Last night I was reading the WHW forum and saw a post from Gaynor Prior, who ran in this year's WHW race, saying that one of her backup team Rob was running from Lands End to John O'Groats (LEJOG) and that he was now into Scotland. I followed the links to his run and found that he had just reached Dunblane. Dunblane is only 10 miles away from where I live, and when I looked at his route plan I saw that today's run would come right past the front of out house! I didn't know when he would leave Dunblane, but figured if I drove left the house at 9 and drove south towards Dunblane I would have a good chance of seeing him. I could then find out if he fancied any company, drive back to the house, and if he wanted company run with him for a bit as he headed north.
Well, almost as soon as I had driven out of the drive I saw a cyclist with a high visibility vest, a runner, and then another cyclist coming along the road. I guessed it was probably Rob, and this was confirmed when I rolled down my window and shouted 'Are you Rob?' I think he was a bit surprised anyone knew him, but was happy for me to join him for a while. He had left Dunblane at 7.30 and was looking really strong. I turned the car round and headed home, quickly threw on my running stuff, jumped in the car and drove a mile or so towards Crieff until I passed the group again. I then dumped my car in a lay-by and joined him on the run.
What an absolutely incredible experience it was. Rob was a first class guy, great company, and I just asked questions about the run for more or less the whole way into Crieff. This was his 13th day, and he hoped to reach John O'Groats in 18 days. He looked great - the pace for the 6 miles I ran with him was between 8 and a half and 9 minute miles, which was quite incredible considering he has been doing around 50 miles a day for the last 12 days. His support was superbly well organised. Every 10 minutes or so Sue, one of the 2 support people on bikes, would cycle a few yards in front, stop, and hand Rob something to eat or a drink. She would then drop back to her position at the rear. About 2 minutes later she would cycle in front again and collect the plastic drink container. Rob didn't need to ask - it just all happened automatically. It was hugely impressive teamwork. The ultra running world in the UK is a small one, so I wasn't surprised to find out that I had seen Rob before, both at the WHW and at this year's Dumfries Marathon, when he finished 2nd in a PB of 2.53 despite being at a wedding the day before and fully partaking in the celebrations. (Sometimes I wonder if we all take our training too seriously - maybe we are better just doing what we fancy, and not bothering about our eating drinking and so on? Just a thought....)
I ran with Rob into the centre of Crieff - 6 miles for me, which was probably enough given the problems I've been having with my knee - and wished him all the best for the rest of his run. He was heading to Pitlochry today, then on to Aviemore tomorrow. I'll be watching with great interest to see how he gets on, but have absolutely no doubts that he'll make it - his physical strength, willpower and organisation are quite incredible. Rob, good luck - I'll be thinking about you.
Details of Rob's progress can be followed here: