As challenges go, this one was logistically relay difficult

Endurance relay  Johnny Hall (left) and Jamie Buchanan celebrate finishing their legs of the Real Relay.
Endurance relay Johnny Hall (left) and Jamie Buchanan celebrate finishing their legs of the Real Relay.

A GROUP of renegade runners from the Borders has joined hundreds of athletes across the British Isles for an extreme alternative torch relay.

Endurance Life (an extreme endurance sports company) founded the Real Relay in an exciting attempt to follow the entire route of the official Olympic Torch around the country in one continuous non-stop journey, running every step of the way, 24 hours a day.

Endurance relay  From left: Real Relay runners (from left) Tim McCall, Steven Simpson and Les Turnbull.

Endurance relay From left: Real Relay runners (from left) Tim McCall, Steven Simpson and Les Turnbull.

Starting out from Land’s End at midnight on Monday, May 28, 10 days behind the official Olympic Torch, the Real Relay runners have been toiling day and night on an 8,000-mile mission to reach London in time for the Olympic Games opening ceremony.

It was an opportunity too good to miss for the group of hardy Borderers who took the opportunity of a lifetime to follow the Olympic Torch mile for mile and step for step.

Melrose man Jamie Buchanan was one of those who took up the challenge. He told TheSouthern: “It just shows what a group of engaged and like-minded people, who have never even met before, can achieve. That must demonstrate what the Olympics is all about.”

What makes this event so special is that it is entirely unsupported, other than the organisers providing the contact details of runners so they can organise themselves.

There is no-one on the road to provide support for the athletes and it is down to the enthusiasm and energy of the runners themselves to make the venture work. There are all types of runners taking part, club runners, leisure runners, fell runners and even a former Dublin marathon winner in Karen Haldane of Galashiels.

The torch or “baton” that the runners are carrying holds a “yellow brick” GPS transmitter to track the progress runners have made throughout the event.

Unfortunately it failed last Friday and it was left to the runners to just get on with the relay, knowing it was to be replaced some time on the Saturday.

Explaining how things went over the weekend, Buchanan, who was running the Selkirk to Gattonside leg, said: “I got a text message from Johnny Hall of Moorfoot Runners to say the baton had been delayed by an hour.

“That meant re-organising runners all the way up the line. The chain of communication worked very well and all the runners did their bit to make up time by running outside their comfort zone to make sure the schedule was kept to.”

To demonstrate further the hardships endured, Hall, who took the torch from Walkerburn to Selkirk, explained: “One of the guys behind me decided not to run on the road at night and so he followed an old railway line. He ended up crossing a burn and a bog that was nearly up to his armpits. That caused a bit of a delay.

“I think the whole thing is a hugely interesting concept and I just love running.”

Les Turnbull (Coldstream) asked two of his friends from Norham Running Club, Steven Simpson and Tim McCall, to accompany him on his leg from Gattonside to Gordon.

He said: “There was some scepticism about the whole thing from some of the club members, but I thought that it was the closest Norham Running club would get to being represented at the Olympics – well, this time around anyway.

The Norham Runners handed over to 1992 Dublin Marathon winner Haldane, who ran from Gordon to Duns. Other Borders runners were Chris Dube (Leadburn to Peebles) and Becky Mackenzie (Peebles to Walkerburn).

Endurance Life are supporting a children’s charity called CHICKS and all runners were asked to make a minimum donation to the charity for taking part.

Buchanan added: “It’s a very small price to pay and looking at the number of donations on line so far most people have donated more than the required minimum.”

CHICKS is a charity that provides week-long respite breaks for disadvantaged children from all across the UK.