Thursday, December 11, 2008

Hilly Street Blues

There are many words you could use to describe the New Streets. 'Flat' is not one that springs to mind. 'Easy' is another you can forget about. Every year I tell myself I don't care if I don't beat X, or if I get thrashed by Y. And every year I really mean it. And then Andrew says 'Go!' again, and all that gets forgotten. Again. And for half an hour or so, it's pure torture.

This what it feels like -

And this is what it looks like -

But it's strangely compulsive. And so in 51 weeks time we'll be back again. Yes, I know it's only 4 miles. But I haven't yet found a tougher 4 miles on tarmac, anywhere. So, maybe this event encapsulates why we run. It's a challenge, and it hurts, but there is redemption in the camaraderie and the achievement, whether you finish first, last, or nowhere.

Actually, you can't finish nowhere. Not at the New Streets.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Wesham Wonderland.....

... Saturday 29 November 2008...

“ we’ll hand you over now to Brendan and Steve who are down in deepest Lancashire to describe for us the build up to the Wesham 10k ...”

....yes, thanks Sue, welcome to an absolutely freezing Salwick Social Club, nestling in the countryside in deepest Prestonshire, where the runners are beginning to gather for the famous Wesham 10k. As you’ll know Brendan, this event is a firm favourite on the North-west road-running calendar, and regularly attracts some of the best club runners in the area....” “...that’s right Steve, remember that many of our northern club runners have gone on to represent GB and even become world record holders....although I can’t remember any of their names right now. I’ll tell you what Steve, at £8 per entry the race organisers must be taking a huge loss on this event. In my experience you can’t put a running event on for less than 45 quid these days what with dire pension forecasts and escalating celebrity-runner appearance fees. Speaking of which, Paula Radcliffe’s friend Helen Clitheroe holds the women’s record for this race, and I know that she told Paula about this race, and Paula said she might come along one time and have a look, so let’s hope she turns up today Steve, that would really make my day and.....” “....yes Brendan we know, but in the meantime let’s go to our man in the carpark, the former World 200m and still 400m record-holder, the legendary Michael Johnson. Looks like the atmosphere is beginning to build. Come in Michael, can you hear me?”

“Aye loud and clear Steve, I’ll tell you it’s baltic out here. The carpark marshals are doin’ a great job though, making sure that the cars park in the er,...carpark. The fast lads get the places reet near the clubhouse, the fat lads get shoved out into the off-road area round the back – let’s face it they need the exercise – so there’s a fair bit of banter out here already with 45 minutes to go. I can see a well-honed crew from Eden Runners, looking fit and sharp as ever. I’ll try to catch up with them, see what their pre-race strategy might be....oh but they’ve shot off into the warm clubhouse. Let’s see if we can follow them in there...back to you for the moment Steve....” “......cheers Mick. Brendan’s just nipped out for pie & chips, but while he’s away I think we can bring you some news just reaching us seems that Karen Heaviside, who currently leads the Eden Runners Autumn Series (Female) rankings, has sensationally withdrawn from the race. She did tell me earlier that, although she has almost recovered from her recent ankle thingy, the weather conditions may be against her today, and since she has important races coming up in the next few weeks, she has made what I think is a sensible decision. Ah Brendan’s back...Brendan, any comments on that?..” “Yes, Steve...the pastry was a bit chewy but overall not too bad for half ten on a freezing Saturday. I still can’t see any sign of Paula....but we have got Mickey who’s in the clubhouse with Karen Cummins, from Penrith...Michael?” “......yes Bren, I’m here with Karen who’s just slid off the treatment table to talk to me...Karen, first of all, what were you doing there on the table?” “ Oh, I’ve never experienced that before in my life Mick. My legs are on fire. And look at ma hair! It’s standin on end! My goad, I’m away back for more.....” “Well good luck Karen...there she goes......

As I look across the room here in the clubhouse there are many athletes preparing for the race, all in their own different ways. Some, like Karen who you just saw there, are taking advantage of the pre-race massages on offer. Some, like Paul Saager, have kept their trousers on. Others are sitting in quiet contemplation....let’s see if we can have a word with this’s Andy ‘Wacker’ Wacker isn’t it? It is....great to see you Andy. I was meaning to ask, could I borrow your big luminous green/yellow coat Andy? I’ve heard it’s real warm and you’ll not be using it while the race is on? Oh I see, Karen’s wearing it...ok. Well, our camera motorbike has a headlamp out, I don’t suppose you’ve got a spare bulb in the car? You have? Great job Andy Wacker! I’ll get that in a minute ok? Cheers mate....Steve – what an incredible atmosphere here in the clubhouse. I hear the five-minute warning gun has just gone bang, so back to you for now...” “...thanks Mikey. Brendan, what difference d’you think these conditions will make? We’ve got freezing fog and ice out there, it’s still a degree or so below freezing and...” “ difference at all Steve, as long as your pre-race preparation is meticulous. I’ve got my ViewFrom base layer on and my Great North Run Race Memento over the top, and I can see the pie van about 15 metres away Steve.....hang on there’s my mobile, that could be Paula....hello, Paula? Oh no it’s you again Barker... the race is about to start...yes I know for cryingoutloud....Jeez what was that?” “...that would be the starter’s pistol Brendan. Alright, back to Michael who’s out on the course.....what can you tell us Mike?” ......

