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Running Home For Christmas: Behind the Scenes

BY: Rachel Boswell
28 November 2023

Last week, Rick set out on the ultimate festive challenge: to run from The Running Channel’s office in central London to his home on the Wirral in time for Christmas.

Thankfully, Rick didn’t have to face this epic journey of more than 360km alone. A dream team from The Running Channel, backed by Mizuno and Sportsshoes.com, helped Rick to cover the distance on foot as a relay, over three consecutive days, in support of the Motor Neurone Disease Association (MNDA) – Rick’s chosen charity. 

And there were a fair few happenings along the way…

Credit: James Dunn

Day One

With a host of cheering supporters (including his best friend, there by surprise!) and fellow runners wishing him luck at the start line, Rick set off from The Running Channel’s office in central London at midday on Monday 20 November. His leg of just over 6km was a small but significant first step on his epic run home for Christmas. 

As Rick got into his stride, the other relay runners hopped into a van in a bid to beat the London traffic and meet him at Parliament Hill for the first changeover. Second to running, transporting the team members, kit and crucial snacks to all 28 checkpoints along the route was to be the biggest challenge on the journey up to the Wirral!

Credit: James Dunn

Several legs later and the team had entered the hours of darkness and the first spell of nighttime running. Car park conversations and jumping jacks, alongside regular rummages through the snack stores (did we mention snacks?), kept team spirits high and core temperatures warm as the running continued nearby. While it may have been November, even mince pies made a welcome early appearance. 

Swept up in the excitement of the endeavour, Rick was keen to join in with everyone’s legs, even though there was still a long way to go and he had only recently returned to running following surgery and a huge amount of rehab on his knee. 

“Hey, Mo,” he said on day one, only 25km into the 350km-long challenge. “What do you think about me joining you for your leg? I’ve always wanted to run the border out of London!”

In light of his comeback from injury, it’s incredible that Rick was able to embark on this challenge at all.   

Credit: James Dunn

With tiredness eventually starting to hit, the team made the most of a pleasant overnight stay in the regency town of Leamington Spa, located in the West Midlands, while presenters James and Mo valiantly powered on for the first night shift. James ticked off a leg of more than 36km, while Mo, setting off close to 3.00am, ran over 40km – just shy of a marathon!

Having successfully got lost on his first 5km shift earlier in the day – making that leg even longer – James was still happy to take the extra mileage in his stride. “The more miles the better – I eat marathons for breakfast!”

Day Two 

Talking of breakfast, day two kicked off with sufficient refuelling and a conversation topic to excite any runner: body batteries. 

Clearly feeling the effects of the first long day of running, some of the team were already on a training readiness score of 1 (out of 100!) according to their Garmin watches. So, naturally, a ‘who has the lowest body battery?’ competition quickly commenced. That said, the mood among the team was still high ahead of more mileage up to the Wirral.

Once Mo had returned from his almost-marathon just after 7am, Rick set off for leg 13 – thankfully not an unlucky one. 

Credit: James Dunn

By midday, the team had reached the city of Birmingham, Britain’s second-largest city. To celebrate the milestone and refuel in the tastiest fashion, the runners made a welcome pitstop at Sorrento Lounge for lunch, where they were greeted with name tags, cards, energy gels and the finest spread of food. 

Following another quick detour to Birmingham’s Christmas markets (specifically the hot chocolate stalls), the runners had re-laced their trainers and returned to the roads to continue the relay. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, the team had to reassess the structure of the remaining legs to get back on track after falling slightly behind schedule due to some setbacks. 

By the evening, the group had split into two groups, with one pulling their first Christmas crackers at a cosy meal at Verso Lounge in Stafford and the other settling for pizza on the side of a road… Which would you prefer?

Everyone then headed off to Chester for some hard-earned sleep while Jess shuffled and slid her way along a boggy 36km stretch of canal through the night – “the perfect Valencia Marathon taper,” some might say. 

At a rude 3am, Mo – who until then was enjoying a power nap just off the canal in the team’s (luxurious) camper van – took on yet another night shift of running. The team didn’t feel too bad about handing Mo the extra miles, though, as he heroically suggested on many occasions that he could cover it. “Don’t worry, guys,” he would say. “I’ll run for you – I don’t mind running 100km if needed.”

Thankfully, the night runners did not go unsupported, with Hannah accompanying for the first half of the night and our very talented logistics liaison, Taylor, joining for the second half. Taylor, who runs his own bespoke events and coaching business, TaylorMade, has taken on a number of projects to support individuals embarking on massive challenges over the past few years. More recently, he has been invaluable in supporting The Running Channel with route planning and recces, and he has joined us on the challenges themselves to ensure we are all safe and everything runs smoothly. 

Day Three

The third and final day of the running endeavour began with bike issues. This meant some nervous waiting around, as the camera crew needed a fully-functioning bike to capture all the running action.

Bike anxiety eventually alleviated, everyone was starting to feel mixed pangs of emotion on realising that the challenge was drawing to a close. James in particular was filled with joy as he completed a leg that passed through Wales – a country that holds a special place in his heart. 

With the runners creeping ever closer to the finish line on West Kirby beach on the Wirral, it was all hands on deck to get the branding and supporters in place for this spectacular finale. This was easier said than done, as the wind along the beach was unreal!

But after running more than 360km up the country, no amount of wind could stop the team from completing this epic challenge. Closing the final leg to the hugs, cheers and tears of family, friends, and members of the MNDA, Mizuno and Sportsshoes.com, Rick had successfully run home for Christmas with some of his best running pals beside him. 

And even better? Rick’s mum had already prepared some warm, home cooked food for the exhausted but elated runners to enjoy with a glass of Gavi. 

Credit: James Dunn

Run with us to win

If you’ve been inspired to take on a challenge like Rick’s, here’s some great news: you can! This holiday season – from 1 December to Christmas Day – we want the whole running community to join us in collectively running one million kilometres.

As we hit distance milestones, we’ll be raising crucial funds for the MNDA while unlocking incredible giveaways for those who have contributed a kilometre to be in with a chance of winning. This includes a VIP trip for two to the 2024 Amsterdam Marathon weekend!

To get involved, visit www.runninghomeforchristmas.com.

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