RAF Armourer Raises over £1,200

Sergeant Pete Guard of the Weapon Training Cell, Armament Engineering Flight at RAF Coningsby has raised over £1200 for the British Limbless Ex-Service Men’s Association (BLESMA) by competing in a series of 10k races across the UK; the Notorious Nights Runs in various locations in England and Scotland and the British 10k in London

It was on a cold winter’s afternoon whilst jogging with ice underfoot that my friend (we’ll call him Robin the Boy Wonder) asked me if I’d thought about entering any races… I hadn’t. Sure, I’d run a couple when I was younger, aged 18 or 19, but now I was approaching 35.

“Well I’m going to be running some (races) next year to raise money for BLESMA” said Robin. Wow, I thought, here he is, an ex-RAF Flight Sergeant, a youthful 50+ who now teaches young Weapons Technicians and is also the Sports Therapist for the local Football team, out running to keep fit and raising money for charity. Why did I think I was too old at 35?

I found out that BLESMA has been established for over 75 years and is helping our injured Service Men and Women returning from Afghanistan, as well as still looking after our brave forefathers that served in the world wars before us. I was sold and had found a new passion.

The Boy Wonder and I, (now Batman, for reasons I’m sure only ‘Robin’ can explain, because I don’t know how I allowed myself to get talked into running with a hood and cape on!) signed up with the Rat Race, a company that organizes running and adventurous training events. We chose to enter The Notorious Night Run Series; three 10 kilometre runs in destinations that would take us from Henley-on-Thames to the Scottish Borders and ending in Sherwood Forest. The three events in March and April took place through challenging terrain as dusk turned to dark by the light of a head-torch.

Using a well known Social Network website I messaged my friends individually, raising awareness of BLESMA and stating my intentions to raise funds for the charity. As I had hoped and testimony to my great friends; the response was over-whelming and the money started rolling in immediately on my ‘justgiving’ website: www.justgiving.com/Peter-Guard

After a couple of months training, ‘Batman’ and ‘Robin’ were ready for the first night run at Henley-upon-Thames. It was here that the dangerous duo battled through beautiful countryside, which was soon masked by shadows and a stream of bobbing lights. Getting used to running in the dark with only a head torch is a challenge in itself, because the torch light sets a shadow in your lower vision so you can’t see your feet or more than two metres of the ground in front of you…couple this with a super hero mask and you have a brand new running style. (I asked myself: WHY Robin WHY?)

The next race was over far tougher terrain (read mountains, rocks and raging rivers) as we headed to the Scottish Borders. I knew the area well as it is used for downhill mountain bike racing (read steep). Batman and Robin set off punching their way through the crisp night air with a *KAPOW* to the tune of da na da na da na da na… As dusk fell and the moon rose we found ourselves covered in the eerie shadow of the first mountain, up and over we went, before coming across our next challenge in the valley. Now it’s probably worth mentioning at this point that I am 6 foot tall and Robin measures barely 5 foot. We jumped into a freezing raging river and started to wade against the flow…well I waded and Robin had to find another form of propulsion as the water beat him at chest height! I felt numb as we climbed out on to the bank, with our capes wet through, we must have weighed at least 5 times more than when we started! Unlike the scenes in a Hollywood movie, our capes were not dry a second later – they seemed to retain the weight of the water for the rest of the run.

On to the next challenge…as we climbed on our hands and knees, (yes, this is a night ‘RUN’) rocks and even people rolled down the hill past us. This was a slope of rocky scree which was taking its toll on a lot of the runners whose arms and legs flailed aimlessly as they battled their way to the top. As darkness descended we lost sight of each other, so had to continue alone. I felt like this ‘run’ would never end as I came across more steep hills. I checked my watch… this was not going to be a world record for a 10k run; in fact, two hours had gone by and I was feeling the fatigue. The wonderful people who organised the Notorious Night Run called the ‘Deer Stalker’ had failed to mention the course route was over 16 kilometres of mountainous terrain. This had been by far the most challenging run I had completed, but it felt like the most rewarding, as Robin and I celebrated with a cool sparkling beverage.

The third night run was in England’s driest forest, Sherwood; so why did I end up covered from head to toe in mud? Well as it happens, our friends at Rat Race had imported a Mud jump…ingenious. We became the Terrible Trio for the day when Robin brought along Cat Woman, (to whom he has been married for 25 years!) I came in 37th out of 370 runners – this was my best race yet. I was even beginning to enjoy the challenge so much, that, on behalf of BLESMA, I entered the British 10k in London! The Boy Wonder wasn’t able to join me on this occasion, so I ran cape-less. As I paced the hot and stuffy streets of London on 10 July I did miss the encouragement of my running partner Robin

The British 10K, London.

The British 10k route followed part of what will make up the Marathon in 2012 Olympics. 25000 runners and 40000 spectators gathered on the streets of London and as I set off I couldn’t believe the vast contrast in scenery and atmosphere from that of which I had gotten used to running in. The summer heat took its toll as I approached the finish line at Whitehall but the crowds had spurred me on all the way. I’d never been part of an event this big and it was an amazing feeling to see so many people sporting so many different charity t-shirts and vests: the crowds of faces beaming as everyone powered to the finish banner.

Thanks to the support of my wonderful friends and family, the final amount has reached £1285, much more than any target I would have set myself. Thank You to you all, big love and please always remember BLESMA and the wonderful work that they do to look after our Armed Forces personnel that put their lives on the line everyday to look after you.

Oh, who is the Boy Wonder I hear you ask, he’s my friend Duncan Charles, www.virginmoneygiving.com search Duncan Charles.

By Sgt Pete Guard