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170 Mile Challenge Complete

Celebrations in-store as the Macknade Malodorous Miscreants complete the Ragnar Whitecliffs Relay in support of Pilgrims Hospices…

So the weekend has been and gone, and although battered limbs will repair and be forgotten, memories of a great adventure will remain and the stories, no doubt, will be enhanced.

Competition between the two vans began in earnest on Friday when Ian from Practical Sittingbourne delivered the two vans that they had so generously donated for the effort in support of Pilgrims Hospices. Being unable to find the all important USB and aux sockets for our tunes and mobile, charging in van two created van envy of an ugly sort. Happily this was the closest that we came to squabbles all weekend and perseverance paid off, not for the last time over the weekend, when I found the hidden sockets, thus avoiding any premature falling out!

And so at 10am on Saturday morning, van one got underway, with Mike “Biggles” setting off on leg one from Mote Park in Maidstone, with the whole team sporting the colours of Pilgrims Hospices. He might be the oldest but despite Stefano’s attempts to discredit him, Mike is still the strongest and fastest runner at Macknade. Accordingly, he was handed the longest combination of legs, totalling a lung busting 28 miles over the duration of the race, including one additional leg he threw in himself “for fun”.

Stefano “The Don” took over from Harrietsham and wound his way up on to the North Downs, the first in his series of epic climbs that earnt him the title of King of the mountains. Appropriately this leg also happened to finish in Doddington, no more than ½ a mile from his front door at home. Happily however he elected to carry on and by the end of his three legs he had notched up an impressive 637m of elevation gain over 19 miles of hard running.

Emma “Bean Genie”, Vice Captain and organiser extraordinaire, took on the baton from Stefano, running in to the familiar surroundings of Faversham. Less comfortable, for fear of werewolves and rabbits, was her 2nd leg, the tough climb from St Margarets, up on to the Whitecliffs of Dover at 10pm in the dark. Her hero, “Biggles” came to the rescue and accompanied her on the treacherous journey. Her efforts were not over and on completion of her 3rd leg, having piled herculean energy into her runs combined with the emotion of being reunited with her errant husband, Rob “Not Bono” (more of him later), she went weak at the knees requiring medical attention. Heroic efforts throughout the campaign had taken their toll but all ended happily ever after.

4th in line was Priya “The Doc”, flying through our Macknade homeland of Faversham. Always smiling, she not only smashes out amazing times for each leg but also infuses positivity and energy throughout the team. She even tried to share this with other teams by climbing in to their vans and rummaging through their bags before realising that they were looking at her like the stranger she was!

Fran, “Smiling Assassin” was tail end Charlie for van one, taking on the 5th leg from Seasalter to Tankerton as her 1st leg and generating a reputation for reeling in other weaker teams and adding them to her tally of “roadkills”. A competitor of enormous strength and  energy, she had the stamina to join “the Doc” on the enviable leg through Dover at 10pm on Saturday night before continuing on her own leg into Folkestone.

At the end of every 5th leg, the major exchange meant handing the baton from van one to van two, a relay in its own right, as 200 odd vans jostled for position around car parks designed for 50, combined with queues for portaloos, food stalls and 1000 + runners. Identification was vital and hence the enormous array of elaborately decorated vans. With our fruit and veg theme, crowned with a giant inflatable banana and apple on the nose of each of our vans, we were easy to be found. The vans became our home for two days and it was fascinating witnessing the chaos that can be created in one van by me and the order that can be maintained in another my Emma. Being pretty much bang on schedule thanks to the efforts of van one, van two were ready to take on the challenge!

Chloe “Indiana”, our first super sub, carried on the theme of ticking off slower teams. She may have had the shorter legs due to her late addition to the team, but was without doubt one of the fastest when she started running. The rest of the team had to jump in to the van as quick as poss, to ensure the van could get there ahead of her! As the sun warmed up on Sunday morning she was not only confronted with the climb up Beachy Head, but the rumour of snakes in the vicinity. She conquered both and subsequently accompanied me on the start of the leg 27. An amazing late addition to the team with huge energy and an incredible human sat nav… most of the time.

And so I, Finn “Meatlug” entered the fray. Probably both the slowest and most over ambitious of the team, middle age offering fading illusions of giving Mo Farah a run for his money! Guilty of getting us in to it in the first place and then guilty of doing a good job to lose all the places that everyone had worked hard to gain. Fair to say I didn’t help myself with the addition of a portion of fish & chips in Folkestone at 10pm before my second run, but it was leg 27 over the seven sisters that did its best to break me in the heat on Sunday morning. My incredible team mates combined with a little perseverance got me through it.

Major Shawn “Motor” Marshall USAF raised our game again on each occasion as our 2nd super sub, taking over from me. A man with experience of three previous Ragnars he is a man we thought we could trust. Having already decided to consume a giant cheeseburger before his 1strun, he then declared his interest in a portion of fish and chips prior to his second. Foolishly we all believed him and suffered accordingly whilst he powered on. Fortunately we were unable to fulfil his appetite for a full English on Sunday morning but he still nailed every run and was responsible for scraping me off the floor and dragging me to the finish. Far more could and should be said about his taste for 80’s soft rock music, stalking golfers and getting lost… but save that for another book.

Rob, “Not Bono”, “Bean Genies” husband and Bono substitute, ran three hard legs, pouring everything in to it, and dealt with numerous unexpected hills as well as pebbly beaches. Fortunately during his night leg around Dungeness power station he was well illuminated and easy to spot with his green glow. We are unsure whether it was actually his lights or more likely, the radioactive field that he developed.

Kelly, “Payroll” our anchor leg and ultra reliable to deliver every time was the person we needed to bring up the tail, the last of our 10 runners. Having to wait every time for everyone else to finish and then still have some of the longest legs to complete would have demoralised many, but her mental strength and determination was incredible. She was the perfect person to finish off the 170 mile epic run from Maidstone to Brighton and we all took pleasure in joining her to cross the finish line.

We all had an amazing time and as “the Don” pointed out at one stage, there is a paradox about running in that you might at one moment feel so bad, but that in itself makes you feel so good. Running is so often an individual sport, but actually coming together in a group and working together was a great experience. Even though most of us knew each other well, it has exposed a renewed respect for each other, and bringing new friends to the team has made it all the better. We are already planning the next event. However, much as the race was fun and a challenge in equal measure, the real achievement about which we can also  be enormously proud is raising over £4,000 for the incredible Pilgrims Hospices. Thanks must also go to them for their support and what they have done for so many members of our families over the years.

A massive thank you to all our sponsors including all our customers and suppliers and to Ragnar Relay for organising such a great event.

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