A brilliant offer from Evrotas Valley Running Club
You can do something very special in 2022 by becoming one of the 25 runners who take part in The Holy Island Marathon on 7th May 2022. Indeed, it's the chance of a lifetime!
Thanks to the event organisers, Evrotas Valley Running Club, a small South London based running club in Battersea Park that specialises in marathon and ultra running, we have been allocated two of the 25 places to offer to supporters who can pledge to raise at least £1,000 in sponsorship for Pipal Tree. You will need to have raised that amount in order to make it to the start line; to get to the finish line you'll have to be fit enough to conquer the dangerous tidal causeway that leads to Holy Island before the tide comes in! Yes, the race is a tough one - more demanding than the big name city marathons that are run on the flat, following (fairly) smooth roads. For this daunting off-road race takes in rocky coastal paths, fortified Anglo-Saxon seaside towns, sandy beaches, muddy flats, grassy fields and the now infamous five miles of sand dunes on the island itself.
The Holy Island Marathon required special permissions from the island to host the event and ensure the necessary environmental protection. With highly protected wildlife habitats on and around the island, the authorities placed a restriction on the number of runners - only 25 can take part. In completing this marathon you will be joining a small band of runners who have proven themselves against the terrain and the elements, without the cheers of the crowds that encourage the city marathon runners onward. If you are serious about running, this is a chance for you to test your limits.
What's in a name?
It is a matter of some dispute as to what this stunning, atmospheric, island should be called. Some use its pre-Christian era name of "Lindisfarne" while others refer to it as "Holy Island", a title that reflects how it became a major Christian centre following the arrival of St Aidan and later St Cuthbert, both in the seventh century. These days, the dispute has been resolved, apparently amicably (as no doubt those early Christians would have preferred), by calling it "The Holy Island of Lindisfarne".
The island, population 180, measures 3.0 miles from east to west and 1.5 miles from north to south. The nearest point to the mainland is about 0.8 miles distant. The island is accessible at low tide by a modern causeway and an ancient pilgrim's path that runs over sand and mudflats that are covered with water at high tide. These days there is very little infrastructure to support the residents, who will have to travel to Berwick upon Tweed for their shopping. However, runners will be delighted to learn that there is a hotel and three pubs available for post-run celebrations.
Saints and sinners
The island attracts many tourists, not just because of its secluded beauty but also given its stirring history. For the island was very much the cradle of Christianity that led to the evangelisation of Northumbria and it's where the illuminated Lindisfarne Gospels were written. These Gospels are a national treasure, currently housed in The British Museum.
That cradle was viciously overturned by Viking marauders in 793 AD, this being the first Viking raid on the coast of Britain. The contemporaneous Anglo-Saxon Chronicle recorded:
"793. In this year terrible portents appeared over Northumbria, which sorely affrighted the inhabitants: there were exceptional flashes of lightning, and fiery dragons were seen flying through the air. A great famine followed hard upon these signs; and a little later in that same year, on the 8th June, the harrying of the heathen miserably destroyed God's church by rapine and slaughter. "
Mercifully, the Lindisfarne Gospels survived the onslaught, as did the remains of St Cuthbert which were lovingly transferred to be re-interred safely at Durham Cathedral. In due course, peace returned to the island and a Norman priory was built to perpetuate the Christian tradition. The priory ruins are very close to the race finish line.
Recent history has been more tranquil, with the famous architect Sir Edwin Lutyens transforming Lindisfarne castle, that sits so boldly on a rock, into a private residence. It is now a National Trust property and tourists can visit this and the nearby gardens created by the equally famous landscape gardener, Gertrude Jekyll.
An extreme route
The route actually starts just inside Scotland in the small fishing village of Burnmouth from where the course quickly ascends onto the top of the coastal path. The route then briefly takes the runners along the historic walls of Berwick upon Tweed before re-joining the coastal path that metamorphoses into several miles of long, sandy beaches. Then it's sand, grassy trails and one or two golf courses before runners reach the final safety check-post that lies before the causeway to Holy Island. At this point, runners have the choice of using the road (high) causeway, or the muddy, sandy, wet, slippery, relentless, bleak (low) causeway. Once on the Island, it can seem like the run is a done deal. But the effort is far from over for the next challenge is to run around the island, negotiating the sand dunes - soft, yielding dunes that sap the last dregs of energy so cruelly. Some long and sandy miles later, the runners emerge onto a short section of grassland that finally takes them towards the finish at a pub. And a fabulous goody bag with your race medal, T shirt and a few other surprises.
Your fundraising commitment
Here is what is involved in fundraising. In return for a guaranteed place, we will require you to sign a bond (a pledge) to raise at least £1,000 in sponsorship (net of Gift Aid) through an online sponsorship form. You will need to set this up through our website before we confirm the place. You will then have until the 30th April to find the online sponsorship or send us any cash/cheque donations that you might have received. If there is any shortfall in sponsorship, you will need to make up the difference from your own means. If full payment is not in place by the 30th April then, sadly, your event place will have to be cancelled. We will permit you to carry on with your sponsorship up until and after the event on the understanding that if you have had to pay the shortfall we will reimburse you that amount if your late sponsorship has allowed you to hit your fundraising target. We will of course be fully behind you in providing tips and support in fundraising, but ultimately it will be your responsibility to deliver the £1,000 to us by the stated deadline.
So there it is - you can really make 2022 a year to remember, combining a sporting triumph with providing some vital funds towards the work of a charity that is really making its mark in Nepal.
Check out the film below to get a real flavour of this stunning race. And drop me a line if you'd like to be considered.