THE LONGEST DAY (SO FAR!)
The first 6 days of The Great Rugger Run had seen me run 120 miles! Day Seven was a rest day and Day Eight was a barely noticeable 7-miler. All this led to Day Nine, with the scheduled 28 miles making it the longest day so far…
Nerves were stirring in my stomach as I woke and prepared. I was feeling relatively fresh but I knew that would not be the case come the evening. Mike Hart arrived from Ivybridge to pick up my bag and I walked the couple of miles back through Plymouth to Brickfields where I had been informed someone would meet me to show me around.
I have many fond memories of rugby in Plymouth. I played one of my very first senior games at their former ground for Cheltenham RFC as a youngster and latterly played there for Esher a number of times. Mark Mears was the man thrust into my spotlight and he did a wonderful job of telling the stories of the club both past and present.
I left Albion with a huge smile on my face. I feared that I wasn’t going to be able to meet anyone there, so to have Mark be such a brilliant ambassador for the club was extremely pleasing. The run to Plympton Victoria was around seven miles. Back through town, then across the River Plym before hitting a left turn and climbing the hill up to Hardwick Wood. The contrast of town, river and woods was pleasing to my inquisitive soul. But more interesting things were upcoming…
As I broke through the woods at the top of the hill a beautiful valley spread out before me. Nestled perfectly in that valley was Plympton Victoria RFC. I bounded down the grassy slope to go meet some of their members. On the way, I saw a man with a pet owl perched on his shoulder and took a call from my man at Totnes who had some thoroughly exciting news, but more on that later…
Plympton Victoria is currently a one-team club. Proper grassroots. I just loved meeting the guys who told me all about their club, themselves and their hopes for the future. I found it enjoyable and inspirational to hear about how they are engaging with their community and providing access to rugby for local youngsters. Here’s my chat with Kevin Jefferies and Chris Hunt.
I loved hanging out with Kevin and Chris but there was still some 20+ miles to go.
The run to Ivybridge was not smooth sailing. It started with a wet bum. No, not sweat from the exertion on a warm day, it was definitely wet, and slightly cold. It took a while for the penny to drop. The hydration bladder in my backpack had burst and was slowly seeping down my posterior cleavage.
As all athletes know, hydration is key so this was a bit of a gut-punch. However, very soon it would not just be my bum that was wet. As I approached Lee Mill Bridge the mood of the day rapidly changed. From bright and sunny to overcast in a matter of moments. Then rain. Torrential, flash flood-type rain. Thankfully, I love running in the rain so I just ploughed on, but it was so heavy that I did consider stopping for safety reasons – visibility was extremely poor. However, the gloom cleared as quickly as it arrived and I soon found myself plodding into lovely Ivybridge RFC.
I reconvened with Mike, who had picked up my bag this morning, along with Club President, Alan Knight, who would drive it onwards to Totnes. These two lovely gents were wonderful company, showing me around their stunning clubhouse and grounds. Their plans for future expansion are impressive and I was really touched by Alan’s delight about how the club he co-founded had become a close community.
These video tours, streamed LIVE on Facebook had initially been a difficult task for me. It took plenty of positive self-chat to press record and run the show. I was interviewer, cameraman and director all in one. That’s a lot to be thinking about. But as the days passed things became easier, more comfortable and familiar and they had now become an absolute joy.
I don’t remember much about the 11 miles to Totnes. I think I just zoned out. It can happen sometimes. It wasn’t quite a runner’s high, but when your body is working well and you don’t have to think about putting one foot in front of the other running can almost become meditative.
My zen was shattered as I entered Totnes town centre. A chap leaned out of his van window and yelled “Oi, mate. Are you looking for the rugby club?” It seemed my arrival was known. He started pointing in the direction of Totnes RFC and I waved my phone at him to indicate I knew where I was headed. We both grinned and went on our ways. My bright orange shirt was definitely a good idea!
Totnes RFC, at the end of a 28-mile run, was a wonderfully warm and welcoming place, a real family club and it was Mike and Lorraine Edmonds who showed me around. I was given free access to as many bar snacks as I could eat and plenty of fluids which my body rapidly absorbed. My batteries were low and we decided that recording the video tour would be a better idea in the morning after I’d had a good night’s sleep.
Remember that phone call I took just before Plympton? Well, that was from Mark Hooper who was informing me they’d arranged a ‘sponsored’ night’s stay at the best hotel in Totnes on my behalf! Wow, I was just stunned. What incredible kindness from all involved. I’d gone from a mattress in an empty flat to plush hotel luxury in 24 hours. What a ride this was turning out to be…