So the day started well, but early, breakfast in bed before a journey to Throckley to watch Zach play football (Hotshots won 4-1 so great present from Zach and the boys!). Unexpectedly Jamie appeared having left work early to watch the match, nice one, he then suggested he pop up with my prezzie as soon as we got back.
Now we were meant to be at my mothers seeing my sister and family that afternoon so I said no problem but we won’t have to be long! This was important, you should remember this! Judy then insisted Zach and I had a hotdog, this is unusual but then hey it was my birthday… right.
We duly headed home and within 5 mins Jamie arrived brandishing a card … I opened it and read the following ….
Dear Mr A.L Willis
Congratulations – Your Race Place is Secure
As race director I am delighted to write to confirm you have been successful in your application to participate in the Langley 40th Birthday Challenge Race. This is a brand new event for 2012 and we have been overwhelmed by the response it has received.
We hope your training and dieting has been going well and we are sure you will be in fine shape to join us on the race start line on Saturday 10th November 2012.
Due to the relatively low number of participants taking part in this year’s event your start time will be relatively flexible (see below).
Your race schedule is as follows:
Date: Saturday 10th November 2012
Start Time: 12noon – 1pm
Race HQ: Robson Drive, Hexham, Northumberland, NE46 2HZ
Please arrive at teh start line no later than one minute before starting your race.
Your race number has been enclosed and must be worn and kept visible at all times during the duration of your race.
The concept of this new look race is simple; Complete 40km in order to receive your present at the finish line which is hidden some 40km away.
PS: You may see some familiar faces on your run, so be sure to watch out and give them all a smile no matter how you are feeling.
Should you have any concerns, queries or issues with this challenge I will be more than happy to hear from you at the finish line.
01434 666 666
So … obviously I thought, there’s no way he’s going to make me run 40km on my birthday, I mean that’s 24 miles and he knows I have lots of family commitments today.
I dutifully got changed into my running gear asking should I take my headphones, do I need a drink etc! Still believing he’d say, nah … only joking here’s your prezzie! …
I was then ushered to the front door where the race starting ceremony commenced and I was sent on my way with the sound of his car horn.
Off I trot having being told to head to the top of our hill to the race course, now I’m thinking ‘oh god he’s going to make me run to the race course and back!’ that would have been a couple of miles …
On my way I see a sign referring to our very first outing in Anglesea where ‘Bear Grylls’ told us how awesome the challenge ahead was going to be.
I slogged on up the hill (anyone who knows our hill will know it’s not a great start to a run!) and at the top I was greeted by this!
Obviously we shared a joke and I naturally expected to be pointed in the direction of home, I’d done my penance, I’d run up the hill and now surely it was time to head back and open an awesome prezzie.
Unfortunately not … he informed me that he was the first of the official marshals around the course and that I should head onward towards the next junction. We took another photo for posterity ….
and off I went. Half a mile later I was greeted by a witch and told to head down the hill towards the Dipton Mill pub,
excellent I thought, Hayley will be there and we’re going to have lunch and a beer :o)
I ran past the pub because there was nobody there :o(, instead I was greeted by the hill that takes you up into Hexhamshire, no worries he can’t be too far up here I thought. Eventually I found him in what can only be described as a super market sweep outfit! Nice!
I was directed down a small track, now whilst this is within 3 miles from my home I had no idea where it led as I’ve never actually been down there before. Off I went, into the unknown. By now I’m thinking ‘ok he’s going to make me run a few miles’ so I started to relax and enjoy it even taking a picture or two as the weather on the day was fantastic.
Soon I found myself heading down a steep hill and around the corner Steve Davis himself is directing me onward … up another hill would you believe it!
So off up the hill I went, still feeling pretty good about myself, only 3 or so miles in, enjoying my own company and the wonderful views. Just before I arrived at Juniper I nearly fell over laughing when I clapped eyes on the next marshal. I don’t believe he was wearing an awful lot!! I couldn’t help feeling he was enjoying all of this dressing up!
Still not quite able to control myself I ran on through Juniper towards Whitley Chapel, where I found a lonesome Big Issue seller.
Ironically another runner had just passed by and had declined the offer of a copy of the big issue with a mildly confused look, I was to pass this runner later and get an equally quizzical look. He will certainly have something to talk about in the pub that night!
Onward was the order of the day and 5 mins later Judy pulled up int the care with a welcome drink, Zach just looked at me as if I was mad … He was probably right!
Around another corner and who should I bump into but Will from the Inbetweeners, lovely lad who sent me on my way up and towards Slaley. However before Slaley is the Travellers Rest pub, surely that’s where the party is right. I don’t want a party but right now a party would be fine!
Again no, the car park was empty and I was forced to journey on up the road towards Slaley. Good news though, I was serenaded into Slaley by a local busker. To be fair I had my headphones in and judging by the looks he was getting from passers by I think it’s fair to say the singing wasn’t up to much! ;o)
So, we’re 8 miles in, I’m still feeling ok but now I’ve been running for a little over an hour and twenty minutes and admittedly for the first time it’s starting to dawn on me that I may have to go the distance here! I dismiss that as ridiculous and think surely not, my mate wouldn’t do that to me on my birthday, but he’s doing a good job of keeping this going!
To date I’ve been trying to envisage the route and imagine where he may have me finish, however the last thing I expected him to say was ‘onwards mate, towards Blanchland’ you’ll probably see me before you get there!
I can only describe the next two miles as hell, it was one long climb to the top of the world! Eventually I made it over the top and in the distance I saw the devil. Yes Jamie was waiting for me!
After a brief drink he takes delight in chasing me up the road, not before telling me that several passers by have stopped to ask exactly what was going on!
