When the mind and the body of an athlete are in tune, having been expertly trained and properly nourished, he or she operates like a well-oiled machine; arms and legs acting like pistons; lungs expanding to their furthest extent; a heart that beats at a regular pace, and every ounce of attention focused on the job in hand.
But for those who take part in endurance events, an additional ingredient, that of mind over matter, is often needed to carry the athlete over the finishing line in a show of courage and determination that can elevate them to hero status.
The Black Country's very own living legend Blind Dave Heeley is one such athlete, and this week we once again pick up the pace of his own personal account of running and cycling all the way from John O'Groat's to Lands End during the Top to Toe Challenge in support of Macmillan Cancer Support in August 2011.
The story so far? He has just completed Marathon number three of ten ...
“Photos, interviews, and then we had a chance to sit and rest the body, and boy did I need it!” Dave recalls. “There was the smell of coffee in the air and sandwiches were being handed out.
The hospitality we experienced at the West Park Hotel was superb. After ten minutes it was off to a room in the hotel to get changed, a room that had the softest bed I've even encountered. I was SO tired, but I daren't sit on it else I reckon I wouldn't have got up for a week.
“Rosemary was there once again to administer running repairs, putting Germolene on open sores, ouch! I was not looking forward to climbing back onto that saddle! Longy was also nursing an injured Achilles heel, another legacy of Loch Ness.
Then before we had time to catch our breath we were saying goodbye to West Park, and also, for a short while at least, Garry and the support vehicles, as we were heading off along the banks of the River Clyde. Our intention was to follow the river and canal systems at this point, cutting out the centre of Glasgow and meeting up about 15 miles down river at the Carmyle Heron, a famous landmark in these parts. But sometimes even the best laid plans go wrong and we got lost, finding ourselves right at the heart of Glasgow where we didn't want to be.
“At first we rode around for a while trying to find a way out, but we seemed to be getting further mixed up. ‘We'll ask a local!’ What a good idea! We were directed one way, then after a couple of miles we asked again. We had to go back to where we had been before, and it was now getting rather silly and I was becoming giddy with confusion. As helmsman, Duggie had some personal issues of his own, which as the captain of the ship didn't bode well for me. His cycling shoe had split and he wasn't feeling at all well. Everyone we asked seemed to point us in a different direction and we began to detect a certain passive hostility from the natives. ‘Sassanachs, we'll teach them a thing or two’, words we felt may have been intended but were never spoken.
However, later we discovered a bagpipes championships was being held in the vicinity and the people we'd asked for directions had most likely come from outside the area.
“By now we were behind the clock in a big way and both Garry and Steve had been ringing to find out what was happening.
We were well and truly lost and couldn't tell them where we were. They were now parked up somewhere in Hamilton, whilst we were in no-man's-land.
Then Duggie spotted two policemen and after explaining our predicament they gave us directions to Hamilton, and after ten minutes he clocked a sign for the town and we were back on track.
“Being on the back seat of the tandem I could use the phone as we rattled along and I spoke to Garry telling him we were on the A122.
Moments later he rang back ‘It's the A123’.
“I then had to ring him again, ‘No, it's the A124’.
Talk about confusion, it was the A122 again. All we could do was hope they would find us quickly as both of us were now feeling pretty miserable; what a nightmare! “Suddenly I heard a familiar sound; it was the deep throated rumble of Garry's motorbike. Wow, were we relieved! No time to explain to him, we had to crack on, having lost nearly two hours down on the cut. We would chat at the caravan stop.
"’The caravan's in sight’, was Duggie's welcome cry. After meeting up with Garry we'd certainly put some effort into the pedals and as a result the razor blades had returned. But getting to the caravan was the be all and end all and we pushed ourselves through the pain barrier.
“Following behind Garry for those few miles was uneventful except for one incident.
Someone passed us in a car, and for whatever reason, obscenities were shouted from an open window, quickly followed by a beer can. I'm afraid it takes all sorts.
Sadly Duggie was now feeling terrible and he had to retire to the support car for the rest of the day. I stood outside the caravan and was handed a polystyrene cup, cold to the touch but containing red hot coffee.
I took a slurp! Ouch! We were both having a bad time. Now, as well as suffering razor blades and a sore knee, I'd also burnt my mouth.
“For the rest of the ride I knew it was going to be tough because we still had time to catch up. The evening had begun to draw its curtains and we estimated we wouldn't reach Moffat until 10 pm. Then right on cue it began to rain and we started to climb again.
The serious hills came with only 15 miles to go, but the rain was now torrential.
Mike shouted back to say visibility was terrible and our only guiding light came from the support vehicle and occasionally the rear beam from Garry's bike.
“We climbed up and up and up. Hang on! It felt like Glencoe had jumped on a bike and joined us 100 miles down the road.
It was blooming hard graft, with the wind howling, pushing the rain ever harder into our bodies; it was relentless.
From what I was told there wasn't a lot to see any road, just loads of darkness, then a signpost ‘Beattock Summit 1058 feet above sea level’ was shouted into the blinding gale.
“A little short of Glencoe's size but not far off.
Then utter relief as we started to descend and another sign, ‘6 miles to Moffat’. We joined forces with the wind and howled with delight, and then Mike told me there were street lights, we were back in civilisation, then came the theme music, clapping of hands, cheering from every quarter and the sanctuary of the Moffat House Hotel.
“Blimey what a struggle, but the elation of ending day three suddenly kicked in, and despite being wet through and tired out I was still able to muster enough energy for a couple of interviews and pose for a few pictures.
The lads and lasses of the media team from the college deserved a moment or two of my time as they themselves were doing a grand job covering this extraordinary Top to Toe Challenge. But after those few moments came food, glorious food, and of course bed. Rosemary, Longy and myself shared a room together so that Rosemary wouldn't have to wander the corridors of the hotel to administer the treatment we both desperately needed.
“With my razor blades area, legs, and that dodgy knee, and Longy's heel to attend to, she had her work cut out. The injury Longy had sustained was beginning to worry me because Karl had yet to join the team en route and an injury to my only guide runner at this stage in the challenge would not be good.
“However, I'll leave day three on an upbeat note. Rosemary made me smile. She had just showered and told me she was standing stark naked in front of me feeling very uncomfortable.
‘Dave, I do hope you are really blind!’ she said.
“Out of courtesy to this wonder woman with the healing hands, I closed my eyes. It was now half midnight and five o'clock would soon be upon us.”