Written by Neil Turnbull - https://thefarsideofbeyond.wordpress.com
My plan was to start the journey at Alderbury Police Station – the most southern Police Station in Wiltshire. I would then run in the general direction of northwards, as I zig zagged my way accross the county and visited every Police Station in Wiltshire. The distance I would cover would be a minimum of 172 miles and I aimed to do this over the 7 day period of 05 Nov to 11 Nov 2014. The real challenge wasn’t the total overall distance. The real challenge was getting up every day for 7 days and running anything from 25 to 35 miles each day. Once I had reached the final destination at Royal Wootton Bassett Police Station, I would then lay a wreath at the Rememberance Day service being held at the War Memorial by The Royal British Legion. A simple plan.
Pre event training went well, and I managed to only sustain one minor knee injury throughout all the training miles I logged. I also took part in the Salisbury 54321 Ultra (50K) as part of my training regime. This was a fun day out amongst like minded idiots – much better than slogging out silly miles by my lonesome – see the Events Page for a report.
I entered into talks with a local company – Prosec Consultancy regarding corporate sponsorship. Once again this felt very apt as they are the preffered choice of training providers to the MOD in respect of miltary personnel leaving the Armed Forces. I spoke to Andy and Brian from the company and they came up trumps for me. They purchased all the equipment and clothing that I requested, as well as providing me with a support vehicle and driver – Kieren – for the duration of the event. My work colleague Gav also agreed to follow me around the Wiltshire countryside for the week……..support crew sorted. I also secured free accommodation, evening meals & breakfasts from several hotels on route. Everything was in place now. Red light. Green light. Go!
Day 1 – Alderbury to Tidworth
Nov 5th quickly arrived and set off from Alderbury Police Station on what turned out to be a glorious day weather wise. I made my way to Bourne Hill, Salisbury, somewhat quicker than I had anticipated and pushed straight off and onto Wilton. Everything was plain sailing and ahead of schedule as I arrived at Wilton (is this the smallest Police Station in the world?). Once again I didn’t linger and after a quick mouthful of flapjack (courtesy of Mrs Gav) and an application of Vaseline (I forgot earlier in my haste to get started) I ventured off towards Amesbury. A bit of a fast ball then presented itself in the shape of one section of the planned route for this leg actually being a private road. None the less an alternative (and longer!!) route was quickly worked out and off I set again. Approximately 5 miles up the road I saw a burger van and instantly had to have one. A quick word with Gav and Kieren to place my order and 30 mins later I was happily munching on a big fat beef burger as I plodded through Bulford. Happy days! I reached Amesbury, refilled my water bottles, ate a bag of beef jerkey, and plowed on with the last leg of the day. It was on this leg that I started to feel the efforts of my quicker than expected start (school boy error – I REALLY should of known better!!). Both my calf muscles were cramping up and my groin began to display it’s random and sudden tendency to shoot electric bolts into my nether region. Combined they managed to slow my pace towards Tidworth somewhat. But reach Tidworth I did some 29.33 miles and 5 hours 53 mins after I started. We then jumped into the support van and headed off to The Royal Tank Regiment who accommodated us in the WO & Sgts Mess.
Day 2 – Tidworth to Tisbury
I awoke with a pain in my left foot and a large bruise covering the top of the foot and the shin on my left leg. I was to later discover that this bruise was not infact a bruise at all…….. but something more sinister! Seperate to that issue I had sustained an injury to my right knee (Medial Cruciate Ligament strain) during the training process, and upon the doctors advise had been wearing a knee brace on that leg during exercise. As I set off from Tidworth I had travelled no more than 20 metres when I began questioning the ongoing wisdom of continuing to wear the brace. It was annoying, it rubbed, it was sooooo sweaty underneath it, and I wasn’t actually fully convinced of it’s benefit. Needless to say the brace came off later that day, I haven’t worn it again since, and I haven’t had any reoccurences of issues with that knee. Of more concern to me was the pain in the top of my left foot and left shin. From the get go it slowed me down somewhat. I struggled for the entire day to find any respite from the increasingly growing pain in that foot and leg. It began to rain in the afternoon (which only added to my feeling sorry for myself – poor me eh!!) and I eventually reached Tisbury in the dark after 30.95 miles.
