After months of training and preparing the time had come, Team YST were ready to run the 69 miles from Carlisle to Gateshead, taking on The Wall. The three relay teams of 12 crazy runners were made up of a wide range of running experience: some had previously completed Marathons, Half Marathons or 10kms, others had only just started out in running. For Glen and Sophie, having completed the couch to 5km only last year, this was by far their biggest challenge to date, and for others this was going to be longer and tougher than anything previously run.
In the weeks leading up to the event we enjoyed some classic British summertime weather, raining more than any June in history. As much training as we’d all been doing, none of us had expected that perhaps we should have been doing some training in the swimming pool. As we travelled up to Carlisle, the rain still coming down, nerves, apprehension and lots of excitement was across the team. On arrival the evening before we went to register, pick up our numbers and trackers, and then off we went for some classic race prep. Pizza, pasta, a glass of wine (purely to help settle the nerves of course) and now it was time to get some sleep, we had a long day ahead.
With the race briefing starting at 7.15am, the whole team arrived at Carlisle Castle ready to see the start of first leg. Despite the rain all week the weather was now looking perfect, clear skies, cool breeze, fingers crossed it continues. The night before during registration we were provided with our three team trackers, one for each relay team, these had to be kept at the top of the rucksack and passed on to the next runner at the end of each leg. Now, as much as they explained what to do with it during the run, they failed to tell us how to look after it up until we started, they probably assumed we’d have that covered... they were wrong. With 10 minutes until the start panic struck in as Selina realised she’d lost one of the trackers. After a frantic rush back to the car with no joy they were able to get hold of a replacement for us just in time for the start, hopefully the rest of the day was going to run a little smoother. As it struck 7.30, the race began with Jen, Helen and Dan setting off on their 15 mile leg, kicking off the days adventure.
A leg of two varying halves, a nice undulating start gave the team chance to enjoy the early stages, getting into a rhythm and a false sense of comfort. The second half, more like what we had expected, went up and down like a yo-yo. Despite the tough finish to the leg the team came in looking really strong, passing on the baton to Will, Chris and I. As we set off on our first 9 mile leg, it didn’t take long until we were met by our first big hill, climbing for a mile and half before settling down on the top. As we continued to run steadily through the leg enjoying stunning views and sights of Hadrian’s Wall, we tentatively awaited the final hill we all knew was coming. After we‘d grimaced and strained up that last brutal climb, we reached the top with just enough of the leg left to catch our breath and finish looking strong and relaxed for the cameras. We reached the checkpoint ready to pass the baton onto Glen, James and Sophie, surely they won’t have hills as tough as that in their leg....
How wrong we were, two miles in we get a message from James to say that so far it had been a two mile hike as the climbs were too steep to run. As they persevered through a really tough section things got worse, Sophie’s knee gave in and she was struggling, she’d been having trouble in the lead up but was hoping it would hold up. Despite the injury she showed amazing determination to complete the leg, along with James and Glen, who made sure they finished the leg as a team exactly how they started. After a difficult nine miles they triumphantly reached the end to the sound of whooping and cheering from the rest of the eagerly awaiting team. Now it was the turn of Selina, Ruth and Lucy to take the baton and continue the adventure.
Taking on a challenging but beautiful 13 miles, they enjoyed some amazing views across the Northumberland landscape. They continued to reel off the miles with smiles, even the change in conditions couldn’t dampen their spirits. As they reached the final two miles the rain began to come down, much later in the day than we may have feared earlier in the week. Despite the rain the three of them came in, grinning from ear to ear, ready to pass on the baton.
Will, Chris and I set off on the penultimate 17 mile leg, despite a fairly boring start to the route we ticked off the miles at good pace, covering 10 miles quicker than planned. The rain had really started to come down now, more than just a cooling shower, we were soaked. Things then went from bad to worse, with 20 miles covered over the day, a dodgy stomach and a couple of injuries really began to kick in for Will, making it increasingly difficult to run. Showing more of the determination and resilience displayed by so many throughout the day, the three of us continued, alternating between running and walking, but most importantly reaching the final checkpoint as a three, just as we set out.
We passed on the baton to the rest of the waiting team, all of which were going to complete the final seven mile leg. As they set off, the three of us along with a limping Sophie made our way to the end, meeting them half a mile from the finish ready to complete the epic challenge together. With 68.5 miles behind us, we ran alongside the Tyne, even those carrying injuries managing to join us for the final part. With the finish line in sight, and just the Millennium Bridge to cross, we were seconds from finishing, or so we thought. This was the time a boat decided to come through, requiring the bridge to be lifted, leaving us no option but to put the celebrations on hold, just for a few minutes. Once the bridge was back down we continued, over the bridge and over the line, the 12 of us successful, elated, and together. Collecting our well-deserved medals, hot meal and a seat, we shared stories from the past 12 hours before heading home, safe in the knowledge we didn’t need to run the following day.
The whole challenge was a fantastic experience, one that really demonstrated the YST values throughout. The TRUST we placed on one another to support and encourage each other throughout the run, even when things got tough, ensuring that everyone finished together. The joint RESPONSIBILITY and dedication to achieving the ambitious target of raising £5,000 to support the mission of the charity we all work for. The INTEGRITY in letting teammates know when something was wrong, ensuring that we could all support each other in anyway needed, valuing finishing together beyond anything else. And finally, PARTNERSHIP WORKING, displayed in so many ways, from the working as a team within each run, supporting and encouraging each other throughout, to the planning and logistics to make sure people were at the right place at the right time to take the baton (and the cars!) and continue the run, something never in doubt as you approached the end of your leg.
As well as the incredible efforts of each one of the team running, a huge thank you to all of those who supported us throughout. The family and friends who came out to support us during the race, the messages of encouragement in the lead up and during the run, and the hugely generous donations from friends, family and colleagues, helping us towards the target of £5000. The link will remain open for a couple more weeks so if anyone would like to still donate you can do so here.