astonishing that he left home, let alone reach the ‘half way’ check where the madness had to end. After an uncomfortable spell in the bus he was reunited with friends who came to meet him at Leighton Buzzard.

Tim Welch had been accompanying Rory early on Saturday. Caroline reported Tim’s retirement at Navigation Bridge to Jan during the busy ‘Old Woman Who Swallowed a Fly’ drama. This probably accounts for her not recording the reason for his withdrawal.

Thomas Kabuss said simply that he’d “had enough” at Navigation CP. He chose to stay overnight in the mini-bus and was delivered, thankfully still able to raise a smile, to Hemel Hempstead on Sunday morning.

Stephen Hague retired at the check. Because I have lost the timing sheet and his crew did not call the home number, we have no accurate record of the time or reason. He has promised a full report of his adventure raising lots of dosh for charity, so look out for it on the web site in future.

John Poole had been alongside regular running partner Peter Johnson. They were adopting a new policy of shorter breaks this year and were well up on previous times when John decided that perhaps Peter should continue on his own.

Dave West called Jan himself, reporting that he was OK, that his crew were on their way to pick him up and that he felt he was just getting too slow for it to be worthwhile continuing.

Spencer Summers became our first ever competitor to report his retirement using the text voicemail service. Jan was slightly thrown when called by our message service to have an electronic voice give his mobile number and say “Unable to raise January”. We can’t explain why Spencer’s call did not come through as the phone was not busy at this time. By the time she called him back, he had already called me, so Amy and I were already en route to Chaffron Way Bridge for our passenger. Spencer was eventually delivered to Oxford Station by Martin Fray on the way home from Bridge 99 duty.

Dave Flynn was another blaming a groin strain for causing him to stop. He is logged at 80 miles so we deduce that he too was probably at the Chaffron Way Bridge in Milton Keynes.

Rob Goodwin was reported by wife Sue to be ‘throwing up at Milton Keynes’. They wisely waited 20 minutes before confirming the dreaded decision to stop by calling Jan. Rob has since sent a note with his key return. It says simply “Disappointment is an understatement. That’s all I can say.” Many know how he feels. I promised Rob that I would not mention that the main reason for stopping was an acutely sore ‘unmentionable’ area within his shorts. (In the middle at the back should give a clue.)

Before the 84mile Bridge 99 Checkpoint at Water Eaton there was a section of fenced off towpath bearing the legend ‘Towpath Closed Except for Anglers’. Runners arriving here in daylight were able to see that there was no further obstruction except the fence at the opposite end. They slipped round the barrier, made their way along the section and went round the other barrier to continue almost unhindered. Some of those arriving after dark were to have more difficulty (Gunnar reckons he wasted around half an hour) finding an alternative route but on the whole everyone coped well. I would like to apologise for this hitch and thank everyone for not complaining about it - perhaps word of the “Compton Rule” has spread. Post-race I have pointed out to BW that as they now promote towpath use by walkers and cyclists on their website, it would be a good idea to post notices of towpath as well as canal closures there. The BW Southern Area Operations Manager has agreed to look into this possibility - fingers crossed for next year.

Susanne Enhard and Lucy Gettins did a spell at Water Eaton Checkpoint last year along with Cliff Cox and Ian Hope. This time they recruited fellow Compton Harrier, Martin Fray to join them for his first taste of GUCR action on the graveyard shift there. In the website photo they are shown at 4am eagerly awaiting the next influx of runners.

Jackson Griffith apologised for the delay in calling when he phoned Jan just after midday on Sunday, explaining that he had fallen asleep after retiring “some time ago” at Bridge 99. Actually it was quite a while ago as he had arrived there at 01:41.

Graham Baker phoned Jan himself when he packed it in at the sixth check. The log says, “He sounded very chirpy, but has realised he’s trying to push his body further than it wants to go.” Prior to the race Graham phoned me for Penny’s number so that he could call the GJA check to warn them to have his tea ready. Before going home Penny asked Jan for Graham’s number so that she could let him know that his tea was going cold!

