It is amazing to think that it is 20 years ago that a band of St George's runners set off up the A3 on a sponsored relay run to Bush House in London. The aim was to deliver a message of support for Somalia to the World Service (in the days before Somalia was mainly renowned for piracy!) and raise money to help Somalians. The Portsmouth Evening News had featured the venture so we had hit the headlines.
Runners, back up crew and families gathered in St George's Walk in the early hours of November 2nd and posed for a photo call with Fr Malcolm. As the church clock struck 7am the runners set off up the dark street and headed north up the A3 towards Horndean. At The Heroes most of them leapt into one of the 2 support mini buses, leaving the first relay runner to pound the pavements through the mist. Sadly, the weather was not as crisp and autumnal as it could have been! The runners ran 2 or 3 miles at a time, sometimes as a pair or trio and sometimes accompanied by someone on a bike as added protection. High viz jackets were shared and the route took us to London along the old A3 route, where safe, and on alternative roads where necessary. Tony RO and Dick Handy had done a wonderful job of planning a route that would get us safely to Hammersmith Bridge. The Handy family, especially, remember training together beforehand and Dick will always remember running over Butser Hill in SNOW. Colin Monk will never forgive son, Simon, out running him to the end of a stage - 11 year olds are so cocky! Tony Shepherd ran and cycled but suffered with a bad back ever after. Ruth Loveman and Claire Bradley followed the run to support Kevin Loveman in Kevin's ancient car - not very reliable, and then got lost in Kingston so never made it to the end.
The video footage we have shows Tony phoning home to Ruby on a brick of a mobile phone and the deer in Richmond Park being somewhat astounded by our exploits - especially Sarah Monk’s cheerleading and noisy support of the runners. Andrew Burtenshaw recalls the rather unpleasant weather conditions and shaking our collecting buckets around a pub and a rather posh hotel when we called in pleading for the use of the toilet facilities. People were always kind enough to help us out in these circumstances, but the prize must go to Jane RO’s friend who lives along the A3 at Hindhead. She was still in her dressing gown when Jane knocked her door asking if we could use the loo. She welcomed two dozen of us in and even offered to make us tea and coffee. We declined as we had to keep up with the runners. I remember nursing hot chocolate at the Devil’s Punchbowl and discussing education with David Bailey (Head of St Luke's School at the time) who had joined us as a runner, while we waited for the next changeover. Chris Hedges was in the team and kept us amused with comments to accompany the video. Kate Willoughby was a runner, as were two others, sadly, names forgotten over the years. We even had an official first aider (a friend of Jane RO) who kindly volunteered to inspect blisters etc. Tony Shep ran the last leg to Hammersmith Bridge where a final team photo was taken. By now it was dark - and still damp.
Everyone piled into the mini buses and we headed across London to Bush House. We were taken to the studios and met someone from the Somalia broadcasting team and handed over our letter of support. As we left the building we were greeted by police sirens and explosions so were a little shaken, given that IRA terrorism was still rife. Thankfully the sirens were inconsequential and the “explosions” the firework display on the river for the Lord Mayor’s Show! We then headed to Manchester Square, where Carolyn and Kerry Rice-Oxley met us at the EMI offices with a much appreciated tea. Even better was the champagne, courtesy of the fact that EMI had a number one hit by Charles and Eddie with “Would I Lie to You” that week. Simon Monk always recalls this fact and it has won him a pub quiz in his time. Also available, were shower facilities which the runners were very pleased to use. Everyone has recalled the Nordic shower which attacked you from all angles, eliciting interesting sound effects from those who were using it. We headed home, wearily, and congregated at the Hog’s Lodge for a final drink and goodbye. Ruby and several others joined us there to celebrate a successful venture. There were tired feet and aching muscles in Church the next morning. Even I had aching calf muscles - from driving a mini bus up and down to London. The pedals were at a very different height from your average car and provided quite a work out.