I honestly didn’t know if I could stay on my feet. I really was close to either throwing up or crying, or possibly both. My chest heaved, my legs sent signals to my brain that pleaded with me to stop and the scenes all around were reduced to tunnel vision.
The route ahead – more concrete – stretched out to a pin prick that remained in focus while all else around me, the crowds of screaming spectators and the steel-framed bed I was pushing as it rattled loudly from its wheels rolling over the road beneath my feet, pulsated in an increasingly claustrophobic blur. I must have been on the verge of losing consciousness and we were only about half way in.
At this midway point of the Great Knaresborough Bed Race I berated myself for being there. With absolutely no exaggeration, this was the worst physical punishment of my life. My wiry frame and limited fitness was being tortured, despite weeks of intermittent practice (albeit without the bed half the time and never once with a passenger aboard, as is required on race day – we only had ourselves to blame).
The crowds thickened and the noise erupted… somehow we summoned enough energy to lumber on.
All that kept me going was the money. Between seven of us we had raised, by that point, around £900 in sponsorship for the British Heart Foundation. We owed it to people’s generosity alone to make it over the finish line.
Here we were, six of us – three blokes and three lasses all aged 30-plus – pushing this heavy structure through the streets of what is a pretty North Yorkshire market town; our seventh team member riding as passenger and wearing a helmet and life jacket as per the rules.
Part-way through the 2.4-mile route of Tarmac and, in places, cobbled roads, we were at the peak of the route’s almighty, twisting summit – a seemingly endless, steep, helter-skelter hill that winds up from the riverfront to the market square at the top.
The crowds thickened here and the noise erupted. Our passenger, Ally, hammered repeatedly on an air horn tied to the bed with her foot as the adrenaline pumped, shouting encouragement in thick Scottish tones. The rest of us – Rosie, Clare, Caroline, Dan, Matt and yours truly – somehow summoned enough energy to lumber on as we came to the long downhill section of the High Street before crossing a bridge and navigating a river crossing just before the finish line.
Some 90-odd other competing teams filled the route and there were thousands of people lining the streets in support – some of whom were armed with water guns to fire at you as you run past with the bed.
Come the river crossing and I was one of two of us who we’d agreed would jump in the water first to bear the weight of the bed as it was lifted into the River Nidd, but I was muttering over and over, though barely audible to the rest, that I couldn’t do it… I did it anyway and half way across the river I turned the air blue with obscenities. The ‘frog man’ stationed there in case of emergencies had a good chuckle and urged me to picture the pint of beer that would await me at the finish line. It was enough to get me over and out of the water and across the line.
The rest of the team had been utterly incredible in getting us round. I collapsed straight away at the finish. High fives all around. I couldn’t believe we had done it. Overwhelmingly, I was filled with sheer relief that it was over.
A huge ‘thank you’ to every single person who cheered us on around the route whether you know us or not. A massive ‘thank you’ to all our friends who supported us in Knaresborough on the day. And a heart-felt ‘thank you’ to every single one of our 63 sponsors who raised an incredible £1,090 for the British Heart Foundation – smashing our initial target of £150 – via our JustGiving page: JustGiving: So Sozzled Crew
Turns out we’re suckers for pain and despite the trauma described here, our team ‘So Sozzled Crew’ fully intends to enter the ballot for the 2017 Knaresborough Bed Race. Although it was so very, very hard work, the event is actually fantastic fun that attracts a real community atmosphere and it is all held in a beautiful setting. Congratulations to the voluntary Knaresborough Lions group for another wonderful occasion.