Alicja Barahona had been looking forward to counting the wildfowl all the way to London. We were looking forward to seeing her third win there too. This time things didn’t quite go to plan. She reached Bridge 99 fully 25 minutes after Sarah Skipper had been through. After a twenty minute break she was on her way again, but returned half an hour later, very cold and tired. The prospect of a warm up and sleep in Joan’s car being too strong a pull. It just goes to show that even the greatest can have their off-days.

Mat Dowle is the latest recruit from the world-renowned Riverside Runners GUCR Training Academy. His crew reported retirement at the famous canal-side landmark of Tesco at Leighton Buzzard, describing him as “OK, but really tired”. We trust his training will resume at the academy in time for next year’s race and that he eventually ‘Passes Out’ with distinction.

Sid Graydon would have found continuing beyond Horton Lock extremely difficult because, according to his crew, “his legs have gone”. We trust he has since been reunited with them and will perhaps try using them on the towpath next year.

Mark Wittering twisted his ankle before reaching Ivinghoe Bridge at 96 miles. This must have been particularly painful for Mark who was leading by half an hour at Water Eaton and was also well up on his third placed time of last year.

Taking care of things at the 100 mile Grand Junction Arms checkpoint were previous finishers Penny Elliott and Ian Webber with their respective partners/crews Ian and Jill. This foursome was obviously well qualified to provide a wealth of experience along with the usual sustenance and encouragement. Despite their best efforts though, there were some who simply could not go all the way.

Duncan Cruttenden’s brother called Jan at around ten to midnight on Saturday saying that he had been talking to Duncan on his mobile and was very concerned because he “sounded very distressed”. As he thought Duncan was only a mile short of Navigation Bridge he asked Jan if someone could be sent to look for him. Jan relayed this to me on the bridge. I did not have to look far as Duncan was, by then, sitting in front of me about to tuck into his meal. Sadly this top up was only good for another 30 miles as Jill Webber was finally to report his retirement from The Grand Junction Arms C P.

Adam Marcinowicz developed a very nasty swelling on his leg. Penny Elliott insisted on washing Adam’s feet (far beyond the usual call of duty) before she and Ian took him to hospital for X-ray in his home town of Watford. Adam finished his trip home on crutches, but is determined to have another bash.

Cliff Cox tested the GUCR water last year by helping man the Bridge 99 checkpoint. Despite what he learned there he was still up for a crack at the race. Jan’s log reads thus:-

“No 54, GJA, retired. ‘Right eyeball and left big toe not hurting, but everything else is.’ - Ref his crew, ‘he’s in a bad way.’ When I asked his crew to give him our best wishes, they said, ‘Yes we will, as soon as he comes out of his coma.’”

Daniel Brockhurst pulled out at The Grand Junction arms giving “too many injuries to continue” as his reason. Daniel, this isn’t good enough we need details; we want to know just how much you’ve suffered.

Andrew Mason was, according to the Weekly News of February 17th 2005, expecting to run 147 miles. Obviously, like many local papers, they got it wrong, as perhaps did Andy. He ended his race at GJA - from where he hitched a ride to London with Andy along with David Smith and the bags.

From The Grand Junction Arms runners can look forward to an easy downhill canter to the idyllic checkpoint site at Springwell Lock. Idyllic that is, unless you are faced with the prospect of being stuck there for around twelve hours with no facilities - the usual prospect for Kerry and John when they leave home at 5am. This year they left with the comforting knowledge that Cliff and Anne were already on site - not only with caravan, but with loo too.

