Springwell Running Club’s 48 hour relay for The Olive Branch

“How far do you think we could run in 48 hours?” is a question that most of us would laugh off.

Not the members of Springwell Running Club, however, whose response to member Roy Buchanan’s question resulted in a weekend of over 300 miles, a spot of fundraising and plenty of craic.

Every year Springwell RC nominates a charity and then fundraises throughout the year for that charity and, since our efforts have been severely restricted in recent years, it was only but right that 2022 had something just a bit special.

This year’s chosen charity is “The Olive Branch” and the target for the challenge was quickly established; to run a club relay with the goal of 26 marathons, that’s 262 miles in 48 hours.

Patricia Craig, Judith Buchanan, George Brien and Roy Buchanan at the end of 48 hours

Starting in Coleraine at midday on June 17, members would spend 10 hours running the forest paths of the Trim Trail and its surroundings before a midnight trek relocated the proceedings to Limavady. Many more miles would be gathered from the Back Burn path before joining in with the carnival atmosphere of the Limavady Parkrun and then making a second transition to Garvagh Forest and an afternoon on the trails.

The final move would take the party to Ballymoney where another early morning of running would eventually see the challenge finish at midday on June 19 in the Riverside Park. The relay “legs” would be a set time rather than a distance with members running as far as they could in one hour before handing over to the next runner.

The weather on the morning of June 17 was not ideal but as midday approached the rain faded away to leave a dry, if not too warm afternoon, for Roy and Judith Buchanan and Gareth McLaughlin to take the first steps towards the 262 mile target with a “baton” recording their travels. The afternoon saw the Garmin tracker passed from Springer to Springer as the purple vests gathered the miles. Roy, Judith and Gareth handed over to Patricia Craig who then handed on to Pauline Duke as Judith kept them company on their miles and clocked up over 18 miles herself before taking a break.

The sight of the club colours and the activity of runners and supporters quickly caught the attention of the trim trail patrons and there were many enquiries about what we were up to, which presented an opportunity to explain who the Olive Branch were and what they did. An hour of running from George Brien followed by a three hour shift from Jimmy Evans finished the first seven hours of running and covered 36 miles towards our target. Jenny Chartres, Jonno Johnson and Andrew Wilmot finished the evening and it was time for the first transition to Limavady.

David Shiels and Christopher McNickle

A strengthening breeze and quickly dropping temperature did not make for an easy run, but a scenic route by Fergus Thompson and Roy Buchanan resulted in a photo opportunity at midnight with Manannan Mac Lir as they ran via Downhill and Gortmore to take the Bishops Road into Limavady and a handover to David Shiels with 97.2 miles accumulated. The early morning hours are always difficult to run in but David Shiels, Christopher

McNickle and John Butcher carried the relay through to sunrise and 126.95 miles before Jenny and David Chartres took over.

The Back Burn path is the venue for the Limavady Parkrun and was the centre of activities as Heather McLaughlin, Leanne Quigley, Alan and Nicola White and Deborah Archibald continued to tick off the miles before Ingrid Hamilton and Alison Duncan joined in with the atmosphere of the Parkrun to finish their leg. Two more hours of running from Chris Denton and Ryan Kennedy and one day’s running was completed, 158.75 miles travelled, and it was time for another move. More importantly, the club’s antics had started to gather a bit of attention and there was over £400 donated.

The temperature was on the rise and it was a warm, sunny run for Stephen Fillis as he quickly covered the miles to Garvagh Forest and delivered the baton into the hands of LJ Logan and David Campbell for the start of an afternoon on the scenic trails of Garvagh Forest. Rozzy Skuce, Jim Bradley, Michael Mulvenna, Antoinette Conway, Lisa McKenna, Michael McKeown, Bridgeen Canning, Rosemary Mellon, Rodney andDeborah McPhee and Andrew Wilmot all put in a shift to complete 34 hours of our challenge and cover a fantastic 231.67 miles.

Fergus Thompson and Roy Buchanan with a midnight visit to Manannan Mac Lir

The transition to Ballymoney was in the capable hands of Jonno Johnson accompanied by Rodney McPhee. In highly reflective and well-lit attire they quickly covered the country roads between Garvagh and Ballymoney, running a few more miles around the town and then handing the baton to Roy Buchanan for the start of the final 12 hours. Injury or not, Helena Dornan was determined not to be left out of events and took on the night shift to encourage everyone and look after their safety. Another leg from Deborah Archibald took the time to 2.00am when Aidan Mooney stepped up for two hour shift followed by the return of John Butcher to take proceedings to 6.00am with 42 hours of running completed and 281.48 miles run.

There was still six hour of running to complete the challenge; the distance had been achieved, but just how far could runners go? Johnathan Huddlestone started the morning shift before the return of Rodney and Deborah McPhee at 7.00am. Amanda Scott, Lorraine Abernethy, Elaine Montgomery and Shaun Carton took proceedings to 9.00am and the brink of 300 miles with 299.79 miles recorded. Responsibility for that very important 0.21 of a mile was handed to Judith Buchanan who took to the Riverside Park to round up the numbers and continue the adventure.

The final three hours of the challenge were ably managed by Judith and Roy Buchanan, Patricia Craig and George Brien as they clocked up the laps of the park. Donations gathered momentum and reached the £1000 mark as the intrepid runners reached the end of the challenge with a fantastic 315.76 travelled. Club President Kenny Bacon was in attendance to receive the baton at the end of the journey. A great weekend of running adventures had a twofold purpose; first to raise some money and secondly to emphasise the importance of mental health and the work that charities such as the Olive Branch undertake.The very sad statistic is that in the 48 hours that Springwell members spent running at least one person in Northern Ireland will have decided to take their own life and more needs to be done to help people.

During this event the club chairperson received two personal messages from individuals whose life had been directly affected by this very issue, one saying: “If your running has saved one life it’s all been worth it”.

Roy Buchanan, Judith Buchanan, Elaine Montgomery, Amanda Scott, Lorraine Abernethy and Shaun Carton

The fantastic total of £1311 has been raised by Springwell Running Club for The Olive Branch to date.

Thank you to everyone who ran, supported, fed, and donated to this event. Donations can still be made via Just Giving at https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/springwell-rcREAD MORE:

Rodney and Deborah McPhee, Majella McAteer and Mariette Mulvenna
Stephen Fillis en route to Garvagh