Day 3 – Tisbury to Westbury
It was quite apparent by now that my “bruise” was growing – and spreading! It had not only travelled further up my left shin but had also jumped legs too as I now had another bruise on the right foot and shin. Never the less I set off from Tisbury and slowly (pain induced pace) headed towards Mere. The journey was a very stop/start like affair, and upon arriving in the town I made my way to the chemist prior to getting to the police station. I bought the strongest painkillers I could without a prescription and vowed to “dose myself up and continue”. A quick coffee, pain killers administered and I left Mere Police Station and ventured forward towards Warminster. This particular stretch was crippling for me and my support crew were now beginning to question my ability to continue. I had a very serious conversation with Gav in which he was advocating taking me straight to a doctor. I won that particular sabre rattling session and continued on my not-so-merry way. Along this route many of my work colleagues from the Warminster Sector Neighbourhood Policing Team came out to cheer me on. It was a real lift for my spirits (the first of several defining moments for me).I arrived at Warminster Police Station, stopped for photos and a hand shake with my Inspector, and immedietly set of for my last destination of the day – Westbury. This leg could of (and should of) weaved it’s way via the village of Upton Scudmore, however I was in so much discomfort that I elected to take the shorter-by -several-miles route along the A350. I arrived in Westbury, still later than originally planned, and was met by my supportive spouse to be Donna. Another 32.48 miles under my belt for the day. I stayed at home that night and Gav spent the night as my guest. I was still in denial regarding the concerns that others had for the state of both my legs and feet – they were both swollen, the left more than the right. The skin was stretched and exceptionally tight, and incredibly painfull to touch. My “bruising” had also crept further up my legs. After a chinese takeway for dinner I was berated with requests from both Donna and Gav to see a doctor. I eventually relinquished and Gav took me to see a doc at Shepton Mallet Hospital. I explained to the doc what I was in the process of attempting, and as luck would have it, he was also a runner himself. He looked at both my legs and quickly diagnosed a skin infection – Cellulitis. He drew with a green felt tip pen around the bruising (which I now knew wasn’t bruising at all – he informed me it was the wrong colour – it was the infection itself), and told me if it gets any bigger to go back and see a doc again. He also gave me a mountain of Penicillin to take and I left happy with the fact that (A) he hadn’t stopped me from continuing, and (B) I now had medication that would make be better…………..right?
Day 4 – Westbury to Devizes
I set off from Westbury, still in a lot of pain, but none the less feeling optimistic after the previous evenings visit to the doc. My step daughter Megan accompanied me for this leg and together we slowly made our way in the pouring rain until we arrived in Trowbridge. Megan and I parted company as I left Trowbridge Police Station but I had only travelled about a mile when Meg and Donna drove past me. The car stopped, Meg got out and said to me “I can’t leave you to run on your own so I will run a bit further with you” (next defining moment!). We plodded on (it REALLY was a plod due to the pain constantly shooting through both my feet and legs) until we arrived in Bradford-on-Avon. At this point a lady came up to me and said “Here is a fiver – I saw you both running along the common and am glad I found you here. Keep going”. I was also met by Donna again (another defining moment) who made sure I had a hot drink and a bite to eat before I set off for Melksham. I eventually arrived in Melksham after what seemed like a lifetime, the obligitory photo was taken, and I proceeded onwards with the speed of a youg gazelle (not!!!!) towards Devizes. I have very litle recollection of this leg beyond the memory of intense pain with each and every step. I remember climbing up a big hill as we arrived in Devizes and being glad that the day was over This had been the longest day, not in distance – it had only been 27.09 miles, but in the length of time it had taken me – 9 hours and 5 mins!!. I shared a room that night with both Gav and Kieren at The Bear Hotel in Devizes. I learnt from that night to never ever share a room with any future support crew again. The reason for this nuggett of wisdom – Kieren’s non stop snoring successfully managed to keep me awake all night!
