Proving once again that runners love a mad challenge, Grantham Running Club held their first ‘canalathon’ on Saturday 28th May. The slightly bonkers idea was the brainchild of Chris Limmer who organised the event with the aim to run all the way from Nottingham Railway Station along the Grantham Canal, a distance of some 33.5 miles. Joining Chris for the whole distance were Caroline Davis and Kate Marshall. Chris and Caroline Davis are both experienced ultra-runners and are used to the physical demands of prolonged time on their feet but for Kate it was to be her longest run ever.
The three weren’t alone in their endeavour, however, and gathered club mates at various points along the way. Runners were able to use an online tracker to arrange when and where to join up with the three and the numbers swelled throughout the event.
Having started at 8am, the first hour or two were punctuated with walk breaks to conserve energy so that they could enjoy the later miles with club mates. Before long the intrepid trio were joined by Dale Towning at Cropwell Bishop who would be on bike support which was to prove invaluable later in the day as legs and minds became tired.
This next section was arguably the toughest mentally for the three running the whole canal and there was a feeling of relief when they finally made it to Harby with 19.5 miles and over 3 and half hours on their feet. At this point the 3 runners and a cyclist were met by several other GRC members. For Kate, seeing her husband Fraser and many familiar faces certainly gave a much need mental boost with at least another 13 miles to go before the finish.
Alongside Fraser they were joined by Simon Allsopp, Penny Hodges and Sarah High for the next section to Redmile. Of course, in any long-distance challenge there are obstacles and unexpected things which can stop forward progress in its tracks. The canalathon was no different and somewhere between Harby and Redmile it was a local Swan with its new-born cygnets that made its unhappiness to the runners known. Thankfully Dale used his bike to help shepherd it away while the runners nipped by.
Upon reaching Redmile at 24.5 miles, what had started as a 3 became 11 as another group of members joined. With more than 5 hours running since leaving Nottingham station this was a much-needed bit of rest. An hour later the throng swelled further when they passed Woolsthorpe and met the final group of runners. 11 suddenly became nearly 30 and having posed for a photo and made the most of the chance to rehydrate and take on some much-needed calories they set off for the final 4 miles of the canal. Runners chatted away and were all in good spirits despite the many miles run. With moods lifted and legs re-energised those on tired legs suddenly felt lighter knowing that the finish line was now less than an hour away.
GRC chairman Andrew Pask led the faster runners home to the finish at the start of the canal. He was soon followed by a trickle of runners that quickly became a steady stream of athletes, many of whom had run further than they had before or had for some time. The final group, which included Kate, was given a resounding cheer from everyone else as she finished her longest ever run over 7 hours after getting off the train at Nottingham station. All members were wholly complimentary of the event, and many are already looking towards a possible repeat next year.