Tuesday, December 02, 2014

View from the Back of the Pack - October and November

by Dave Webb

If you are planning an outdoor event in October, then I suggest you schedule it for the second Saturday. This is when the Parrett Trail Relay is run, and every year we finish in glorious sunshine in the garden of the Wynyard’s Gap pub. The relay starts at the coast north-west of Bridgwater, then follows the course of the River Parrett, veering away from it in places over a route of about 48 miles. Legs 3 and 4 pass through the areas which dominated last winter’s news programmes, where the river had not been dredged, and the floods would not subside. Our leg 3 runners, Dave Carnell and Victoria Barnett, were late meeting up, and had to drive down a road that was supposedly closed in order to get to the start in time. They then enjoyed an interesting run past a lot of the houses that are being repaired from last winter’s floods, just in time for this winter.
When they were starting to run I received a worried call from Dan Cantrell whose co-runner, Donna Elliott, had been drafted in as a late replacement 2 days before the race. There was no sign of her and he would need to start soon. Dan is notoriously poor at navigation, so we were relying on Donna to show him the way, as well as needing her to run for her team. In the end Dan had to start without her and find his own way. All was going well until he reached a place where the path was closed for the flood works. He claims that he took advice from a local councillor on a bicycle, who told him the closure only applied to vehicles. Dan climbed round the fencing, sidestepped the protesting security guard, and ran off, leaving the councillor and the guard in heated debate. This seems to be a blatant bid to win the club’s annual PR Award, ‘for bringing the club into disrepute’. Donna meanwhile had started 7 minutes after everyone else but then followed the correct route and met up with Dan at the end, where they were both delighted to see Jackie England, who kindly drove them back to their cars, so they did not have to run back past the indignant security guard.
The organisers were disappointed with the number of entries this year so have asked how the event could be improved. My suggestion was that each team should have 2 batons, with a runner starting at each end. The aim would then be to meet somewhere in the middle. This would save time, and add an element of uncertainty, given the risk that runners get lost and fail to meet up. My co-panellist, Mr Les Knott-Bother suggested that they scrap all the running and begin the race in the pub garden. Each team would then have to send a runner to the bar, bring back drinks for all, down the drinks, and then send the next runner, until the whole team had completed the course.

In other news, I forgot to mention last month that the fastest hairdresser in the West won the ‘Super Vet’ prize at the Bridgwater Half Marathon. This does not mean that she has branched out into animal medicine, but instead refers, rather unflatteringly, to her age. At the October Street 5K Maiden Newton Runners won 5 of the categories, which reflects the number of speedy runners now in the club, though I am pleased to say that we also have plenty of slow runners. In fact I was recently reading a PG Wodehouse book, where he describes a butler as being ‘designed for stability not speed’, which would be a good description of many of us in Maiden Newton Runners.

Last month I mentioned that the fastest hairdresser in the west had won the ‘Supervet’ category at the Bridgwater Half Marathon. This category reflected her age rather than her skills in animal medicine, but she is a spring chicken compared to some of our members. Talking of chickens, the world’s oldest marathon runner, Fauja Singh, began running after playing the local sport of ‘chase the rooster’. Older readers who want to take up running could also start by playing ‘chase the rooster’, or they could chase any animal of their choice, though I would caution against playing ‘chase the tortoise’ after one of my work colleagues tripped over one of his tortoises, sustaining a nasty injury to his leg (the man’s leg, not the tortoise’s leg, so far as I know the tortoise was startled but unhurt, thanks to its protective shell).
But I digress. The point about mentioning older runners was to celebrate the fantastic achievement of my fellow Maiden Newton Runner, Dave Butt, who has won the Over 60s category in the Great Britain duathlon trials. Dave will therefore be travelling to Madrid next year to represent Great Britain, and Maiden Newton Runners, in the European Championships. The duathlon is comprised of a 5K run, a 25K bike ride and another 5K run, all of which Dave performs at an alarming speed. Dave tells me that he is looking forward to wearing the GB colours, and to the soothing attentions of the team masseur. I hope he won’t forget to pack the Maiden Newton Runners club flag so that if he wins gold our colours can be run up the flagpole, and the stadium can echo to the sound of our club anthem, ‘Slow Down, You Move Too Fast’.
Closer to home, the darker evenings have seen us dusting off our headtorches and hi-viz clothing. In late October we did an evening run with a Thomas Hardy theme, starting at Max Gate and heading for his cottage in Thorncombe Woods. Unfortunately we lost our bearings on the heath and ran round in circles for a while as if using our headtorches to recreate the scene in The Return of the Native when the lights of glow worms ‘dotted the hillside like stars of a low magnitude’. Eventually we found our way back to town in time for curry night at The Trumpet Major, which probably wasn’t an option for Thomas Hardy when he was planning an evening out 100 years ago.
With Christmas coming it is time for this column’s traditional running question about what to buy the runner in your life. As always, my co-panellist Mr Les Knott-Bother was full of the Christmas spirit (once I had warmed him up with some mulled wine and mince pies). I told him about a new training option for runners, which is a weighted vest, designed to help build endurance. His suggestion is to save money and follow his approach of wearing a string vest and carrying the extra weight yourself. When it comes to stocking fillers I struggled to persuade Mr Les Knott-Bother of the merits of sport socks (no need for socks to be anything but nylon), energy gels (never eat anything that comes in a sachet) or deodorants (they encourage people to make themselves sweaty) but in the end we reached agreement on the best thing to give a runner this Christmas. The ideal present is a box of luxury chocolates, which can give a welcome energy boost before a run, after a run or instead of a run.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Views from the Back of the Pack - March, April and May

