Inspired by those funny chaps on the Running Commentary podcast, Paul Tonkinson and Rob Deering, I went on a ‘dog run’ last night. Now, regular stalkers sorry, readers will know I am regularly to be seen on a ‘jog the dog’. We musn’t, no we REALLY musn’t, confuse a ‘jog the dog’ with a ‘dog run’. A dog run, you see, is carried out without the help of a dog. See, very different beasts.
By the way, aside from the podcast, Paul & Rob are proper hardworking comedians and I was rather chuffed to discover that Rob is coming to Dartmouth in August. Nicky was keen to pick seats in where her chances of being singled out were slim….. I should think sitting next to me should be sufficient, I do, er, stand out when we’re in close proximity!!
Anyway, the ‘dog run’. Simple, really, the route, pace and distance are only determined in the moment…. “er, I’ll go left here, hang on, no right”, “up the hill, ah no, back down it, oh go on then, up I go”, “oooo, what’s that smell…. hang on SQUIRREL OVER THERE” etc etc. So this dog run was 11 or so miles and started out heading for Torquay before diverting to the coast path, over some beaches, a golf course, some hilly bits, some flat bits and a bit of a blast in the last few miles on the roads again. Lovely. Hot, sure, sweaty, hell yeah, but lovely!
Running on a Thursday evening? I hear nobody say! Well, you see, my amazing and, quite frankly awesome (not to mention sexy, inspiring, funny, clever and beautiful) wife, Nicky went out. OUT I tell you. I know, on a school night. In fact, on ANY day…. we don’t do ‘out’ much. To be fair, she was back by 8.30pm so we were still snuggled up reading well before it got dark!
So that’s twice this week I’ve laced up in the evening. Nicky and I went to the Brixham Harriers again on Tuesday and had a lovely sunny evening run up and around Berry Head. Check it out on Strava if you’re interested in such things.
I’m really quite enjoying the club nights, it’s challenging to fit it into our chosen lifestyle, as the hour after we get in from work, before we set off for the cub is sort of ‘dead’ time, but we’re determined to make this work. They’re a cracking, friendly, welcoming bunch and we enjoy having a bit of a night ‘out’. Sort of! We did sit by the harbour and shared (SHARED!) fish’n’chips in the gorgeous twilight, which was lovely.
Lots of events this weekend, we’re not there, but White Star Running are making a foray into the road running scene with the Dorchester Marathon and we wish them, and all the runners, well with that. Maybe next year for us.
Meanwhile, it’ll be an emotional run for our good friend (and Brixham Harrier) Jan at the half marathon in Manchester this weekend. Again, we wish her and all the runners and spectators and safe, sunny, enjoyable and peaceful weekend there.
We’re off to the South Hams to RACE THE TIDE (the 16 mile version) and are really looking forward to some beautiful trails and the stunning coast path.
After our recent experience of running under pressure, it’ll be lovely to know that, in the words of the organisers, Pure Trail, “It is not an elitist race and we hope to cater for all speeds of runner, however, if you do miss the cutoff you can turn around and run the same route back to start but you will still have run 12.8 miles. Aid stations stocked with a combination of peanuts, biscuits, jellied sweets, fruit, water and coke will be at approximate 6.4, 9.4 and 12.8 miles.”
Having ran a total of 24+ miles on Saturday, totalling 5300ft of climbing, mostly on coast path steps, I was tired on Sunday morning.
Yup. Two runs on the coast path on Saturday. Home to Teignmouth (17.5miles) to meet up with Nicky after her swimming group’s session, then another 7 on the relentless up and down steps of the coast path with Nicky. I’d been sweating nicely in my running kit for about 5 and a half hours by then. I didn’t realise quite how badly until we stepped into the little shop at Ness to buy a drink after our run and the two young ladies both took a step back and I’m pretty sure were holding their breath!
Despite being tired, I know that I need to be able to run tired and keep momentum if I’m to realise my ambitions in August. I have bigger, longer term ambitions for distance too, so I need to become the person who keeps moving forward regardless.
So, Sunday morning, with Nicky’s second sea swimming lesson of the weekend some 3 hours off, I set off again….
