Marcus and Kevin – unfinished business – NYE 2014

Kevin Caple & Marcus Kropacsy finish unfinished business – NYE 2014

Our journey to the Green Man really began on New Years Eve 2013. In 2013 Kevin was undertaking his own 365 adventure, running 5k every day, as a personal challenge and to raise as much money as possible for Macmillan Cancer Support.

He had planned a last day event, a lunchtime 5k in Ashton Court for friends, family and supporters. During the year we had both also met and become friends with Jim Plunkett-Cole and we were keen to support his last day event, the circumnavigation of Bristol.

As it was impossible to do both we decided to join Jim on his first leg, from the Dovecote up to Dundry. Having set off at 6am we ran up until the checkpoint where Jim completed his final 10k, at which point we had to head back to Bristol to prepare for Kevin’s very own last 5k at Ashton Court.

Completing this leg lit a fire within both of us, and without even saying it, I think we both knew that we would one day return to try and complete the full Green Man.

Fast forward to the second half of 2014 and we hear that Jim is planning to run the Green Man again for the last day of his 2014k tribe. Over a beer at our running club, Great Western Runners, we decide we will sign up and run together.

Through November and Early December we recce the entire route, using a combination of the Closer to the Countryside maps (which are excellent, especially when laminated!) and GPS. For some of the recces we’re joined by Dave Wintle from our club and his dog Poppy. For the last recce we decide to do a double from the Suspension Bridge to Keynsham, when we’re joined by Mike Karthauser, organiser of 2014k – The Last Day, as well as Dave and Poppy.

One thing I will mention at this point is that Kevin has not run further than this double (about 18 miles) in the past 2 years, and I have never run further than a
Marathon.

So, despite the fact that we are both fairly fit club runners, and the route is well known, it is with quite a lot of trepidation we set off into the unknown at 6.15am on New Years Eve.

It’s a cold morning, and unlike our recces which were extremely wet and muddy, the ground is pleasingly hard with frost and our feet stay dry. Before we know it we’re already back at Dundry and once again blown away by the view of the lights of Bristol in the dark. It’s an incredible feeling looking out knowing that most people are still fast asleep in bed and you have already done something remarkable. We have spent most of the this distance so far with Jim as company and we all reflect on his year and the challenge in front of us.

We push on towards Keynsham, stopping briefly at the first checkpoint, which is manned by Kevin’s daughter Jess, amongst others. At this point Niall Hoskin, a friend from parkrun, who’s decided he wants to run a leg, joins us. Although it’s still early on, it’s nice to have a new face to talk to, we know it’s going to be a long monotonous day. A couple of miles further on, just by the Church before the airfield we’re joined by another man whose name I never learnt. He had heard about the event on Facebook the day before, and just wanted to get involved. Again, we are struck by how special this is, especially grabbing a selfie in front of the Pensford aqueduct, with mist hanging in the valley.

At Keynsham we have a proper pit stop, taking on hot coffee kindly provided by Sara Marshall as well as food. There is a general regroup here, and by the time we set off, most of the group is together.

What now follows, and what I hadn’t realised during the recce, was that you now basically climb for several miles, albeit gradually, all the way to Shortwood Hill. Having felt pretty comfortable until this point, I really start to struggle.

I had been suffering from a heavy head cold in the preceding days, but now my chest starts to tighten up. As we finally climb out of the field at the next checkpoint I am seriously considering pulling out of the event altogether. Kevin has started to develop a blister on his foot and undertakes some running repairs. I use the time to catch my breath and eat the first half of my home cooked gammon and cheddar sandwich!

I also realise that we are about 20 miles in, my helpful brain points out that although I’ve already run 20 offroad miles, I could now be on the starting line of a Marathon – a daunting prospect in itself.

As we set off from the checkpoint, I tell Kevin that I am struggling and considering pulling out if my breathing gets any worse. He tells me to dig in and that we can run or walk at whatever pace, but that we will complete the task ahead. It’s also clear that he’s starting to struggle a bit with knee pain, so in a rather sorry state, and now joined by Mike Karthauser we struggle on towards Hambrook and the next checkpoint.

I spend most of those miles looking at my Garmin, looking at how slowly we are completing and wondering how on earth we are ever going to complete the whole circuit. With Mike’s continuous commentary to distract us, we somehow struggle through to Hambrook.

