Friends & Supporters,
Well, what a week it’s been in Albert Square, at Emmerdale, on The Street and in Hollyoaks! I’ve absolutely no idea what’s been happening on the shows – it’s been a case of just eating, running, sleeping – then repeating! But it was a thrill to visit all four iconic soaps.
After an emotional, exhausting struggle – and that was just trying to remember all of the stars’ names - here’s my account of Soapathon, with plenty of pictures to tell the tale for those of you who are far too busy to want to read my turgid ramblings!
Day 1 – Friday 24th May – EastEnders to Milton Keynes (38 miles)
After months of preparation, the Soapathon was finally upon me. As we wandered around an empty EastEnders set in Elstree, it all felt a little surreal. Not to mention somewhat cold and wet, with the promised late blast of Winter chilling the air. The BBC tea and the warmth of the green room just about kept the goose bumps at bay! Ducking into The Arches to avoid a shower isn’t something I ever imagined doing!
An EastEnd geezer…
There wasn’t even time for a quick pint in The Vic – which was probably a good thing ahead of a cold day of running (not to mention how bad the ‘beer’ in the soap pubs is said to taste)! I had to settle for a doorstep challenge instead with Shane Richie – he seemed to believe my whites were spotless!
Over the (Alfie) Moon…
I received some words of wisdom and advice from Ian Beale (though some hot food would have been more the ticket)! He completed a cycle ride from Emmerdale to EastEnders a few years ago, and his memory of the hills was still pretty vivid (I later came to appreciate why).
IanBealevable - with the charming Adam Woodyatt…
And Queen of the Jungle Charlie Brooks was encouraging – being no stranger to a bit of running herself! I was interested in her nutritional tips – she had survived some gruesome bush tucker trials after all! We decided that our mutual love of peanut butter was the best source of fuel…unless things got really desperate (then I knew there’d be a Walkabout somewhere en-route serving kangaroo morsels)!
She’s a celebrity and a Butcher – the beautiful Charlie Brooks…
A final cuddle with a couple of small screen sirens was the perfect send off before I was cheered out of Albert Square by Alfie Moon, Kat Slater, and Sharon Rickman. As I said surreal! (Dum dum dum dum dum dumdumdumdah)
A thorn between 2 roses (Jessie Wallace & Letitia Dean)…
It was then back to reality and 38 miles of running! True to form I’d managed to get lost in the first 8 miles and had the ignominy of having to ask for directions. Though for once my navigational ineptitude had helped me stumble across a small short cut! The reception of passing motorists with beeping horns and cars stopping to give me donations was very welcome, particularly as the weather continued to deteriorate.
I was grateful for the company at various times of Ronan, Chris and Sean during what were thoroughly unpleasant conditions. Our spirits remained high despite being soaked to the skin and frozen to the bone. It certainly wasn’t helping my cold (verging on mild man-flu!) that I’d started the run with. The sight of my hotel was a very welcome one with the chance to dry off and prepare for day 2.
Howling northerly winds, incessant rain and the odd hail shower for good measure…
Day 2 – Saturday 25th May - Milton Keynes to Rugby (38 miles)
With a Lemsip and a couple of hot cross buns I was ready to get the second day underway. Other than my lingering cold and a few blister problems I was in pretty decent shape. I’d planned an early start to avoid the worst of the traffic. With 10 miles of running along a dual carriageway the fewer cars and lorries to dodge the better! A chilly start soon gave way to a pleasantly warm day, and my progress was good. It was an unremarkable trip to Rugby – my biggest challenge skipping around the assorted dead animals along the roadside, and more importantly avoiding joining them as road kill myself!
Day 3 – Sunday 26th May - Rugby to Nottingham (46 miles)
The third day brought with it the hottest day of the year – not something I’d prepared for – with my skin barbecuing nicely in the heat. The impromptu purchase of sun cream came a little too late to prevent some reddened flesh!