She really is an inspiration. 18 months ago she couldn’t swim 33 meters of front crawl, now she’s a veteran of a 10k river swim (and several open water achievements) and is determined to crack the sea swimming this year.
We’re doing a relay soon, with Nicky doing a 1km sea swim, followed by me tackling a 10 mile off road run. I wonder how many husband and wife teams there are?
My mother said that it would be hard for Nicky swimming with that baton in her hand….
Recruiting the services of Pete Wilby who is knowledgeable, humble yet motivational and an all round top bloke, she really is mastering it. Mastering it to the point where a complete stranger approached me on the prom in Teignmouth to compliment her on her strong swim.
Anyway, I’d taken just over 3 hours the previous day but intended to take a slightly shorter route by not taking a couple of digressions and using a more direct approach to Torquay.
Once I’d hit the trails proper, I went for a slug on my drinking tube but despite sucking hard, like I was back on the Marlboro I was getting a mere dribble mixed with air.
Having scoffed at others with their trendy Salamon waist coat style rucksacks, I’m proudly sporting my Decathlon special……
So on the first big climb I removed my trusty bargain, thinking the tube must be kinked, thus restricting the flow. It was only on the third time of doing this that I realised that my increasingly soggy bottom was not down to the amount of sweat my herculean efforts were producing……..
There was split is in the bag where the tube attaches and so every movement squeezed another shot of blackcurrant flavored water down the, er, (for want of a better word) crack.
This presents two challenges – chaffing (oooo) and thirst (gasp).
My options? The one I was already achieving was to be chaffed and thirsty and hope I made it to Teignmouth despite it getting pretty warm and I was heading to the most remote parts of the route. Hhhmmmm, not ideal.
The most appealing, just sitting down and weeping at how the world obviously hates me and it’s everybody else’s fault. No, Nicky’s voice in my head (“oh man the **** up”)…… Can’t entertain this one.
Turning back? Nope, I really didn’t want to miss Nicky’s swimming (she was driving to Teignmouth).
So what did I do, I hear you chorus? Well, I sussed that if I removed the bag, held it at an angle, I could get a good gulp out. Also my new compression shorts (I know, I’m well professional!) were doing the job despite the blackcurrant soaking and appeared to be holding those vulnerable parts together pretty well.
So I knocked the effort level right off, stopped every mile or so for a drink, which just about lasted and text Nicky.
I’m please with the choices I made. Nicky and I arranged to meet at the golf course at Shaldon meaning I’d still covered the best part of 13 miles and still got to enjoy walking the dog in the sunshine whilst Nicky entertained the crowds as she ploughed through the waves.
Unfortunately, I missed the highlight of Nicky’s lesson as Pete apparently fell straight off his board whilst explaining the finer points of balance and poise in the water.
Talking of lessons……
I should always carry money on these runs, then I could have diverted to buy a drink somewhere. Actually, even if I replace the bladder and continue to use the bag, there’s nothing stopping me carrying a bottle of water in with my jelly babies and mini cheddars!
A weekend full of love, life and laughter with a healthy dose of adventure, we enjoyed it so much we started the working week with an early morning 5k in the woods, already plotting next weekend, and the weekend after that, and the one after that…….
I may not covet my neighbours, or anybody else’s, OX but am in awe at the level of OXing occurring on the Rushmoor Estate this weeknd. White Star Running’s extravaganza of trail races involved a 50 miler, a 12 hour race, a night 10k, an early morning 10k and the race of our choice, a half marathon. Some have done 4 races this weekend. WOW!
We chose the half, knowing we would be carrying our hard efforts from last weekend in our legs. At the top of the first hill we knew we had made a wise choice.
It’s over a 2 hour drive each way but the wonderful atmosphere was infectious from the moment we arrived. We squeezed the Mini into the car park and for a moment we did covet some our neighbours’ VW vans, even more so as we contorted ourselves in the mini to change afterwards!
We have completed the 32 mile R.A.T. the last two years but Nicky was a bit disappointed with our time in last year’s event, so we are, you’ll be surprised to hear, ‘ON IT’! and intend to be Mr and Mrs Trail Running Experts by then (if Snowdon hasn’t killed us!)