Day 5 – Devizes to Calne
Prior to getting under way I was met outside of Devizes Police Station by my daughter Stacey and her Fiance Jon, who were both going to run with me for the day. They weren’t meant to be meeting up with me until the last day, but after several conversations over the phone with Donna they all felt that I could do with a bit of lift (defining moment again).
Despite the sunshine it was a bitter cold morning as the three of set off on our way to Pewsey. I was in the worst pain that I had been in all week and even just walking was a struggle for me. On the few occassions that I did run I could only manage about 50 metres before I had to stop and walk again. We continued on with this Death March until just short of 11am. Today was Sun 9 Nov and as such was Rememberance Sunday. Myself, Stacey, Jon, Gav, and Kieren, gathered ourselves into a huddle in a field next to the road, and observed a 2 min silence at precisely 11am. It was all very surreal the say the least.
We plodded on (plod is actually an inaccurate description of the pace I was managing – plod is way too fast) and as such we were making atrocious time – I was struggling and it was apparent to everyone around me. Gav and Donna (via phone) were attempting to arrange a visit from a doc to assess my Cellulitis. The pain and swelling in both my feet and legs had reduced me to a highly innefective shuffle that meant after 3 hrs 35 mins I had managed the grand distance of only 8.76 miles. We stopped at Pewsey for a coffee and as a team made the decision to call it a day – for that day at least.
We made our way, in the support vehicle I will add, to The White Hart Inn in Calne which was the location of our overnight accomodation for the evening. I was joined at the hotel by Donna and Summer (our youngest of 6 years) and a plan was set to have a meal before I went off to see the doc again. In my head the doc would then give me a magic pill to take. This magic cure would instantly and immedietly reduce all the swelling and completely eradicate any and all of the pain in both of my feet and legs. This in turn would enable me to continue with the run the following morning. Ta dah!!
After a lovely Sunday roast provided by David, the Landord of the White Hart, Donna loaded me into the car and took me to Chippenham Hospital. The doc looked at both of my feet and legs, commented on the fact that the infection had continued up into both knees as well, and stated very clearly to me ” No more running. You stop now.” “What!!!!…… “Where is my magic pill” I thought to myself. She then told me that at the rate the infection was spreading it would reach my groin and I would end up with Septicemia – very quickly! “That is a life threatening condition that will see you hospitalised. I am considering that I might still admit you anyway” she added. I then convinced her that I would abide by her instruction to cease running and rest. She supplied with me a further batch of strong Penicillin to take in addition to the batch I already had……… and I left…………….. despondent and crest fallen.
I returned to the White Hart and had a pint with Gav and Kieren, both of whom had been fantastic throughout the entirereally did leave me to only concentrate on running as they dashed around and were my bitches for the week!……………………….Then I simply went home. My journey was over after just a shade less than 130 miles, or if I’m being pedantic – 128.61 miles.
I followed the doctors ordered and rested the next day with my feet up. However a plan to finish the event was being formulated as I relaxed. My journey was over but others stepped in to fill the void on my behalf. Several members of my family all volunteered to run the final leg in my place (The defining moment).
At 8am on Tue 11/11/2014, Stacey, Jon, Meg, Cameron, and Josh, all departed from Malmesbury Police Station and ran as a group to Royal Wooton Bassett Police Station. They were ably supported by myself, Donna, Summer, and Meg’s boyfriend Adam, as we escorted them in our own vehicles adorned with Help for Heroes banners flapping in the wind. We all arrived in Bassett just after 10 am and gathered ourselves inside the police station for a cuppa before making our way to The War Memorial in the town centre. I joined the Remeberance Service and duley layed a wreath on behalf of Wltshire Police. Finished.
I have written a lot about being in pain and a lot about defining moments. The reasons for that are simple really. When I look back now at the feelings and thoughts I had during the event then the over riding feeling was of pain. Incredible pain in both legs. The over riding thoughts I had are of how proud I was (and still am) of all my friends and family for the support and efforts they all made in supporting me on this amazing journey.