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.