Anyway, suffice to say we went round todays beautiful course at a fair old lick and are ready for the fun and challenges ahead, I think I’ll let our pictures tell the story of our day………
Running back toward Chesil Beach, with about 2 miles left of lap 1 of the Portland Coastal Marathon, we ran past two boarded up public houses. Being a ‘failed’ publican myself, I always take a moment to think of the final, departing guardians of these, presumably once thriving, seaside hostelries. We had decided to turn up and have a crack at the marathon despite neither of us feeling particularly bright in the build up. It has been a tiring and demanding couple of weeks and sleep has been at a premium rather.
It became quite apparent early in the race that we were going to be struggling to be inside the organiser’s cut off time of 6 hours. We had lengthy and honest discussions about how we felt about this being the first Did Not Finish either of us have ever experienced.
We aren’t spring chickens, we’re the first to recognise that, but Nicky and I are veterans of 27 and 29 marathons and ultra marathons respectively. We understand the importance of respecting the distance, the terrain and conditions.
I digress, but we do on occasions, whilst out running, have conversations around why we choose to run together for most of our marathons and for many of our training runs, rather than chasing individual times. The reason? I simply love running with my beautiful wife.
Interestingly (and again, I’m digressing, although the topic is ‘elitism’ so it sort of ties in), when we did the Dartmoor Discovery last year (a 50km ultra marathon over the hilly roads of Dartmoor) we encountered another couple running together. The male runner was quick to make us aware that OBVIOUSLY he wouldn’t ordinarily run so incredibly slowly! He was, of course, lowering himself by allowing himself to be seen near the back of the field as he was supporting his (extremely embarrassed) wife. Patronising so-and-so.
Anyway, back on Portland, passing these relics of a bygone drinking era, some runners who were far, far ahead of us came past in the opposite direction. This is a two lap race with a difference, the second lap is run in the opposite direction to the first. This means that all of the runners will encounter each other travelling the other way. Not only that, the half marathon started 30 minutes after the marathon resulting in a steady stream of runners coming past us, reinforcing the sensation that we might be moving relatively slowly.
My rather splendid, and quite beautiful wife occasionally has a confidence issue around how others might perceive her running, that her running is in some way less worthy. This is, of course, absolute nonsense. As I have said, she is a veteran of 27 marathons and ultra marathons. This includes her ‘fifty miles for fifty years’ smashing of the South Downs Way 50 mile race to celebrate that landmark birthday. She trains hard and endeavours to be as well prepared as possible for every event.
Where were we? Oh yes, outside The Closed Arms and Three Bankrupt Feathers as two particular runners came past in the opposite direction. “Hi, well done mate”, “good running fella” we chided, or words to that effect. A sneering, up and down look with what I perceived to be a rolling of the eyes was the first guys considered response. The second chap went for looking as far away from direct eye contact as he possibly could whilst attempting to exude the nonchalant air of someone trying hard not to stare at the non-athletic efforts of those of us running at bang on cut-off pace.
Unfortunately Nicky was already on her downers, knowing we were on our way to pulling out at the halfway point, having had the tail running marshals in close proximity for many miles, full of head cold and battling into a freezing headwind . What a lift these guys could give others with a simple acknowledgement of shared efforts and experiences of a tough race in tough conditions.
“In what way does he think his run is any better than ours?” I mused. “Well, for a start he’s probably going to run ALL of it!” My self-depreciatinly humorous wife quipped.
These are guys are probably top 15 or so, right up there at the sharp end, but their miles are no longer than ours, their medals no more, no less, deserved. Now, I completely understand that if you are running, eye balls out, chasing your best possible time, not wanting to divert your focus from the finish line goal, then you are probably not going to want to lean against a tree chatting to every runner you pass. I also know that it is possible to to acknowledge others without breaking focus or rhythm.
Interestingly, the chap who was (clearly) leading the race gave us a big thumbs up, smile and “good running” type shout as he whistled past. A word about his kit. Obviously he passed quickly, but I did note his baggy, unbranded top and Karimore shorts. Should he, by some chance, read this, I hope he takes this as a compliment in the spirit in which it is intended. Suffice to say, he had a reassuringly rugged and shambolic air about him. Like those fabulous photographs of champion fell runners, tearing down 1 in 3 descents of loose scree. You know the guys, fearless as they skim the terrifying terrain in what looks like their old P.E. kit.