by Dave Webb

May 2014
Some of us in the running club have recently spent time in the USA. Jackie and I were there during the Easter holidays, which meant we missed one of the big events in the Maiden Newton Runners calendar. This year’s Johnny Kipps race took place on 13 April, and saw 11 club members running the circular route from Wynford Eagle to West Compton, Eggardon and back. Lin and Martin Lascelles were vying for first place but during their sprint finish Martin strained a muscle in his back, handing Lin the victory. Her joy was short-lived, however, because she then had to carry his luggage when they travelled to the States the next day.

Also on 13 April, Neil Goode, from Sydling, filled the club place at this year’s London Marathon, putting the months of training to good use to finish in 4:04. On the same day, in New York, I went for a morning jog in Central Park, where I found even more runners than usual. It turned out that the New York Women’s Half-Marathon was about to start. As I ran past thousands of runners lined up at the start, I heard a female announcer shout “Hello! You Guys! Oh My God! I’m So Excited!” I pictured the scene at the start line in Wynford Eagle, and decided it was unlikely that Lord Wynford was saying similar things to the Maiden Newton Runners. When the New York runners all joined in a hearty rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner I decided that it was time to jog on. For the most part, race announcers in the UK are more restrained, limiting their remarks to some safety instructions and a countdown to the start. I have noticed, though, a worrying trend at some events, such as Park Runs, for the organisers to lead the runners in a series of warm-up exercises, followed by some shouting. At least none of them has yet tried to make us sing the national anthem.

At this time of year, with the birds singing, the hedgerows blossoming and the trees in leaf, it is a delight to be running in the countryside. There are though some hazards to be avoided. As the fields fill with livestock you need to be sensible among the more skittish animals, and take care to avoid their droppings. Stinging nettles are particularly potent at this time of year, so this month’s running question asks for the best way to deal with them. I thought that my co-panellist, Mr Les Knott-Bother, would agree with me for once. His answer to most problems is to beat it with a big stick, which is my tip for stinging nettles, but he surprised me by recommending stinging nettle beer, with its refreshingly zesty tang.

Another landmark on the club’s calendar is the Maiden NewTen Madness, a 10K race which we organise each August. This year’s race will be the 10th and we are hoping for a big turnout. Our long-serving treasurer, John Wright, turns 70 this year. After some years in running retirement he plans to dust off his shoes and take part in this year’s race. So far his training has mostly been mental, ie he has been thinking about it, and he did claim to have done the Johnny Kipps, on his bike. Finally, on a personal note, I’ve been thinking a lot while I’m running about my Mum, who died on 4 May. She was no runner, but she did love the countryside, and requested that Psalm 121 be included in her funeral, as it was at her wedding. When running I will indeed “lift up mine eyes unto the hills”, while also keeping a beady eye out for cow muck on the ground.

April 2014
You may have noticed that Mo Farah fell over in the New York Half-Marathon and lost valuable time. At least there were no cow pats on the course, so he avoided some of the perils which faced Lin Lascelles when she took a tumble during the Dalwood 3 Hills race. She cut her leg when falling flat on her face, but got up and ran on through the mud. 2 days later she spent the evening in Outpatients after the cut became infected, which she attributes to the toxic properties of the local cow muck.

