Thursday 11 September 2014

Cotswold Outdoor Wings For Life Relay

Cambridge - Sandy - Milton Keynes
It gave me great pleasure to be a part of the Cotswold Outdoor Wings For Life shop relay! Cotswold Outdoor, a popular retailer for everything you need for the outdoors and adventure since 1974, is raising money and awareness for the Wings For Life Charity by holding a non-motorised relay of over 3000 miles between the 69 stores, nationwide. I, along with friends Chris Green and Nathan Heathfield, were responsible for taking the baton from the Cambridge Cotswold Outdoor store, to the next store in Milton Keynes. It was decided that Chris and I would run from Cambridge to Sandy, hand over the baton to Nathan, who would then complete the leg to Milton Keynes on his bike.

Me and Chris ready for the Cambridge to Sandy part of the Wings For Life relay
Wings For Life Charity:
Sadly, many people across the world, and not just people involved in extreme activities, are involved in terrible traumatic accidents. In fact, the majority of people affected by spinal cord damage are people involved in road traffic accidents. It can happen to anyone! These accidents cause disruption to the nerve fibres and damage to the cells. Current commonplace knowledge teaches that severe damage to the spinal cord can result in the individual becoming paralysed and wheelchair bound for life. But the Wings For Life charity believes otherwise. Spurred on by the fact that the research into paralysis is heavily underfunded, they are currently researching and pioneering new and exciting ways to reverse the effects of spinal cord damage, raising awareness of the fact that it can happen to anyone, and supporting the lives of those already affected by paralysis. To find out more, and to support the charity, click HERE

The run from Cambridge to Sandy:
It was a beautiful day, perfect for running. Not too hot and not too cold, the weather was kind to us. An early start and slow trip into the centre of Cambridge in rush hour traffic, and I was immediately reminded why it is that I run trails and not roads! Arriving at the shop in our running gear, we stocked up on energy gels and bars, kindly donated by SIS (Science in Sport). We were going to need them! We had 37km (23 miles) between us and Sandy, where Nathan would be waiting to finish our leg of the relay.

With the baton safely tucked in Chris' bag and the GPS tracker switched on, I fired up my Suunto Ambit 2R, which already had the trail route uploaded onto it. We were off! For Chris, this was going to be an epic adventure, running almost twice as far as he had ever run before! Thankfully, my experience and pace information from the Ambit 2R allowed me to hold him back as the adrenaline and excitement powered us forward at what would have been an unrealistic pace to continue.

Roads made way to footpaths, which in-turn made way to dirt tracks and farm trails as we left the city and its hustle and bustle behind us. The first 10km quickly passed and we found ourselves firmly in the middle of Cambridgeshire rural countryside.
En route from Cambridge to Sandy on the Cotswold Outdoor Wings For Life relay
With the help of the SIS energy gels and bars we comfortably made it to the 20km mark. So far so good! The weather was perfect, our kit was working well, we were well fed and hydrated, and the Suunto Ambit 2R had faultlessly guided us along every turn in the trail. It was between 20 - 30km that the distance surpassed Chris' longest run-to-date, and he was really beginning to feel it. His legs stiffened up violently as I welcomed him to the world of long-distance running! We slowed the pace, had a quick rest break for some more water and energy and bravely pressed on towards the goal ahead.

Chris pressing on to Sandy - awesome effort!
Fields, woodland and villages passed one by one, trail after trail. Our bodies begun to feel the effects of the distance we had covered and begged us to slow to a halt and rest. I told Chris to dig-deep and remember one of my running mantras "Just Keep Going". The route took us through stunning pasture land, empty fields and past beautiful old farm buildings and stately homes. Cows and wild animals watched bemused as we trotted along on our journey in the middle of nowhere. Sandy was fast approaching and we were nearly at our destination. Our spirits began to lift and awaken, improving our mood, and we knew victory was within our reach. As we told our legs to "Shut-up" we left the final, beautiful and solitary trails and emerged once again into a concrete jungle.

Victory was within reach!
As we hit the paved roads of Sandy, we picked up the pace to finish strong. Emotions of joy bubbled up, and the elation of what we had taken part in and achieved were strong in our hearts and minds. Together we sprinted the last few meters into the market square. Finding Nathan, we handed over the baton and sent him on his way to Milton Keynes.....our part in the Wings For Life relay was done! 

Chris had run nearly double what he had ever run before, and we were in desperate need of fluids and calories. A pub just across the road? Perfect!

To support the Cotswold Outdoor Wings For Life shop relay and donate, please click HERE

Happy running everyone,

Thanks to SIS for the much needed support by providing us with energy gels and bars

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