Thanks to Runbetweener Finola Ashe for her excellent race report. Japes is a fantastic organisation and always on the lookout for pilots.
(Warning, pop the kettle on before you settle down to this)
I came across a group called Japes about 18 months ago, and when word got out back in January that there was going to be an outing to the Inverness half, the word ‘No’ just wasn’t in my vocabulary and as it turns out, this was to be my 11th run with this lovely crowd of people!
Japes is a donation funded inclusion project, imagined and brought to fruition by the unstoppable Nelson Liddle. Japes allows people that for whatever reason are not able, to be involved in events and experience things that they wouldn’t normally do. Japes has 2 customised purpose built wheelchairs that are called joelette’s.
Japes is basically a group of like-minded runners (crew) that escort a Pilot (person in the chair) around courses, up hills, you name it and Japes have done it! Everything from parkrun, 5km, Santa dashes, 10km, half marathon, full marathon and even scaled Ben Lomond and Mount Snowden recently, Japes has achieved it all.
So I got all packed up and set off on Saturday morning as I was staying in a hotel the night before the main event and we had arranged to meet our pilot David Munn at Cheshire House in Inverness (where he lives) on Saturday. Japes do a ‘Meet the pilot’ before any outing to let the pilot see and experience the joelette so that there are no surprises on race day, we were using the twin-wheeled joelette.
This joelette is specifically designed for road events.
After meeting David and one of the carers Jason at Cheshire House, it was off for a half mile trial run round the block to ensure everyone was happy. Then for me, it was off for a quick walk around town before meeting some of the crew later for dinner and a catch up.
After breakfast in the hotel, it was off to registration to pick up my number and meet the crew for a cup of tea before heading back to Cheshire house to get David and then it was off to the start line for us all. Due to 2cm of snow and high winds being forecast throughout the race, it was not 1, not 2 but 3 changes of clothing later before I was as ready as I would ever be.
I should at this point say, that we always try and make sure that the pilot has the best, most comfortable and enjoyable experience we can provide. We had heard in advance that David likes 80’s pop and so with Kylie, Wham, Spandau Ballet and a bit of Queen on Nelson’s homemade sound system, off we set blaring towards the event area. On the jog round to the start, the reaction and support was amazing and this makes it even more special for the pilot.
Last minute checks and the starting pistol went off, we were on our way and the sleet had started!
When we got just passed 1 mile marker, we had a quick stop for David to put on a rain poncho as it was becoming increasingly clear there wasn’t going to be a break in the weather and we didn’t want David ending up cold and soaked through for the duration. After this quick pit-stop, things were going well but by the time we got to the first water station at mile 3, it was clear that the T in the park flimsy freebie type poncho David had on, just wasn’t going to cut the mustard for the full event.
The wind and sleet were relentless at this point and so we pulled up, stopped to have a drink and get the big bad boy industrial waterproof cover on him. It just so happened at this water station there was a Red Cross Landrover and the first aid guys kindly gave us a blanket to help keep David all cosy and warm beneath the rain cover.
At this point of the course, we knew that the main uphill climb was just in front of us between miles 4 and 5.5. As we progressed on and got to the bottom of the hill, there was a left hand turn that took us up into woods, where there was thankfully a bit of protection from the wind. It was during this uphill section, that we had a slight malfunction with the joelette that brought us to a grinding halt (literally) twice. There was a location pin that stabilises the joelette that wouldn’t click into place properly but we quickly decided that this wouldn’t stop us or ruin David’s run and so we took the next couple of miles gingerly and slowly. There was even a break in the snow/sleet/wind (whatever it was) and the sun came out for at least a couple of minutes!
As we approached the next water station around the 6 mile marker, we decided to stop, get drinks, some much needed fuel on board (Jelly babies) and properly fix the joelette if we could. Ted (crew member) managed to expertly get us going again but after this 10 minute stop, the weather had turned yet again. We were rapidly getting cold and so upped our pace slightly over the next section to get us all warmed up again.
Miles 6-9 were through a residential area with a make shift band out playing (brilliant), lots of cars tooting and shouts of support, which were all met with big smiles and waves from the Japes gang. We were happily singing to Kylie and Wham the whole way, much to the entertainment of fellow runners who were around us. I always liken a Japes run to a kitchen party or I also call it ‘the party at the back’.
By mile 10 (just a parkrun to go!) although the weather had deteriorated even further, the crowds were starting to gather again and as we went over Ness Bridge at mile 11 we were then onto the finishing road home.
Runners who had already finished were cheering us on and we ran passed Cheshire House again with David’s co-residents all out shouting words of encouragement for him, it’s at this point that words are difficult to find to say thanks to these folk for making David’s journey all the better.
At last we had reached mile 13, it was down to a lap of the race track before the finish line which was in sight and the stadium was busy.
Over the finish line we went, medals, fruit, shortbread, t-shirts all taken on board, we were delighted to finish in one piece.
We made our way back to Cheshire House for some much needed tea and cake very kindly put on by the staff.
David had big smiles all over his face and this is what Japes is all about, showing off his medal and telling the stories of what happened out on the course but most importantly, giving him an experience and happiness of something that wouldn’t normally be possible.
Just look at David’s smile!
Whilst we had been running round, I said to Helena (crew member), I absolutely love running with Japes, it is teamwork at its best and the sense you get of helping others experience what able bodied runners can do is immense (I can’t actually think of a word that describes the feeling properly). I found this run particularly poignant, as David is roughly the same age as myself. It makes me feel very blessed in what I can physically do and what I can achieve on my own and as long as I am capable, I will be out running with Japes, it was an absolute pleasure and honour to run with David!
If you fancy reading a bit more about what Japes get up to, visit www.japes.scot or the Japes facebook page.
On a last note, I bet you are all wondering what our time was……well we normally measure Japes runs by the longer it takes us, the more fun we are having out on the course.
I was swithering whether to actually put this into the race report or not because it means absolutely nothing to me…..not a jot!
REMEMBER – Running is NOT all about times and personal bests, it’s so easy to forget about the fun side of it!
But to curb your curiosity, our moving time was 2.39.17 with our official time of 2.48.07….get in there!
Q Is it fun? Yip
Q Is it harder than running a normal half marathon? Yip but you are on such a high with adrenaline that you don’t notice until you try and get out of bed the next day
Q How many crew does it take? With the twin wheel, I would say minimum 3 but we rarely do an event with less than 7 crew
Q Do all the crew run the full distance? Yes
Q Are you pushing the chair for the full distance? No, we purposely have more crew than are needed on the joelette at one time. This allows folk to swap out, rest your arms and recover before going back on.
Q What speed do you run at? Anything between 10-12 min miles if running but we have walking breaks if the terrain is difficult or if it’s a steep hill.
Q Would you recommend it? Yip, I think it should be mandatory that every runner does a Japes run.
Q Would do it again? Absolutely, r
ead paragraph 1 again, this was my 11th event as a Japester and it’s totally addictive!