Friday 03 July.
The storm was predicted. It did not come out of nowhere, unannounced, to take all of us weather obsessed Brits by surprise. It was expected. Neither should the ferocity of it have taken me by surprise either. However I was not safely tucked up bed, listening to the rain lash against the window and the loud claps of thunder interspersed with bright flashes of lightening. I was outside in it (now that’s an oxymoron)- but it did!
I had a relatively busy day on Fri, which was no bigee or precursor to not running that night. In fact when considering that my intention and aim is to run for 24 hrs, then running at the end of the day, and into the night when I am already tired is a bit of a must do really. So I set my stall out early in the day with the plan of runnning that night. I paid a visit to the hospital to see my new born second grandson in the afternoon, and then almost immediately upon returning home, I set off again to watch my stepson play in a football tournament. By the time I eventually made it home again it was close to 9pm.
I began my run from home just shy of 9.25pm underneath a dull but not yet angry sky. I made my way along the country lane through Dunge and on into Bratton, before following the Lower Westbury Rd (this is actually a bridleway) into Westbury. Once in the town I began my first climb of the night up Newtown and towards The Whitehorse. I turned off at the equestrian centre and made my way down Bridleway 35, through Wellhead Woods, and along Wellhead Drove. It was as at this point that I saw the first illuminations in the sky of lightning in the not too far away distance – in the same direction that I was heading towards.
My second ascend of the night began on the bridleway (my favourite hill) leading up to the Ridgeway/Imber Trail. The wind, which was actually still quite a warm breeze, had picked up considerately by now. As I reached the hard track of the Ridgeway at the top, I was met with a strong wind and the very impressive sight of electric bolts racing earthwards over Salisbury Plain. I also heard the deep belly grumbles of a far off Giant. Well……….it was either that or some early indications of the thunder to come. Now I think I am correct in thinking that lightning always takes the shortest route to ground, but as it was still somewhat in the distance, I wasn’t overly concerned at this point. Whether my thinking is actually true or not – that seed was planted in my brain and grew into a real belief as I continued along the Ridgeway.
As I headed in the direction of the Whitehorse, making a steady but none the less consistant climb, The Giant must have had something to eat because his belly was no longer grumbling and he appeared to be occassionaly clapping his hands with glee now………………… And the lighting was getting closer…………………… And the seed in my head continued to grow.
I made way around the back of the Whitehorse as the rain arrived. It didn’t so much arrive and more accurate description would be unleashed. There was no pre warning of a few gentle splatterings. It was just dumped out the sky with the velocity of a rocket and the copiusness of an ocean. I startled a lone motorist taking shelter in his car, who must have been highly confused and amused in equal measures at this fool, running at this time, in this weather, up here…………… And the lighting was close now………………..Really close………………..And the seed was sprouting big massive strong branches of “F***k” in my head.
I continued on my wet way, stumbling along the Ridgeway as I attempted to put my earphones in and listen to a bit of music to distract me. Sadly one earphone was completely water logged and had stopped working. I can’t for the life of me fathom out how that could of happened. The Atlantic Ocean continued in it’s attempt to drown me. The Giant must of been exceptionally happy with his dinner cos he continued to clap……………..And the lightening was directly above me now. On at least 4 occassions I found myself suddenly completely blinded by white light for a split second at a time. Afterwards I was left with diminished vision in the same way a high powered torch will rob you of any night vision if flashed in your face……………………….And now the seed had become an entire plantation. My thought process was something along the lines of ” I’m on the edge of Salisbury Plain. There is no one or nothing else around. I am HIGH up. Lighting always takes the shortes route to earth. It is right above me, right now. It’s ok I have rubber soles. Yeah but I am HIGH up and lighting always takes the shortest route to ground. Always Neil. Always.” I didn’t know it at the time but I actually was at my highest point at that time – 748 feet. I had originally intended to make my way along the Ridgeway until I reached Tinhead Barn and then drop down into Eddington. However as I reached Vedette Post 6, another blinding burst of white light in my face convinced me that discretion really is the better part of valour, and I turned down The Imber Road towards Stradbrook/Bratton. I will of course deny this at any later point and profess that amid the wind, and the rain, and the thunder, and the lightening (did I mention the lightning ?), that I merely became disorientated and simply took a wrong turn.
I reached the relative safety amongst the much lower level of Bratton, not unresembling the proverbial drowned rat. I continued through the centre of the village before turning and retracing my steps back out to Dunge and reaching home just after 0130 am – 4 hrs and 7 mins after starting. About 2 miles from home the rain stopped (you gotta be kidding me!!!!) and I was struck by an alternative light from the sky. It was the moon shining through a break in the clouds – mocking me because the storm had moved on further afield but I had turned tail and headed home before that.
Does lightning always take the shortest route to earth? I don’t know and I haven’t Googled it yet. But up there it felt like I was the highest living creature in the entire United Kingdom……. and I believed it to be true 🙂