An avid marathon runner, Dr. Klatt decided he would run around a track for a set time rather than the standard marathon distance of 26.2 miles. He ran for 24 hours and he ran further than a marathon; 83 miles. Step after step, minute after minute.
Dr. Klatt was supported by family, friends, and many donors on that day in May, but he believed that this event had legs and could go further. Dr. Klatt started running alone that day, but the very next year he ran with 19 teams and shared the distances together, one person at a time.
From 1986 and every year after, thousands of teams have run and walked the Relay For Life. On the 21st of September, this year, the local Relay For Life committee will be organising their sixth event in aid of Cancer Research UK in twelve years at the Victoria Stadium.
If you were to ask any of the committee members, who have worked tirelessly over the last year in preparation for the event, why is the relay 24 hours long? Why not 12 hours or shorter (a considerable display of endurance in itself)? They would tell you that just as the teams won’t take a break, nor does cancer. Cancer never sleeps and is with us 24 hours.
The Relay For Life is a 24-hour, non-stop event to raise funds to fight cancer, but it is also a celebration of life for those who have survived; an event in memory of those we have lost, and most of all, a moment where we come together in hope.
Just as the teams won’t take a break, nor does cancer.
On Saturday morning, the perfectly orchestrated day begins with a moment of triumph over adversity as those who have survived cancer begin the relay and are then treated to a survivors reception. During the last relay, in 2017, Relay For Life Gibraltar had the privilege of hosting the highest number of survivors at the relay in their history with 96 survivors opening the Relay. Once the survivors have begun the relay, the teams take to the track. The main aim is to have one team member on the track throughout the 24 hours.
Though being a test of stamina and a challenge to complete, the day is far from being a hard slog as there is live entertainment, with numerous musicians and dance groups performing throughout the day and there are also bounties of food provided by the committee, our local Indian community (who have been a growing success and now cater for two meals), and others. There are also stalls of treats and frozen sun tops to satisfy the sweet tooth of any spectator or participant, who might want a sugar lift.
Then after the sun sets on Saturday evening, there is the Candle of Hope ceremony. The ceremony encapsulates, what the relay is about and what it is for. This is the only time that Relay stops during the 24 hours. Paper bags are decorated with messages of encouragement to those faced with the prospect of fighting the disease or words dedicated to those who cancer has taken from us, and a candle placed in each. They are then placed around the track and in the stadium stands, where they are aligned to spell the words: ‘life’ and ‘hope’.
A candle, by itself, causes a space of light in the darkness but during the Candle of Hope ceremony, a multitude of candles become a beautiful message to the darkness.
It is a celebration of life.
The ceremony always includes a surprise performance and in previous years have included a cellist, a bagpiper, a choir, and a solo singer. Each year the number of teams from local companies, societies, or groups of friends have increased and this year in particular, a team made up of Americans and Belgians, who will be travelling to our tiny corner of Europe specifically to take part in the relay.
One of the organisers, Giovi Viñales, noted that our local relay has garnered international attention in the past and the committee have also participated in a Relay in Peterhead, Scotland. Giovi explained that Cancer Research UK holds annual summits which local representatives from the RFL Committee attend, and that the presence of international teams shows that just as cancer doesn’t have borders, nor does the fight against it.
The event will be held on the 21st September with the relay starting at 11am and finishing on the same time on Sunday morning. It is an event to raise funds but also to raise awareness, so come down and take on a fun, social challenge in aid of Cancer Research UK Gibraltar Branch, who have already raised a gigantic £1.7 million to help the worldwide fight against cancer.