Au revoir moi petit pois,
So after a gruelling energy sapping eternity, finally it was over. A once in a generation momentous decision had been reached. Pushing a buggy for over 300 miles dressed as Batman is not to be repeated! It was an extreme exercise on my part just to avoid the relentless tedium of the Braveheart debate to the North. Anyway, now that the Independence referendum is over I thought you may have a gap in your life. So what better to do with all this new found time than to read about Batman’s trip to the South…
Day 1 - Peckham to Fleet - 43 miles
It has to be said it was something of a low-key start, seen off as I was by a traffic warden & a young chap whose first words to me were “I’ve only been out of prison for two and a half weeks!” I sensed he was more interested in casing the local Cash Converters than offering a donation, but congratulated him on his achievement and he quickly disappeared from view. Peckham’s really not a hive of activity at 09:00 on a Sunday. And The Nags Head was closed. So with no fanfare I hit play on my in-buggy sound system to start the ‘Only Fools & Horses’ theme tune and set off down Peckham high street with a little over 300 miles between me and Lands End.
I quickly discovered manoeuvring a 3 wheeled ‘van’ at speed around London’s streets was trickier than I’d imagined and my pace was somewhat pedestrian as a result. I suffered several early collisions including being impaled on some railings which really didn’t bode well! Anyway I soon found my way out of urban and into leafy London where I felt somewhat safer - though no less self-conscious. My appearance was causing quite a stir.
Chateauxneuf du Pape! Terror on the High Streets of Britain (maybe time for a re-brand)…
It was great to meet some old friends along the way (thanks to Amy; Jacqui & Alan for joining me). We even found time for a couple of pints en route - though as a consequence it was twilight by the time I arrived in Fleet, but then that is the time bats come out to play!
Total miles: 43 Only Fools & Horses theme play count: 258
Robin was feeling pumped about our little adventure…
Day 2 Fleet to Salisbury - 49 miles
Day 2 was always going to be a challenge with a lot of ground to cover before a rendezvous with the England football match that evening. After a fabulous summer of some breath-taking displays, what more of an incentive could I wish for! It also included some of the more treacherous roads we would face. I hit the streets at 07:30 leaving misty Fleet to play chicken with the commuter traffic. I’d been offered a police escort by Overton police through the villages of Overton and Laverstoke which was a great and somewhat safer experience. And receiving a bottle of gin from the lovely people at the new (still being built) Bombay Sapphire distillery was very welcome too!
The sun was over the yardarm somewhere…
However as the day wore on I received some less welcome attention from the local constabulary. Apparently (and I’m not making this up) motorists were ringing the police to say that some nutcase was running down busy roads with a child in a buggy. I take exception to Robin being described as a child! I think they thought I was a renegade Father’s for Justice Campaigner. Anyway I was strongly advised to stop and get off what was a busy dual carriageway down into Salisbury and to find an alternative route. That would have meant getting into a car which I couldn’t contemplate. So instead I completed the final few miles into Salisbury by a somewhat more agricultural route than I had intended (or indeed my buggy had been designed) along some heavily overgrown verges and the central reservation! The last few miles took an eternity - and I only just made kick off! Thanks to Rosie & Sam from Help for Heroes for joining us at the finish and to Mark & Colin for meeting us for a beer!
Total miles: 92 Only Fools & Horses theme play count: 569
Every breath I took, every step I made they were watching me! Batman had his collar felt by the long arm of the law (otherwise known as ‘Rocky’ Baldwin)…!
Day 3 - Salisbury to Yeovil - 46 miles
Another 7:30 start for myself and Robin. Robin had an altercation with a bush the previous day which had taken the wind out of his sails somewhat. A pleasant canter through Wiltshire and Somerset with my only run in with the law being the Fovant Badges etched into Wiltshire’s landscape.
Judging by the amount of road kill littering England’s roads poor old Foxy Loxy’s has had a tough summer though and the badgers have more than a cull to be worried about. The strangest sight though was undoubtedly a snake who’d recently fallen off his mortal coil. I gave him a nudge just to check, but he had certainly ceased to exist. Less Blackadder more Brown-bread snake.
My final few miles into Yeovil saw me running faster than the traffic. It was an unexpected surprise to bump into running buddy Paul Allen proving what a small world it really is!
Total miles: 138 Only Fools & Horses theme play count: 858
Robin had let himself very badly down. Feeling as flat as Alex Salmond. But with a better grasp of economics…
Day 4 - Yeovil to Exeter - 46 miles
I was barely out of Yeovil when I sensed a vehicle pulling up behind me. I turned expectantly hoping for another donation to be greeted by the sight of blue flashing lights and a policeman exiting his vehicle!
"Morning - is everything ok?"
"Morning, we’ve had reports that Batman’s been seen running down busy roads with a baby. It’s not a baby in there is it!?"
"Errr, no it’s Robin"
I was starting to empathise with how Del Boy felt with all this police persecution! So I thought, what would Del have done in this situation? He’d look to bribe the policeman…! So I gave the officer a box of 9Bars and I was quickly on my way!
