Saturday, November 24, 2012

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Monday, November 05, 2012


Saturday 11 August saw two big events in the running world. While Mo Farah was speeding round the Olympic track to 5000m glory, 117 runners were making their way, at a more sedate pace, around the Maiden NewTen Madness course. Luckily I was stationed under the old railway bridge so was able to listen to Mo’s magic moments on the radio, and then attend to my marshalling duties. We were very pleased to see several of our new ‘Monday night runners’ taking part, including Louise Goodman, Alice Moore and Sean Clothier. I would particularly like to congratulate Floss Wright who, at 17, is making a big impact on the club’s average age. After completing the NewTen course, she is now deciding whether to join Mo Farah at the Great North Run, or to target a race next year.
Next, a quick general knowledge question. Are the ‘Trossachs’ a) a sensitive part of the male anatomy, b) something you kneel on in church, or c) an area of Scotland? The answer turns out to be “c) an area of Scotland”, and this is where we spent the first week of our summer holiday. Our running opportunities included a scenic path around the shores of Loch Katrine, where Rob Roy roamed with his cattle raiders in days gone by. I was training for The Beast, a 13-mile race at Corfe Castle that includes some brutal cliff climbs. After a week in Scotland, we moved to the Lake District, the home of British hill-running. There is a whole fell-running sub-culture, with hardy athletes who would put Southern softies to shame. Perhaps the most impressive of all these great runners is the legendary sheep farmer, Joss Naylor. Now in his 70s, and still running, his past feats include multiple race victories and amazing achievements, such as covering 72 peaks in 24 hours in 1975, a route that involved over 100 miles of running and 38,000 feet of ascent.
I set off for a training run on a damp morning and, as the track climbed, the clouds lowered around me. I must have missed my turn because the path led me through a bog and then up and over 2 small peaks, steep enough to have me scrambling up and down the slippery stones. With only the occasional sheep for company I was starting to panic until a breeze began to disperse the clouds and I could find my way back down.
This brings me on to this month’s running question, which is ‘what is the best way to run downhill?’. My co-panellist, Mr Les Knott-Bother, says that the best thing to do is not to go up a hill in the first place. If, however, you do find yourself heading downhill, the best advice is not to ‘brake’, by leaning back and landing on your heels, but instead to lean slightly forward and land on the balls of your feet. The aim is to visualise yourself flowing down the hill like a river, though for most of us it feels more a case of bumping downhill like a sack of potatoes.
Back in Dorset, I joined Martin, Lin and 450 others on the start line for The Beast. The route includes 2 huge flights of steps up the cliffs, but I had a secret weapon with me, namely my hat. I found that the peak of my cap stopped me looking upwards to see what was still to come, keeping my morale intact long enough for me to reach the top and the path back to Corfe Castle.
With the nights now starting to draw in, we will soon be testing the batteries in our headtorches for our Monday and Wednesday night runs, to which anyone is welcome. I should also mention the Sydling 5K Fun Run on the morning of Sunday 21 October.


This month I have the unexpected pleasure of reporting on a triumph for Maiden Newton Runners, making our own contribution to the country’s fantastic summer of sport. Never mind the achievements of Bradley Wiggins and Jessica Ennis, Mo Farah and Andy Murray, Ellie Simmonds and David Weir, we have 3 more names to add to the list. Charlie Spencer, Lin Lascelles and Zoe Hayward combined as our ladies team in the King Alfred’s Torment cross-country race at Stourhead. The pre-race omens were not good. Lin’s summer had been disrupted by injury, though she is getting back to full fitness, and Charlie had been slower than usual at the Yeovilton 5K. It turned out though that this was because she had packed the wrong pair of trainers, and ended up running that race in her Pilates shoes. On a wet and windswept September Sunday the dream team lined up, relishing the weather, the mud and the hilly course. Lin was first home, followed by Zoe and then Charlie, this time in the right shoes, and their combined times gave them first place in the ladies team category.
Our team stood proudly for the presentation ceremony. Sadly we do not yet have a flag to fly or a club song for such (rare) occasions, though any suggestions would be welcome. Olympic winners know that they will receive a gold medal, but in club races there is more scope for trophy innovation. Previous winners of our own Maiden NewTen Madness, for example, have been surprised to receive one of Lesley Westgate’s home-grown cucumbers. Lin, Zoe and Charlie did their best to look pleased when they were each presented with a large, ungainly wooden object which, on closer inspection, turned out to be a sort of cuckoo-clock without the cuckoo. Too ugly to be displayed, but too large to be easily hidden at the back of a cupboard, these trophies have given our victorious team a housekeeping dilemma.
This month’s running question asks what have we learnt from the Olympics? My co-panellist, Mr Les Knott-Bother, had 3 things to say on this subject. Firstly, he announced that he has re-branded himself as an ‘armchair athlete’, and as such took pride in the country’s excellence at sports that can be done sitting down, such as cycling, equestrianism, canoeing and wheelchair racing. In fact he is thinking of having larger wheels fitted to his armchair so that he can get round his house more speedily. Secondly, he said that he now felt better to know that some of the money he wastes each week on the lottery is being used for sports funding. Finally, he said that he would like to see more beach volleyball on the telly. For my part, I was struck by the success of so many female athletes, and the amount of public interest that was generated in sports other than football. I would also say that perhaps too much emphasis is now being placed on elite performance, and the success of the very few world-class competitors, and that it is more important to encourage mass participation, no matter the standard.
As well as the success of our ladies team at Stourhead, I am very pleased to report that we have seen a significant increase in the number of women in the club. The Monday night runs have been particularly effective at getting more women out running with the club, and we hope to keep this going throughout the winter, with the help of head torches and hi-viz clothing. Next month I will be able to report on how we fared at the Parrett Trail relay, and in local races like the Cerne Burn 10K and the Sydling Fun Run.