Alfred joined Shaftesbury man Kevin Aston, who completed a gruelling 26-mile marathon run up and down Gold Hill’s cobblestones to raise money for an important charitable venture based in our town.
Have you ever wondered what would happen to you, if you ran up and down Gold Hill 115 times? If you do it for a worthwhile cause, you’ll get a round of applause as Legg Road resident Kevin Aston discovered just after three o’clock this afternoon, as he finished his marathon distance climb and descent of the iconic slope.
Kevin says he will have to wait before he feels the physical after-effects of the challenge. “Now I have stopped, it doesn’t hurt so much,” Kevin said on the finish line outside the Town Hall. “If I try and walk anywhere, that’s when I’m going to find out how much the legs are hurting.”
Kevin knows what to expect on Christmas Eve, and it won’t be something nice from Santa. “It’ll be on Tuesday. You normally get delayed onset muscle is soreness. It takes a day or two to kick in.”
Early this morning, before he began, Kevin shared the advice he had been given about this challenge, which requires running up and down a very steep slope for the equivalent of 26 miles. “With the cobbles, go careful, especially if it gets wet. I have to be careful with my knees and go a little bit slower maybe.” He has practised with some hill running and ten repetitions of Gold Hill itself. “I didn’t want to do more than that because it would be a pointless exercise,” he said.
Kevin says that running up is better than running down. “You’re in control of it. Downhill, it’s a lot harder. You have to stop yourself before the momentum takes you away.”
He says he often comes up with what he terms ‘daft ideas’ like this. “Then my body has to see them through,” he laughed. “I ran the summer solstice and I thought the winter solstice would be a nice alternative. I wanted to do something local and to help a local charity. And Gold Hill is iconic in this area.”
Kevin was pleased to pull back the curtain on a fine and dry morning for his test of endurance. It was dark when Kevin, his partner Mika Michulec and children Georgina and Finley arrived on the hill just after 8am. The sunrise on the winter solstice, the shortest day, was his cue to start. Ten minutes later, Kevin was on his way.
He says he has always been fast on his feet. “I’ve always been good at running. It’s natural for me but I didn’t enjoy it at school. As I got older and settled down with kids it seems the way to go to keep fit,” he said.
Surprisingly, for someone embarking on such a punishing test, running has only become a big part of Kevin’s life recently. “This year, I’ve got into running. Before that, I was a bit hit and miss. This year I have really decided to give it a good go. I did a marathon this year. And I did an ultramarathon in Salisbury. I ran from Yeovil to Stonehenge back in June.”
Kevin isn’t a member of a physical running group but gets support and encouragement by taking part in online discussions in The Lonely Goats Running Club. He’s also encouraged by Mika, herself a running enthusiast. Earlier this year when Kevin ran a full marathon, Mika took part in the 13-mile race and she’s preparing for a 26-mile course at Brighton in April.
She is proud of her other half. “It is amazing what he does. I don’t know how he does it. I have done a little bit of running myself, but I don’t find it that easy,” she laughed. “Everybody’s proud, my family is proud, his family, all of our friends. They all give great support and they always donate.”
And raising money for a valued local service is the reason why Kevin gave up his Sunday for this gruelling challenge. He ran for Open House, the Tuesday benefits advice and emergency aid sessions run at Father’s House on Christy’s Lane. As you might have heard or read on ThisIsAlfred earlier this month, Open House volunteers help local people who have fallen into financial hardship or become homeless.
“It helps people at Christmas,” observed Kevin. “That’s when people struggle quite a lot. If I can make Christmas a little bit better for a few people, why not?”
During Kevin’s run, representatives of Open House stood outside the Town Hall to collect donations of staple goods to add to their food bank parcels. Employees of Dextra and Abbot’s Greengrocers were very generous.
Kevin was joined by another local runner who offered encouragement and ran alongside him. The man didn’t want to give his name publicly because he didn’t want to take any of the limelight away from Kevin.
Just after 3pm, as the Shaftesbury Town Silver Band concert began in the Guild Hall, Kevin finished his 115th lap as ‘Joy to the World’ blasted out of the building at the top of the hill. Kevin says he found the rousing performance motivating. “It’s nice to hear that in the background. It is extra special today,” he smiled.
Kevin says the event was challenging. “Numerous times throughout I thought, ‘Can I do this?’ It was tough. My legs were hurting but you get through it when somebody talks to you and cheers you on. You come out of the other side and can carry on.”
He can’t compare this run, with its steep incline, to any other race he’s taken part in but he is pleased with his time of 6 hours and 57 minutes. “It’s good. I wanted to go six to seven hours and it’s just under seven hours, so I’m happy,” he said.
And Kevin says he might do it again, one day. “Probably. Right now, it seems like a terrible idea but when I wake up in the morning I will probably think, I can beat that time!”
£340 was raised during the event.