Stormin' Norman runs the length of Britain – on two false hips
Reproduced from Issue 127 of Arthritis Today
Norman Lane raised more than £10,000 for arc by running from Land's End to John O' Groats, despite having two artificial hips. His wife Ali, who accompanied Norm on his incredible journey, tells his story.
prepares for the run
of his life
In 2003 Norm and I were enjoying a run across the fields – his favourite pastime and one which six years ago seemed impossible as he was due to have a double hip replacement. He turned to me and said: “I'm going to run from John O' Groats to Land's End to put something back for all the happiness my surgeon and his team have given me in being able to continue with my love of sport”.
In 2004 the dream became reality and after months of punishing training at all hours of the day Norm set off from John O' Groats for the 1,004 mile run to Land's End. All sorts of emotions filled our heads, especially after the arduous drive to the top of Scotland. Norm: “Whatever did I say I'd do this for?” Me: “I think I'm going to have a nervous breakdown!” and our two girls, Steph and Natalie: “How are we going to stand four weeks of our summer holiday in this motor home?”
The start was not good. We were strongly advised to take an alternative to our planned route, as it would be too dangerous with traffic, which meant an extra 20 miles. It was a hard decision, but I'm sure the right one, to follow advice and head along the top of Scotland before following the minor road to Helmsdale. This incorporated a 1,600 ft climb and very undulating terrain, but the views were stunning from the motor home! Norm ended the second day almost making up the extra mileage and far exceeding his 33 miles a day target.
We then headed on down along the coast towards Inverness. The traffic was horrendous. It was like running along a motorway with lorries and cars coming at us from all directions. The strain and worry of being hit by a vehicle was horrendous. Then, at the end of the fourth day, having run 148 miles and with only one mile to go, Norm stopped to take a call, got a bit chilled and tore something in his knee when he tried to set off again. The pain was excruciating and stopped him for the day.
The next day brought gloom and doom as Norm could only manage a short distance because of the pain in his knee. We hit an all-time low, as the thought of returning home after only four days became a strong possibility. With so many hopes pinned on him, how could he give up? So, after dosing up with anti-inflammatories, painkillers, ice, massage and sprays, Norm managed to continue.
We headed on towards Perth where we were met by some good friends of ours, the Pearces from Glasgow. Our first friends in the wilderness! They had driven over to support Norm and took turns running with him all day. It was great to have them with us and it spurred us all on.
Running over the Forth Bridge was one of Norm's ambitions and this was made even more special by the company of Alistair Campbell, who was a Scottish Commonwealth sub-four-minute mile man. The highs soon turned to lows again when I lost him in the edge of Edinburgh – very frightening as he doesn't know my mobile number and he could have been anywhere! We vowed then not to separate again. This led to another high in the same day when, unable to get to Princes Street (another ambition – to run along Princes Street) on the one way system we asked for police help and were amazingly given a police escort all the way down the street, stopping traffic with sirens blaring. Norm felt like he was leading the London Marathon!
Two days later, having covered another 70 odd miles, we couldn't believe it when the policeman above drove all the way on his day off to give us a video of Norm running in Edinburgh. What a special man.
Because of the traffic situation, we moved onto smaller parallel roads and Norm could actually enjoy the scenery without fear of becoming a ‘road kill'. The knee pain was still troubling but more painkillers kept it bearable.
After ten days we passed into England – a major milestone. The days passed more quickly the closer Norm came to achieving his goal and once we were within travelling distance of home many friends drove out to accompany him on some, or all, of his daily mileage.
As Norm reached the sign ‘Welcome to Gloucestershire,' BBC Radio Gloucester played ‘Welcome Home' for him. What an emotional moment that was. The ‘highs' reached higher and higher as we got closer to our home village of Bourton-on-the-Water with an ever increasing number of runners flanking him, including many of the children he regularly trains, and a huge welcoming crowd, waving flags and cheering, worthy of an Olympic winner. It was fantastic and set him up for his last leg to Cornwall.
The weather which we feared would be too hot down south was in fact far worse than Scotland and every day brought thunder, lightning and heavy rain which led to raw rubbed feet. But hey, nothing could stop him now!
And nothing did. Norm ran up to 40 miles a day as if they were nothing, as the end approached. Friends and supporters joined him most days to run with him and urge him on. One friend even flew over from Greece to put some miles in with him.
As he ran up to the finishing line at Land's End on August 22, the day was an echo of 28 days previously when we set off from John O'Groats, in that it was raining, windy and cold. However this time, there were a group of about 150 people cheering him in and a warmth that no inclement weather could penetrate. He'd made it. After months of hard work, it had all paid off and the job was done – an amazing experience, never to be repeated, but also never to be forgotten by an awful lot of people.