Most of the runners are there, and everyone is now looking knackered. I ask Neil Taylor (who ran 10k a day with Jim last year) how he’s doing – “felt better” is the brief, but telling response.

I can tell Kevin is quite concerned about his knee, as he starts to administer painkiller gel. Daughter Jess pipes us with “haven’t you got a knee support” which turns out to be a stroke of genius, as he does indeed. Once the support is on I can see an immediate improvement in both physical and mental wellbeing.

As we are about to leave the checkpoint we’re approached by a fellow runner, unknown to me at that point, but who I soon find out is Matthew (Matt) Larmour, asking if we are run/walking and whether he can join us. I can see he is limping, so as its a pre-requisite of joining our gang is to have an impediment, we welcome him into the group!

As we leave Hambrook, I start to feel a bit more positive, I know we have less than 20 miles to go, I’m hoping to meet my partner Natalie at the Traveller’s Rest in Patchway, and we’re due to be joined by a group of fellow GWR runners at Blaise.

We start chatting to Matt, and he tells us this is the longest run he’s ever undertaken, and almost more impressive, that he’s only been running for a very short period of time. He tells us that he lives in Patchway and the course will pass by his front door, at which point he’s going to pull out.

By this point, although the earlier low has passed, there is no real enjoyment, and we are just grinding out the miles, mentally and physically. Passing through Bradley Stoke I take a call from another parkrun friend, Alan Wilcox. He lives just off the route and comes out to say hello and run with us to Patchway. As we pull into the Traveller’s Rest I spot Natalie, camera in hand, and I actually manage to do a heel kick jump – more impressively she also captures this on film!

Seeing a loved one, and getting their encouragement is hugely motivational. I know that we have not much more than a half marathon to complete and nothing is now going to stop me from completing this.

At this point, Matt who had planned to drop out, and who, I don’t think it’s unkind to say is physically suffering the most announces that he is going to continue, run straight past his house, and try and make it to the finish. I am quite amazed, and I’m not sure I would have been able to do this. Just as we’re about to head off another car pulls up and Vicky Dickson and Jim Barron climb out. It turns out that they had got lost on the course and decided to pull out. However, when they see us, they decide to reinstate themselves and join us to the finish.

From Patchway we head to Easter Compton, where we are met by Kevin’s wife Tina and his other daughter Katie as well as the ever present Jess. We are also joined by Leo, a friend from work, before we carry on towards Blaise and the final checkpoint, where we are joined by Paul, Lucy, Michelle, John, Emma, Kelly and Joe from GWR.

From Blaise to the Suspension Bridge it is quite undulating, including Mariner’s Drive a long, seemingly never ending, climb from sea level to the top of the Downs. Although we are now on home turf, and I know we will finish, my body is now in the ‘I’m nearly at the end, so these are my last energy reserves I am giving up’ mode, and every step becomes an effort. I look across at Matt, hunched over at shuffling, Mike, still talking, and Kevin, stoically putting one foot in front of another and I am truly humbled by what we are achieving.

We say goodbye to Leo at the Observatory, and he films us, now in pitch black, crossing the suspension Bridge, once across the Bridge, and in an effort to stay true to the course, we agonisingly turn right into North Road, although if you go straight at this point, it is a much shorter route to the entrance to Ashton Court.

Once in Ashton Court we briefly stop at the Green Man, once I have called Kevin back as he barrelled past, although we are all too exhausted and cold to take a photo. We head on down past the Mansion and out of the bottom gate. Kevin and I now find ourselves alone, slightly ahead of Mike, Matt and the others. We can see some figures milling around in the dark at the entrance to the Park and Ride, and as our head torches are spotted, cheers and shouts ring out.

We run those final few metres, stop, embrace and congratulate ourselves on a truly remarkable achievement; I am almost overwhelmed by relief at having finished and take myself off for a quiet moment to myself. Kevin is surrounded by Tina, Jess and Katie, and having quickly regained composure, and having been congratulated by Jim, who has also finished just ahead of us, we then cheer in Mike, shortly followed by Matt.

Cold, tired but undoubtedly elated we all then trudge up to the Angel pub to be greeted by the rest of the finishers for a well-earned pint and some food.

Although the time taken became somewhat of an irrelevance against the overall challenge, Kevin and I completed every single mile together in a time of 11hrs 26 Minutes.

Woodwose CCLXXXII and Woodwose CCLXXIII
Wednesday 31st December 2014

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