Challenge which is far from being a racing certainty

Borders pharmacist Hilary Evans prepares for her big challenge.
Borders pharmacist Hilary Evans prepares for her big challenge.

It’s Saturday, August 30, and I am rudely wakened by my alarm at the unearthly hour of 5.30am.

Today is “Beat the Borders: a one-day adventure” and I have decided to challenge myself to an event which was not a race, but a day to be enjoyed.

I did a similar event the week before when a good friend decided to celebrate her 50th birthday with a bike ride and hill run. So, armed with the confidence that I could complete the course and feeling happy that it wasn’t a race, I arrive in Melrose by 7.30 to register.

The day saw 175 people participate to raise money for Children’s Hospice Association of Scotland (CHAS).

At registration I am given an 8.15 start slot for my silver challenge. The largest group leaves at 7.30, comprising mainly of those doing the gold challenge, a 40-mile bike ride followed by an 18-mile walk.

The bike ride follows the quieter roads of the Four Abbeys cycle route from Melrose to Kelso, passing by the Bellevue Guest House where I know I can obtain a cup of coffee (it’s not a race, so there’s no rush) and then the wonderful small country roads from Kelso to Roxburgh, and onto Ancrum, Lilliesleaf, Ashkirk, ending at the Woll Golf Course. Somewhere along one of these roads, I pass a lady on a bike who asks, “Which bike race is this?” I have a bit of a panic and hear myself in a high-pitched voice telling her that it’s not a race – it’s a challenge (apologies to that lovely lady if she’s reading this).

Here we ditch our bikes (actually, mine was very carefully placed in a big van and transported to Melrose) and eat a hearty lunch of lentil soup and a tuna roll provided by the organisers. I stow a chocolate bar for later because this is where I change my bike shoes for running shoes and set out to join the Borders Abbeys Way route for the eight-mile shuffle to The Haining at Selkirk. I say shuffle because at 50-something I can hardly call it a run after cycling for three hours!

As I wisely chose not to do the gold level, my day ends at The Haining, greeted on arrival by a pipes and drums band, plus tray-bakes with cups of tea provided by volunteers.

The extremely keen go on for another 10 miles, still following the Borders Abbey Way to Melrose where, if they have anything left in their tank, they can stay on for a barbecue and party. I drag myself home for a hot bath, sleep and feeling of satisfaction that the day seemed a complete success for CHAS and for me.

Combined cycle and shuffle time – approximately five hours. Maybe I’ll do the gold next year!