RUN the RUNWAY - Sports Relief Mile: 14/03/12

Coaching 100 British Airways and another 100 Gatwick Airport Ltd security staff out onto the airfield at 11pm was never going to be an easy mission. Tonight is a first attempt for London Gatwick employees to ‘run the runway’ to fundraise for Sports Relief.


After some light refreshments, pictures and interviews at the BA lounge in the North Terminal, we make our way to the gate area to be coached out to the airfield close to the fire station for the start. Shane Ritchie has been warming us up with fun and laughter and jokes that the winners shall win flights to Manchester!

Heavy fog and building works resurfacing the runway, means that a mile lap around the airfield is the only option for the charity event to take place. Arriving outside and huddled in a large group we already start to feel the chill of the early morning fog. Some staff are even brave enough to wear shorts! Brrrhh... Not for me, I have my trusty running trousers on!

Laughing and joking amongst ourselves, we are distinguished by blue tees for the GAL staff and white tees for the BA staff.  All the fire service and airfield ops staff have lined up in their vehicles to toot and cheer us on! 

The atmosphere is very exciting and we all start to feel rather nervous. We are advised to run close to the green lights on the tarmac, which laps around the stands to make 1 mile. Rather straight forward enough.

23:30:  The Airfield Manager has the pleasure of firing the gun! BANG!....A sea of white and blue runners sprint ahead towards the green lights in the centre.  Everyone is laughing and hooting out loud and I can't help thinking how great this would look as a bird’s eye view.

As the first bend approaches I start to see the real runners settling into their pace and the slower group filtering back somewhat. I can see a few BA girls on either side of me and some security guys up ahead. I am not sure of my fastest mile pace, so I just hang out here for the time being and enjoy the atmosphere.

After the first bend and as I approach the next, I realise there are only a few of us in the lead and one of our security managers is super fast, sprinting like his life depends on it! Blimey, I didn't realise this would be taken so seriously, I thought this was just a ‘fun’ fundraiser.   But I do love a bit of competition, so I speed up my legs with all the energy I have left to catch up with him.

I glide past at ease and can hear his footsteps fade away as I speed up some more for the last bend.  I can't see anyone else by my side and it all goes rather quiet.  I come around the corner and I seem to make the waiting staff jump as they didn't seem ready for anyone to come in just yet!

Claps and cheers are accompanied by someone shouting out: “Well done! You came in first'.  As I turn around, within seconds I can see the second place runner coming up to finish.  He tells me he tried all he could to keep up to my pace, but found it impossible. 

Third place is a girl from BA, then in comes the fourth runner. Then a group comes in. Then trickles of pairs, and so on, until everyone has finished. Some walking to catch their breath, others sprinting with all their might. It is such a buzz to watch and see.

As the organizers try to locate who came first then second place, I am found and they ask me to pose for the finish line again as they weren't ready. I find this rather embarrassing but co-operate all the same. I raise my arms to run through the tape with a winning smile and photo. My first win - even if it was a fundraiser! My race time was 04:32.

An amazing experience was had by all and lots of money donated to a good cause in the process.  I hope London Gatwick can do this charity event every year, and if we’re lucky the great British weather may allow us to actually run on the actual runway next time…

I later find out that myself and the first place British Airways winner won a pair of tickets each to either St Lucia, Antigua or Barbados from London Gatwick valid for one year!   Wow! I did not expect that and I have never won a prize before, how exciting!

In November 2012 I decided to take my close friend Helen along with me to Barbados for a week.  Helen ran five marathons in 2012 raising over £3,000 for Prostate Cancer Research. I had completed 12 races by November and two of those were Ultra events, so we both enjoyed the well needed break. We still went running on holiday, myself every day, usually on the beach barefoot...bliss.

British Airways and Gatwick Airport Ltd each donated £5,000 to Sport Relief and the total raised to date is £14,487.

I would like to thank London Gatwick Airport Ltd, British Airways, Chris Kimber, Begonia Cahcaldora and Heather Griffiths for the ‘Run the Runway’ Fundraiser.

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