Ray Samuels had everything.
He was born in 1951, the son of a working class family living on a council estate in Romford, Essex. By the time Ray left his local grammar school at eighteen, he was tall, fit and athletic. With his blond hair and piercing blue eyes he had the looks of a Californian surfer.
Education came easy to Ray. He was bright, his brain absorbed every piece of information and quickly made sense of it. Eight “O” Levels and four “A” Levels sent him to Oxford University, where two years later, he gained a first class honours degree in Advanced Mathematics. It wasn’t long before computer giant IBM came calling. He was their youngest and most talented computer analyst. The job came with a substantial salary, top of the range BMW, private healthcare and company pension.
In 1977, at the age of twenty six, he married his childhood sweetheart, Laura. They moved into a large three bedroom detached house in a posh part of Essex and two years later had a daughter, Stacey. Soon afterwards they bought a golden retriever puppy and called him Benson. The family was complete. They wanted for nothing.
Yes indeed, Ray Samuels had everything.
On Saturday 6th March 1982, Ray was looking forward to the next morning. He was training hard for the London Marathon and tomorrow would be the day to attempt his longest run so far. He’d seen the event on television the year before and it had become something of an obsession. He’d watched in amazement at people of all ages running twenty six miles and decided that it was something he needed to achieve.
He ran every day. Anything from eight to twelve miles. But tomorrow he was planning to run eighteen. According to his training manual, with just a few weeks to go before the big day, this was the best time to attempt the extra mileage. He’d measured the route in his car earlier that afternoon. From his house, he would run up into the Essex countryside using small country lanes which were virtually deserted at weekends. After exactly nine miles there was a red post-box. He would circle it then do the same route back. Eighteen miles exactly, door to door.
His training had gone well. His strict running and exercise regime meant that he was maintaining a six minute mile rate. So, eighteen miles would take him approximately one hour and fifty minutes. If he could keep up that pace for eighteen miles, he was sure he could complete the marathon in just less than three hours. That would be a tremendous achievement for a novice runner in his first marathon. Ray was determined, and like everything else he did in his life, once he set his mind on something there was no stopping him.
Another reason for the long practice run was to break in his new running shoes. “New Balance”. British made and expensive. And, according to all the running magazines he read, the best road running shoe on the market. He’d also treated himself to a new Nike vest and Shorts. Not only was he going to run eighteen miles at a cracking pace, he would look immaculate whilst doing it.
He went to bed early that night, just after nine o’clock. He kissed Laura goodnight and was asleep within minutes. He couldn’t wait for the morning to come. Running eighteen miles would prove to him that the marathon was no longer a dream, it was going to happen.
The alarm woke him at 05.30am. He turned it off quickly, he didn’t want to wake up the whole bloody household. He got dressed in his running gear, leaned over and whispered to Laura.
“I’m off darling, be back around eight, go back to sleep, love you.”
She smiled. Still half asleep, still warm and cosy.
He carefully closed the bedroom door behind him then had a quick look in on Stacey. He grinned at the sight before him. She really was a thing of beauty, all curled up tightly in her bed holding her pink comfort blanket.
He crept down the stairs, opened the front door and began his run. It had just started to rain, not heavy, just a bit of light drizzle. A smile spread across his face, one thought entered his head, perfect running weather.
December 26th 2004. Sergeant Tom Lucas was on night duty at Buxton Police Station in Derbyshire. It was 03.15am and outside the snow was falling thick and fast. The temperature was minus six degrees. He was all alone at the station, not much happened in Buxton at that time of the morning. The odd drunk perhaps, but not tonight. Even the drunks wouldn’t be silly enough to be out in this weather. He sat at the front desk shuffling papers. He liked to shuffle papers, it made him feel important. He’d shuffled them about twelve times tonight. He switched on the small portable television that he kept out of sight from the public. He was horrified as he watched reports coming in of a massive tsunami in the Pacific. The reporter was saying that this could be the greatest natural disaster the world had ever seen. The devastation was unimaginable.
He heard a noise from outside. The sound of a car screeching to a halt. He stood up and was about to investigate when the station entrance door flew open and a familiar face appeared. It was the local doctor. Simon Steele. A stocky bald man in his late fifties. His heavy coat dusted with snow.
“Tom, quick give me a hand, I’ve just picked up some nutter out running at this time of the morning and in this damned weather. He was wandering all over the road. I nearly bloody killed him. He’s muttering a load of nonsense.”
Tom went outside to Simon’s car. The two of them helped the man into the station.
They sat him on a chair. Tom went and got some blankets from the store cupboard.
The stranger was a young man, late twenties, blond hair, wearing only a thin vest, shorts and running shoes. His whole body was shaking.
“Put these blankets around you lad. I’ll make you a hot drink. We’ll soon get you warmed up. Now then, what’s your name?”
The stranger looked at him. His deep blue eyes just staring.
Tom put his hand on the young man’s shoulder.
“Come on lad. Give me your name.”
The man spoke quietly. Almost a whisper.
“Ray… Ray Samuels.”