Wednesday 14th December
Today was conceived months ago. The aim was to get as many people as possible to come out and join me for as much or as little running as they felt comfortable doing. With days
to go I really had no idea how many would come out and support. As we started to congregate, people of all ages, shapes and sizes emerged from all over the centre. As promised, at 14:15hrs the group of 55+ runners moved to the front door for the briefing!
We began as a large group skirting around the back of campus for the first 1km. On the crest of North Road the routes split with the 1 and 5km runners looping back up to campus and 10km and 1/2 marathon runners dropping down in Bath and out to Batheaston to meet the canal. The weather was stunning. The clear blue sky and bright sunshine caught your breath and penetrated the smoke from the chimneys all over Bath and those of the little log burners on the boats we passed. The group strung out along the canal path towards Bath. At Sydney Gardens the groups split. The 10km runners headed went left to campus via Bathwick Hill. The 1/2 marathoners went right down the architectural ornament of Great Pulteney Street before swinging back around to the station and back to the canal for loop 2. I hung back to find the trail group for the half. Tad and Caleb (2 juniors in our tennis academy) and Jamie (the placement student on the tennis programme) were chugging along. At the start of the second loop I offered to stay back with Tad allowing Caleb and Jamie to up the pace. This would double the furthest Tad had ever run and he was determined to get to the end. As we skirted the base of Widcombe and then Bathwick Hill the option was there to head back up to campus and call it a day but he refused to do so. There was glimpses of other runners as we headed around the 2nd, larger loop but we were mostly all alone!
Tad pressed on. Barely talking, he was in a pretty bad place with little energy left in his legs. As we approached the bottom of Widcombe Hill at 19.5km there was only one way back home. Up. Widcombe Hill is approximately 1 mile long, averaging 13% incline with aspects as steep as 20%. Not the sort of place you want to be at the end of a 1/2 marathon when you’ve hit the wall. Tad marched on. The December darkness closed in rapidly and the temperature plummeted. We counted the 17 lamp posts on the last leg as I’ve done so many times before on my bike in the mornings up to work. By the top it would all be over. Tad dragged himself up and over the last rise and as the incline dissolved into flat we made it to the end
This was a heroic effort from a guy a little over 17 years old and totally unaware of what he
was about to go through. He had many chances to take a short cut and make the suffering end but he didn’t. He crawled on as others pulled away and refused to give up. To have such grit and determination at that age is mighty impressive! I’ve definitely been in this that position this year and it’s taught me lessons about myself that you just can’t learn without setting out without knowing if finishing is even a possibility. I’m very chuffed to have made the opportunity available to him and very proud to have run it alongside and experienced it with him.