Claygate Country 5. GP #5

Phew! Wannit ‘ot? The fifth episode of this year’s Grand Prix series is one of the favourites of the calendar. 35 26.2ers took part, actually one more than the last GP despite most the triathletes paddlin’ and pedalin’ elsewhere. No sooner had I turned up, quicker than you can say “hose pipe ban”, we were off, straight into the traditional slapstick pileup at the exit of the recreation ground.

Another village green complete with cricket match, swings, roundabouts, and an ice cream van. Half the distance of Harry Hawkes but twice the fun? This time we had the tension in the background of the England cricket team’s latest attempt to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory so we needed some distraction.

Top of the bill was the titanic “Kev-off” between our very own collection of imperial units of measurement. Following Thursday’s breathtaking mob match dual where Furlong triumphed over Stone this time the race was also against the clock to get the much coveted, iconic and über craved sub-40 time. On this occasion Stone was victorious and Furlong, much to his chagrin, was just outside the promised land. Next year, next year…

Best not-this-time running Dad was Joe Chang with his charming brood, and, what with this being a family friendly occasion there were quite a number of often, sometimes and seldom running spouses, including my wife Sue who said the weather was as hot “as David Beckham’s boxer shorts”. Humpf!

Other battles included the age graded champs which with a slight twist this time in that it was not so much involving Danny Norman, who was first for the club past the post, and David Pimm, but first lady Katherine Wilson. My calculations suggest that the virtual margin between the two was just 5 yards in David’s favour. I think, given the logistics of this race and the tight exit at the start, it would be really good fun to have an age graded handicap, especially as the young’uns would have to suffer the dust kicked up by their seniors. And wasn’t it dusty? Dustier than the Straggler’s trophy cabinet. When I got home I had so much dust in the corner of my eyes that I thought my mascara had run.

Hard to imagine that just a year ago, we were on the verge of the first all aquatic Olympic games, and we were quite literally up to our necks in mud. The puddles! Some of the shorter runners had to be fished out with boat hooks!
There were some similarly close races: Chris Wilson was 3 seconds ahead of Grant Davidson in the rapidly-improving-class. Peter Tozer, fully healed, at least physically, from his last bloody race, was just 1 second ahead of Karen Hardy. Matthew Pritchard was 1 second behind Jacqueline Chang, presumably for reasons of chivalry. Derek Wilkie was just in front of Mike Gray, and Maria Cenalmor got the better of Vicky Kirk in a spectacular, flat out, every last atom, no quarter given, collapsing in a heap and seeing stars, sprint to the finish. Love it!

I’m sure I missed some great performances, races and duals. I love the friendly competition. Sometimes we are on the same side in a relay or cross-country. Sometimes we have a good natured test of each others and our own fitnesses. All my teammates who I’ve not mentioned should rest assured that I acknowledge their comment that it was very hot. Noted, and very well everyone!

This year our highest placings were three third in categories. Danny Norman, Katherine Wilson and team Wilson for the Mother and Son category. Well done! I bribed Zak into agreeing to do it next year. All I have to do is trail his headphones behind me and he will chase me the whole way.

As far as I’m aware this is the only race organised by a Flower and Village show society, and judging by what a good job they do, greatly aided by Mike Bryant with our clock, they should ditch the flowers and take up running running races full time. I’d Like to see some of the more profit orientated race organisers deal with a truculent petunia! Actually I’d like to see them eaten by lions, or maybe not that, but at least given a bit of a ticking off.

The other topic of amazement was Ann Bath’s rhubarb crumble which was easily good enough for Jehovah and combined the yielding crumbly texture with that immediate fruity sweetness which develops into to a deeper perfumed spiciness and layered aftertaste. Rhubarb is one of the unique things with which our country is blessed: as exotic as a peacock and as common as fresh air. But how the slices held together, without the adhesive of custard, in a gravity defying monument to tart piquancy!

It was, of course, also a useful source of post run carbohydrates. Or in my case ‘breakfast’. But surely isn’t it an effective metaphor for running? How under the surface ‘experience’ there is deeper knowledge, and self knowledge? Behind competition there is the richer companionable contest, engagement and involvement? Most clubs do not have cake. They just gargle some liniment, rub each other down with deep heat and slope off. Presumably thinking, “who was that really cool gang from the club with the blue white and red kit? They even had rhubarb crumble”.

That wraps it up for the first part of the GP season. Roll on September the 8th and the Maidenhead half marathon. It is time for some well earned rest and recuperation, like the BBQ at Horton Park next Sunday. Just a few background long runs for the autumn marathoners. By then the Ashes will be over. Seems a long way away as if viewed through a telescope the wrong way round.