Around three weeks ago, the phone rings and its the intrepid Buckingham twins – mum Jan and daughter Katie, the latter, of Nottingham University fame, Antipodean traveller of note – maybe a time traveller, but we haven’t quite worked that one out yet – and all round bundle of energy and joy. What are we going to do now? After three Lockdown Challenges run by the Harriers Sprint Group, then the Women’s Endurance Squad and followed by the 5k Time Trial Challenge run by the Senior Men – how are we going to keep it going? Over the course of 15 minutes, it was decided that we would challenge the whole Club – not just parts of it – to come out and help us run the length of Britain – from Lands End to John O’Groats – and we called it the ‘End-to-End’ run.
In a period of real uncertainty for athletes, could we keep their participation in training going as individuals, when all group training and any form of collective competition was out of the question. Health is more important for sure. But still? Athletes train and compete and you just can’t turn the tap off for a big period of time and expect it to be turned back on so easy. The Harriers athletes, like athletes in all Clubs, have been grappling to work out how to keep up basic fitness, how to maintain technical skills, keep their strength & conditioning going, without that all important group training session, access to their Coaches face to face, or looking forward to the fixture at the weekend. Our End-to–End run was an attempt to bring all those individuals together, with one focus, one purpose, one goal in mind.
So, easy so far. That is what we will do. We will run the whole length of Britain in two days!! CAN WE DO IT? WILL WE DO IT?
We invited all age groups and all event athletes, waiting, hopefully for a big response – and boy did we get it. Over a 160 atheletes, covering sprints, middle distance, throws, endurance, jumps & hurdles stepped up to the challenge – including Six U11 Boys and two U11 Girls – Thirteen U13 Boys and Eight U13 Girls – Ten U15 Boys and Eleven U15 Girls – Five U17 Men and Six U17 Women – Four U20 Men and Five U20 Women – Fifty Eight Senior Men and Thirty Six Senior Women.
Dominic Bretherton, one of the Harriers Senior Mens Sprinters got the first day started with an early morning run of 12.99k. As i wrote that down on the spreadsheet, i thought, can we really do this? Can we actually run one thousand four hundred and seven kilometres in 48 hours? Then the runs started piling in, overwhelming us, both in terms of what the athletes were doing, the efforts they were putting in and the numbers out adding to the total. Danny Maynard, one of our Endurance runners sent his run map in which said 30k. Wow – was anyone going to top that? Jonny Murphy answered that particular question in the most astonishing way as his run came in at 57.96K. Then there was Joanne Nelson and Paul Brindle running 25.70k each, Rob Warner and Jess Judd with 22.53k each and remarkably – Ben Fish running 40.53 in a time of 2hr 55 – virtually a sub 3 hr marathon – amazing running. Unbelievably on Day 2, Ben Fish went and ran another 40.28k run in 2hr 58. It wasn’t just all about the long distances and best endurance runners though. U11 brother and sister Tom and Alexa Hunt ran a mile each on both days to contribute alongside Senior Sprinters like Dominic Bretherton (12.99k & 8.27K), Roxanne Oliver (10.20k) and Brandon Zinyemba – a sub 11 second 100m sprinter running 12.40k. U13’s Oliver Gill and Daniel Smith clocked up 12.07 each on the first day – some of the U15 Girls – Molly Nicholls, Leah Hoole and Eva Knowles ran 11.26k each, Mitzy Dewhurst weighed in with 2.7k – and they just kept coming in all distances from all age groups. Discus Thrower Sarah Henton ran 2.41k on Saturday to make her contribution to the total. Just too many to mention.
We were already getting a real sense that the Club was mobilised. Athletes wanted to run and contribute. The competitive spirit was alive and kicking as the target started to appear, not only achievable, but unbelievabley passed. At the end of Day 1 we have run a total 1466.13k WOW! We had exceeded our targeted distance of 1407k, not in two days, but in one day – in actual running time it was 14 hours starting at 7.00am with the last run coming in around 8.00pm that night.
