On the Friday afternoon before the Dun Run I send my brother a text, “We need to meet at Paddington between 7:30 and 8:00”. After a few minutes the sound of The Hollies, He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother, could be heard from the direction of my iPhone. “We’re not going on this ride tonight are we?”. “No, tomorrow night” I reassured him. “Thank God, I haven’t done any training yet.”
The following night at the appointed time we meet on platform one, Paddington Station. It takes us another 25 minutes before we leave, as Fin has still to buy some sandwiches and spare batteries. He returns from M&S with two packages of Hoisin Duck wraps! We take turns to visit the loo. At last we depart for London Fields. The previous year I had done the Dun Run on my own and had taken a direct route across London to the start in Hackney. This turned out to be the worst part of the whole ride. This time I had determined to find a more congenial route. Earlier in the week, on my way to work, I had explored the Regent’s Canal, but this proved to be dreadfully slow. I saw delightful parts of London with which I was not familiar, but the path was very narrow. If it were to be more crowded on a Saturday evening it would be really hopeless. I resolved to play safe, I’d take my usual route into the City, head north up Bishopsgate, then east along the Hackney Road. All went to plan, though Soho was a bit more colourful than it is on a weekday morning at 8 am. We arrived just before nine, made some final adjustments and set off. Within minutes we, and about twenty others were lost. This is one of those moments where everyone looks at each other in the hope that someone will know what to do, or at least have a sat nav. One of our number takes the lead and we are soon on the correct route.
“The Dun Run is not a race” I told the brother several times. Nevertheless, he sets off at a cracking pace. This is possibly motivated by fear of getting lost again, we are clinging to the back of a Lycra clad group, but I suspect fraternal competition. As darkness descends we climb gently up into Epping Forrest, Fin always in the lead. We stop at about one quarter distance for a little food and a drink. Fin has one of the wraps, I have a banana. He also tears open a foil pack bought at Evans that morning. The contents clearly taste vile. His face is creased in an expression of disgust. “It’s very important to keep the correct balance of…” he says.
I don’t know if it was the early pace, the lack of training, or the stuff in the foil packet, but the second quarter proves very hard for Fin. He insists he is not out of breath, but that his legs have just stopped working on the climbs. Essex and Suffolk are not quite as flat as school geography teachers would have you believe. There were times when I was genuinely worried about him, I wondered if he was ever going to make it. By now he was dropping back and I had had to adopt the policy of waiting for him at strategic points, simply cycling slower wasn’t working.
Riding alone at one point an athletic looking young black man draws alongside. “Have you done this ride before” he says. “Last year” I reply. “How far do you reckon we’ve come?” He is not slowing down so I have to match his pace in order to maintain the conversation. “About half way, I think the foodstop is coming up soon.”. “Great light he says”, looking at my beam, I drop back, unable to keep up the pace or the conversation. At a T-junction outside Sible Headingham, I waited, “The foodstop is just down the road” I say to Fin when he arrives. I work my way in through the crowds assuming Fin is behind me, he isn’t. He’ll be here in a minute. He isn’t. I call him on the phone, no answer. I try again, still no answer. I find a comfortable spot on the grass, the phone rings. He has missed the feeding station and is now at a pub some distance up the road. He’ll wait for me there. “Oh, and could I bring some water.”
We end up sitting at a cafe style table outside the pub eating our sandwiches causing a certain amount of amusement to passing riders. Despite the stylish location we start to get cold and so, head off once more into the night.
I had spent the previous week monitoring the weather forecasts. With five days to go it had looked like a night of thunder and lightning, but the closer we got to the event, the better the outlook seemed to get. On the night we experienced no rain at all, however the stiff breeze greatly reduced the effective temperature. Last Year I had done the whole night in a t-shirt and shorts, this year it was bib-tights, two layers of shirts, and for a for a short period after this break, a waterproof jacket, just to warm up.
Fin’s pace, or at least his mood, improved after the food stop. The third quarter was relatively uneventful. What changes is the nature of those around you. In the first half of the ride, you are constantly passing people, and being passed. One of the things you quickly get used to is a whirring sound over your right shoulder, as the serious cyclists approach. In an instant they shoot past, leaving one to wonder: how do they do that? and what time did they leave, if they are traveling that fast and are only overtaking me at this time of night? The converse of this phenomenon is that one is constantly overtaking people up to about midnight. I can only conclude that they must have set off sometime in the middle of the afternoon. This all begins to change in the third quarter, riders begin to fall into groups of similar ability and there is much less overtaking going on. The ride begins to become more social, as one ends up riding with the same people for longer periods.
Our next major event happens at about the 100 mile mark. We get lost. Somehow we missed the turn to ‘Fiddlers Hall’ and end up riding on towards Saxmundham. We and several others realize our mistake, there is much consulting of maps, we briefly retrace our steps, but by now sleep deprivation is compromising our judgement. We push on to Ssxmundham and then I inexplicably turn right (south) instead of left, we are heading for Ipswich. Unfortunately, I did this with such confidence that a small group is following me in the wrong direction. Upon realizing the error there is much consulting of google maps on smartphones. We agree that we need to go back to Saxmundham and then go northeast across country to Dunwich. By now we are all keen, not to say desperate to get there and the party breaks up as those with more energy and strength pull ahead.
As we near Dunwich we have to climb one more short hill. Fin is ahead. As I draw alongside he looks over. He cannot resist a smile. I detect a competitive gleam in his eye. He is hoping to get to Dunwich ahead of me. This despite the fact that I have spent most of the night waiting for him. He laughs, as if caught out. That’s it! I summon every last ounce of strength and put in a burst up the hill that I hope will finish him off. It does. I speed off into the distance putting several minutes between us in the last couple of miles. Whoever said the Dunwich Dynanamo is not a race has not ridden it with his brother. Another chapter in a lifetime of fraternal competition.