I debated with myself where I should publish this post. Should I put it on the “Home” page along with all of my non specific posts? Or should I stick it on the “Events” page? It was an event after all – it’s just that I didn’t do it. That is if you think of “do it” in the typical sense of “running it”. However I was there. In fact I was there for almost 13 hours. I just didn’t run. I “did it” in an alternative way as I had volunteered to help out behind the scenes. So I chewed this over in my mind for a short while. It wasn’t a massive, long winded, and protracted mental battle, and I quickly settled on the “Home” page. I will save the “Events” page as the preserve for when I do actually run.
I had the pleasure, and pleasure is the right word, of volunteering at The Ham & Lyme 50/100k on Sat 11 July. This event follows the Liberty trail beginning at Ham Hill in Somerset and culminating at Lyme Regis in Dorset. This is the inaugural year of the event which has been organised by Dave Urwin and Natanya Joy of Albion Running. Now Dave is an interesting character – a tad off centre, intelligent, humorous, articulate, and visually not unlike Rasputin in appearance. He is also a published author having chronicled his journey into the world of ultra running in his book “Everything will work out in the long run”. If I had to restrict myself to two descriptive words for Dave they would be interesting and quirky.
Having made my decision not to run in this event, with my thought process being based on not being aware of how “match fit” I would be post op , I contacted Dave and offered my assistance to help out instead. He very kindly accepted my offer. As the day of the event neared I was surprisingly excited about it. I was genuinely looking forward to helping as opposed to running. All events, no matter how big or how small, rely very much on volunteers. The equation is an extraordinarily easy one: No volunteers = no event. I run in events and fully intend to continue in doing so. Time for me to give something back then eh
I awoke on the morning of 11 July at 0445 hrs. A quick wash, coffee made, and departed for the journey south. I arrived at 0615 hrs at the start point in Ham Hill Country Park and met up with Dave. We chatted for a bit before setting up the registration room and awaiting the arrival of the runners. Dave had individual cards that were hand written by Natanya containing inspirational quotes for each and every runner. These were handed to each runner as they collected their race numbers – which added a very nice personal touch I believe. This set the tone and was very much in line with the entire spirit of this event. As registration became busy some runners unfortunately did not receive their cards but Dave assured me that he will post them on. I did joke with a few of the participants that they had the carry the card with them and show it when they collected their medals at the end – “Failure” I stated “to have your card will result in a DNF”…………..I hope they didn’t take me seriously………….. They laughed, or grimaced, or just thought to themselves “daft bugger!……… so I don’t think they did!
0900 hrs arrived remarkably quickly, and after a quirky race brief from Dave, the runners set off. At this point I often enter in to my usual waffle as I describe the route and – I would love to be able to describe the route – I understand from those that did run that some of the views were outstanding – but I am not capable of doing so I’m afraid. I now had a bit of hanging around to do as Dave had told me that I didn’t have to be at the 50k point until about 1130 hrs as that would give us be plenty of time to set up. So after I had loaded my car with all the drop bags and the gazebo, I grabbed myself another coffee and sat in the now still after quiet.
Dave departed Ham Hill before me as he was collecting a few friends from Taunton, and I made my way down to Lyme Regis, arriving at The Marine Theatre some 50 minutes later at 1100 hrs. At 1215 hrs I was still awaiting the arrival of Dave, as also were the sports massage ladies. I now began to worry a bit (I am actually playing it down a bit now – I was worried a lot in truth) that perhaps (A) we were in the wrong place as perhaps Dave had to change the end point after we had been informed, or (B) Dave was just well behind schedule. I had images in my head of the first runners arriving and nothing being in place for them – no food, no drinks, no drop bags! In theory it was possible that the first runners could run the 50k between 0900 and 1230 hrs. I needn’t have worried though – the route and the topography of it meant that a 3 hr 30 min 50k was unlikely. I just didn’t know the route however so was entering in to “flap mode”. I fired a quick text to Dave, who at that exact moment, walked around the corner in his neon yellow RD’s vest and blue shorts, reading my text as he did so.
We quickly mastered the skill of erecting a gazebo whilst battling with the sea breeze at the same time. Another of Dave’s friends Luci had brought along some large batches of home made soups – vegetable minestrone or spicy lentil. I of course tried both and can testify that they were both sensational. Between Dave, Natanya, Luci, and myself, all the food was laid out, all the drinks were laid out, and we chatted, and we waited, and Dave received regular updates on his mobile as to the current location of the lead runners.
We didn’t have too long to wait as the first 2 runners, Michael Robinson and Shane Nesbitt arrived in that order. Michael is now the current course record holder with a time of 4:46:48. This time itself is testimony to the difficulty of the course (a 3 hr 30 min 50k – what was I thinking!!!) Third past the post – well no post really – third past Dave in his neon yellow high viz vest was Nick Sale. Runners continued to arrive in singles, in pairs or trios, or one batch arrived in a group of 8. First lady to finish was Jane Allison, with Sarah Baker and Sarah Frost grabbing the 2nd and 3rd places respectively. Luke Elliott breezed in, had a few gulps of ginger beer, a handful of pretzels, a couple of mouthfuls of soup………….and shot off back the way he had come. One word for him – machine. Ultimately he went on to win the 100k overall. I topped up water bottles, fetched food and drink, handed a few medals out, shook the hands of runners, gave words of congratulation, and gave words of encouragement when I thought needed.
I met up with two friends of mine who had been running, Rich Corp and Steve Carroll, both of whom professed to me how hard they found it as well as how much they enjoyed it. I spent the entire afternoon speaking to runners who all without fail, only had positive things to say about the entire day. Listening to these runners made me believe that Dave has not only put on a successful race……. he has also provided an unique experience too that has been enhanced by also managing to capture the quirkiness of his personality as well.
Do I wanna run this next year? That my friends is a resounding “YES” 🙂