How were we going to follow that? What about the athletes who were gearing up for a second run on Day 2 or those who had missed Day 1 and planned to make their contribution on Day 2?
One suggestion was that we might consider running to Athens – home of the Olympics. Another was – let’s turn around and run it straight back. The thought was that both were a bit too much to take on. So we ‘settled’ on an extra 846km and decided that we wouuld aim to ‘run home’ to Witton Park Arena in Blackburn. We announced it and said that was what we would aim for. Day 2 opened with Lindsay Davies running 11.28k and we were on our way. Have we set too stiff a target? Can we do this on the back of the enormous effort of Day 1? Would the athletes be as motivated after achieving so much in reaching our target in half the time? Astonishingly Tom Blaney ran a 2hr 52 Marathon on Sunday afternoon covering 42.26k!!.
With that run for inspiration, how could we fail? New member to the Club – U20 Charlie Parkinson then went and ran 58.32k which was mind boggling but as on Day 1, it wasn’t just about the big mileages, it was about the involvement, of everyone, no matter age or ability. U11 George Holman added another 2k to his first day run, U15 Kiera Booth ran 3k, U13 Lulu Sharp added another 2k, Helen Dawson-Smith clocking up 10.13k along with Judith Robinson adding 17.69k to her weekend total. V65 Evan Cook running 12.9k for a weekend total of 20.99kk, V65 George Woodburn adding 11.66k and V60 John Chaplin clocking up over 34k for the Days 1 and 2. Then there was Helen Leigh who has suffered immensely with injuries and hasn’t run for quite some time and fabulous to see her being able to do what she loves as she ran both days for a total of over 26k. The list just goes on and on as Sylvia and Harrison Allock completed their second runs of the weekend going up hill and had the last 100metres or so videod…..
We had no need to worry. The athletes rowed in, one after another and the kilometres mounted. The enthusiasm, mutual on line and social media cheering, clapping, encouragement, well done’s and solidarity with everyone’s efforts was compelling. By early afternoon, we had gone past Witton Park and we were thinking about how far we could run. Could we make it all the way back to Lands End after leaving John O’groats early that morning? Just before 4.00pm, unbelievably, we were just 116 kilometres away from doing it!! I got a phone call from one of our Endurance Coaches – Andrew Knowles – “should i go out and run again just to make sure“. That’s the kind of spirit that permeated through from the athletes and there desire.
BOOM – Jess Judd and Rob Warner with 27.70k each; BOOM – Joe Howe 27.72k; BOOM – Rachel Wood 20.90k; BOOM – Chris Davies 33.8k – we were home and dry. It is impossible to describe the feeling at that moment. Even though i contributed not one step to the journey, the athletes drew me in with their efforts, their commitment and their joy – exuded over those two days – even though i am sure, some of them just wanted to lie down once they had finished! The sheer feeling of achievement, to be part of something where everyone’s contribution is seen as vital to reaching the target, is what makes being a member of Blackburn Harriers so special – and i am sure that it is the same for other athletes and Clubs, when they do something like this.
Day 1 total distance covered was 1468.54 kilometres and on Day 2, the Team went even further clocking up 1676.03 kilometres. Just sensational. The total distance worked out at over 3140kilometres – equivalent to running the whole length of the country from Lands End to John O’groats, there and back with a 300 kilomtere cool down – or – running from Witton Park to Istanbul!!!
THE MAP OF THE WEEKEND
This is a list of everyone’s contributions and apologies in advance if anyone has been missed off and we don’t have photographs for everyone unfortunately.
U13 Boys Daniel Smith (12.07k), Oliver Gill (12.07k & 12.92k), Sam Craven (5.0k), Sam Aspey – Mid Lancs U11 Champion (9.73k & 3.29k), Daniel Bretherton (9.19k), Rheon Beveridge (11.25k & 14. 46k), Matthew Smith (10k & 7.07k), Matthew Haxton (10.00k), Jack Carrington (5.00k), Harry Sambrook (10.00k) and Harrison Fenton (4.84k) all made great contributions.