Denise Pickering and Steffi Stern were, in the very best tradition of ultra camaraderie, prepared to sacrifice their chance of completing for the sake of another competitor in difficulty. The very least we could do, in view of the delay caused by my inept handling of the crisis, was to extend the cut-off times so that they could continue beyond Navigation Bridge. Continue they did, but were beginning to feel the strain by the time they reached Marsworth. I would like to reproduce here the relevant excerpts from Jan’s log to illustrate what goes on behind the scenes and that it’s never too much trouble for our helpers. As I say, I’d like to but.... well, maybe I’ll fit it in at the end. Anyway, they made it beyond the GJA to possibly Bridge 101 before their crew reported to me that their race was over. This was a great disappointment as, in view of their generosity toward David, we all felt they deserved a Finish.

Mike Alderson stopped at Nash Mills Locks, Hemel Hempstead. His crew reporting him to be ‘terribly tired’. I can only imagine that having come so far he was terribly disappointed too.

Allan Pollock has been a ‘regular’ for some years now. He was not satisfied, despite the route being longer due to a detour at Hatton, to finish just outside the 45 hours last year, and vowed to come back for another bash this time. Sadly his first attempt as an ‘unsupported’ ended with a call to me from Holme Park, Kings Langley. Cliff Robertson with his Sat-Nav soon had Allan located and returned to Springwell, from where Andy was able to complete his trip to London.

Sean Burke was a mere half mile short of Springwell when he decided enough is enough and made the dreaded call to Jan, saying that despite moving very slowly he could make it there, but could someone wait for him. Actually Sean was not the tail ender at this time and of course the crew would be there. He was eventually delivered to LV along with the penultimate bag shift and Allan Pollock.

Steve Suttle can add his name to the long list of ‘if only’ competitors. Arriving fifth, only 2 hours behind the leaders at Springwell, he was dispirited by having walked most of the preceding eleven miles. Like so many in the past, he has since realised that, had he only kept walking, he would have finished well up the field and now be the owner of a finisher’s medal and certificate.

The downward slope from Tring summit continues beyond Springwell Lock to Cowley Peachey, from where, in theory at least, it is level going all the way to Little Venice. Whether it is the lack of uphill gradient or, far more likely, the proximity of the Finish, either way we seldom have withdrawals beyond 120 miles. This year there were again none, a fact also attributable quite probably, to the encouragement received from the Hamborough Tavern crew. Although new as checkpoint staff on the GUCR, Anthony Taylor, Henk van der Beek and George Payne are certainly not new to the event, each having at least one finish and Anthony no less than three. All of them know, only too well, how hard it is and, like those listed below, how satisfying it is, to make it all the way.

Brian New claimed the last medal on the hook well over an hour and a half inside the race time limit. He looked understandably pleased to be there and we were understandably pleased to see him. Naturally we are pleased to see all our finishers (it is, after all, the reason for our being there) but Brian’s being the earliest last place since the 40 hour limit was extended, meant we could be home by dawn.

Gunnar Faehn on his long solo training runs at home in the forests of Norway has often dreamt of an attractive female companion appearing at his side. His dream came true at Bulbourne, but he was very disappointed to turn down Ramona’s request to join him for a training run to Springwell, because, as he sadly wrote afterwards, “I couldn’t go fast enough!”

Sue Clements became the only lady ever to complete three GUCRs when she strode cheerfully into view at Paddington. Perhaps her cheerfulness is the key, but I think her ability to maintain an even pace despite what others are doing and, above all, her strength of will, that really make the difference when it matters.

Richard Woodrow managed to keep it together on the Sunday morning despite suffering a combination of dehydration, exhaustion and getting extremely cold over Saturday night causing him to feel ‘faint, dizzy and totally uncoordinated’. He was therefore very glad to make it all the way, admitting that there had been times when he wished never to have heard of the GUCR. He can rest assured that he is not the first among us to have thought that, nor will he be the last.

Janet Cobby was using this event as her one hundredth marathon to gain entry to that exclusive club. She began her race alongside friends Graham, Clive and Andrew. These boys couldn’t match her staying power though, leaving her one by one to make her triumphal arrival at Paddington alone.