Mo had been hoping to set a ‘PB’ (personal best) but didn’t manage it, unlike 3 of our runners at the recent Yeovil Half-Marathon. Alice Moore took 8 minutes off her previous time, while the fastest hairdresser in the west was speedier than ever, having avoided the unscheduled stops that she made in previous years. Jackie Webb, meanwhile, took the most certain route to getting a PB by racing this distance for the first time. Pete James ran an evening 5K at Street; as he crossed the finish line he glanced at the clock, which read 19:57, and thought he had at last broken the 20 minute barrier. His team-mates then patiently explained the difference between race time (20:31 in his case) and real time (nearly 8pm). While Jackie was indulging herself on Mothering Sunday by running a half-marathon, the rest of the Webb household came out to cheer her on. This leads me to this month’s running question, which for once is aimed at the spectators: what is the best thing to shout at runners as they pass? The boys and I settled for comments like ‘Well done’ and ‘You’re looking strong’, or just ‘Keep going’. My co-panellist Mr Les Knott-Bother had quite a lot to say on this subject. He commented that he doesn’t have many runners passing through his living room (despite our notoriously poor navigation skills) but on his occasional forays outside, he has a growing repertoire of comments. Sometimes he goes for the simple ‘Stop running, you fool’, but he also likes to unsettle runners with something less predictable, such as ‘Repent! Your death is at hand’. Lately he says he has been trying a distraction technique, by shouting ‘If you stop running I’ll buy you a pint’, though he finds this works better with adult runners and it didn’t go down so well at last year’s school sports day.

There will certainly be plenty of spectators on 13 April for the big event in Britain’s running calendar. I am of course referring to the annual ‘Johnny Kipps’ run which we stage on a circular 6-mile route from Wynford Eagle to Eggardon via West Compton. There may be up to 15 people running, and perhaps another 5 spectating. On the same day there is another race competing for the nation’s attention, namely the London Marathon, which will have 35,000 runners and even more spectators. Among the runners will be Neil Goode, using our club entry, and I hope enjoying the experience.

Finally, there was a shocking suggestion at our March meeting, to move the meeting day from a Thursday to a Wednesday. John managed to silence any protests by extracting a dog-eared scrap of paper from his bag. Dating from 1987 this document proclaimed that Maiden Newton Runners was formed in October 1985, is affiliated to the Southern Association of the Amateur Athletics Association, that the club colours are black and white, and that the club meets on the 2nd Wednesday of each month at the Castle Inn. So it seems that Wednesday nights might be acceptable after all.

March 2014
The weather has continued to deter the less hardy runners, but as I write this there is sunshine outside and the prospect of a dry week. Consequently we now need to work on a range of new excuses, after a winter of having only to look out of the window before deciding to defer the possibility of running. Over the years we have had some imaginative, and sometimes mind-boggling, excuses presented for people not attending our monthly meetings. Derek Faulkner once claimed to be busy painting the inside of his chicken shed, John Wright was delayed by having locked himself out of his house and needing to find a small child to send in through the bathroom window, while Dan Cantrell sent a mysterious and possibly coded message to say that his boat was being capsized by the Commodore. This month’s ‘apologies for absence’ show how times have changed: Zoe was waiting at home for a Tesco delivery, while Charlie was at her Pilates class, which is not an excuse that was ever offered in previous years, by the likes of Stuart Hargreaves or Wilf Watts.

One of those who did attend the February meeting was Dave Carnell, who received a special trophy at our recent AGM, the ‘Billy No Mates’ award for doing the most races on his own. He was suffering from a blocked ear at the meeting, so perhaps could not fully appreciate our ‘affectionate’ banter on the subject.

