Grantham Running Club and their entourage of partners, pets and paracetamol poured into the grounds at the foot of Belvoir Castle for the fifth annual Equinox 24-hour endurance race on Saturday.
The race attracts a massive spectrum of participants who have the opportunity to run as few or as many 10km laps as they can in a relay as part of a team, a pair or solo. The field is diverse and so is the pace.
Shortly before 12 noon, GRC’s green army made the procession from their camp to the start line. Among them a Forrest Gump doppelganger and a rather butch looking Wonder Woman, Paul Durham, who was part of the team ‘Nathan’s Runners and Walkers’. The team had an emotional return for their second year, tragically with one very special member missing – Nathan Walker.
Dedicating each of their laps to their much loved team-mate, each of them wore a cape with the hashtag #runbymyside in Nathan’s memory. Ahead of their half marathon in Nottingham the following morning, Nathan’s parents, CJ and Ady made a special visit to the camp and the run family spirit of the club was palpable.
Adding to the magic of the weekend was the kindness of the weather and the stunning sunset over the Vale of Belvoir, whilst the howling Belvoir hounds and swirling mist at dawn was goosebump-inducing as runners finally dimmed their head torches after bobbing, regimentally along like a parade of fireflies.
By morning the camp had leapt back to life although some runners had already retired and collected their medals. With the cut-off for the beginning of the last lap being 12 noon, GRC we kept on moving forward, be that, running, walking or crawling.
Paul and Caroline Davis narrowly missed out on a podium place in the pairs, despite Paul’s screaming knee pain. SJ Willis, aka Forrest Gump, topped last year’s ten laps with help from her pit crew, totalling almost 75 miles.
SJ commented: “I couldn’t have done it without the support of my partner, family and the club. I was so tired at one point in the night that I took a wrong turn after a stop at a portaloo but didn’t realise until I’d run a hundred metres in the wrong direction. Then I had to explain to the marshals that I wasn’t cheating, just delirious and disorientated!”
Andrew McAllister, inspired by Thunder Run earlier in the summer, completed a heroic 15 laps, earning himself the coveted silver pin. His running watch and gadgets had all run out of charge by his last lap but Andrew’s legs, however, had not.
Nicholas Jones, part of ‘Nathan’s Runners and Walkers’, found his second wind and steamed around the course after team-mates had, in his words “emotionally blackmailed” him into getting back before noon so they could walk a final lap together.
Heroine of the weekend went to Holly Durham. Supported by sister Penny Hodges and father Paul Durham, Holly overcame an upset stomach and knee injuries to produce a truly epic and inspiring distance of 99 miles.
Topping last year’s 15 laps with 16, Holly said she had hoped to reach 17 laps to pass 100 miles. She said: “Maybe I’ll have 17 laps in me next year!”