" ’kinell Steve it’s chuffin’ freezing here....we’re out at around one and a half kilometres, right by a gap in the hedge where there’s a massive puddle with ice on top. I’ve just seen John Bridge, running like Sebastian Coe in ‘Steve Ovett : Was he the One with the Beard?’ going through, followed by Alan Marshall running like, er, like he can’t. Next green vest through it looks like Andrew ‘Andy’ Wacker, running like John Wayne in ‘Rio Bravo’, then it’s Paul Saagerinho emerging through the mists, like Michael Caine in ‘Get Carter’. As the runners move past us there is what can only be described as a ‘mobile disturbance’ in the area, surely it has to be The Comeback Kid, a.k.a Dave Peacock. Indeed it is......there he goes, running like The Trousers in ‘The Wrong Trousers’. Dave looks to me like he’s moving at just outside 47 minute pace, if only we could somehow tell him he needs to increase his pace by an average of 1sec/km. Never mind. Here’s the Other Comeback Kid, Jools ‘Holland’ King. What a performance this is – she isn’t even wearing a coat, such bravery. Julia is quietly re-honing her stiletto-like competitive weaponry after a well-earned, er, break, and we will no doubt see a gradual return to form over the coming weeks. Ah here I think I can see Kevin Whitemore, running like Sancho Panza in ‘Man from La Mancha’. Oh hang on, back to you Brendan...” “ Michael I’m fairly certain I saw Paula down there in the throng... can you tell her that the whole world is glad to see her running here in the Great North Run, sorry did I say ‘Great North Run’ there? Sorry I meant ‘London Marathon’. Anyway, tell her that I’m still carrying that torch for her, and that I’m keeping her pie & mushy peas warm inside my ViewFrom climate-control parka....” “ Brendan in fact I think it’s Karen, yes it’s Karen Cummins you saw, it’s not Paula....Karen is looking for a pb, among other things, here at Wesham today. There she goes, like a miniature Scottish stormtrooper. I can hear Brahms ‘Ein deutsches requiem’ (from ‘Live at the Bremen Arena’, (1868)) blasting through her headphones there. How fitting that she should choose that piece rather than the slighter ‘Rinaldo’, the cantata often used as an alternative to ‘Keep On Running’ at the Cumbrian Run. Typical of the woman, Steve....” “....thanks Mickey.

Well, the race is approaching its final stages, so while we wait for Michael to get to the finish area I’ll just remind everyone that the we have extended coverage of the post-race reaction, interviews, warm-down routines and shoe-lacing workshop. Just press your red button as coverage ends here on Your BBC1 ...but quickly back to Michael....What up, Mikey?..” “ Well Steve, here come the first Eden’s Bridge tearing into the home straight looking for a pb at sub-40...but wait here’s Marshall too....Bridge holds him off... they’re at full pace now, other competitors are being skittled out of the way as they blast towards the line....Bridge still has it.....well! I can’t separate them, they’re in a heap under the finish gantry. We’ll have to wait for the official result but I’m being told that’s around 39.53, a PB for JB, gr8! He comes Andy ‘Walker’ Walker, looking nonchalant as ever, cruising through the finish, closely pursued by Paul Saager, running smoother than my vintage Camero used to do on those summer Sundays through the leafy New England countryside, close to where Maria and I used to .......but anyway here’s another blue ‘n’ greenie, and it’s Dave Peacock, demonstrating his superb technical ability as he holds it together in the home straight. Quickly back to the studio where I think Brendan wants to add something...” “ ...too right I do, these hot dogs are tremendous value, but more onions next time please... agreed Steve? No, well just leave it... I’ll finish it if you like, I’m that Paula I can see on the monitor Steve?.....” “...No Brendan it’s Karen Cummins...looks like we’ve missed both Julia ‘Return of The’ King and Kevin Whitemore.
Whitemore crosses the line...the lights of Salwick Social Club can be seen in the background

I think that Kev had another pb there Brendan, he’s in the form of his life, like. As is Karen here, she was hoping to run under 60 mins, and she’s in here in just over 54 minutes. Great work – just shows what a pre-race massage will do. Agreed Bren?” “Aye Steve. I remember this one time before the European Championships in Helsinki in 1974, and a lovely lass she was Steve, she had the most beautiful..” “right Brendan, that’s all we have time for. I just have a few seconds to read out a text we’ve received from an Andrew Sharples in Laz-y-boy in Cumbria, he asks ‘Brendan – did you ever run a race that wasn’t quite the advertised distance?’ Well Andy we’re not sure if that’s a philosophical question or whether you’re carrying some ridiculous complex around with you....either way, it’s a bit sad....and you really should move on. Have you ever thought of joining a running club?....anyway don’t get knocked over or anything.

See you next week where our cameras will be at Keswick for the 4th round of the Cumbria Cross-Country that another pie Brendan??”