At the weekend, Casey station ran its own Relay for Life as part of the Tasmanian Relay for Life effort for 2011–2012. Started by a doctor in the United States in the 80s, Relay for Life is now an annual fundraising event for cancer research in numerous countries and all states and territories of Australia. The idea is essentially to run around a 400m track as many times as possible over a continuous 24 hour period. Runners are sponsored and the money raised is donated to cancer research, in our case through the Cancer Council of Australia, Tasmanian Branch.
The drive behind last weekend’s event came from Craig, Sr Met Observer on station. Known for other such good ideas (with his running mate Gav) as the Antarctic Circle Marathon earlier in the year, no one was surprised when Craig suggested it would be a good idea for us to all run around outside all night on the snow.
Everybody on station embraced the idea. A track on the snow and ice in front of the Red Shed was groomed by Misty and Jon, our plant operators. Banners and decorations were made by Craig and Bri (and others) and Gav made sure we were all carb loaded for the event with an all night pizza and pasta extravaganza. It was Jeb’s contribution to the event that was probably the most significant though. Jeb, one of our two electricians, currently sports the most heroic beard on station. Over a quiet beer during the week, someone suggested that it would be very funny if Jeb waxed his chest and offered up the idea that we could sponsor him to do so as part of the event. The idea gained momentum as the night wore on and by morning the juggernaut was not going to be stopped. Jeb, initially wary of the idea (naturally enough), quickly decided that if there were donations to be had then he was in. Jeb ended up raising the most money on station and was the sixth highest individual fund raiser in the state this year.
At 2pm on Saturday, an hour or so before the sun set, the whole team gathered out the front and started the relay. Costumes were de rigueur, including the traditional penguin suit, a chicken on a bike, athletic running strips, a rather glamourous fairy and a blonde goth princess in a taffeta gown. This is actually all pretty normal down here! What was very impressive though was that the costumes (for the most part) stayed on through the night and were still there at the finish line at 2pm the next day.
Whilst we only needed a single person on the course at any time to keep the baton moving, for most of the 24 hours there were half a dozen or more people walking, running, skiing or riding around the course and even in the early hours of the morning when the temperature fell to around −20, there were still three people outside and support crew in the Red Shed to make sure they were warm and fed.
At about 8pm we all stopped briefly and gathered for the candle ceremony where we ‘lit’ candles and though about those whose lives had been touched by cancer, including those whom we had lost and those currently affected.
On a lighter note, one of the highlights of the relay was a guest appearance around midnight of local karaoke king, Andy, belting out a few tunes to help keep the runners moving.
The sun came above the horizon some time after 10am on Sunday and we were able to finish the last few hours of the relay in light, if not sunny, conditions. Everybody came back out onto the course for the final lap which was hobbled as much as walked or run. Sunday evening was a very quiet affair (as was Monday to be honest) as everyone on station took things very carefully and had deep and meaningful discussions with doc Sheri about pain relief and blister repair.
During the 24 hours, 12 of the people on station completed a marathon distance (42.2km) or better, including huge efforts by Craig (100km), Jason (80km), Misty (78km), Dan (69km), Dave (68km) and Jon (60km). Mike also rode about 120km on his pushbike. In total, the crew of 17 participants covered nearly 870km and the relay baton itself covered about 140km (we had a GPS tied to it). We raised about $11,500 for cancer research and Jeb, Dave and Misty really need to be congratulated for their individual fundraising efforts, each topping $1000 (though several others were very close behind).
It was a big weekend, good fun and definitely for a worthwhile cause. Just another example of why this is such a great place to be spending the winter.