The U13 Girls were represented by Lulu Sharp (5.03k & 2k), Isabella Thompson (5.00k & 5.00k), Hannah Davies (11.26k), Niamh Gater (5.00k), Amelia Burton (8.00k & 9.40k), Imogen Robinson (9.07k) and Lily Croasdale (3.10k), who like the Boys, did themselves proud.
Our U11’s also rowed in adding to the Team’s total over the weekend with Mitzy Dewhurst (2.70k), George Holman (6.30k & 2.00k), Harry Craven (5.00k), Charlotte Smith (5.00k), Liam Benninson (4.85k), Theo Robinson (9.07k), Alex McKinlay (10.04k), Alexa & Tom Hunt (3.34k each).
The Harriers U15’s saw Kiera Booth run (5k & 3k), Molly Nicholls (11.26k & 10k), Eleanor Allsop (12.15k & 10k), Leah Hoole (11.26k &10k), Eva Knowles (11.26k & 10k), Dexta Thompson (10.01k), David Holman (10.01k & 13.71k), Stephen Alberts (17.75k & 17.66k), Codie Dewhurst (6.99k & 6.25k), Saul Sharp (5.03k & 5k), Kate Cookson (5.50k & 7.60k), Harrison Allcock (5.20k & 5.20k), Seb Burton (8.35k & 9.40k), Tilly Pollard (2k), Keira Haxton (10k), Hollie Cubbon (5k & 10k), Caroline Woodworth (5k), Millie Sambrook (10k), Ben Stratton (4.81k) and Rory Teare (4.90k).
Some great efforts by the U17′s too and none more so than Sam Hodkinson who ran 17.7k on Day 1 followed by 21.36 on Day 2 along with Jamie Teare (21.36), Poppy Preece who is a Pole Vaulter and High Jumper (8.41k), Amy Davies (11.58k), Ella Hardman (5.32k), Abby Stratton (11.60k), Eleesha Charnley (10k & 10k), Harry Wilkin (21.35k), Rebecca Ramsden (10k) and Millie Coy sprinter and Javelin athlete (5k).
Joe Gebbie led from the front on Day 1 for the U20’s running 17.70k on Saturday and then backing that up with 25.23k on Sunday with new member Charlie Parkinson running (5.34k & 8.38k on Day 1 – and on Day 2 ran an incredible distance of 58.32k), Esme Pearse – Hurdler and High Jumper (11k & 11k), Hannah Cookson (12.64k & 11k), Maddie Elliott with (10k & 10.51k), Nick Smith on Day 1 clocking 11.26k backed up by 25.70k on Day 2 and Freya Black (8.06k & 7.01k).
Senior Men — Dom Bretherton (12.99k & 8.27k) – Richard Taylor (7.5k) – Daniel Whittaker (10.47k) – Ben Costello (16.89k & 21.32k) – Paul Brindle (25.70k & 16.44k) – Michael Sharp (5k & 5k) – Andrew Knowles (11.26k & 7.49k) – Johnny Hoole (11.26k) – Jack Hindle (18.34k) – Andrew Payne (13.77k & 31.53k) – Ryan Bradshaw (13.51k & 24.14k) – John Orrell (17.86k) – Phil Craven (5k) – Mark Magee (8k & 24.14k) – Ian Clarkson (17.86k & 18.86k) – Karl Billington (16.09k & 19.31k) – Gary Pearse ( 11k & 11k) – James Marchant (12k & 16.47k) – John Cookson (12.64k & 7.6k) – Matt Poole (12.87k & 19.31k) – Evan Cook (8.09k & 12.09k) – David Smith (11.26k & 14.48k) – John Chaplin (17.70k & 16.33k) – Paul Wilkinson (11.53k) – Chris Davies ( 9.99k & 33.86k) – Mike Blacklidge (5k & 10k) – Danny Maynard (30k & 4k) – Jonny Murphy (57.96k & 6.43k) – Jonathan Bridge (15.14k & 19.08k) – Dom Walton (7.12k & 21.33k) – Ben Fish (40.53k & 40.28k) – Paul Guinan (12.87k & 12.87k) – Jacob Watson (18.08k & 24.20k) – Danny