Saturday, April 27, 2013

Honiton Hippo? Sounds like a muddy run to me!

This event had escaped the diary for the past few years due to movable feast that is Easter.  This year was different, and upon applying online, I promptly received my race number.  The chirpy letter from Honiton Running Club was fantastic – describing how hippos were discovered during the building of their by-pass, revealing how they had inhabited the area for 100,000 years.   My eye quickly glanced over the usual race blurb and settled on the last line saying that ‘refreshments will available at the finish and the best bit is that they will be free to all runners.’  Perhaps plans are afoot to introduce the species...

'4 legged animal..., beginning with...?'
It proved to be a relaxed start; a blunt 10.30 outside Honiton County Primary School.  The only taxing bit proved to be what to do with the car keys, given the pre-race warnings that ‘hippos love water’.  The field of runners proved to be a mix of club runners, gym bunnies and many locals simply rising to the challenge.  There was health banter, with the organiser stating that all complaints should be lodged with Tiverton RC.  Upon starting, the race descended down to the by-pass allowing a glimpse of the foreboding river crossing at the end, and up into the wooded hills opposite.  The rain held off and the slippery slope up was saved from becoming a slippery slide down.  The hills were steep, occurring in the first half of the 7.3 miles.  The course marshals were jovial but sincerely supportive as they pointed runners back up the hill they had just descended.   Indeed, runners certainly got a lot for their miles; mostly off-road, lush and green, with 3 water features to negotiate towards the end.  By the time we arrived at the last one, a rowdy crowd had gathered for their morning’s entertainment!

My race started out as being the ‘6-11 miles easy; 2-3 half marathon pace’ as directed in my 5 k training programme.  However, my competitive streak got the better of me and it became an all out race when 2 likely lads sprang past me at the first hill.  They were eventually hauled in on the last hill, and help me clock 1 hr 01 mins for MN Runners which I was very pleased with, not least because it allowed access to the final piece of chocolate cake!  To sum up, this is a short but tough course for those with appropriately studded trainers and passion for the off-road and cakes.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

View (s) from the Back of the Pack

The latest of Dave Webb's amusing articles for the Herald:

Our February meeting fell on Valentine’s Day. Only 5 of us made it to our reserved table at The Fox and Hounds. I assumed that the absentees were occupied with affairs of the heart, such as wining and dining their loved ones, or walking together in the moonlight. It turned out though that Charlie was at Pilates, Dan was supervising his scout troop, Alison was working, Neil was at home with the children, and the one couple who were staying in for a romantic meal had opted for a dish of that well-known aphrodisiac, cauliflower cheese.
On 7 April we will be holding our annual ‘Johnny Kipps’ race. We will gather at 10.30 at Wynford Eagle to run a 6-mile circuit that goes out past West Compton, up towards Eggardon, and back down to Wynford Eagle. A few years ago Dan and I managed to persuade our clubmates to allow people to choose in which direction they ran the circuit, so that you could pass people coming the other way and not know who was in the lead.  I thought this was an idea which could catch on more widely; imagine how much more exciting it would be if the runners in the Olympics 10K final were running in different directions. This year we will all be running the same way. We hope to get about 20 runners, with non-members welcome. The London Marathon on 21 April will be hoping for a bigger turnout. Amongst the runners will be the fastest hairdresser in the West, Charlie Spencer. Lin Lascelles has been helping Charlie with some extra training, including speedwork. You may have seen Charlie running while Lin rides her bike alongside, offering words of encouragement, or abuse.
The 2nd Wednesday of each month sees an evening 5K race at Street. Most of our runners have got faster as the winter has progressed. Dave Butt, Martin Lascelles, Neil Goode and Charlie all set their season’s best times in February, and Charlie is on course to win the series prize for her age group. Dave Carnell, however, has been plagued by a persistent problem of getting a stitch during the race. In February he tried a new tactic, of fasting all day. The result was that he still got the stitch, but was also weak with hunger. Next month he plans to try eating a big curry beforehand to see if that propels him any faster.
Lin has her own rather eccentric theory as to why Dave has been struggling. She believes that he has let his hair grow too long. Her husband Martin, on the other hand, had a severe crew-cut and then posted his fastest time of the year. Perhaps Lin is not just Charlie’s trainer, but also her agent, drumming up new haircutting trade. Continuing this theme, this month’s running question asks, ‘Will I run faster if I have my hair cut?’ My view is that Lin is right; less hair equals more speed. How many hairy hippies do you see at the Olympics? Imagine the extra wind-resistance that would have slowed down Mo Farah if he had been sporting a full Afro? My co-panellist, Mr Les Knott-Bother, takes the opposite view. He has been as bald as a billiard ball for years but insists that long hair would not slow him down, on the grounds that it is not physically possible for him to move any more slowly.
Finally, I can give advance notice that we will be organising a series of 5K races in Poundbury at 7.30pm on the last Wednesday of each summer month. I’ll give more information nearer the time, but anyone who is interested might want to start by joining our easy-paced 4-mile Monday night runs at 7pm from The Chalk and Cheese in Maiden Newton.

