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.