My point being, maybe a little bit further down the field, maybe some of the runners have a little bit of kit snobbery to compliment their pace snobbery.
Talking of which, there’s a particular bloke I see regularly when out on my favourite early morning road runs. He always returns my greeting when I’m running alone but quite blatantly turns his head and ignores us when I’m running with Nicky. This, of course, has led to a childish, ear-splitting 5.30am duet of “GOOD MORNING!” whenever we see him.
Another runner local to us springs to mind. Someone I know well. He’s a faster runner than either Nicky or myself but chooses to acknowledge me, but not Nicky if she sees him when she’s running alone. Pace snobbery?
If it is, then where does it stop? Nicky generally finishes with about 25% of the field behind her in a trail marathon. Does that mean she should start ignoring a quarter of the runners she encounters? Poor old Wilson Kipsang must have nobody to speak to!
A coastal marathon we entered in January was cancelled at fairly short notice after quite severe weather along that stretch of coast. We had already travelled and had a hotel booked so we chose to do what many others did and went anyway. What would have been race day was blessed with calm weather and the courses were still marked out . We ran from our hotel, crudely followed the half marathon course before running back to the hotel. A total of about 18 lovely miles on the coast.
BUT the kit snobs were out in force, literally looking us up and down before openly ignoring us. Two guys overtaking us actually stopped talking, slowed down to fully take in the shuffling middle aged couple, me in my head-to-toe Sports Direct/Decathlon combo, before sniggering and accelerating away to resume their new-monied, self-important, self-congratulatory back slapping. Or something.
At another coastal trail marathon last year, as we parked up the old Mini, banging last weeks mud of our running shoes, some younger chaps pulled up in front and exited their massively oversized Chelsea tractor. One of them called over (and these may not have been his exact words) asking for shoe advice. “You there, poor person, I say old boy, roadies, trailies or spikes?” Speechless.
So, kit snobbery. Pace snobbery? We have a very good friend in local running who goes out of his way to acknowledge each and every runner he encounters. He encourages and congratulates everybody on their achievements. This guy is a prolific race winner and not just of minor races. Pace snob? Nah. I’ve crossed the line in races and he’s been so keen to talk about how I’ve got on its been 5 minutes before I’ve found out he won the thing!
Kit snob? Well, he’s a father of a young family , working night shifts in a supermarket and was winning off road races on all sorts of terrain and over many distances before he bought himself a pair of trail shoes! Those shoes split recently and he superglued them together before winning another race in them. The superglue dried hard and gave him horrid sores on his feet. He promptly gaffer taped his foot and got out training the next day. Having recently treated himself to a running watch he reckons he can train even better now! Too bloke.
Going back to the Dartmoor Discovery, 2nd lady that day finished in the lightening time of 4h 18m 04s, yet when Nicky and I turned the corner to see that we had beaten the cut off (6h30m) by 2 minutes and 18 seconds , there she was jumping up and down and celebrating our success as much as she had done her own. Pace snob? Hardly.
It would be too easy and too lazy to simply say that certain people are attracted to certain events. I suppose, by their very nature, a lot of the events we attend are smaller, club organised and quirkier affairs. These, I’m generalising, attract quirkier, less outcome focuses competitors.
There are events out there to suit all. Not everyone’s cup of tea is a cup of tea.
There is, it strikes me, a balance to be had, where all can meet in harmony. The closest I have found (in my opinion and experience) are the trail marathons , to be found mainly in the county of Dorset, attracting club runners, 100 marathon club runners and fancy dressed runners alike. These events are regularly won by top runners in crazy times, but with plenty playing beat the (super friendly) sweeper at the other end of the field.
In any workplace, in any club, in any hobby, sport or pastime there will be people who get on with some and people who get on with others. There will be people who would rather be alone. There will also be those who embrace and acknowledge and encourage everyone regardless of relative ability, speed, kit, status , or some arbitrary, imagined position in a meaningless league table.