I had the welcome company of Mark for 14 miles (a personal record for him) which saw us make steady progress through to Leicester before we parted company leaving me just over 20 miles to complete till I made it to Nottingham. Shortly after leaving Mark my problems started with some acute pain at the front of my shins! My anterior tibialis had become inflamed and painful through over-exertion (possibly not helped by my lack of stretching pre & post workout). Running was now restricted to short painful downhill bursts as I made ever slower progress towards my destination. As the afternoon wore on, even walking became incredibly painful and my pace was nothing more than a dawdle. A rousing reception and hefty contribution to my collecting tin from a welcoming Nottingham hostelry helped reinvigorate me a little and I managed to run the final 2 miles. Time for a recuperative beer and some much needed physio!
More at home on a rugby field, Tigers fan Mr Mark Ward…
Day 4 – Monday 27th May - Nottingham to Barnsley (52 miles)
An 05:30 alarm call ready for a 7:15 start ahead of the longest and hilliest leg of my journey. My left leg was still incredibly painful and sore, but some ibuprofen and painkillers with my hot cross buns and I was as ready as I was going to be. I was joined for the first 10 miles by fellow Team 9 Bar athlete Kim Bent – A BMX champion not a runner. Sadly she had forgotten to bring her bike so we had to proceed on foot! We made reasonable pace, and the pain in my leg was bearable.
Kim Bent – more accustomed to racing BMXs than long distance running …
A further 10 miles or so in and I was in real trouble. I was struggling to even jog down some of the inviting slopes and was maintaining a fast hobble at best. And 30 odd miles is a long way to hobble! In the middle of nowhere a passing cyclist asked if I was OK, he told me he was a physio and said he’d return to fix me up! Ant (the physio) was good to his word and found me an hour or so later, to tape up my leg and give me some welcome advice. With 150 miles still to cover his intervention was very welcome! Though he was a physio when I was more in need of divine intervention!
My progress continued at what seemed a glacial pace, with the clock conspiring against me too. The later I finished, the less time for recovery I would have. Doubt was creeping into my mind. How an earth was I going to get through the next few days when I was in this state? I eventually made it to the hotel at 21:45 – Fourteen and a half hours after I’d started! Just time for a quick shower, a few slices of pizza and some ice packs on my swollen legs and feet before a little sleep. I had a 04:00 alarm call with my name on it.
I slept really badly, haunted by the worry I’d be incapable of meaningful movement when I awoke. I’m not sure if such events are covered by Premier Inn’s Great Night’s Sleep Guarantee!?
My swollen and disfigured trotters…
Day 5 – Tuesday 28th May - Barnsley to Emmerdale to Yeadon (36 miles)
It was an early start as I’d arranged to be at Emmerdale for Noon. I was leaving extra early as I just didn’t know how crippled my legs were going to be. I trotted out of the hotel at 05:00 into the Yorkshire drizzle. My toes hurt like hell, but I was moving and determined to run through the pain for a couple of hours at least to break the back of my journey. By this stage I was ignoring the safety warnings on the packets of Ibuprofen and painkillers, swallowing them at will. My strategy was working. Just about.
I made it as far as Leeds by which time I’d built enough of a time cushion to be able to walk the final few miles to the Emmerdale set at Harewood. Belief was beginning to return. Though I still had my biggest test to come.
A welcome sight after 200 long miles and 4 days…
I still had more than 7 miles to negotiate beyond Emmerdale to the hotel, so I couldn’t take advantage of a proper drink at The Woolpack, but was very grateful for a warming Yorkshire cuppa! A few quick pictures and I galloped off the set – in a tortoise like way.
The glamorous Meg Johnson and the gorgeous Michelle Hardwick…
Day 5.9/6 – Tuesday 28th May / Wednesday 28th May - Yeadon to Coronation Street (43 miles)
I’d got to the hotel in Yeadon at 15:30. An early finish to the day you might think. Not quite. I needed to be at Coronation Street in Manchester by the following lunchtime. I had 43 hilly miles across the Pennines to make – I’d cover that distance in less than 7 hours if fully fit, but I was clearly some considerable way below par! So I decided on a 23:30 start later that night. Not much time then for a shower, stretch, to ice my feet, a quick bite and for some much needed sleep.
A 22:15 alarm call wasn’t welcome, but certainly necessary. A cocktail of drugs and leftover Pizza and I was ready to tackle those hills.