The dark nights of January are lit up each year by the highlight of Dorset’s social calendar, the Maiden Newton Runners AGM and Christmas dinner. The alert reader may be wondering why we hold our Christmas dinner in January. The delay reflects our deficits in both organisation and timekeeping. We do manage, though, to arrange a glamorous venue and a sophisticated meal, namely a takeaway from the Balti Express at the Maiden Newton Youth and Community Centre.
We usually aim to complete our AGM in under 10 minutes. In fact it’s the one occasion when we try to move quickly. But this year we had some weighty matters to discuss. As well as needing to decide which national athletics association to affiliate to, we also needed to decide on our subscription rates for the coming year. Phil, Lin, John and I, being the club’s officers, were mindful of the golden rule of democracy, which is never to ask a question until you are sure of the answer. We therefore got together beforehand to cook up a proposal, and then told our clubmates that they couldn’t have their curry until they agreed to it. We secured unanimous approval for our plan to charge a £10 subscription rate, with optional extras for those who want to register with UK Athletics (which brings reduced rates on race entry fees) and for new members who want some club kit. We also decided that people who come regularly on the Monday night runs will need to become club members.
A quick digression now for this month’s running question, prompted by our plans to revive the club handicap runs. The way these runs work is that everyone gives an estimate of their time to complete the 3 mile course. Runners then start at carefully timed intervals so that everyone should finish more or less together. The question is therefore whether we run faster when we are chasing or being chased. For some people the fear of being beaten by a rival spurs them on to go faster, while others speed up when they can target someone ahead of them. My co-panellist, Mr Les Knott-Bother, says he moves fastest when he is chasing something, like a bus or a free portion of chips.
Back to our AGM and the prestige of our annual awards ceremony. Blog entry of the year went to Richard Rider for his London Marathon report, beating off competition from Dan Cantrell’s description of the deep mud on the Inca Trail race (the Ilminster Inca Trail, rather than the Peruvian version), and Phil England’s account of the epic bike ride from Cattistock to York which somehow ended up in Doncaster. A new award, for the outstanding contribution, went to Jackie Webb for starting and leading the Monday night runs (7pm from The Chalk, all welcome). The annual club championship was won by Charlie ‘Speedy’ Spencer, the fastest hairdresser in the West. All that remained was to present the much-coveted Golden Welly, the PR award for bringing the club into disrepute. The prize this year went to Martin Lascelles, who had put together a portfolio of misdemeanours. He got lost on the Forde Abbey 10K and took half the field with him; he forgot the baton at the North Dorset Relay and ran the first leg without it; he put his London Marathon medal on E-bay as soon as he got home (and sold it for £30!); and at the Tintinten he got into an argument with the race organiser as he tried to persuade her that the prize for first lady should go to the first lady to finish, ie his wife Lin, and not to the first finisher with a lady’s name, ie a man called Leigh.