Page 72 - The Chapka 2016
P. 72

  A sea of crosses at Omaha Beach Cemetary
Marathon de la Liberté et la Pegasus Semi-Marathon
On the 6th of June 1944 the Allies invaded Normandy as part of Operation Overlord. The Germans committed a large portion of their armoured reserve to defending Caen and its sur- rounding areas against the Anglo-Canadian forces moving in from Gold, Sword and Juno Beaches. As such, the direct at- tack on the 6th of June towards Caen was repelled. Caen and its surrounding area were not fully secured until early August after bitter fighting – more of this and the Lancers’ part would follow in Exercise BOCAGE LANCER. But, in the mean-time, six stal- wart Lancers braved the push to Caen from Juno Beach in the Marathon de la Liberté...
We arrived in Caen the evening before a final day of race prep and treated ourselves to some sports nutrition: a burger, chips and isotonic Stella, before getting an early night. The next morning we decided, true to form, to reconnoiter the challenge we had set for ourselves but with a historical twist.
We visited Omaha beach and cemetery, then on to our route with the Canadian Juno and British Sword Beaches before heading on to Pegasus Bridge, which would mark our halfway point. Trooper Perkins would be starting his ’semi’ from here . On our way back we bypassed Caen and went to have a look at Villers- Bocage where the 24th Lancers were heavily involved in the long and costly operations to secure the South West of Caen. After a hectic registration we had a team meal in the centre of Caen – another burger, chips and isotonic Stella – near some of the only pre-war buildings left in the city and headed back for an early night and race prep.
On our very own D-Day we arrived at the start line early and, having deposited Trooper Perkins at the event (un)organised bus service to make his way to the Pegasus Bridge with no more French than “parlez vous Anglais?” we headed to the start of the event. We arrived early and, the warm kit deposited, stood in the drizzle chatting with two ex-US Marines who were here on a similar trip. With nerves mounting we waited...
Right on cue the sun came out with the start-gun and we really enjoyed the first half of the race along the beaches and up to Pegasus Bridge. We even partly enjoyed the countryside stretch
before reaching Caen itself. It was here that the last six miles in Caen really started to hurt with nasty cramps and sore knees, but shouts of ‘Bon Courage’ from the locals helped us through. Crossing the line was an immense relief, combined with a sense of achievement!
That night we had another enormous intake of ‘sports nutrition’ before an early night and the drive home. The star of the trip was undoubtedly Trp Perkins (A Squadron) who not only man- aged to get himself to the start of his half marathon, but also took bronze in his category with a time of 1:36:52. The mara- thon times were good but unfortunately fewer medals were won. Lieutenant Paterson finished in 4.02.22, Lance Corporal Fis- sasegola finished in 4:57:11 and Lance Corporal Bott finished in 4:57:11. Trooper Borley was unfortunately chased down and made to stop by the race doctor just two km from the finish line with a torn hamstring. On the whole it was an unforgettable and awesome experience with some fantastic results to ‘boot’.
Screech from 'Saved by the Bell' looking slightly out of place in northern France

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