It was another hot day with plenty more stunning late summer sunshine. Not exactly what the doctor ordered when running in several layers of costume - but preferable to rain nevertheless. I was leaving a sweat vapour trail in my wake. Still it did represent an excuse to succumb to the liquid temptations of the apple harvest…when in Rome (or indeed in Somerset)!
Day 4 marked the half-way point to Lands End and my body was starting to show the strain. My feet and ankles were very swollen, with my Ibuprofen drip feed finally wilting in the fight to keep me supple. Robin by now had been ‘opened up’ and stuffed with newspaper to give him a slightly less flaccid look. Nothing so extreme for me…a few bags of ice and a couple of cold ones helped to dull the pain.
Total miles: 184 Only Fools & Horses theme play count: 1132
They had a no cape policy on the door…
Day 5 - Exeter to Launceston - 42 miles
Leaving Exeter I immediately discovered some hideous hills to negotiate with 5 miles of almost vertical climb. I’d forgotten my altitude sickness tablets. It was chilly and I was still sweating like a pig. The early morning cold was soon replaced by another searingly hot afternoon. Running west for 5 days straight into the sun meant my face had taken on a lobster like complexion.
The terrain eventually plateaued and life became a little more tolerable once more. Just me, Robin, Devon’s rolling hills and the ever-constant drum beat of ‘Why do only fools and ‘orses work… La la la la la la la….’
For the 3rd time since I set out (bearing in mind I’m running at the side of the road dressed as Batman pushing Robin in a buggy) I was stopped by a passing motorist to ask for directions. Really?! So you’re lost and the best idea you can come up with is to ask a running superhero?! Anyway I couldn’t help the couple to locate Traygo Mills on this (or any other) occasion!
After 40 odd miles of running I finally reached the East Cornish border. I suddenly felt a lot closer to my final destination - albeit I still had the longest day ahead of me and another 90 miles to go.
Total miles: 226 Only Fools & Horses theme play count: 1391
Robin - more ‘in the border’ than ‘at the border’…
Day 6 - Launceston to Truro - 54 miles
Day 6 was intended to be 48 miles crossing Dartmoor down to Truro. It was going to be a real test with a combination of high mileage and 6 days’ accumulated fatigue. My sat nav ‘walking route’ had concluded that 12 miles of running down the A30 dual carriageway was the best way to go. Given the previous interventions from the boys in blue I decided that I should try and find another way. So rather belatedly I plotted an even more backwater route. It was to add an extra 4 miles to the journey. Getting lost along this new route added 2 more so 48 had become 54 in total. I’d left at 07:00 with the hope I’d reach Truro before dark - but had charged my Bat-torch just in case!
I’m told Dartmoor is a bleak and unforgiving landscape when the weather’s grim. A bit like Birmingham whatever the weather. But again my luck was in. Whilst it was a touch breezy up top I was still able to improve my tan (limited of course to just my face) as I progressed across some of England’s wildest scenery.
It was nearly 20:00 by the time Robin and I reached a dusky Truro. After nearly 13 hours of being pushed around, Robin was feeling the strain. And Batman was feeling the pain too!
Total miles: 280 Only Fools & Horses theme play count: 1732
Just cushty. Or should that be pushty?! If Little Bo Peep’s reading, we found them…!
Day 7 - Truro to Lands End - 34 miles
Only 36 miles to cover on the final day. It was still a challenge. I’d been taking Imodium all week and it was now having some unintended consequences - giving me severe stomach cramps. I could barely walk for the first couple of hours let alone run. Eventually though the pain subsided and I was able to pick up the pace a little, but still had to swerve the pasty I’d promised myself as I passed St Michaels Mount. Still ‘real’ Cornish pasty shops are ten-a-penny in London!
I met so many cyclists during the final few miles into Lands End - it seemed the world and his wife were on their way there - and all at a faster pace than me! More especially it was great to have the company of Liz & Alan (9Bar Mum & Dad) for the final few miles to the country’s end. Al’s a twitcher - so getting his first glimpse of the lesser spotted Peckham Robin was an exciting moment for him!
I rolled into Lands End just before its 17:00 close. Timed to perfection! Finally I was able to remove my somewhat smelly costume and to enjoy a couple of beers to celebrate with a slice or two of bat-cake!
Total miles: 314 Only Fools & Horses theme play count: 1981
The end of the civilised world…
Thank you to everyone who supported me and especially to Helen for driving every step of the way with me and without whom none of this would have been possible.
If anyone still wishes to donate to support the amazing work that Help for Heroes does for our wounded servicemen and women - please just click the bear!
Otherwise it’s on to the streets of New York City for Batman and November’s marathon which completes the Only Fools & Heroes trilogy!
Please feel free to share with anyone else who may be interested - many thanks!
♫ To the tune of Only Fools & Horses theme♫
Stick a 9Bar in me pocket
I’ll fetch my Asics from the van
Cause if you want the best runs
And you don’t mind tensions
Then brother I’m your man
Where it all comes from
Is a mystery
I’m running for the Heroes
Don’t you see?
But here’s the one that’s driving me berserk
Why do I look a fool and such a jerk
La la lala - la la la la la (repeat to fade)