Run and Ring

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A Marathon Peal with a Difference

All the best ideas start in the pub after a ringing practice. "Why don't we line up four towers six miles apart, ring a quarter peal at each and run between them?" I said. And so the legend of the "Run and Ring Marathon" was born.

This was in 2005 and for the next few years the topic would periodically emerge over a pint, and plans would be discussed for possible routes. However, these plans never quite made it out of the pub! Then in March 2007 we mentioned it to Rhyan and Katherine Probert – ringers from Meldreth, Cambridgeshire – who were visiting Bath for the Half Marathon that year. A year later, they had planned a route and a date had been set: having talked about it for so long we could hardly back out now! Katherine had managed to recruit a band of six for the challenge: myself and Dave Hÿtch from Bath; Paul Parker from Cardiff; Patrick Wheeler from Nottingham; and Andrew Digby from Exeter. A meandering route had been devised between five towers in south-west Cambridgeshire over a total of 26.2 miles (the official marathon distance), the extra tower as a backup in case we lost a quarter peal along the way.

And so, on a foggy Saturday morning at the end of September, the six of us (all in specially made t-shirts) began the challenge at Orwell; a light, very tuneful ring of eight. We used the back six to ring a quarter of Cambridge Surprise Minor called by Andrew. Thoughts of the challenge ahead were playing through my mind and I think we were all relieved when it came round and we could tick off the first quarter peal and get on the road.

The band ready to start the day. Left to right: Tom Longridge, David Hÿtch, Andrew Digby, Patrick Wheeler, Katherine Probert and Paul Parker.

Orwell, Cambridgeshire (S Andrew)
Saturday, 27 September 2008 in 43 mins (11-0-7)
1296 Cambridge Surprise Minor

  1. Paul Parker
  2. Katherine Probert
  3. Patrick Wheeler
  4. David P Hÿtch
  5. Thomas N Longridge
  6. Andrew Digby (c)

After some warm-up stretches and a brief photo-shoot we set off towards Harston accompanied by Claire Downs and Rhyan on bicycles and the rest of the support crew ahead of us by car. This was the shortest leg of the day and certainly helped settle our nerves: we all seemed evenly paced and conversation was plentiful as we ran through the mist on the flat Cambridgeshire roads.

Arriving at Harston ahead of schedule we spent a good quarter of an hour warming down and taking on some energy drinks and bananas before starting for a quarter of Grandsire Doubles, which I called. This ticked along very nicely and was widely agreed to be the best of the day on some lovely bells. Quarter over, we wasted little time before heading off for Duxford, leaving the support crew to lock up.

Harston, Cambridgeshire (All Saints)
Saturday, 27 September 2008 in 40 mins (9-1-24)
1260 Grandsire Doubles

  1. Andrew Digby
  2. David P Hÿtch
  3. Paul Parker
  4. Katherine Probert
  5. Thomas N Longridge (c)
  6. Patrick Wheeler

It was approaching midday by now and the mist had been replaced by clear sky and sunshine. While the rest of the country were relishing this rare moment of sunshine, it was not ideal for running and we started to feel the strain. However for the time being, we still had relatively fresh legs and we managed to pick up the pace and complete this slightly longer leg to Duxford in good time. We had run just under 13 miles and rung 2556 changes: half way, although my legs were starting to feel heavy and I was getting anxious about whether I would make the distance.

Duxford proved to be unique in two ways: it was the only belfry above ground level and the only church with a toilet! We made good use of the facilities and climbed slowly up the dozen stairs to ring another good quarter of Plain Bob Minor, called by Patrick.

Duxford, Cambridgeshire (S Peter)
Saturday, 27 September 2008 in 42 mins (8-2-10)
1260 Plain Bob Minor

  1. David P Hÿtch
  2. Paul Parker
  3. Katherine Probert
  4. Thomas N Longridge
  5. Andrew Digby
  6. Patrick Wheeler (c)
On the road from Duxford to Thriplow.

Suitably refueled with more bananas and flapjacks, we set off past the Imperial War Museum and around in a rather large loop (in order to make up the mileage) to get to Thriplow. This was further than three of the band had ever run before and the toll was starting to tell in various parts of our bodies. The first mile was especially painful as we tried to warm up our legs again after standing still for the quarter peal. Heads down and with the help of some cool refreshments handed out en route by the support crew, we made it to Thriplow church to begin the final quarter.

Surprisingly this was the only tower requiring the bells to be raised and lowered; a job we delegated to our support crew as we sat outside and warmed down. Stakes were high as we didn't want to have to use the last, backup, tower for a quarter peal and risk losing everything. Not to be put off by this, Dave Hÿtch lived up to his reputation and called an unusual 1280 of Plain Bob Doubles; much to the confusion of those of us trying to count in 120's! After 39 minutes, the quarter was scored without any problems and we celebrated the completion of the ringing component of our journey. Just 7 miles remained to the finish line!

Thriplow, Cambridgeshire (S George)
Saturday, 27 September 2008 in 39 mins (6-2-18)
1280 Plain Bob Doubles

  1. Katherine Probert
  2. Patrick Wheeler
  3. Andrew Digby
  4. Paul Parker
  5. David P Hÿtch (c)
  6. Thomas N Longridge

I'm not sure about the rest of the band, but this last leg seemed to take rather a long time. The miles were being counted down at what seemed to be a very slow rate by Rhyan using his cycle odometer and it was taking all my will power to keep putting one tired foot in front of the other. However with some fantastic encouragement (and Jelly Baby distribution) from the support crew, we crossed the busy A10 and began the final mile towards Meldreth.

The finish line!
The band attempting to stretch out the aches and pains shortly after finishing.

And so it was that, much to the bewilderment of the local residents, six very tired but jubilant runners ran shoulder-to-shoulder down the main road of Meldreth to break a ribbon that had been hastily unreeled at the finish line. There was applause and hugs all-round followed by plentiful bubbly to celebrate: aching legs, chaffed unmentionable parts, stitches and blisters were all out-weighed by the sheer joy and relief of having got to the end! 26.2 miles and 5096 changes, a special kind of marathon peal completed in 7 hours and 45 minutes. (And without needing to use the reserve tower at Meldreth – although we couldn't resist a grab!)

In time-honoured tradition, we took our celebration to the local pub and discussed our day. With the aid of a pint, suddenly all I could remember were the best bits of the day and I'm sure I even remember somebody talking about next time…!

My thanks to Katherine, Rhyan and Paul for organising the day and also to our support crew (Karen Eveson, Poppy Wheeler, Shirley & Dave Parker, Claire & Andrew Downs, Roy Falder, Peter Medhurst, Robin Appleby and Emma Longridge) for guiding us around, handing out refreshments, taking care of the bells and cheering us on along the way.

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