Chris Taylor runs 56 miles for Zippy
When Partnership for Children opened back in 2002, our first office manager, fresh from university, was Chris Taylor. He later moved on to other jobs, but never forgot his links with Zippy's Friends.
Six years on, he explains: ‘I always thought that one day I'd try to raise some money for Zippy, and running from London to Brighton seemed like the perfect opportunity.'
But this was no ordinary run - 56 miles or 90 kilometres, more than two marathons, along winding country trails and crossing the South Downs. Even the event's own website carried a warning: ‘Don't underestimate this - it is a very difficult running challenge indeed.'
But there was no going back. Raceday was Sunday September 20. Here's Chris's report:
‘What a great day!
‘Starting at 6am in the dark in Blackheath, it was a pretty fast pace down to Keston - a mix of adrenalin and people wanting to get out of town onto the trails, where the 'race' (in the very loosest sense) started in earnest.
‘Up and down and round Biggin Hill and over the North Downs at Tatsfield, making our way down towards Edenbridge, good running on tracks and footpaths. The runners started to spread out as each found their own comfortable pace and clustered in groups.
‘Being an off-road race, navigation was a key part, and those who had run parts of the course previously had a distinct advantage. I got lost a couple of times, but redeemed my map-reading skills later on by correcting some fellow runners and leading through some tricky navigation areas.
Running through Forest Row,
‘By the time we got to Forest Row, having done the distance of one marathon, I was in the top 50 and feeling pretty good. But my leg muscles soon started to strain and I began to experience multiple cramps that stuck with me for the rest of the journey. There was another marathon, plus some more, before the finish.
‘Still, the camaraderie and spirit amongst the runners, and the encouraging faces of supporters popping up along the way, was a real help in getting through the pain and pushing on.
‘Fortunately, I found myself running with an army guy. He was not only a great motivational partner to run with, but also an ace navigator - and a Scouser, so he had plenty of chat to keep the spirits high! We passed through some of the amazing countryside of Sussex, and made a mental note of places and pubs to return to by some easier means of transport.
‘After pressing on through Chailey Common, ahead of us loomed the South Downs. To add to the fun, we had a freshly-tilled field to cross before the climb up Black Cap.
Approaching the finish
This well and truly sapped any energy left in the legs, and from here on it was a matter of sheer willpower to crack on to the finish.
‘Once up on top of the South Downs, it was a real slog down to Falmer, but by now we could hear seagulls and make out the buildings of Brighton in the distance. No matter how much it hurt now, there was no chance of not finishing.
‘Finally, we made it to Brighton Racecourse, and then down into Brighton itself, where the promenade was a wonderfully flat stretch to the finish line. The last 20 metres, along the pebbles of Brighton Beach, almost turned my legs to jelly, but I staggered across the finish line 11 hours and 25 minutes after starting, 62nd out of 350 starters.
‘Phew, that was one big day out - one to remember!'