We had to decide whether to stage the series of 5K races in Poundbury again this summer. In the end we decided that there were some problems with the course, and there are now so many free 5K Park Runs available that the outcome would be too uncertain to justify the effort involved (in other words, we found another excuse for not doing something). Instead we will put more effort into promoting the 10th running of the ‘Maiden NewTen Madness’ on 9 August. A quick ‘brainstorm’ of possible ideas did not last long, due to the limited brainpower at our disposal, but we did return to Dave Butt’s previous Big Idea of a weight-based handicap. All runners would be loaded with weights so that everyone carried as much weight as the heaviest runner. Lin thought this was deliberately intended to disadvantage lightweights like herself, and to favour the larger runner, like Dave and me. Whether Dave C’s ears were in full working order at this point, I don’t know, but for some reason he launched into a lecture that took in elements of Roman military history, etymology and the corruption of the language. The upshot was that he proposed a 10th anniversary theme of ‘Decimation’, using the word in its true historical sense, whereby every 10th person is killed. Thus the 10th finisher, the 20th, 30th and so on would each be shot, like a Danish giraffe, though not before they had had their entry fee reimbursed. We settled on a less controversial plan to encourage runners who are having a ‘round-number’ birthday in 2014. John Wright will be 70, Dave Butt 60, and we cover other bases down to 30. Currently we are seeking a runner who will be 20 in 2014, and another who will be 80, not to mention 90.

This month’s running question asks how best to clean muddy shoes. It’s best not to use the washing machine as the gel will melt, the shoes will shrink and you will have nothing to show for all your hard work getting them dirty. My co-panellist, Mr Les Knott-Bother, says you should never get your shoes muddy in the first place, and if you do need to venture outside, wear a pair of wellies.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Exe to Axe Revisited

On deciding to do the Exe to Axe race again this year, the first thing I did was check and see how long it took me the last time I ran it, "a couple of years ago".  I was horrified to discover that it was actually 2008, proving that as you get older (and older) time does indeed go by faster and faster.

This is a tough, point to point race starting in Exmouth and following the South West coast path back to Seaton. It's name is slightly misleading in that the finish is actually about a mile short of the River Axe, but I'm not complaining, it's quite far enough! One of the main difficulties is getting to Seaton by 8.30am to catch the bus to the start....on the morning that the clocks go forward.  After a largely sleepless night worrying about what the time really was, we safely arrived at 8.25am only to discover that one person had forgotten to put his clock forward....yes, you've guessed, the coach driver!  This was mildly amusing at first but by the time the replacement driver finally arrived at 9.10am it was no longer funny and I was beginning to feel stressed.

We finally arrived in Exmouth at 9.52am, leaving just enough time to sprint to the loo, shed a few layers, throw our bags in the van (hoping that we would indeed be reunited with them later as promised) and toe the start line.  So much for a nice pre race warm up............

On the dot of 10am we set off and after a brief stretch on the road turned onto the coast path and started climbing up to pass the Geoneedle and continue on the gentle uphill climb towards Sandy Bay. Martin and I were running together, this was after all a training run, not a race, and I displayed huge will power by not chasing after a girl who started very fast and soon disappeared into the distance.  This initial stretch from Exmouth, winding through caravan parks is both the least attractive and least familiar part of the route and it was with some relief that we picked up the wooded path that drops down into Budleigh Salterton. Martin was already muttering about the pace being "too fast" and that he wouldn't be able to keep up but unfortunately selective deafness meant that I couldn't hear him........

An easy run along the promenade into Budleigh led to the first water station and the point where the path turns inland along the River Otter for half a mile or so in order to cross the bridge and head back towards the coast.  At this point I became aware of both being able to see the leading lady ahead of me and also Axe Valley Runner, Amy, behind me, casually chatting away as I struggled up the hill desperately trying to get enough oxygen to run, never mind chat.  On reaching the coast there is another steep climb and at this point Martin started to drop back. As this coincided with the leading female coming back to me I callously abandoned him and kept going, still aware that Amy was breathing down my neck.

Another drop down into Ladram Bay followed - I could no longer hear Amy behind me and I found that without having made any conscious effort to increase the pace, I had caught up the speedy leading female. We both dropped to a walk up through the steep wooded section out of Ladram and had a brief conversation - which was slightly embarrassing as she clearly knew me and claimed that we had met at Barnstaple parkrun, another indication of my greatly advanced age as I had absolutely no recollection of it at all.  As she seemed inclined to chat and I was starting to think that maybe I could win this race, er, I mean training run, I started trying to drop her.  Considering how quickly I had caught her up she was quite stubborn. We passed High Peak (onto familiar Four Trigs territory now), dropped down into Sidmouth, along the front and then on a detour inland through the streets due to a land slide before starting the first of the killer climbs that feature in the second half of this race.  As we started the climb my clingy female rival finally started dropping back.

