This was Wallsend Harriers’ 12th Toby run for St Oswald’s Hospice. It was my third and it was great to see some of our newer members take on the challenge and, might I add, completely nail it!
It’s a great way to get to know fellow green and gold members more, take in spectacular views, push yourself and of course, raise money for a charity very close to our hearts.
This year we took on the 173 mile Reivers route, which starts at Whitehaven on the other side of the Lake District and finishes at the usual spot – Tynemouth. We somehow ended up at the Scottish border and also took in the glorious Kielder Water (quite literally by some of the team).
We may have got off to a very soggy, windy start but for the two days that followed we could not have asked for better weather.
For those of you not familiar with the Toby, we set off in two vans: one is a minibus for all the runners and another is for everyone’s luggage, water, food supplies and bikes. We drive to the start and then a team of at least three runners set off on the first leg (approx. 6 miles each). We meet them at the end of the leg and usually along the way for moral support (depending on how accessible it is for the vans). There is usually a dramatic and amusing finale from the runners (these have included twerking, flossing, I’ll leave your imagine to the rest) before handing over the sacred Toby stone to the next group. There is a minimum of two legs for everyone on each day but you can do more if you feel able. There’s usually about 9-12 legs on each of the three days. On the last leg of the last day lots of other Harriers who weren’t able to join us for the whole weekend come along and run it with us, which is a real highlight and a fantastic atmosphere.
So this year it was a different Dave’s turn to be late, new recruit Dave Diston. Luckily Kev was completely chilled about it (ha ha). We set off in the vans from Asda car park at about 7.45am. It was grim weather but spirits were high, especially after a quick stop off at Gregg’s. We arrived at Whitehaven at 11amish (we definitely didn’t get lost). The weather had got worse and a big group set off in torrential rain and 40mph winds. You certainly wouldn’t have been wanting to run for more than six miles in that, except they did as the first leg ended up at about 8.5 miles. Doh!
I was on leg two with Barry, Alan and Jitka. By this time the rain was now just a light drizzle and we had some lovely views, chat and Barry jokes along the way. Dave Collinson had the first bit of bother with the bike but we arrived safely after 3.5 miles (thanks to the first group) so I decided to carry on with leg three and top up my miles.
We arrived in Carlise at about 8pm. The last leg of the day had a shocker as the heavens opened again. There was no time or in fact anywhere for a sit down, hot meal so we showered and descended onto the local, dodgy pizza outlet. Let’s just say Dave D was regretting his hot and spicy toppings the following day. Rob literally couldn’t keep his eyes open in the bar later.
The sun was out! Hooray! This called for a blasting of Barry Manilow in the bus, much to Sam’s delight (she’s now a converted Manilow fan). And more fun and excitement arrived as our own ray of sunshine Jen joined us with fresh legs and a 12-course meal the night before to fuel her up for a day of running. So while she joined ‘team extreme’ (Joe, Sam, Neil and Dave D) for the hardest leg of the weekend (10.5 miles of hills) the rest of us found a lovely little café and caffeined up on tea and coffee and perhaps a cake or two.
Before we knew it we had arrived at beautiful Kielder (thankfully midge free). Several of the team refreshed their legs in the cool lake whilst Dave D was just thankful for a proper toilet!
Then it was onto Bellingham and a rather lovely bunkhouse (albeit slightly low on showers) and an actual proper cooked dinner in the nearby pub, a welcome sight indeed. Then it was showers, massages (courtesy of Rob’s electronic aids, I’ll say no more) and tequila shots before bedtime (apparently that’s exactly what Mo Farah does the night before a marathon). Not forgetting the annual, wholly inappropriate showing of Kev’s new pants. This year’s theme was denim and I’ll leave the rest to your imagination (sorry).
We were a little sleep deprived and perhaps a tad alcohol infused but it was Sunday and we were heading home! After a quick game of ‘hide the van’ and the arrival of the lovely Anna we were all set to go. I was on first leg with Dave H, Jen super legs, Alan, Daryl and Dave (now fully recovered) D. Little did I know it was to be a 5 mile hill! Dave H proved another shot of tequila en route (I kid you not) was all he needed to get up those inclines and Jen was clinging onto the thought of dry Frosties straight from the box! It was a stunning but tough leg and our Oscar-winning finale was sadly all in vein as no bugger was even watching when we re-enacted a scene that could have come straight from Casualty. As the village and town names because more and more familiar there was an excitement tinged with sadness that it was all drawing to a close for another year.
Another 7 mile leg with team extreme nearly finished me off and I honestly didn’t think I was going to finish that last leg from Shiremoor to Tynemouth. But then they arrived in their droves. A fresh army of green and golds ready to get us through to the bitter but sweet end. The sight of my little ones with a mile to go was more than I could take and the tears poured down. It’s such an emotional weekend, knowing what we’ve achieved, the friendships and memories we’ve made and the reason we do all this year on year, for those loved, lost and cared for by the wonderful staff at St. Oswald’s.
Thanks to everyone who took part and supported us, no matter how far you ran or how many pounds you raised or donated. I must give absolute credit to our newbies though, with Jen clocking up 50+ miles over two days, Keith at 50+, Joe over 60 and Sam and Dave over 70!!! A phenomenal effort.
A special thanks to Kev and Dave C for the epic job of organising and keeping us in check.
This year we have collectively raised more than £4,000 and still counting (smashing our target), which brings our Toby total from the past 12 years to around £40,000. An amazing achievement.
If you haven’t bitten the Toby bullet yet, I’d strongly recommend it.