While the nation’s eyes are fixed firmly on the Olympic Torch Relay crossing the nation, for one Watford resident there is an alternative.

Eight-thousand people are carrying the Olympic Flame towards Stratford in time for the Opening Ceremony next Friday, but Russell Wilding is among the 2,000 runners taking a different approach.

The alternative is a unique twist on the official route. While the flame stops every night and is often transported to a different starting point for the next day, the ‘Real Relay’ continues 24 hours a day.

Having started ten days after the Olympic Torch, it retraced the path already trodden and this week overtook its more famous counterpart.

Each of those running takes in a leg of about ten miles each and Wilding took charge of the baton this morning at 4.45am.

As the official route does not pass through Watford, he opted to run the leg between Epsom and Tooting Bec.

That route would see him pass his girlfriend’s house and she was expected to join him for the final mile on his run.

It is an intriguing concept and one which Wilding was very keen to get involved in.

“I do quite a lot of marathons so there is a bit of a community that do that sort of thing. It was set up by the Endurance Life website,” explained the 37-year-old yesterday (Thursday).

“They give a start and finish point and if the official route goes somewhere in-between, you have to go to those points too. “I have to go to Mitcham but it is a small detour. My leg is ten miles.”

As with all of the runners, Wilding was able to plan his own route so long as he took in the key points that the official route follows.

The Real Relay is now ahead of the Olympic Torch and will arrive at its destination five days earlier this Sunday.

For Wilding, the opportunity was all about playing his own part in the Games this summer in a unique moment that he is not likely to get the chance to experience again.

He will be taking in some of the sporting action this summer having secured seats for the final of the women’s football competition, while he will also watch the hockey at the Riverbank Arena on his birthday.

Sunday will see him involved again as he joins a group of runners taking on the final leg with the baton from Tower Bridge to the Olympic Park. “I guess it was just a once in a lifetime thing to do something like this. It is never going to happen in the UK again,” he added.

“It’s a once in a lifetime thing. It’s a really exciting thing to be a part of - to play my part is something that will live with me.”