The key point to remember, should you ever do this race, is that all the "real" hills are in the second half - after climbing up from Sidmouth you drop down to Salcombe, before climbing up and then dropping down to Westonmouth before climbing back up and dropping down to Branscombe and the final horrendous climb up out of Branscombe. It's a bit like being on a slow motion roller coaster......One of the advantages (the only advantage actually) of the climbs is that they afford plenty of opportunity to look back across the valley and check if any sneaky Maiden Newton Runners are creeping up on you.  I was extremely relieved NOT to see Martin or any other women either, because my legs were starting to feel pretty tired and I'm not sure if I could have picked the pace up if the need arose.

After climbing up out of Branscombe there is some fairly easy running (on Grizzly territory now) before the drop down into Beer and the dreaded steps up to the cliff path.  My Garmin had already registered 20 miles and it was clear that the cliff path diversions had added considerable distance.  My legs were shot and I knew that there was still a stiff climb up through the trees on the new permissive path above Seaton ahead of me. Once I'd toiled to the top of that, half a mile of plodding along the road followed before turning back down to the sea and the final glorious swoop along the promenade to the finish......22 miles, over 3000 feet of climbing, glorious views, fantastic weather and a confidence boosting 12th place overall.  What more could you ask for... apart from beating Martin by 16 minutes and claiming revenge for the trouncing he gave me at the Grizzly?

I was especially pleased that I had beaten my 2008 time by 7 minutes, despite the distance being almost a mile further....perhaps age isn't such a bad thing after all.

Friday, February 28, 2014

View(s) from the Back of the Pack

by Dave Webb

By the time you read this you may well have completed your Christmas shopping. If, on the other hand, you have the organisational skills of the typical Maiden Newton Runner, then you won’t have started. In case it’s not too late, here are some Christmas present tips for the runner in your life. Like most men, my view is that you can’t go too far wrong with socks. Runners get through a lot of socks, through a Churchillian combination of mud, toil, sweat and untrimmed toenails. Food and drink are also safe bets. Running magazines normally carry esoteric recipes involving quinoa, soya mince and blueberries, but Maiden Newton Runners prefer chips and beer, and we are also very partial to cake.

A book at Christmas is always welcome, so here is this column’s first book review. Mo Farah’s autobiography, Twin Ambitions, gets a bit repetitive, ie I ran this race and then I ran that race, and then I did another race. But it also turns out that he has something in common with Maiden Newton Runners, namely a tendency to get lost. When Mo was a teenage athlete he lost several races through navigational errors. In his case the problem was that he was leading the race, so had no one to follow, and his English wasn’t good enough to understand the pre-race route description. In our case we are so far behind there is no runner in front to follow, and although our English is generally adequate, our concentration and memory for pre-race instructions are unreliable.

Something else I learned from Mo’s book is that he likes an espresso 20 minutes before a race. Coincidentally, Zoe Hayward took a similar strategy to the recent Street 5K evening race. After a tiring day at work she decided to pep herself up with a mixture of Pro-Plus, banana and apple. On the way to the race she didn’t stop talking, and before the race she spooked her clubmate Dave Carnell by fixing him with a manic stare and telling him she would beat him this time. Dave shot off so fast that he was in 2nd place at the 1st corner, which meant that by halfway he was worn out and there to be beaten. Unfortunately Zoe had mistimed her pre-race ingestions so that she ran out of steam soon after the start and took longer than usual. Behind her, the fastest hairdresser in the west, Charlie Spencer, won her age category and went home with a bottle of wine.

This month’s running question has a festive feel: is it a good idea to go for a run on Christmas Day? There are some running fanatics who insist on running every day. Ron Hill has not missed a day of running since 1964. For the rest of us, a short walk after lunch will be the most exercise we get on Christmas Day, though we might do something a bit more active on Boxing Day. My co-panellist Mr Les Knott-Bother surprised me by saying that he sometimes runs on Christmas Day….if he mistimes his comfort breaks during the Coronation Street Christmas Special.

Finally, we saw 2 instances this month of how one second can make all the difference. In the US, Martin Lascelles ran in the Thanksgiving Day ‘Turkey Trot’ and beat his previous best half-marathon time by 1 second, finishing in 1.25.39. Closer to home, Dave Butt set a new best time at the Weymouth Park Run, also by 1 second, when winning the race in 19.45. Not bad for 2 ‘old-timers’ who are approaching 60! The following weekend Dave set a new personal best for the 5K distance, 19.35, proving to the rest of us that it is possible to get quicker as you get older.

