Bermudian spirit will not be drowned out
It came from above. It came sideways. It came from below. It came with no shortage of unseasonably squallish winds. But after all that Mother Nature could throw at the XL Catlin End-to-End on Saturday, hundreds of Bermudians and those who have taken this island to their hearts and made it their home responded with a defiant “is that all you’ve got?”
Any visitor on approach to Bermuda, or resident returning from holiday, can attest to what a speck in the Atlantic Ocean this place is. It seems, then, a wonder how even a drop of rain could fall on the veritable fish hook of a tourist destination, let alone what transpired over the weekend.
But it rained and it rained and it rained. And it rained hard. Then when you thought that there was no more to give, after hours of comparative drizzle, the heavens delivered another sustained hammer blow to bring proceedings to a waterlogged end — top-and-tailed, in journalism-speak.
Through it all, the many who made the conscious decision to take their chances from St George’s to Dockyard, with others travelling from Hamilton to Dockyard — while more still joined in from where they could — stood resolute even when they were knocked sideways by the occasional gust, and when their passage through the trails was made treacherous owing to severely muddied footpaths and unintentionally invasive trees.
As always in this the 29th running of the event, which was dubbed “Great Cause, Good Fun”, it was all about the giving. But little did Anne Mello know in February, when the End-to-End chairwoman announced this year’s charity recipients as Family Centre, Pals, the Coalition for the Protection of Children, Pride and Open Airways, that her words would seem almost prophetic.
“Our formula is to ask participants to stretch themselves, go a little farther and raise a little more.”
Prophetic words indeed. If only she could have used such powers of prophecy to transpose Saturday with Sunday, which was much more in keeping with the term “Bermudaful” than what transpired 24 hours before.
More than $5 million has been distributed in 181 charitable grants over the years and, while it is uncertain if the organisers’ goal of raising an additional $250,000 in 2016 will be realised, because of the dramatic fall in numbers brought on by the weather, the efforts of all involved on Saturday merit the donation period being extended — posthumously, if you will — to take into consideration the many acts of bravery and commitment.
For they came in all shapes and sizes, and of all ages. Many were repeat participants while others were first-timers who had never walked that far before. Some trained for it while others dared to back themselves. The common denominator, though, was courage and indefatigability.
One took it a bit too far and was eventually taken to hospital by way of ambulance. But not before crossing the finish line. He looked in a terribly bad way at the final water stop, but it would have taken a brave soul or a determined medical professional to force him off the course with the end in sight. We hope he makes a full and speedy recovery.
It was truly a difficult day. And for that there can be no blame apportioned for the decision first to cancel the swim on Friday and then to do likewise with the cycle. Conditions were extreme — on the seriously muddied trails, where you required mountain biking skills to negotiate them effectively; and on the roads, where there was so much water close to the kerb in certain places that unseen impediments such as potholes added to the treacherous nature of the passage.
That said, many cyclists took on the risk; not so much in defiance of the organisers but perhaps more in solidarity with the walker, who at the end of the day was out there for the longest period and endured the worst of what the elements could throw at them.
For them all to survive, and thankfully there were no reports of “uninvited” cyclists crash-landing in a heap, they needed a massive assist.
They received this first from a patient motoring public, possibly made more tolerant by the constant downpour, and by the many water stops, led by platinum sponsors The Royal Gazette and CellOne.
From one end of the island to the other, the many who manned those stops provided the encouragement, and in no small part the will, to carry on, especially when the going got tough.
They offered refreshment and nourishment, they cheered, they cajoled, they supplied music, they danced in the rain, they twerked — not to be mistaken with dancing — they made fools of themselves to lighten the mood.
All this so that the walker or cyclist feeling at the ends of their reserves of energy could find just that little bit extra to sustain themselves into Dockyard. It is this bonhomie and the spirit of caring and giving that best define Bermuda. We do not own it; it is not unique to Bermuda or to Bermudians. But it is when we are at our best.
It is when we do not see black or white.
It is when we do not see born-Bermudian or status Bermudian; local or guest worker.
It is when we do not see blue collar or white collar; union or union-buster.
It is when we do not see One Bermuda Alliance or Progressive Labour Party, political foes so diametrically opposed so as to be harmful to the island’s prospects of sustained prosperity from one election to the next.
The desire to be caring, to be innately human, strips away the noise and returns us to the pristine state whence we came into this world as innocents.
It is all we can do to hold off the effects of Monday so that more of Saturday and what it represents can seep into our national psyche. And then we would be far more amenable to live alongside, to work alongside and better placed to grow together as one.
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