Mark Reynolds was one of our unsupporteds. As far as I know he had no problems with us, nor we with him, throughout the entirety of his passage from Brum. It is a pity then that, having prided ourselves on having the bags ready at all the promised places, our concentration lapsed and we allowed him to leave LV minus some of his kit. Ah well, a bit more practice should do it.

Sean Brady with the help of family, friends, colleagues and pupils at his school managed to raise around £2500 for Macmillan Cancer Relief by crossing the LV line. For our part it is worth the effort just to see runners home but it does make the job even more rewarding knowing that others will benefit.

Gary Barnes and Ray Willett are the grand masters of the Riverside Runners’ GUCR Academy. Their enthusiasm for the race has infected several of their club making it probably the most frequently represented in the listings. They each have a long association with the event, as both competitor and crew; we hope that association will continue well into the future.

John Doidge was in the unlucky thirteenth place at Hamborough, around forty minutes behind Sarah. He reached LV only nine minutes after her, but, though she had dropped a single place to Kathy, he had somehow slipped to sixteenth.

Andy Ives’ fastest - so far - finish this year brought his overall record of finishes to a nice even four from eight. His quiet and resigned acceptance on the occasions of defeat; along with his quiet and relieved celebration of his successes, have made Andy a very much liked and respected, regular contributor to everyone’s GUCR experience.

Mike Smith was obviously making a strong push for home after the final checkpoint. His actual running time was one of the quickest on that final stretch. He arrived at Little Venice second in a very close (by our standards) group of four, catching Phil (with the camera) off guard and looking remarkably fresh as he did so.

Sarah Skipper is the possible exception to the sentence in the race notes that starts “Although you may not be smiling ...” I say possible, because we were not around to see all of her race, but she was certainly smiling every time we saw her, and that smile grew even bigger on reaching LV.

Kathy Hearn was pleased simply to finish last year. She could hardly believe that she was First Lady home this time and took some convincing until actually presented with the BW trophy and winner’s bell. The pressure is now on Stan Dolan, who accompanied Kathy over the line, to match her achievement.

Martin Ilott has broken the long held record for having the heaviest kit bags. That Ian managed to heave them in and out of his van with only the most muted complaint is to his credit. My fear now is that the previous holder may get to hear and try to reclaim his title. This would force me to invoke the organiser’s right to refuse entry, for it is none other than the unmentionable one who gave us so much grief in 97 & 98.

Peter Johnson knocked over two hours off his previous best and joined the exclusive “Three in a Row Club” on crossing the line. We’re not sure if the improvement is due to the policy of taking shorter rests or to running without your regular companion! In all seriousness, both points need consideration by aspiring contenders.

Simon Laporte looked as cool and fresh as ever on crossing the line for the fifth time. As ever, too, he dispensed with the formality of ‘never again’ that accompanies most people’s arrival opting instead for his routine ‘Can I have a form for next year?’ In fact so routine is Simon’s ability to complete, that, were it not for the occasional requirement to defend our nation’s interests interrupting his participation, we are certain this would have been his seventh in a row.

Neil Kapoor looked cooler than most sporting his shades at the Finish. They must help when running next to water as Neil also performed very well on the Thames towpath in February - so well in fact that he was joint winner of the Meander. Having run the GUCR early stages at pace with Jez, Neil led him to Bridge 99 only to be back on par by GJA then sadly unable to keep pace with the push for the line.

Rod Palmer, forever “Mr Canal Race” to many of us, showed that he still has what it takes, by setting a new ‘over sixty’ fastest time. Although he had looked fairly chipper when he and wife Margo trotted over the finish line, the distance must have taken its toll. A couple of days after the race Rod was able to walk only with the aid of crutches, a stress fracture/tendonitis having put paid to his running for a while.

David McLelland held third place less than two hours behind the leaders at the Springwell check. Those last ‘few’ miles must have been tough with others coming through but David managed to look more relieved than disappointed at the Finish.

Mike Trew took only a four minute break at Hamborough Tavern. He must have been feeling better than many at this point as he was able to finish looking very comfortable having made up a place on the final section.

