Day 6

28th August – Hasselt to Nideggen

Running in three countries

After a good night’s sleep (for most) in the best overnight accommodation so far (thanks for the recommendation Giessen Runners ) we set off a little later than normal in order to take advantage of the youth hostel breakfast.  We were also able to prepare breakfast bags for our first runners Adrian F and Sam so that they didn’t miss out completely.  They headed out of Hasselt towards the Albert Canal which was to be our route for much of the morning. Theoretically this should have made for easy running, but things didn’t go quite to plan!

Sarah and David were our second pair of runners, who were supposed to have an easy route straight along the towpath.  However they found their route blocked by fencing across the path. Rather than taking a long diversion, they decided to get round the fence by leaning out over the canal and continue along the path – risking encounters with dogs and security guards.  Happily all they were confronted with was a second fence, requiring another precarious manoeuvre, but they made it to the changeover point without adding additional mileage.

The rest of the morning was uneventful and we made it to the Belgium border, where Adrian H and Andy took over the baton and set off through Maastricht.  It seemed a little ironic that it was as we were passing this significant location in European history, we heard the news about Boris Johnson’s decision to suspend parliament.  We wondered if we might be able to claim political asylum and not to return to the UK!

Adrian continued, now accompanied by Rob, who was feeling so good he decided to run an additional leg – it can’t have been Adrian’s scintillating conversation (ed: yes it was). This was followed by a group run, where all our runners ( minus drivers and navigators ) completed a short leg through Gulpen, so that we could all say we had run in The Netherlands. 

It was still another 10km to the German border, but Adrian decided he was feeling good and wanted to complete the crossing of The Netherlands so continued accompanied by Sarah, Fiona and Emma, and crossed into Germany near Aachen.

And so we arrived in our fifth country and our final destination seemed a little closer.  But there were still plenty miles to cover and the terrain was getting tougher. 

Sam and Annie had a tricky job navigating the streets of Aachen. They made it OK but unfortunately arrived in a different direction to expected, so we were all looking in the opposite direction when they arrived. There was a rather more serious navigational problem when David took over from Sam and he and Annie set off in the wrong direction.  Annie’s German was required to get directions from a local in order to get them back on track.

Time was ticking on and Adrian F, Fiona and Janet all completed their final legs of the day before the black bus headed off to the overnight accommodation, to sort out tomorrow’s routes and to prepare the BBQ for the evening meal.  Andy, accompanied by Rob on his bike, was the first to start on the ascent to Nideggen.  They were followed by Lorraine and Emma, but unfortunately Lorraine was feeling the cumulative effects of five days of running and was unable to complete her second leg with Steve, but luckily Emma was happy to step up to replace her.  But the routes through the forest were not easy to follow and they went of course a little and ran a bit further than planned.

All these navigational issues meant a rather late arrival at the hostel was expected for Steve and Stan. They were scheduled for a steep climb to the finish, but that turned out to be the least of their problems. We all went through an hour of great excitement (by that I mean we were very worried) as darkness descended, the runners didn’t emerge from the forest, and we realised that Steve had forgotten his phone. Search parties were dispatched, but to our great relief Stan and Steve finally emerged, Stan looking as though he was finishing a gentle afternoon jog, Steve looking a bit less cool…. Anyway, all was well, and Stan has some stories to tell.

The BBQ in the evening was enjoyed by all. David was chief cook, with Bess acting as supervisor.

That’s 6 days done. Not many days to go but a very tough Day 7 to be negotiated.

Still having a great time together….. all relieved that Steve and Stan didn’t have to camp out last night!