Helen Hurn and Jan Chinnicks epic Race to the Tower 2018
Double Marathon on the Cotswold Way. Whiteshill to Broadway Tower. Walk Jog or Run.
Start line on the doorstep. Route on our very own training ground. Just follow the arrows. Where do we sign up? That was sat the end of March when Jan and I were well into the training plan.
On Saturday 9th June at 7:45 my husband Steve bid us farewell after dropping us off in a field in Whiteshill. This was it. It was finally here.
The sun was shining, the usual start line nerves were kicking in, the queue for the toilets, no longer than usual (so long then). Wave A trotted off into the distance and we took our place at the start. The Threshold team were enthusiastically attempting a warm up, whilst the MC was banging on about there being 160 gates and stiles and lots of arrows, then finally finishing with a bad joke. Nice bloke though.
We were off. What struck me instantly was that no one was in too much of a rush. Just a gentle trot readying themselves for the mammoth task ahead. The first photo opportunity was very early on so we took full advantage of that and very quickly at 5.7 miles we were at the first pit stop. We did what needed to do, Perkier bar and the loo (yes, we’d chosen not to queue), then pushed on. We started playing the overtaking game very early on with a lady who I can only describe as ‘the shuffler’. We’d overtake her (shuffling) not see her for a while then suddenly with her dangling cup clanging on her backpack she would appear from behind like a charging bull. We gave in to her very early on and let her disappear into the distance.
Pit Stop 2 and 13.9 miles we were feeling good, stopped for some squash and a snack and moved on.
Pit Stop 3 and 18.6 miles. We decided a change of socks was a good idea, it was getting very warm and I’d read somewhere about frequent sock changes being the thing to do, I’d also hit the flat coke by this time. Whilst refuelling we watched a photographer snapping a very bendy girl stretching. I listened to Jan mumble something about young pretty girls getting all the attention then disappeared to the loo. When I re emerged I found that she had secured a deal with the photographer for a photo shoot advertising the Protein Ball Company. I did enquire about payment but all he could offer was an extremely unappetising looking vacuum packed Beef Jerky remarking that he was a vegetarian, and even if he wasn’t he definitely wouldn’t eat that. We politely declined and moved on, not before seeing a sign saying ‘Naked crew at the next pit stop’ Hmmm, interesting.
Pit Stop 4 and 26.2 miles. This was the halfway point. This was where I needed to be. In my head I would be now on my way home. Just a marathon to go. As we ran into the field we saw the one and two-day participants running to their finish line, happy smiling faces, arms in the air. They were finished for the day. All they had to worry about was how quickly they could get their food, beer and a massage. I recall affectionately referring to them as ‘the lightweights’. We on the other hand were busy refilling our bladders (the backpack kind) in the blazing heat. I grabbed a packet of pretzels and a Perkier bar and we were off.
Pit Stop 5 31.8 miles. After a rather uneventful 5.7 miles we trotted into Pit Stop 5. The event crew was particularly bubbly claiming that it was the very best Pit Stop. They were making the best of the fact they had obviously drawn the shortest straw and were holed up in a rather smelly cow shed. They were a great bunch who lifted our spirits, as it was still very hot and still a long way to go. It was at this point we discovered the winner Mary Menon had finished with an incredible performance of 8:46:52.Wow!
We were now moving into unknown territory now with 6.6 miles to the next stop. My Garmin had been threatening to die so I whipped out the spare (every runner should have one).
From hereon in things start to get a bit hazy, the order in which things happened may be slightly different, but they really did happen. There were a few occasions where Jan’s husband Clive and her son Matt with Kabita and Millie the dog caught up with at various locations, Clive had been tracking Jan via her phone so was able to locate us quite easily. I was getting impromptu ‘how’s it going?’ phone calls from Steve, which included the one in the middle of yet another major ascent in which he thought I was actually having a heart attack.
We managed to adopt a stray whose name was Paul. He was a like breath of fresh air, with his broad Scottish accent and sense of humour as dry as a piece of sandpaper he had us tittering and giggling for a fair few miles which took the edge off our tiring legs. It was now that downhill had become our enemy, toes and knees had taken a bashing, while the quads were threatening strike action.
Pit Stop 6 and 38.4 miles. Refuel, loo stop and phone calls made we left Paul frantically looking for Gaffer tape to fix his trainers.
13.9 miles to the finish, just a badly measured half marathon then, anyone can do that, can’t they?
So, it’s time for some tunes, I get the bluetooth speaker going along with some inspirational/really cheesy running songs. Katrina’s – Walking on Sunshine, Billy’s – When the going gets tough. This somehow gives us a second wind. As we’re lolloping through a villagey section we pass three guys as Europe’s – The Final Countdown is blaring out from my backpack. To make things even worse as we go by I shout out ‘C’mon lads, it’s the final countdown’ whilst punching the air. I was rewarded with a cheer so I’m hoping that the small amount of credibility that I have was not completely lost. I’m really sorry, please don’t judge…..
As we continued on our merry way we came across a rare breed, it was another Stroudie, who I now know as Chris. He looked like he had one or two issues going on, but he was upright and moving in a forward direction. To be fair most runners we saw in the later stages looked like they were having issues, mainly the evil known as blisters, Jan and I included. We clambered over a style and I suddenly realised that we were in a field of cattle. Now, ever since I’ve known Jan she has had a morbid fear of cows that I’ve never quite been able to dispel (a work in progress). She was in front at this point, I saw her falter so I quickly got ready to take the lead and steer us through the wandering herd. But no, she was having none of it, she was gone, straight through the middle, cows scattering everywhere. They were the only things between her and the next Pit Stop.
Pit Stop 7 The final one….5.3 miles to go. As we rock into the last stop Jan immediately calls for a medic who jumps in into action, shrouds her in a foil blanket and sets to work popping a blister like it was a major clinical procedure. To be honest I’m sure a Stanley knife would have done the trick and probably been alot quicker. I on the other hand don’t even want to look at the carnage, which are the souls of my feet. I did however, manage a change of socks with my eyes closed. Paul suddenly blasts into camp with his now fixed trainers, revelling in the joy that he has now found a new use for Rock Tape. Jan emerges from the first aid tent and we don our head torches as we are now rapidly losing daylight. We head off down the road when suddenly my LIRF credentials kick in and I realise that we do not have a single scratch of hi-viz. Oh well, never mind. If something hit us now we probably wouldn’t feel it anyway. As we get back into the fields it suddenly became Battle of the Bugs; our torchlight’s attracting anything with wings. It was like an episode of Game of Thrones with every creature determined to either blind us or become our final source of protein. We disappear into some creepy woodland and I shout to Jan ‘if you see any red eyes, run as fast as you can’ to which she retorted that she already was.
Eventually we get to Broadway, despite that fact it has some lovely shops and plenty of restaurants, it’s really, really long. It was getting on for pub knocking out time and there were lots of people stood outside cheering and shouting words of encouragement. We finally hit the final climb (just the mile and a half) with the first section following glowsticks and trying to stare down sheep. We could hear sporadic noises on the top of the hill, but still couldn’t see anything; we just kept pushing on.
Suddenly, there it was, after 6000 feet of climbing and over 15 hours that monument we’d been chasing was lit up in all its glory. Through the final gate, time to regain some composure to ready overselves for the final sprint.
As we came over the line the Threshold team did a fantastic job of celebrating our finish, enthusiastically cheering and ringing cowbells whilst presenting us with our medals.
I stood with Steve for a moment and experienced an overwhelming feeling of relief, one or two tears came and then finally celebrations started with a can of alcohol free Heineken and a cup of coffee. I know……
THE END or is it………..?