Time to shine…
I made good progress through the night, with the pain and pills variously winning their on-going contest. The lack of traffic eased my passage, and it was eerie running through deserted towns and villages with nothing more than the odd fox for company. I was on schedule and now confidence was beginning to return that I would make my final destination after all.
As I made my gradual ascent up to the moors, my pace dropped with the temperature. The fog was thick and unpleasant. I was having to concentrate my shattered mind to pick out the vehicle headlights and make sure I was out of harms way as they blasted past. It was hard to believe it was nearly June as I pulled a second pair of gloves onto my numbed and freezing hands. A lamb called after me as I past, presumably asking what it had done to deserve being born into a world this bleak!
It really is grim up North…
Eventually the torment of Saddleworth was over and I was pleased to be entering Oldham. Not often can anyone have been so pleased to be in Oldham!
I had a treat in store (literally as we met in Tesco) as my friend David Bentley had arranged for running legend Ron Hill MBE to join me for a few miles (every little helps!). It was a real privilege to be running with one of the greatest distance runners of all time! Ron was the second man to break 2:10 in the marathon and set world records at four other distances. In 1970 he won the 74th Boston Marathon in a course record 2:10:30. He also won gold medals for the marathon at the European Championships in 1969 and the Commonwealth Games in 1970. All in the days before high performance footwear, gels and dietary innovation. It kind of put my own ‘achievements’ in context! He’s obviously also a clothing entrepreneur – and took the opportunity to promote some of his latest range!
Running with world record setter and marathon legend, Dr Ron Hill. I was just about keeping up with the 74 year old veteran…!
I was briefly set upon by 3 thugs as I entered Manchester’s city centre - as apparently - “You’re not from around here… I’m going to smack your arse”. Quite. I’d run 43 miles through the night, so I wasn’t going to let the local feral scum put me off course. After brushing them aside I made the final couple of miles, gingerly and painfully hobbling my way into the ITV studios and onto Corrie’s cobbled streets.
This boy wasn’t for Turn inn…!
I was running on empty and after a brief visit to the famous terraced streets was happy to be on my way to find my hotel and seek out my bed. For once I was going to have the luxury of a full night’s sleep – well 5 or 6 hours anyway!
Tony Hirst and Sue Cleaver outside the World’s most famous corner shop…!
Day 7 Thursday 30th May - Manchester to Hollyoaks (33 miles)
A 04:45 wake-up call was erring on the side of caution. I still needed to factor in an early pre 06:00 set off to allow my withered body the time to make the final 30-odd miles to Hollyoaks’ Liverpool set. Doped-up with enough pills to knock out an elephant, and with some freshly acquired compression support for my legs I headed out for the final time. With the end now firmly in sight I felt strong and made good progress, meeting another Team 9Bar runner, Charlie in Warrington for a couple of gentle miles.
Fellow Team 9Bar runner (and proper athlete) Charlie Sharpe…
The miles quickly ticked by as my motivation and focus dominated the pain. Before I knew it I was running past the security gate and onto the Hollyoaks set, cheered in by Kieron Richardson and Stephanie Davis who had been filming close by!
The beautiful young things of Hollyoaks. And me…!
I was given a rousing reception by the whole of Hollyoaks family and had ventured to the pub and been clubbing at The Loft - all before lunch.
James Sutton outside the final pub - completing the set…!
The Roscoes seemed pleased by the fact that I’d offered to get the first round in!
Hollyoaks pt II (at least I’m not the oldest in this picture)…!!
So after a really challenging week my journey was at an end. I was helped immensely by all of the support I had en-route, so thank you to everyone who played a part. Most of all I’m grateful to Helen, my understanding girlfriend, who receives the Best Supporting Actress award for driving every inch of the route with me and without whom I really wouldn’t have made it.
Best support team money didn’t buy…!
Obviously the purpose behind all of this has been to provide continuing and much needed support to our servicemen and women who have made sacrifices that have changed their lives for ever. Help for Heroes plays a huge part in helping to rebuild shattered limbs and lives – your support continues to be gratefully received.
If you would like to donate then please just click the bear!
-To donate click here-
Midas Marathon will return in 2014!
Soapathon | 24th -30th May 2013 | 300 miles from Eastenders to Hollyoaks via Emmerdale & Corrie!