Glyn Marston, with another finish this year, set a new benchmark of five in row. This remarkable achievement is testament not only to his ability (apart from the odd tumble from a motorbike) to stay injury free, but also to his immense commitment and enthusiasm for running to raise funds for charity. Despite getting quicker each time, first place has so far eluded him. We won’t be at all surprised if, enthusiasm still undimmed, he returns until that British Waterways Trophy bears his name. For our part we’ll be very pleased to have him.

Jez Bragg had been Rory Coleman’s tip for winner this year. With MoB and Compton Forty wins under his belt it would have been foolish to bet against him. Looking far too young to be doing this ultra nonsense, he “out sprinted” Glyn in the last mile or so. To his credit, Jez was concerned that this precociousness was bad form, but was relieved by Glyn’s assurance that it was after all a race, and that, in any case, he had done a similar thing to Mark Wittering last year.

Bob Brown and John Kinder did not come to the event as a pair. Their checkpoint timings seem to have converged somewhere near Weedon. From there onwards they arrived at and departed from each site within a few minutes of each other. Hamborough Tavern is the only one showing the same times for both, so I assume that it was here that they hatched their plan to make life difficult for the organiser. I have to admit that I had never considered the possibility of a dead-heat and that I sincerely hope they haven’t started a trend. The need for an extra winners’ award aside, it was a treat to see them cross the line together and hear each give credit to the other for keeping them going during the hard times. What better illustration could there be of the camaraderie that exists among those who go so far beyond the marathon.

That just about wraps up the runners’ tale of the 2005 GUCR, but before I commit this to the archive I have a few random recollections that could do with an airing.

Support crews deserve mention in the record for their achievement. It is no mean feat to be in the right place at the right time with the right food and drink ready for their runner over such a long period. Many who have taken part as both competitor and supporter have said that it is almost as difficult to tend someone else as it is to run. I would like therefore to thank all crews for their part in making the event a success.

Of course the effects of sleep deprivation do sometimes take their toll on those supporting:-

I am not one hundred percent certain but I am pretty sure that it was one of our runner’s crew who tried to go under the Springwell Lock car park height barrier, with a bike on the roof rack - ouch!

Then there was the person who, when reporting their runners’ retirement to me, answered the question, “Where are you?” with “We’re a bit further than we were before.”

Best of all I enjoyed overhearing at LV a crew who, after much close scrutiny of the movement of the leaves on the water, decided amongst themselves that, “It must flow north, perhaps to join the Trent near Leicester.”

The effects of fatigue had obviously taken their toll on those of us keeping vigil at Paddington too. Despite our best efforts to look like an eager welcoming party, as we sat on the towpath under our finish banner, a lady came and asked if we knew where the Grand Union Canal Race Finish was.

OK I said earlier that I might be tempted to include a section of Jan’s log to show what goes on ‘behind the scenes’ and how much our helpers care. These notes cover approximately 1¼ hours. I have added a * to mark each new call – I make it twenty in that period.

*12:36 Jill from GJA – No83 Duncan Cruttenden retiring, he has transport. They are ready to pack up but still waiting for Denise & Steffi. Should they wait? JK offered to phone their support to pass over responsibility. JK will get back to Jill. *Support crew in bed! – Told to phone (new number) – *Steffi says they have just arrived there! *Jill says no they haven’t, they must be somewhere else thinking they’re at GJA. * JK phoned Denise’s mobile – no reply.

*12:50 JK phoned Kerry to update retirements. *JK phoned Henk to update – he confirms five thru Hamb T.

*12:52 JK got thru to Denise, she confirms nearly at GJA. *JK phoned Jill – they are happy to wait for them and will phone when they’re through.

*13:08 JK phoned Kerry to explain that last two may be up to an hour behind CP close time. Kerry says they’re happy to wait.

*13:30 No69 Mike Alderson retiring at Nash Mills Locks Br.155 “terribly tired” – support crew.

