Toby tales 2018
I’ve been a Wallsend Harrier for over eight years now but, due to babies, job etc, this was my first full Toby. I’ve had a taster but not endured the epic three-day journey with all its aches, laughs, drama and animal encounters. It’s been a long time coming but boy was it worth it…
A gallant and determined band of 18 green and golds congregated outside Asda, Benton, on the morning of Friday, August 17th. Well 17 until Dave H was rudely awoken by Kev (after minimal broken sleep courtesy of the gorgeous, newly born Thea) and scrambled frantically to pack and reach us before the minibus was on its way. A quick pit stop just off the A1 to pick up Anna (who had been holidaying up in Beadnell) and we were well on our way to our starting point, the majestic heights of Edinburgh Castle. Yes, this year we were heading from top to bottom, Edinburgh to Tynemouth, and the beautiful sights and castles in between.
This is the 11th Toby and so far all those wonderful people who have taken part have raised over £35,000 for St Oswald’s Hospice. There’s no sign of it stopping anytime soon. The route this year was 188 miles long. It’s covered in relay legs, so usually two to four people do a leg of approx. 6 miles (ahem) and then hand over the sweaty, I mean sacred, stone to the next team, complete with a carefully planned victory dance (this was the year of the ‘Fortnight’ dance).
At 11.30am (after a quick photocall outside the castle) Kev, Sarah Lynch, Julie C and Jackie started us off on first leg. It was pretty windy up in that there bonny Scotland but they were off with smiles on their faces. And it was a great start, with the intrepid team coming in with the first £20 donation of the weekend from a kind soul from Portobello Harriers.
I was on leg four so had a canny wait in the minibus. Enough time to be initiated into the Toby bus way of things: plenty of banter and mars bar cake (I’ll leave it at that).
From Carrington Mill to Dewar was no mean feat, with plenty of hills, wind, manure and at one point a friendly sheep, who seemed intent on gaining some glory for his contribution to that particular leg.
As the clouds and drizzle descended, the next few teams were plunged into the depths of a dramatic valley, with vast expanses of rolling hills, it really was a sight to behold, but brutal for some who were head first into squalling winds.
With some time to make up things got a little panicky. Poor Anna and Mick ended up with a couple of extra miles on their leg and I had my second animal encounter, this time an actual brush with a badger!
Then my Toby comrade Alan and I navigated some off-road trails to eventually find our way to the final stop of the day, the George Hotel in Melrose, not the Melrose Inn (which apparently, according to residents, doesn’t exist. Not that we were panicking or anything). What a wonderful sight it was to behold. Well it was, until Jackie careered the minibus into it (almost just kidding)!
It was straight into the restaurant for pie and potatoes, then showers and maybe a Tequila or two before educating Anna in the back catalogue of Victoria Wood and off to bed ready for an early start.
Up bright and early for brekkie at 7am, we wolfed down porridge and toast before departing the lovely Melrose and setting off for Clintmains. I was top to toe in new kit and raring to go for leg two with the wonderful Christine, Julie C and poor Dave Hall, who was given a proper grilling by yours truly (never run too far with a former journo). Fortunately it was just rabbits making an appearance this time and they kept their distance.
The weather was much kinder to us. It was overcast, warm with a light breeze. Perfick.
We were back on track schedule wise (although the minibus appeared to be running on will power alone!) so there was much more time for half-way pit-stop supporting, some questionable camera poses and a flossing masterclass.
By lunchtime we had made it to the border, which was such an exhilarating sight. All I needed now was a brew and who should come along but my knight in shining armour, Bill and his fair maiden Catherine to grant my wish. How I love that pair, who gave everyone a much-needed boost with their presence. When Anna was flagging they whisked her off for a full on food fest, which she later regretted when taking on her last leg of the day. Luckily hubby Jezza and the kids popped up outside Seahouses just in time and to cheer us all on.
That evening we also had some welcome bike support from superman Joe Collins, who joined us ahead of his triathlon in Bamburgh the following morning. Thank-you Joe!
We ran into Seahouses just in time for a feast of fish and chips, which we ate outside our bunkhouse with a kindly donated bottle of Jaegermeister (thank-you Bell Bunk Barn and Farm, Belford) and a crate of beer (thank-you John Dory’s Fish and Chips, who also donated £30 to our mission). With full tummies, a few more tequilas and a quality round of Guess the Intro (aced by DJ Mick Skeldon) it was off to our bunkbeds. The night was accompanied by a soundtrack of wolf-whistling birds, duck calls and what sounded like a bush-tucker trial from I’m A Celebrity. Let’s just say Julie W was not taking any chances, taking to her bunk in balaclava and pj bottoms tucked into her socks.
I was elated to be on first leg for the final day. I was chomping at the bit to get started and desperate to see my babies. Alan H tricked Dave H and I into a sprint finish, proving everyone still had a bit of oomph left. I laughed so much as I tried to keep up, my legs felt like they were going to fall off.
I finally got a leg with my regular running buddy Anna, who managed to piggyback me to the end for our grand finale. She’s a tough lass that one.
I was close to tears as we came into Blyth. I couldn’t believe we were finally on the home straight. And to see our fellow Green and Golds turn out to meet us was just the boost we needed. Even the juniors joined in as we took on the final, familiar stretch along our glorious coastline and down to Tynemouth marina.
It really was a fantastic experience and it couldn’t have come at a better time. We ran, chatted, laughed and, most importantly, raised a lot of money for a wonderful charity, one very close to our hearts.
Thank-you so much to Kev and Dave Collinson for organising, Bill and Catherine for their encouragement (and tea) over the weekend, my fellow Toby runners and everyone who supported us in some way. If you haven’t done it yet, I urge you to sign up. You won’t regret it.