It has become a running club tradition to go for a long group run on New Year’s Day. With a weather forecast for heavy rain, flooding and gale force winds, some of us hesitated this year but our unstoppable chairman, Phil England, insisted that we would run and we would enjoy it. I think he might have been a PE teacher in a former life. 12 of us set off from Maiden Newton and were soon soaked through. We sheltered briefly in a barn at Wynford Eagle, where the unstoppable Phil decided to go home, citing a calf injury. The rest of us plodded on, debating at Higher Wynford whether the rain had now turned to hail, or if we were learning a new equation, rain + strong wind = pain to the face. When we crested the hill above West Compton the crosswinds blew us sideways, until we found another barn in which to shelter. Happily, Martin and Lin had visited earlier and stowed away a bag of goodies: Cava, cake and flapjacks. The wind whistled through the barn while we toasted in the New Year. Jim had brought a gizmo for measuring wind speed. Bravely, he stepped outside into the storm, and recorded a gust of 37.8mph. Lin’s baking, however, was equal to the challenge. She had followed a Nigella recipe, for chocolate and Guinness cake, which was delicious. Although Lin had decided to omit Nigella’s special patent ‘go faster’ icing sugar, we made it home in time for a hot shower, a good lunch and an afternoon of feeling exhilarated and then exhausted.

Not all of us take our running to such extremes. Some people stick to shorter distances, while Louise Goodman has admitted to driving her car alongside her younger daughter, shouting instructions out of the window while Bea runs alongside. My colleague, Mr Les Knott-Bother, was very taken by Louise’s approach and thinks there may be a place for him in the running club after all.

This being the season for New Year’s resolutions, our running question this month asks, ‘What is the best way to get started?’. The general advice is to build up slowly. For some people this means buying a pair of running shoes, looking at them for a while, and then putting them in a cupboard. Other people follow a more traditional ‘walk-run’ programme in which you gradually build up the ratio of running to walking. Mr Les Knott-Bother also favours the gradual approach. He says he is training to build up his mileage until he can walk from the paper shop to the pub without stopping.

There are fewer races at this time of year, and the weather is often miserable, so our club runs can be a good way to get us out running. They can also be unexpectedly eventful. Only 2 people, Dave B and Pete, turned out for a recent Wednesday night run in Dorchester (there was a third person, Neil, but in true club tradition he went to the wrong place and missed all the action). The two of them set off past Hangman’s Cottage, down to the riverbank, where they heard someone calling for help. By the dim light of their head torches they could see a man in the river. With no thought for their own safety they leapt into the raging torrent, with the water so deep that it was nearly coming over their socks. The truth of the situation gradually became clear. The man had been driving his brand new motorised disability scooter along the footpath when, in the dark, he had misjudged his line and plunged into the icy waters. Our runners helped him up on to the safety of the bank, then heaved the disability scooter out of the water. A neighbour looked after the man while Dave and Pete ran on, with soggy socks and shoes, proving that there is more than one way to get wet while running.