*13:31 Anthony phoned – somebody (David Seys) was due to meet Alicja at LV. *JK phoned RAK – advised to call Ian Clarke. *Ian is just about to collect Alicja from Springwell and take her to LV. *JK called Anthony with this info.

*13:45 Jill from GJA – They are closing now. Both girls have supporters on bikes. Denise is ahead of Steffi who is in a bad way but insists on continuing – has taken some first aid equipment with her. Jill rather concerned.

*13:46 JK phoned RAK to notify of above. He had just heard from Steffi and Denise – both retiring.

*13:48 JK phoned Jill just for her info/reassurance and to thank them for waiting so long – no problem.

*13:51 JK phoned Kerry to notify of Mike, Steffi & Denise. *JK phoned Henk ditto.

One final point to mention. Phil and I are often asked why we and all the other helpers go to so much trouble for a few nutters to indulge themselves. We always reply that it is simply for the pleasure of seeing people achieve their goal. British Waterways this year asked if the event raised any money for charity. I asked, via e-mail, for competitors to let me know of any sponsorship. As a result we find that the trouble we go to is, in fact, worth around £10,000 to a wide variety of charities. On behalf of everyone involved, thank you very much indeed.


Well, OK, perfect might be a tad over the top, but from an organiser’s viewpoint it was pretty damn good. Of course after nine previous races we should have the hang of it, though as it does only come round once a year there’s plenty of time to forget between whiles. Indeed this was cause of the only major hitch, when I forgot the basics (having the map to hand) at Navigation Bridge. In fact, any other bits where things didn’t quite go to plan were also of my own making - perhaps I should just stay at home. But more of the hitches later.........

That things did go so well is to the credit of the wonderful volunteer helpers who make the race possible. Without the commitment of family and friends, who somehow cope despite the ineptitude of the “organiser”, it would not be feasible to uphold the ethos of making this event ‘available to anyone’. It would be all too easy to up the fee and/or limit entry to those with their own support, but not everyone has money to burn and family or club-mates who’ll turn out - so, thanks to the fantastic crew, we muddle on.

The Fantastic Crew this year consisted of:-

Henk van der Beek - Trailer movements and Hamborough Tavern check.
Jill Beggs - Grand Junction Arms check.
Simon Bolton - Transport, Navigation Bridge check.
Kerry Chiverton - Springwell Lock check.
Ian Clarke - Registration, Baggage movements and Transport.
Ian & Penny Elliott - Grand Junction Arms check.
Susanne Enhard - Bridge No.99 check.
Phil Gadd - Safety co-ordinator, Hatton, Birdingbury, Navigation Bridge & Little Venice checks.
Harriet Gadd - Hatton, Birdingbury, Navigation Bridge & Little Venice checks.
Lucy Gettins - Bridge No.99 check.
Martin Fray - Bridge No.99 check & Transport
Ian Hope - Hatton Locks check & Transport
Diccon & Hannah Kearn - H.Q. Lorry, Registration, Hatton, Birdingbury, Navigation Bridge & Little Venice checks.
Janet Kearn - Race H.Q. Home, treasurer.
Jonathan & Liz Lee - Heart of England check.
John Mason - Springwell Lock check.
George Payne - Hamborough Tavern check.
Amy Redwood - First Aider, Registration, H.Q. Bus, Dick’s prodder.
Cliff & Anne Robertson - Transport, Springwell Lock check.
Andy Smith & Ramona Theve net-Smith - Registration, bag/trailer moves & backup throughout.
Anthony Taylor - Hamborough Tavern check.
Ian Webber - Grand Junction Arms check.
Shane Wilkinson - Registration and Catherine de Barnes check.

Competitors owe a big THANK YOU to all the above persons and to Denise Troughton of British Waterways - for sorting the board’s permission; David Game - Permit Secretary of The Trail Running Association; TRESTON Ltd for the use of their trailer.

I am extremely indebted to everyone mentioned above and to all competitors and supporters for making the Eleventh GUCR the best yet.