The Wall: A Tale of two Americans and two Italians and Their 69 mile quest

This story first appeared in the Information Point newsletter Our World in 2012 when David Lewis told The Information about taking part in The Wall to raise fund for The Myotubular Trust. 

On the weekend of June 23rd, team Aquilam Quaerentes (David, Filippo, Guido and John) joined 700 other crazy people to run the Wall, a relay from Carlisle to Newcastle following the path of Hadrian’s Wall. It was rainy (a lot), muddy (even more) and hilly (too much) but it was also fun and the team raised £12k for the Myotubular Trust, completing the run in 12 hours 47 minutes and 15 seconds (8th Relay Team overall). Below, David writes about the experience.

Our first major obstacle turned out to be the drive from London to Carlisle which we had anticipated to be a leisurely 5 1/2 hour drive … 10 hours later we arrived in a drenched Carlisle having been buffeted by torrential rain and high winds and having been subjected to some of the finest traffic that England has to offer. After that drive, the Wall was going to be a snip.

After a good meal and a good night’s sleep, Filippo was raring to go the next morning. He arrived at historic Carlisle Castle for the 8am mass start in the driving rain. Because of the extent of the local flooding (remind me again why there was a hose pipe ban in England this summer) the organisers altered the route to make the running safer. Some 2 3/4 hours and 15 miles later, Filippo, having run through a rushing river and otherwise experiencing the wonders of the rolling hills of the Cumbrian countryside, limped across the line and touched in at Lanercost Priory, an Augustinian monastery founded in 1169, to hand the baton off to David.

Our team spent some time congratulating Filippo on making it and discussing his adventure before a very scared David took off for a short 17 mile uphill jaunt towards the Roman fort of Vindolanda. Although the run began in sunshine, it was fleeting and the weather returned to wet and windy. The scenery in the hills during this stage was generally masked by the rain clouds and in any case the runners spent most of the time staring at the ground to see whether the next step would be in water, mud or ‘slurry’. When the occasional walking rest was taken the scenery though did prove to be breathtaking (even through the rain clouds). 3 1/2 hours later David finally arrived at the near halfway point at the end of the first day to be whisked away by the team to their luxury Cumbrian hotel which was happily warm and dry.

The following morning it was time for John to hit the trails with a 13 mile run which began with a hill climb like no other. John, a very experienced distance runner, literally had to scramble up the hill on all fours grabbing tufts of long grass to get him to the top of the monster. After ‘the Hill’ John ran along a long, rain drenched plateau before descending into the market town of Hexham and the next handoff point along the banks of the rushing Tyne River.

After a little conversation about John’s 2 hour 20 minute run and ‘the Hill’ it was time for Guido to take up the baton for an ‘easy’ 17 mile segment following the course of the Tyne River. Guido ran as if he were a messenger sent by the Legion to deliver a message to Hadrian. He was so fast that the team didn’t even notice when 2 hours and 50 minutes later he arrived at Newburn/Tyne Riverside Country Park. After the 10 minute team natter about the run it was time for David and John (who felt as though he hadn’t had enough abuse that day) to run the final 7 miles into Newcastle. After a little more than a mile John decided that ‘the Hill’ had gotten the better of him and sent David on ahead to finish the race for the team.

A little less than an hour and several bridges later, David and his ‘Five Finger’ shoes crossed the Gateshead Millennium Bridge and the finish line bringing an end to 2 days and 69 miles of fun and camaraderie but leaving Aquilam Quaerentes with the daunting task of driving back to London.

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