Saturday, January 18, 2014



Our September meeting began with a surprise: we have been given 2 club flags, as thanks for our help with the Sydling Marathon. All we need now is a flagpole, and perhaps a rota so that members can take it in turns to fly the flag at home. We may also need to develop a club salute (taking care to avoid any gestures that could be misinterpreted), and to continue our search for a club anthem (my idea was ‘Keep On Running’, but Mr Les Knott-Bother suggested ‘Sit Down’).
We should perhaps have taken our flag to Sydling for their annual 5K Fun Run on 6th October. 12 of the 24 participants were Maiden Newton Runners or our relatives. Phil England and Dave Carnell came 1st and 2nd in the men’s race, Zoe Hayward, Charlie Spencer, Jackie Webb and Alice Moore filled the 1st 4 places in the women’s race, and a junior Webb, Matt, won the boys U17 category. By the end of the race it must have felt like our invasion was complete and we could have started flying our flag over their village hall. We also had a good go at polishing off their post-race cakes.
Next up is the Parrett Trail Relay. This takes the form of 6 legs, covering 53 miles, starting on the coast near Bridgwater and finishing at Winyards Gap. Each leg starts at a pre-determined time, before the previous leg has finished, which makes the transport arrangements almost unfeasibly complicated. All we need to do is to follow these simple instructions: “The Poes drive to end leg 3 and meet Neil, who picks up Frank and drives to the start of leg 3. The Webbs drive to the end of leg 3 and meet up with Liz and James. Jackie and Liz start running at 11.45, leaving me with the boys and we drive to the end of leg 4. Frank and Neil finish leg 3, collect the Poes’ car, drive back to get Neil's car, then Frank drives to the end of leg 4. Charlie drives Zoe to the end of leg 4. Frank stays with the boys till Jackie and Liz finish. I drive Charlie's car to the end of leg 5, where Phil and I start running at 1.20. Zoe and Charlie collect their car at the end of their leg. Then Phil and I run to the pub, you all drive to the pub, and if we've worked that lot out then we will all need a drink!” If we make it to the start of each leg, we must then navigate our way cross-country, which brings me to this month’s running question: should one check out a race’s route in advance? Sports psychologists suggest practising on the route so you can visualise yourself running strongly on the day. Our club view is that if you know where you’re going, there is less chance of getting lost and having to run further than necessary. My co-panellist Mr Les Knott-Bother surprised me with a literary quotation. Apparently the writer Jasper Fforde commented that “First, time spent on reconnaissance is never wasted. Second, almost anything can be improved with the addition of bacon”. Mr Knott-Bother was dubious about the first proposition but wholeheartedly agreed with the second.
With the days drawing in, there is less daylight for our evening runs. Lin and Martin led a Wednesday night group through the dark fields around Frampton, which revealed the inadequacy of most people’s headtorches, particularly when it came to the tricky manoeuvre of trying to avoid cowpats in the dark. Lin made people feel better by providing home-made quiche and cakes afterwards, which were eaten in the bus shelter in the dark, by the feeble light from the runners’ headtorches, with the aroma of cow muck on their shoes drifting into the air of the night.


Last month I described the club’s invasion of Sydling St Nicholas for their annual fun run. Since then some of our members have ventured a little further afield. We sent 2 teams into deepest Somerset for the Parrett Trail relay and were relieved to see everyone return safely, with no one getting lost and everyone following my ‘simple’ transport instructions.
Pete James travelled up to Gateshead, where he planned to do the local 5K ‘Park Run’. Unfortunately he overslept, and missed the race, but he did get up in time to tackle the Premier Inn’s ‘All You Can Eat Breakfast’. Martin and Lin Lascelles went even further, flying across America to compete in the Long Beach Marathon. Despite the jet lag they both ran well, with Lin finishing second in the women’s race, attracting the attention of the local press. Some of you may not be regular readers of the Long Beach Sports Gazette, so will have missed her interview where she summarised the club spirit by announcing “I’m glad it’s over so now I can go and get a beer”. I regret to report, however, that Lin failed to mention the club name, so ‘Maiden Newton Runners’ did not appear in the American sports press. Not only this, but she and Martin also forgot to take the club flag, so were unable to plant it in the Californian sand; imagine if Neil Armstrong had unpacked his bag when he got to the moon and found that he had forgotten his American flag.
With Lin away, and Phil working up north, we had no one to chair our October meeting. Into the breach stepped Charlie, keen to show how a meeting should be run. She surprised us by starting with ‘Any Other Business’, perhaps keen to earn the title of ‘fastest chairperson in the west’, to go with ‘fastest hairdresser in the west’. Lin had asked her to get the meeting’s views on whether this year’s New Year’s Day run should take place on 1 January or 29 December. We explained that the New Year’s Day run needs to happen on New Year’s Day, otherwise it would need a different name.
The meeting then diverted into medical matters. Dave Butt mentioned that his son Nick is a trained sports therapist as well as a podiatrist – presumably he is the ideal man for treating Athlete’s Foot! Zoe has had trouble for years with a verruca. No treatment has worked so she decided instead to make it look nicer by painting it with nail varnish. She didn’t specify which colour she used, but after a week the verruca disappeared. She offered this advice freely to our medical members (2 GPs, a nurse and a vet), while Frank piped up on behalf of yoga. After 2 years he has had no injuries, is very bendy and exudes inner calm. Finally, this month’s running question asks how you can make yourself keep running when your body is telling you to stop. The accepted wisdom is that you need to develop mental strength so that you focus on the success of completing the race, rather than the discomfort you are feeling. A leading marathon runner, Ryan Hall, has been quoted as saying ‘Pain is temporary, pride is forever’. My co-panellist, Mr Les Knott-Bother, also quoted a well-known motivational speaker, Homer J Simpson, who famously advised his son Bart: “If at first you don’t succeed, give up”.