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I was in John o'Groats to Land's End race but made it only to border

By Black Country Bugle  |  Posted: August 25, 2014

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I USED to live in Penzer Street, Kingswinford, in the late 1950. Then when I got married, I moved to Ormskirk in Lancashire.

I still read The Bugle from time to time as I like to keep up with the news in the Black Country.

I was reading about the Billy Butlin's John o'Groats to Land's End race in The Bugle (July 3 edition and June 19 editions) and I decided to write as I was one of the 715 who got off the train that day in 1960.

It was full with mostly young people. Yes Ivy Bayliss, and Peter Goddard would also have been on it, although I never met them.

I had few possessions and little money.

I worked on the railway at the time and asked for time off. That was okay and off I went without too much planning.

When it came to the start I looked down the line. There seemed to be hundreds of people, and I wondered how many were like me, not having given it much thought of how they were going to manage over the next few weeks.

It was a cold day and Billy Butlin, who was flying around in his helicopter, came to start the race followed by loads of reporters.

We all started walking, then it became a running race. But you soon slowed down after a while. When it was getting dark a gale started, then came the rain and there was nowhere to shelter.

After a while I could see a telephone box. I thought I would take shelter there. But as I got closer I noticed that there were already quite a few taking shelter there.

So I decided to carry on. Next morning it was a little better, especially with having a short rest at the checkpoints each time.

I was mainly on my own for most of the time. But I did meet one young man and walked with him for two or three days.

One night we were going though a small village and one lady began talking to us. Then she said come in for a drink.

I said no I'm carrying on but she insisted. Later when I sat down the room started going round and then I was on the floor.

She insisted I stayed the night. The people in Scotland were very good to us in lots of ways.

When it was time to start off again I asked about the other young man.

She said he was up and on his way but he had to give up with ankle problems, so I was on my own again.

It was getting dark as I started to walk the length of Loch Ness. It was black and I was dying with thirst. I could hear a waterfall, but I could not find where it was coming from.

Over the next few days I finally reached the English/Scottish border.

I was determined to finish the race, but a day and half later I badly damaged my ankle in the dark, one frosty morning.

I hoped it would get better, but it got worse. That was the end for me and I was very unhappy as I had a lift home.

The local newspaper got to hear about me and came to interview and ended up putting my picture on the front page.

I was 20 at the time. Ivy Bayliss, the51-year-old, should have had a lot more than just £50. Sir Billy should have given her a holiday as well. It was a very good achievement in the middle of winter.

Sam Harris.


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