An incredible amount of preparation went into the the organising of this epic journey. Ian had spent weeks arranging with football grounds, gaining sponsorship, and co-ordinating all the partcipants to meet in Berwick, to stay the night before the start. Claire, Michelle, Ian, Lawrence and myself hit the road. The Journey begins…
We arrived in Berwick, early evening on the Sunday night. No major dramas getting there, as we set up camp at our yurt, which was basically a big wooden tent…rather posh camping.
The rest of the team arrived, with Martin and Ratty (this is the name he goes by, still don’t actually know his real name) joining myself, Claire (my girlfriend), her sister Michelle and her husband Ian. We had a meal and a couple pre-event drinks, or as we called it, essential team bonding.
As we returned to the yurt, we got the map out, and saw what was before us! Basically covering the whole of Scotland in 3 days…ooooft!!! Time for bed, 5.30am alarm in the morning.
Now, as any of you who have read my mountain blogs will know, I don’t do mornings, even though my work often calls for early starts, so 5.30am was a struggle. Everyone got up, and started preparing. I remained in bed. This was tactical, as I knew there would be carnage getting ready. I allowed them to pack up their stuff, and head for showers. While they were away, I got ready, stress free.
We were at Shielfield Park, home of Berwick Rangers, bang on 6am. As my job was to pipe the start of each run, I was very aware of the time! So for this one, I played at the end, as we were getting on the bus to leave!
Even run number one was competitive, as the boys decided to race around…standard.
A quick first picture, and it was North to Edinburgh we went!
Lack of breakfast was a bit of a problem, as time didn’t allow it, so we were wanting to get Easter Road and Tynecastle done quick, before eating. Ian’s brother Kevin, had backed us 42 pies, one for someone to eat at each ground, but Ian, who had “one job” forgot to give the pies on Berwick, so we had to make do with one of our sponsored supplies, bottles of Nae Danger!
We met a few others at Easter Road, wanting to run around their teams ground, as we did at later grounds also, and we did our lap. I played a version of Sunshine on Leith for the Hibs fans. My girlfriend Claire is a big Hibs fan, so she really enjoyed her visit.
Quickly into the van to try and beat Edinburgh rush hour, to Tyncastle. On arrival, we got a bit of a frosty reception. At one point, we didn’t think we would get in. After having a bit of fun outside, probably not helping the officials mood, we got in to do our “very quick” lap.
Michelle, being a Hearts fan, was very enthusiastic about this ground, and really enjoyed her experience.
Due to the mood of the officials, we were quickly off for breakfast. We later heard over the radio, however, that today was the day, Hearts made all their management and player personnel changes, which were to revolutionise the club. We missed it all by one hour, so we began to understand the frosty reception a little, but not fully 🙂
Breakfast consisted of a quick McDonalds, before off to Livingston. This stadium lacked a bit of atmosphere. Possibly due to it being a newer ground, which was to be a recurring theme, but it was a nice ground. Our lap was done very quickly, a quick tune, then back to the van. It was my turn to have the football pie, Ian remembered his one job this time (other than organising the WHOLE thing of course). Now, having just had a double egg mcmuffin, eating a full pie was a challenge, a challenge I accepted, but ultimately one I would fail!
Falkirk was to give us our first real interaction with any officials or players. With Falkirk preparing for the play offs, they were in the middle of their training session when we arrived. We met the manager Gary Holt, and spent some time talking to the coaching staff.
They were incredibly supportive of our challenge, and even took some pictures of us. This caused them to feel the wrath of the manager, however, as he then had to take on the training! At least the coaches had their priorities right!
To avoid further disturbance, I decided to play my pipes after the run, and outside this ground!
Next up, was the shared ground of Stenhousemuir and East Stirlingshire. Stenhousemuir, sorry to those from there, was always a place I only knew of due to the football team. I could not have pointed it out on a map, so this was a new experience for me. We met the official, who it turned out, had been on a first aid course with me the previous year, and he showed us round to the pitch.
With this being a shared ground, we were required, by the laws of Tour de Stade, to complete two laps, one in each direction. This in initially didn’t seem much of an issue, but as was mentioned before, there was no pacing ourselves, and steam started to run out quickly on the second lap! At one point, we lost Ratty, as he decided to try his luck as a camera man, attempting to climb the camera platform, he never made it!
Alloa, was nearly our first failure to enter the ground. Despite calling ahead, we could not find anyone to let us in. I played my tune outside the ground, and as I did, someone came by to let us in.
Quite a good tactic that, pipe until you get what you want! A nice little ground, with a couple of really nice groundsmen letting us have time to do our lap while they were working.
The day had started off perfectly, we could not have asked for any more!