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Captain Tom Lockdown Challenge

[The title image is a photograph of the portrait of Capt Sir Tom Moore painted by Alex Chamberlin and currently hanging in the National Army Museum.]

Another weekend of dreadful weather greeted the runners taking part in the third challenge of this lockdown for Okehampton Running Club members. This one was in memory of Captain Sir Tom Moore, and used the statistics of him walking the 25m round his garden 100 times which gave a total distance of 2.5k. Runners were therefore asked to run 2.5k run or more, but dedicating a 2.5k section of it to the memory of the national hero who so sadly died from Covid after raising £32million for the NHS. A target of 100 runners was set, being the link to his 100 laps in this tribute to him. This seemed like a small ask to people who normally run greater distances, but the bitter cold and wind on Saturday, which was replaced by a milder but equally strong wind and rain on Sunday meant venturing out at all was quite a challenge. Without a doubt many wouldn’t have pulled on their running shoes on such weekend if it hadn’t been for joining in with club mates to honour Captain Tom.

The bitterly cold conditions on Saturday weren’t very inviting but a total of 33 members made the effort to do their runs along with 7 non members. Runs varied  from specific 2.5k’s to some long runs but with a dedication of part of it to the challenge. The original idea for this challenge came from new member Mike Saywell and not only did he complete a 2.5k run but then went on to “write” the name Tom using what’s known as Strava art, where the lines of your run on the Strava app make a picture or word, resulting in a total of 12 miles run, and having passed the same man digging in his garden four times!

One runner had a special reason to take part in this tribute. Sadly Joe Lane’s grandfather had passed away on the same day as the Captain, so Joe dedicated his 2.5k not only to Sir Tom, but also to the memory of his grandfather John.

Karen Vallance and Abby Metherall chose to start their run from a point on the New Road where the “Thank you NHS” rainbow sign was still in place from the first lockdown, although somewhat battered having not stood up to the wind as well as the runners.

Unfortunately the conditions on Sunday were no more appealing with rain adding to the misery of the wind, but once again everyone rose to the challenge. Throughout the day there was a steady flow of runs being posted on the ORC Facebook page, mostly accompanied by pictures of wet and windswept runners. One member, Debs Crome had encouraged several of her friends who, although not members, had taken part in the original lockdown challenges, to join in once again, giving the numbers big boost.

By the late afternoon there began to be a feeling that it was going to take a big collective effort get the total number of runners up to the target of 100. It wasn’t quite a case of pulling people from their sick beds, but there was definitely a feeling that there was no excuse to not get out and make a contribution in support all those who had already made the effort. Head torches were put on, ORC juniors were encouraged to do their bit, and challenge organiser, Rob Richards was motivating everyone with updates on Facebook, the last one saying they were only 7 runners short of the target.

Gill Spinney had completed her tribute as part of a much longer run she had done, but now her husband Phil and their two children Kiera and Aiden put their shoes on and each did 2.5k making it just four to go. By now though the word was out and a sudden flurry of late posts saw the final total come in at an amazing 117!

Many had found the hardest part was to actually get out there and run in such uninviting weather, but the inspiration of the challenge and the camaraderie of the members, knowing that each contribution took the club nearer to the target, made the difference. Having had two challenges held in dreadful weather there is hope that the next one in a fortnight might have more favourable conditions.