Teare (6.58k & 16.10k) – George Woodburn (11.66k) – John Horrocks (21.06k & 16.01k) – Tom Blaney ( 9.97k & 42.26k) – Calum Holmes (30.59k & 13.80k) – Simon Pollard (3.2k & 3.2K) – Joe Howe (19.50k * 27.72k) – Paul Bradshaw (9.97k & 17.95k) – Calvin Ferguson (7.90k & 11.84k) – Marc Hartley (12.89k & 25.45k) – Mark Almond (5.14k) – Tim Raynes (16.40k & 23.11k) – Rob Warner (22.53k & 27.70k) – Josh Holgate (14.48k & 21.35k) – Callum Davidson (13.13k & 27.84k) – Luke Betts (12k & 18k) – Bob Groves (2k) – Tony Greenwood (19.53k) – Mark Wilkin (21.35k) – Jack Buckingham (10.01k) – Chris Matthews (6.31k) – Brandon Zinyemba (12.40k) – Paulo Sousa (11.40k) – Russell Coy (6.92k) – Paul Smith (7.07k) – Matt Wood (14.60k).
Senior Women — Joanne Nelson (25.70 & 16.44k) – Jess Judd (22.53k & 27.70k) – Sabrina Dewhurst (9.2k & 6.25k) – Claire Alberts (17.75k & 17.66k) – Katie Buckingham (13.01k & 17.01k) – Jan Buckingham (14.01k & 16.67k) – Jenny McAndrew (11.44k & 8.46k) – Lorna Sharp (5.03k & 5k) – Helen Dawson-Smith (5k & 10.13k) – Sylvia Allcock (5.20k & 5.20k) – Rachael Gavin (13.67k) – Carmen Byrne (8.04k) – Emma Pearse (7.50k) – Cazz Elliott (5k) – Catherine Guinan (16.09k & 9.65k) – Michelle Teare (6.45k & 16.09k) – Polly Pearse (12.75k) – Helen Leigh (11.26k & 15k) – Judith Robinson (9.07k & 17.69k) – Janine Fallon (16.10k) – Nikki Hartley (5.96k & 6.45k) – Charlotte Atkinson (6.43k & 21.09k) – Christina Carr (5k) – Rebecca Woodworth (5k) – Roxanne Oliver (10.20k) – Vicky McKinlay (22.00k) – Alison Lundy (6.9k) – Claire Wilkin (8k) – Julie Coy (8k) – Annabel Ralph (26.01k) – Rachel Wood (12.90k & 20.90k) – Victoria Mousley (15.90k) and Lindsay Davies (12.87k & 13.71k)
A massive thankyou to Katie and Jan Buckingham for all of the work they did in putting this together with the final word goes to the Harriers John Orrell who planned an imagined every step in his contribution to the End-to-End Challenge “In my head we’d already covered over 800 miles and it was a blue sky sunshiney day. My leg was along part of The South West Coastal Path in Cornwall and I’d just picked up the baton in Carbis Bay. Running along the beach and up onto the headland I dropped down into St. Ives. It was low tide so I was able to run across Porthminster Beach, past Pedn Olva, dodge the fishing boats in the harbour, run around Smeaton’s Pier, across Porthgwidden Beach and up onto The Island. Passing the Coastguard Lookout Station I dropped down onto the surfers beach at Porthmeor, and after running along the edge of the waves it was back up onto the path and on towards Clodgy Point and southwest towards Zennor Head. A left turn brought me down into Zennor where I handed over the baton outside The Tinners Arms. A nice pint of Doom Bar was waiting for me there. Job done! Less than 20 miles to go. Go on Blackburn Harriers! Back in the real world. Its cool, a bit wet and windy and the only water I saw was in the River Darwen. 11.1 miles in 1.46.26″.