Now at this point I should probably let you know about another aspect to this challenge, you’ll note in each of the photo’s this far Jamie is holding a balloon. Every time we meet he hands me that balloon which I must keep with me until the end!
Now this stretch of the run was where things started to take their toll, the climb out of Slaley had been a long arduous one and although this section was reasonable flat I was starting to feel like I’d been running. Fortunately a lorry driver pulled alongside to have a chat and ask if running with a handful of balloons made me go quicker. I assured him it did not and proceeded to tell him about ‘my friend’ Jamie who, as we came around the bend, we found standing proud in his mothers dress!
Back towards Slaley is the order so off I go. Several moments later I recognise the road and think brilliant Slaley Hall is just down here, that’s where the party will be :o) Awesome that’s a lovely place to get food etc.
By now I’ve completed a half marathon and i’m getting a little peckish, it’s also starting to get cold as the sun is on it’s way down. I note even Jamie is shivering when I see him in his girly clothes.
Onwards motivated by the fact that I think I’m nearing journey’s end I head down the hill towards Slaley Hall. Sure enough I crest the next hill and there I see a balloon disappearing into the entrance of Slaley Hall. Brilliant I think, a short trip up the drive and I’m home free, and not a moment too late, I’m now getting tired!
Alas I am not directed up the stately drive but on down the road towards Slaley villiage. Now I understand my fate! I will be doing 40km this day!
So I travel onward balloons in tow, as I enter the village I expect to see a mythical figure of some sort. Alas there is nobody to be seen, thinking he can’t be cruel enough to send me back via Corbridge I head on back through Slaley, calculating that the route back to Hexham would complete my 24 mile challenge!
Half way through Slaley I’m accosted by a fine figure of a man! My word its a Marathon Man!
For the first time on my journey Jamie is on hand to run with me, although to be honest by this point I’m flagging a little so we make a couple of brief walking stops. He’s very understanding :o)
As we exit Slaley at 17 miles Jamie jumps back in the car and waves me on down the road towards Hexham. By this time the sun is definitely setting and I’ve been running now for three and a quarter hours. I’m a little hungry and getting cold as I hadn’t actually planned on running a marathon, in fact I’m still a little surprised that I am! Despite the sun setting there are still some great views. I’m now 18 miles in and passing the point where I met Will some 11 miles ago.
The pace is definitely slowing now but eventually I meet up again with Judy who treats me to a birthday banana and a coat that will stop me from being run over in my entirely black outfit. The outfit of choice on dark small country roads!
Replenished I bash on towards the sawmill, coming around the corner “I cannot believe it. He could not be serious!”
So now I know exactly where I am and perhaps within reason where I have to go, Jamie informs me I won’t quite have to do 24 miles so now I’m thinking hmmm … maybe there will be a gathering at Dukeshouse Wood? Jamie used to have a key, this is a massive ruse to get me to the party I don’t want!
That’s cool all I have to do is drop down over Linnels bridge and ascend the 1 mile climb up over the hill behind Hexham. Who wouldn’t want to do that after 21 miles and just under 4 hours of running! :o)
Undeterred I soldiered on stopping briefly at Linnels bridge to take a brief self portrait!
It’s a very slow ascent up the hill if I’m honest but what awaits me at the top will stay with me all my years. It’s now very close to dark and the temperature is heading towards zero and yet here is my friend Jamie waiting for me in nothing more than a pair of swimming trunks. For the first time I feel like the lucky one LOL.
I expect to be directed left towards home, however no I’m marshalled onward towards Hexham, maybe my destination is not home, maybe I’m heading to his house. Oh no I think that means running through Hexham with a massive bunch of balloons!
Phew I crest the next hill and there is the Grim Reaper, in what is now very much darkness!
I’m now well into my run, surely I have to be! But for the first time I’m sent off road, what I hear you say it’s dark! Yes it bloody well is! I’m offered a head torch but I decline, I don’t want to carry any more than I have to and I’m familiar with the path through the woods!
A short time later I emerge on the other side of the wood and it appears there is a theme!
After conversing with the ghoul I’m told that I will see a sign very soon that will tell me what to do next. It’s now very dark but I don’t care because in my mind I can have no more than 2 miles left to go :o)
Suddenly I find the sign :o)
Now I may be slightly loosing my mind but a very brief calculation tells me that if I take his route home I’m going to fall short of my 40k challenge. Tired but resolute there is no way that is going to happen now, I change the route and head the long way around home heading back up the hill towards the race course road once more!
The last two miles probably take some time but I don’t care I’m nearly home :0) After 24.07 miles and 4 hours 54 minutes and 41 seconds I arrive back to a house in darkness and a simple message staked to the lawn!
So some cheeky faces appear from the front door and I’m joined in my search of the garden by Jamie, Hayley and Judy. We wander round the garden for what feels like some time before I spot something in the bottom corner of the dean. It appears I truly will have to dig for my prezzie.
At last woooo hhhooooo I’ve found something :o)
At last :o)
Time to head indoors and find out what I’ve been working for, well true to his word what was buried was the race pack. I got all the normal goodies including a drink, chocolate, and medal :o)
So there it is, a fantastic day 40k to celebrate my 40 years. Truly a 40th birthday that I’ll never forget. Thanks to Jamie for all his efforts, he made it great fun and at time froze his unmentionables off waiting for me to arrive at each marshal post!
…. and the present … well what else could it be but a picture of me!
Thanks Jamie … truly awesome, however all those who know me will tell you one thing and one thing alone. This is only the beginning! :0)
So in answer to how I spent my 40th birthday … here it is!