With Britain going nuts for the impending Olympics, the torch relay has begun visiting village after village in Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The torch relay itself is something that was specifically started by the Nazi party for propaganda purposes for the 1936 Berlin Olympics to show-off the supreme physical specimen of the Aryan Race… Only for the mighty Jesse Owens to slap the lousy Austrian painter back in to his rightful place. 76 years later this is thankfully all that is a hang-over from those Berlin games. Nowadays the torch relay has metamorphasised from a true relay as it was the last time in Britain for the '48 games to a largely corporate farce. The torch itself is carried by people for no more than 300m at a time - the vast majority of the torch bearers being employees nominated by the main sponsors of the games, celebrity bell-ends trying for quick bit of free and easy publicity and those like Lakshmi Mittal, the richest man living in Britain who 'bought' the ability to carry the torch for his stroll of a few hundred metres. After its mile long parade in the place where the torch is visiting it is packed back in to its sponsored bus and driven off surrounded by its entourage of corporate sponsor provided BMW's and copious amounts of police to protect them from god-knows-what to the next town to repeat until the end of the day where the party remains for the night in some hotel.
Well the people behind Endurance Life saw this going-on as it passed by them in Devon not long after the relay's start from Land's End and felt that the 'relay' was not in effect a 'relay', just a tour of sponsor's logos from town to town. With their knowledge of the running community they had a Baldrick-esque 'cunning plan' of running the same route as the torch, passing a baton from person to person continuously through day and night, whatever the weather, from the start in Land's End to finish at the Olympic stadium in Stratford… A Real Relay.
Some ingenious use of plumbers pipe and a Yellow Brick GPS unit formed the baton so its whereabouts could be continuously tracked via the internet and 10 days after the Olympic torch started its motorised procession from Land's End, the Real Relay commenced jogging off on its 8,000 mile journey in aid of the CHICKS charity. Every person running a leg is supposed to donate at least £10 to them to raise money to help CHICKS with their giving underprivileged children from the cities a chance to get out in the countryside for a break.
The relay itself was broken down in to stages of around 10 miles each, chunk by chunk being released through the website and by grace and good fortune I was at my computer at the right time to bag the Tadley to Basingstoke leg when these local stages were released.
The day arrived and I persuaded LSS to be my photographer and chauffeur to get me to the start and take the pics.
We hopped in the car and headed across country to Tadley and the car park of the Broomsquire pub. Just as we were 100m from the pub I got a call from Stuart March, the runner of the previous leg to whom I was to take the baton from, asking where I was as they had arrived. 10 seconds later we were in the car park and out we jumped and LSS was on hand to photograph the handover as without any warm-up I took the baton, donned my camelback and off I trotted eastward.
|Handover from Stuart March @ The Broomsquire in Tadley: Stage 557-558|
When I hit Silchester I made a bee-line for Calleva Atrebatum the abandoned Roman town and splashed my way through the mud and puddles along the road that has been traversed for 2,000 years since they rocked-up on our shores and for a further millennium before hand by Ancient Britons who had already made the site their home when the marauding Italians stumbled across them and concurred with their choice of location for a town.
Jogging through the middle of the Roman town I exited via the east gate and turned south, following the town's walls till they swung away from the road as I continued towards Bramley.
|The view south along the town's walls|
The country lane towards Bramley was a pleasant one, with any monotony being relieved by having the 'Blades' Aerobatic team rehearsing a display for the Farnborough Airshow directly overhead at low altitude.
Southwards through the edge of Bramley and on to the Vyne National Trust property. Just past the main gate for that I was able to take a turn for a cross country route through the edge of Basing Forest and out through Carpenter's Down and in to Popley, the first part of the Basingstoke sprawl. From this point on it was purely residential street running B.O.R.I.N.G. until I hit the station. After that it was a jog through the shopping centre, then the last climb past the 'Wote Street Willy' to the top-of-the-town handover to Martin.
Here's the lift of the route from Runkeeper with all the vital statistics:
There was a photographer from the Basingstoke Gazette waiting to take a photo of the handover for a small piece on it. The Olympic torch relay had been through the centre of Basingstoke just 3 days before and had been handed over outside the Willis Museum, the spot where we had coincidentally chosen to stage our handover.
Here's some other pictures of the run en-route:
|The baton: Never, never, never give up!|
|Not at all staged for the camera!|
|The adoring throng of enraptured onlookers!|