The highest of highs to the lowest of lows
Typically, I get up early, throw a coffee down my neck and get running. Not today. Today I was in the lap of luxury and I wouldn’t be leaving until I absolutely had to. My night at the Royal Seven Stars in Totnes had been a wonderful and an extremely welcome pause from the ongoing exhaustion of The Great Rugger Run. Oh, and there was a lip-smacking free breakfast too…
Eventually, I was prised from my room and took to the quirky streets of Totnes in search of a new hydration bladder. If you have a spare afternoon, then you could do a lot worse than to spend it exploring the labyrinth of kooky, kitsch shops in Totnes. Amongst those shops was also a Mountain Warehouse where I found a new hydration bladder – fantastic! So far, everything was going to plan.
I headed back to Totnes RFC to meet up with the lovely Mike and Lorraine Edmonds. I’m not sure if my mood could have been any better. I was well-rested, well-fed and I got to record this awesome video with Mike (and you can spot Lorraine too!)
I left my big bag with Mike and Lorraine and prepared to leave. A quick glance out of the window revealed a stormy scene. Was it worth delaying my start a little? Probably not, the rain was due in heavy bursts all day. As I zipped up my jacket and stepped outside the deluge stopped and the sun even tried to peak through the clouds to see me take off on Day 10. Could this day get any better?
Yes, it could. I was not five minutes along the road when I got a call from Tom Rawlings (brother of Mike from Wadebridge). Tom works as a coach at Exeter Chiefs and he had paved the way for me to visit Sandy Park. Not only that, he’d arranged for me to watch a squad training session with potentially some photo opportunities afterwards. I mean, just wow.
With the sun on my back, well-rested, well-fed, and with good vibes bouncing around all over the place, I bounded out of Totnes and hit the road to Paignton. Then my luck changed…
HERE COME THE LOWS
The A385 is not a good road for running. In fact, it’s extremely hazardous. Narrow, with high verges and a lot of fast-moving, often large vehicles made me stop and seriously question what I was doing. I found a safe spot and checked my map. There appeared to be no other way; no footpaths, no detours. Aside from going field to field, which has its own hazards, this was it.
I often get into a zen-like state when running. This part of the run was anything but. It was more akin to the feeling of running away from a large predator (I would imagine, I’ve never actually done that). With full focus, I took to the road. When it was clear I would run as fast as my slow-twitch fibres would allow me. As soon as I saw traffic approaching I would start eyeing up ‘safe spots’, where I could get myself up and away from the road. Sometimes there were field entrances, sometimes on a verge and once or twice I just had to launch myself into a roadside bush. Then the heavens opened.
What was once hazardous was now damn right terrifying. Visibility was poor, verges were sodden and I was getting soaked through from road spray as well as from above. There was no way out. I took my time and made sure every decision was a strong one, gradually making my way from ‘safe spot’ to ‘safe spot’ along the road. I’ve never been more grateful to see a pavement than the one I leapt onto just outside Paignton.
As I squelched into Paignton town centre I considered whether it always rained here. I’d only been once before and the downpours were biblical on that day too. Check out my video with Paignton DoR Richard Hunt where we discuss my previous visit among many other things…
I’d spent an hour in the warmth and dry of the Paignton RFC clubhouse but I was still completely soaked through. Fortunately, the rain paused to refill its tanks as I headed along the coast to Torquay. This allowed me to warm up and dry out. Briefly. It then hammered down once more.
I sat in the stand at Torquay RFC, ate some snacks, sucked down some fluids and reminisced about the last time I had played there which you can read about in this Instagram post. As my thoughts returned to the present, I realised that I had started to shiver. I’d been wet for some time and the cold had seeped into me. I wandered along the seafront to find a warm cafe for refuge and to consider my next steps.
There was a problem, though. My next steps were tough to decide when I had no viable options. I had been in contact with people at New Cross RFC and Newton Abbott RFC, both of whom were trying to find me accommodation in the area. However, it was now mid-afternoon and time was getting short. My initial plan was to run to Newton Abbott that afternoon, but if I needed to find a last-minute hotel, then that was much more likely to be possible here in touristy Torquay. There were no right answers.
I did the only thing that I thought was sensible and waited. The weather outside, if anything, had gotten worse. I sat by the window with a hearty plate of food and watched the rain stream down the glass. People strained by outside desperately grasping umbrellas that seemed intent on flight. With nowhere lined up to sleep this evening, soaked through and cold, I’m not ashamed to say that for the first time I questioned what the hell I was doing.
Then the phone calls and messages started coming. First from Newton Abbott to let me know that their training that evening had been cancelled and there would be no one at the ground for me to meet. Then a very similar message from New Cross. I started making a shortlist of hotels here in Torquay and let Mike Edmonds know that I would like to have my bag dropped off here instead of Newton Abbott, please and thank you.
Mike and Lorraine arrived a short while after and I braved the monsoon to grab my bag from them and thank them profusely for everything they did. I tried to get a photo of every interaction, but even in their full waterproof gear, I could tell they just wanted to get back in their car and out of the squall. I was now soaked through once more.
Seeing Mike and Lorraine had briefly lifted my spirits, but now I had to make a decision. I whittled down my shortlist of hotels, checked availability, then…. Hang on…. ‘Joey Milburn calling…’. Joey was my man at New Cross, so I answered immediately. “Hey Tim, want to stay at my place tonight in Newton Abbott?”
Out of the blue, Joey had saved the day. And then some. You can read about it here. And you can hear more about it in this podcast we recorded.
It had been a day of remarkable highs and lows, but I’d survived, and I was still going strong!