Sunday, 26 April 2009

We did it!


Only, now it’s not a training blog anymore, but the real McCoy. Well, I wasn’t disappointed – it was just as awful as I’d expected.

Starting with Mr. Plod closing all the roads in London before seven-thirty AM, so we had to get the train. Carrying the donkey heads.

People thought we were going to some abattoir training session.

Then, after getting kitted out in Greenwich Park, it took us nearly three-quarters of an hour to shuffle across the startline. I was knackered before we even got going.

And it’s pretty dull stuff, because I was so slow, everyone had gone off to the pub by the time I got there, and all you can see, wearing all that junk, is just a little square of tarmac - covered with empty water bottles.

Apparently, we passed the Cutty Sark, Tower Bridge, Canary Wharf, Buckingham Palace – me, I saw nothing, just a million plastic bottles.

And let’s just not mention the problems of trying to go to the loo. The Portaloos are not designed for Pack Donkeys. Then at about mile seven, the whole lot fell apart. Nightmare. I had aluminium rods poking into my neck, and all the weight on my head while hips and bum were trailing in the road.

I really thought that was it. The end. Then my daughter’s husband, who happens to be an engineer hove in sight, and with just a bit of pulling and shoving, tying and fixing, sorted it all out.

Then it was just a matter of slogging on. Of course the other two donkeys, aka Simon and Peter were off like whippets – but then I had been chosen especially as being old and worn-out, to represent the worn-out, knackered, geriatric donkeys of Africa and the Third World. A role I was able to take on with no acting ability whatsoever.

Naturally, the BBC weather forecast was totally wrong – overcast with light rain – actually it became the hottest day this year, with a blazing sun on us for the whole run.

But at least that brought out the crowds. A million people on the streets. By about two o’clock, half of them were ratted, and being England, it brought out the best and the worst from people. Lots of people cheering and shouting encouragement – and a few making dodgy jokes about donkey anatomy.

Fortunately Team SPANA realised how knackered I really was, and secretly a group was organised to walk alongside me, beating me with whips and sticks, just like the real thing, whenever I seemed to falter. Actually, they relented occasionally, and gave me drinks of Lucozade and such. But I never ever want to see another blinking Tracker Bar in my life.

What they didn’t realise was that I had secreted away inside the donkey neck a large bottle of gin and tonic – the only thing that really kept me going. Then comes “the Wall”. (Some of you might remember the Jasper Carrot bit about it.) This hits home about eighteen/nineteen miles, when you’re absolutely shattered, and you know you’ve still got miles and miles to go. And you realise how bloody stupid you are to be doing it at all.

Then, after Tower Bridge, the second time, you can just see Big Ben in the distance, and you start to think, ‘I might just make it, after all’. Reeling and staggering, I finally crossed the finishing line in a sizzling, personal best time of ten hours, twelve minutes, five times longer than the winning runner (2hrs05mins). Sores on the sores, blisters on blisters. But, like banging your head against the wall, it’s just great when you stop.

Last thing, and a bit spooky, really:

I had a much loved Uncle, who was killed in the First World War. He had been a marathon runner, and I still have a silver cup he won for it. I imagine he has been looking down at my efforts, and shaking his head sadly.

He was killed in action near Ypres.

On April 26th.

Jeremy Hulme

4 comments:

Christine Jenner said...

Well done to all of you. What a brilliant effort! Lots more people will know about SPANA now. Thank you on behalf of all you supporters who aren't brave or fit enough to do it.

Liz and Dave Barrett said...

My husband and I think your Uncle would have been incredibly proud of you as we are too. In fact my husband is in awe. Annoyingly we saw nothing about this until a friend mentioned it and cannot understand why it hasn't been constantly publicised by the media in general. You're a hero!

Anonymous said...

I think that the writer of these adventures seems to indulge themselves too much. The reasons for travel are not entirely convincing. What proportion of resources actually goes into helping the animals? Why simply encourage people to continue using the poor creatures, when alternatives could be funded?

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