History of the Cross - The Midsummer Madathon
By Gerry Grant
the 11 March 1983, a novel Charity Challenge was issued by the Inverness
branch office of the Fire Services National Benevolent Fund in the
Northern Fire Brigade to 10 civil emergency services and military units in
the Highland area.
challenge was for teams of 3 to cross the Scottish Highlands from Loch
Duich through Glen Affric to Inverness, a distance of about 60 miles; firstly
by foot for 15 miles and then by bicycle to the Highland capital.
Each team to be sponsored for a minimum of £100, mainly to benefit the
newly launched, Highland Scanner Appeal.
event had been dreamt up by 2 serving Fire Officers, Gerry Grant and Calum
Munro. It was initially based on Gerry's experience, 2 decades
previously, of cycling and walking the above route from east to
west. However, typically inspired lateral thinking by Calum early
on, determined the better choice of direction for the event, west to east,
and also for the truly apt title of The Midsummer Madathon.
officer, Graham MacLean, was quickly recruited to complete the organising
team: his comprehensive local knowledge and pragmatic skills complemented
Calum's administrative flair and prolific industry in establishing the
fundamentals of a long running success story.
this triumvirate were to provide an unbroken dedicated service to the
cause until 2004 when both Gerry and Graham retired, after a three year
transition period, handing over to a new team headed by Calum and John
challenge was circulated to: The Ambulance, Police, Prison and Fire
Services; the Army, Navy and Air Forces as well as medical sources and
mountain rescue teams. Seeking a positive response, the organisers
made the invitation deliberately provocative -
"can you compete with
record breaking firemen - you might not beat them but you will
enjoy!" They hoped to attract at least 5 teams to an event
which, even for the elite athletes, would be a demanding physical test
over a long distance.
outcome is now history. The invitation unleashed a frenzy of
enquiries; requests for multiple teams from organisations (some claiming
unlikely emergency service status to do so) and others querying the
rules, course conditions, weather prospects, choice of clothing, bikes
etc. Unexpectedly, women also clamoured for entry. As the team
applications grew beyond the planned 5 or so teams to a mind boggling 42
applications by the closing date, it was clear the Madathon was to be a "Sport for all" occasion for walkers, joggers and runners rather
than one solely for top class athletes. Accordingly, serious
upgrading adjustments had to be made to all the logistical planning and,
most importantly, to the safety arrangements: after all, one mini bus
might do for 5 teams (15 persons) but 126 bodies now needed buses and a
flat-back lorry was totally inadequate for well over 100 bikes!
a frenetic period of sustained planning and preparation the The Midsummer
Madathon took place on the 25 June 1983 - an absorbing long day for
entrants, organisers and the small army of helpers alike. It proved
to be an unqualified success, far beyond the modest aims of the
organisers, both in terms of sport and charity fundraising.
the day, 41 teams lined up at Morvich and of the 123 starters, as many as
113 finished in the Highland Rugby Club's car park in Inverness, with only
10 failing to complete the course; thankfully, none for serious
injuries. And oh yes! The Fire Brigade top team of Gordon
Fraser, Gordon Gillespie and Ray Maclennan emerged outright winners with
Gordon Fraser first home in a time of 4.24.58.
Wednesday 20 July 1983, the still bemused organisers handed over £10,000+
to a grateful chairman of the Highland Scanner Appeal. The final
total donation came to over £12,000, with about £1,000 shared among 4
knew at the time that this one-off event was to be significant precursor
of the enduring annual Highland Cross and that, for those involved, the
Midsummer Madathon will always be remembered for setting the standards,
the principles and the special ethos associated with this unique coast to
coast midsummer charity duathlon.