Corporal Mark Squibbs of the RAF Police was part of a team that cycled from RAF Northolt to Edinburgh, ran a half marathon, then cycled back again to raise money for the RAF Benevolent Fund and Royal British Legion. In this blog, Mark tells the story of their gruelling challenge.
A quiet November night shift is about to pass by when my brain-mouth filter fails to stop a silly idea falling upon the ears of Corporal Charlie Watson who is never one to back down from a challenge.
Five months later on a cloudy April morning, five RAF Police corporals from RAF Northolt are sat on their shiny new bikes contemplating the 950 miles they have committed to completing in nine days...with a half marathon thrown in for good measure.
I must admit I was very anxious about how we would fare cycling more than 100 miles a day, particularly myself, Macca and Charlie Dorn who had stubbornly (possibly foolishly) decided to attempt to cycle the whole 950 miles! Leeanne and Charlie Watson opted more wisely, and on good advice, to relay the cycle.
We had not cycled more than 50 miles in one training session, nor had we trained on back-to-back days. It was very much a "we think we can do it, so let's give it a go" sort of thing!
Undeterred by the 110 miles that lay between us and RAF Cottesmore, we saddled up and our journey began.
After several long day and arduous days cycling we finally arrived at the 603 (City of Edinburgh) RAF Regiment Squadron townhouse.
The thought of the Edinburgh half marathon the following day actually came as a welcome relief.
The next morning the half marathon was upon us. We made our way to the start point at Meadowbank Stadium and eagerly awaited the pistol.
As the pistol fired, myself, Leeanne and the two Charlies made a hasty beeline straight for the toilets and consequently to the rear of the pack. Not quite the start the four of us had anticipated, but when you got to go, you’ve got to go.
Macca couldn’t quite contain his excitement and was off like a rocket, gleefully reminding us mortals that his mother doesn’t refer to him as ‘Macca La Machine’ for nothing.
Despite our happiness at not having a saddle wedged between our cheeks for a fifth day, it didn’t take long before fatigue took its toll, Leeanne suffering with early bouts of cramp and the two Charlies having to slow their pace due to sore, well, everything.
The finish line was in sight and once again the second wind did its best to quash the aches and pains, for the first time I was probably running properly.
After 2 hours 9 minutes, and absolutely shattered, I crossed the finish line to be greeted by Macca who completed the run in an impressive 1 hour 39minutes. It wasn’t long before we were joined by Leeanne and the two Charlies. Job done.
And so the journey home began. As well as being just as physically challenging, the return legs to Northolt were much more mentally taxing.
Just south of Milton Keynes we were met by the friendly face of Corporal Jim Newman who kindly offered to lead us home and kept us motivated for the final push.
Crossing the line was a very poignant moment for the team. The late station commander, Group Captain Tom Barrett, had hoped to join us on our final leg and his absence that day was deeply felt by the whole team.
We arrived home to be greeted by cheers and a heartfelt applause. I can honestly say that the team and I were overwhelmed by the show of support we received.
After a short speech from the Mayor of Hillingdon, we all limped to the sports and social for a much-needed beverage.
We thought setting ourselves a target of £10,000 was a tad over ambitious, but the support and generosity we received was amazing. Corporal Watson and I have never been so delighted to have been proven so wrong. The total sum raised was £14,288!
Corporal Mark Squibbs