Saturday, June 16, 2012

View(s) from the Back of the Pack

The last two amusing episodes of the View from the Back of the Pack by Dave Webb

JUNE 2012
The big event of the past few weeks has been the club’s annual Johnny Kipps run, but I will start elsewhere, with the London Marathon. The 37,000 starters included five of us from Maiden Newton Runners. Richard Rider relished his first Marathon, and was beaming happily at the finish, while Lin and Martin Lascelles sped round the course so that they both clocked sub-3 hour times. Lin was the 2nd lady in the 45-49 age range, an achievement which is both astonishing and thoroughly out of keeping with the spirit of our club. Charlie, meanwhile, started to wish that Micky would emerge from the crowd to give her a lift on his bike, as he had done on one of her training runs, but still finished in a good time, and is already starting to wonder about doing it again. She has asked me to pass on her thanks to all those who sponsored her for Children with Cancer UK; so far she has collected £2,000, with more to come. For my part, my first words on finishing, after several minutes of gasping and cursing, were ‘Never Again’. The first 16 miles or so went OK, the next 4 were a struggle, and the last 6 miles were decidedly unpleasant. I knew that Jackie and the boys would be watching around the 25 mile mark, so I forced myself to keep running till I saw them, and then to carry on to the finish.
I was therefore not expecting the headline in my newspaper the next day, “Dave Webb is surprise choice for Olympic marathon’. On closer study, however, it turned out that the selectors had not chosen a middle-aged jogger from Dorset, but my 30-year old namesake, a chartered accountant from Leeds. I will though keep my diary clear for August 12th in case I’m needed.
Our April meeting may have been the first time, in our 27 year history, that we found ourselves seated in the corridor between the bar, scene of a noisy and popular pub quiz, and the skittle alley, occupied for the evening by the British Legion. Our meeting was then punctuated by the questions of the quizmaster, such as: Can polar bears jump? True or False: the earth and the moon are the same age? What farmyard animal is used to search for truffles? How many strings on a ukulele?
My co-panellist, Mr Les Knott-Bother, was keen to answer some of these quiz questions, so I dropped my planned running topic and instead asked him to explain the origin of the 5 Olympic rings. He confidently announced that they represent the doughnuts that are presented to the first 5 finishers, correcting my long-held belief that they symbolised the 5 continents involved in the Olympics.
I must move on to the big event of recent weeks, the Johnny Kipps. This is an annual club run, in a 6-mile circuit from Wynford Eagle via West Compton and Eggardon. We have run it in all weathers, from sizzling sunshine to this year’s tempting combination of strong winds and heavy rain. 11 hardy runners turned out to compete for perhaps the most prestigious prize in sport, the coveted biscuit tin, and for the first time it was won by a non-member, one Dominic Taylor from Sydling. Our quick-thinking chairman, Phil, overcame this technicality by awarding Dominic a year’s membership so that we could offload the biscuit tin to him without infringing any club rules.
Finally, I must mention our new Monday night runs, aimed at those who don’t want to go so far or so fast as the Tuesday runners. Meeting outside The Chalk at 7pm each Monday, these are already proving popular and bringing new members into the club. Which country is the largest producer of cheese?

MAY 2012
I am writing 2 weeks before running in the London Marathon, so my thoughts are turning to last-minute race preparations. We have already done our last long training runs which, in Charlie’s case, ended with her hurtling down the hill from Sydling on the back of Micky’s bike (possibly practising for an unusual finish in London on 22 April). The final weeks before a marathon are known as the ‘taper’ phase of the training programme. This phase is the one that comes most naturally to Maiden Newton Runners, since it involves running less and eating more. The idea is to scale down your running efforts, so that your legs are fresh on race day. At the same time you need to increase your food intake, sometimes known as ‘carbo-loading’, to ensure you are not running on empty. The purists would also avoid alcohol in the last few weeks, but in our club we are always careful not to take things too far.
Another part of the marathon build-up is to enter some races during the training phase. On March 25 there were 5 club members running in the Yeovil Half-Marathon, which was treacherously scheduled for a 9.00am start the morning after the clocks went forward. Despite the club’s proud tradition of incompetence, we all succeeded in arriving on time, although I discovered that my clubmates had taken some innovative preparation methods. Andy had walked from Cattistock to Sydling for a pub lunch the day before, downed 2 or 3 pints, and walked home. Pete, meanwhile, had also agreed to Dan’s suggestion of entering the Night Runner, which started at 7pm the previous evening. At some point he realised that he had signed up for 2 races that began within 14 hours of each other. He did well in the Night Runner, finishing 8 miles at about 8pm, in 8th place. He also took the precaution of getting up early to eat porridge, so that he stood on the start line at Yeovil less than 12 hours after finishing his previous race, with only a few hours’ sleep to refresh him. Not surprisingly, Pete found the latter stages of the race somewhat trying, ‘especially the last 10 miles’. I should also mention Charlie, who set a new personal best for the half-marathon of 1 hour 49 minutes, despite the hilly route; I think she was mainly relieved to have beaten Micky, her husband, who also ran this year, despite his dodgy knees. Finally, Richard Rider put in a good bid for the coveted ‘King of the Hill’ crown which is awarded to the runner with the quickest time up Hendford Hill, getting into the top 10 times for that part of the course. And I must mention that, on the same day, one of our new members, Alison Ambrose, ran her first marathon in Barcelona, in an impressive 4 hours 19 minutes.
Still on the theme of pre-race activities, this month’s running question is ‘What is the best thing to eat before a race?’ My co-panellist, Mr Les Knott-Bother, was keen to go first and declared that he has a long-established tradition of eating a big fried breakfast before a race. His answer surprised me in several ways until I realised that he was talking about Sunday mornings while he waits for the Grand Prix on the TV. For my part, I favour a big bowl of Dorset Cereals Simply Delicious Muesli* about an hour before the start.
I must end by sending good wishes to Mike and Di Ashworth who have moved to a new job near Salisbury, leaving a big gap in our club. Mike’s amiable absent-mindedness will be hard to replace, though we will do our best.
* all sponsorship deals willingly considered