After two years of exchanging email with Julie and a few months exchanging email with Sabine finally we met in the reception hall of our hotel on the south bank of the River Thames on Saturday 27 October. A warm rapport was evident immediately; as if we had known each other for years, such is the bond that exists between the Friends of SA-YES.
With a raw and damp evening descending upon London, Julie, Sabine, Andy and I decided that the hotel’s lounge bar would be a warm and cosy spot for an evening meal and some liquid refreshment. However we didn’t stay too late as a 7am start was needed next day if we were to reach the venue for this year’s Run To The Beat (RTTB) half-marathon at North Greenwich. An extra hour in bed was guaranteed as the clocks were set back one hour at 2am on Sunday morning signalling the end of British Summer Time. The weather had decided earlier in the week that summer had ended and that winter was overdue. The forecast for Sunday suggested a spell of steady rain throughout the event with temperatures in single figures Celsius.
Sunday was grey, cold and cheerless but with good friends, Julie, Sabine, and Andy – the warmest of company – we reached North Greenwich in time despite some brief problems with navigation and ensuing laughter as a consequence.
Sabine keeping warm; Andy with loaded camera and Julie making contact with Christian
While we waited for Christian and Kirsty, Julie, Sabine and I took the opportunity to do some flag waving for SA-YES. Thanks to Julie we had some very special SA-YES tee shirts, signed by SA-YES co-founder Gillian Anderson.
Julie, Keith and Sabine waving the flag for SA-YES – photo by Andy
Soon we were joined by Kirsty and, after those text messages from Julie, Christian found us. He looked well-equipped for an assault on the RTTB course.
Julie, Kirsty and Christian – photo by Andy
After we had introduced ourselves and decided who was, and was not, running for SA‑ YES it was time for Sabine and Christian to make their way to the start, scheduled for 9.45am. On our way to the start we stopped for some more photographs.
Sabine and Christian ready to run for SA-YES
The half-marathon run started a few minutes later than scheduled and 12,000 runners streamed past us while a few drops of cold rain fell.
Some of the 12,000 runners braving the cold
Fearing that hypothermia might strike those of us spectating, we headed back towards the O2 arena in search of coffee and shelter from the cold. On our way we stopped at one of the sound stages. The volume of sound there was enough to vibrate one’s skeleton.
Sound stage near the start of the run – photo by Andy
While the ladies queued to relieve natural processes, Andy and I joined a queue at Costa Coffee in a building that could have come from the hand of Gaudi in Barcelona. We passed the time talking about SA-YES and South Africa.
An imposing building with Costa Coffee in the corner
A tall young man behind us in the queue for coffee overheard some of our conversation. Coincidentally he was from South Africa so as the queue shuffled forward erratically we talked with him of South Africa, who we were and what we were doing.
The ladies found us in the doorway of the Costa Coffee shop and soon we had our hands round a hot drink – chocolate in my case as no-one seems to have “ordinary” coffee any more.
We returned to the road from where we had watched the start of the race to try to catch a glimpse of Sabine and Christian coming down the home straight. We did see Sabine and she slapped Andy’s hand as she went by to finish in 1 hour 51 minutes and 22 seconds. Christian was not far behind and we found each other on a large space near a stand selling ice cream – yes, in that weather.
Sabine and Christian with their medals – photos by Andy
After some discussion we decided to use the Thames Clipper boat service to cross the River Thames to Canary Wharf and seek lunch from one of the restaurants – Chinese, Italian or Spanish.
View forward from the Thames Clipper at North Greenwich
It was warm inside the Thames Clipper and we had a smooth and rapid ride cruising down the Thames to Canary Wharf. When we arrived the decision was made to try the Spanish restaurant.
Inside the Camino restaurant with Kirsty, Christian, Sabine, Julie and Andy
There was much pondering over the menu which was written mostly in Spanish. Eventually a decision was made on some dishes and lunch was enjoyed, interspersed with conversations about the day’s event and plans for our next fundraising event for SA-YES.
After lunch we said goodbye to Kirsty and Christian but not before a final photograph.
Andy, Christian, Sabine, Julie and Kirsty outside the Camino restaurant
The restaurant was an interesting choice after Sabine’s recent epic trek on the Camino de Santiago.
Andy, Julie, Sabine and I dined in central London in the evening. It was cold and wet with a steady rain before and after our dinner but this failed to dampen our spirits and we called into the hotel bar for a single nightcap – different spirits – and an end to a perfect day.
My thanks to Andy and Julie Baron for making various arrangements including an excellent dinner on Sunday evening as well as keeping in touch with all concerned. Special thanks to Sabine Schmidt and Christian Cullen for running on behalf of SA-YES and to Kirsty Herrington for joining us to support Sabine and Christian.
Sabine has a page open on the JustGiving website “Sabine’s page for SA-YES” and the link to the page is http://www.justgiving.com/Sabine-Schmidt for those wishing to celebrate her success and support the work of SA-YES.