Ladies and gentlemen, the story you are about to read is true. Normally, the names are changed to protect the innocent but in this case the total incompetence of one person needs to be highlighted to save future runners! So settle down with a nice cup of tea or a pint of Dorset cider and enjoy this tale of a rather unexpected journey.
Once upon a time there lived a young man and his amazing wife (I had to add that bit in as I am still in the dog house as you will soon find out!) The husband carefully attended to his wife’s heart’s desire, to join the 100 marathon club. Even after she was crippled during a nocturnal marathon attempt less than two years ago and she was like the most evil of all evil witches because she couldn’t run he doted on her. Over many months our heroic husband coached his wife back to fitness, better than before. Not only was she able to run marathons again, but her running improved beyond her wildest dreams; his coaching was so good she PBed at every distance over the year! (#coachandhusbandoftheyear)
For her 19th marathon (the 10th of the year so far) he chose carefully. Another weekend away in Dorset with White Star Running – as their hoodies and t-shirts proclaim fine purveyors of races (or nutty races for nutty people – it does depend on which merchandise you pick.) The Bad Cow weekend offered a range of races over the two days. A 12hr Frolic race on Saturday (enter as a team of 4 or 3, a pair or go solo) and a marathon or half on the Sunday. Known for their fine collection of treasure (Amazing medals and goody bags worthy of the name) this WSR event was a fine treat for his wife. This husband knew his stuff so he quickly booking camping for the event and other races before they filled up.
After managing a double marathon a few weeks earlier and having already paid for a weekend of camping the husband even checked two weeks before for spaces on the Saturday Frolic on the off chance of a cheeky double marathon weekend. Alas the Solo Frolic was full so he would have to accept that he couldn’t be perfect all the time. Just the Sunday marathon would suffice.
Soon the weekend came around and children were left with their grandfather on the Friday evening as the husband carefully packed the car full of everything needed for a successful running weekend, so that the morning alarm call could be delayed until the latest possible moment so his gorgeous wife (has my flattery boarded in obsequiousness?) could get a few extra minutes of beauty sleep – although totally unneeded.
As we all know Saturday is really parkrunday and so it was for our happy couple. After a liquid porridge breakfast (think gritty baby food) on the drive south the route passed by Newbury parkrun. Despite an invading hoard of Orcs (okay an American Army re-enactment group complete with tanks and a jerk chicken van) to avoid the course was flat and had pacers so a harder parkrun than planned was run. Once over, the journey to Dorset continued making good time and our couple arrived just after 12pm – parkrun fresh.
Tent was erect with speed and style and so it was that the cunning husband headed over to the race administration tent to find out where the showers were and collect the race numbers for Sunday. So that the remains of the day could be spent lavishing attention on his dazzling better half – a trip to Corfe Castle and a delicious cream tea, before a sea side stroll and a premarathon pizza.
SHOCK HORROR! Both husband and wife were missing from the list of racers for the marathon, they weren’t even down for the half marathon.
With the air of calm of a Californian surfer dude the husband said there must be a mistake and so consulted his e-mails to find out how this error had occurred, the helpful Gemma at WSR also hunted down the entries online. Just as motorways haven’t reached into Dorset yet, nor has a decent 4G or 3G actually any G mobile phone signal. So it was that the husband and Gemma circled the field outside the administration tent – carefully avoiding the runners and support crew currently racing.
“Ohhh I am (you are) booked onto the frolic!” said both Husband and Gemma in unison.
Glancing down at his Garmin and still seeing the hour showing 12 still! Okay it may have actually been six minutes before 1! The husband remarked… “So we still have time to run a marathon if we start now?”
Quickly, Gemma sorted out some spare race numbers. Running to the car the husband quickly stripped off his cotton traveling shirt (much like superman) and found the plastic bag with his parkrun t-shirt from the morning inside. With a quick wringing to remove the worst of the sweat the damp purple volunteers shirt was back on; out of driving shoes and into his old faithful elasticated laced road shoes also from parkrun the husband chirped, “I am ready so let’s go!”
The wife ditched her hoody and grabbed her parkrun waist pack with inhalers and phone and the couple jogged to the start in the afternoon sunshine. Over the timing mat they travelled to start the first of the 6 laps necessary to run a marathon.
As soon as the couple left the field and entered the woods a few moans and complaints were directed at the poor husband commenting on his poor organisation and how could someone muck up the day of a marathon. So the pace slowly crept up to make sure that the cut off time was made as now the couple didn’t have the expected 7 ½ hours of the marathon on Sunday but until 7:30pm. The major advantage of the increase of pace was whinging was replaced by gasping.
The course wound its way around pretty rural areas, up gentle slopes (after doing the Invader and East Farm these couldn’t be described as hills in WSR terms), along fern lined paths, through woodlands paths and farm track. Despite the sandy hills, (complete with sandcastles made during the race by runners! – and then run around by everyone else all day!) the dry conditions, compacted gravel and small road section made road shoes seem a sensible choice.
As lap two started the weather changed… just like the mood of the weekend, gone went the sunshine and down came dark clouds and then the first of many showers of heavy rain. For one of the party the rain came as a delight to the other it brought further discomfort. An already moist shirt became saturated and shivers started. So it was that at lap two our couple separated!
One left to go back to the tent to put on fresh clean dry kit and find a running jacket – the other ran on! The poor husband realising that if he stopped too soon he wouldn’t want to restart.
The joy of a WSR race is the lovestation – an aid station that offers trail runners their stomachs wildest desires! Not gels (although I spotted a few) but tasty real food treats and alcohol. From the lack of prerace fuelling this gazebo became paradise. Each lap, a few cocktail sausages, scotch egg, a slice or two of watermelon all washed down with a plastic cup or two of not flat-enough coke, became the necessary sustenance for a marathon runner. Even more heart-warming than the food is the amazing people that staff the lovestation always there with a friendly word, bit of banter and support. Leaving the lovestation to resume running is always tough but the knowledge that the run back to the start of the lap is all downhill makes it a little easier.
Rain changes a course and so it was that the heavy showers replaced the sandy slopes to slippery muddy ravens, suddenly trail shoes (even better mud claws) were the order of the day. But stopping just for changing shoes was completely ignored by out forlorn husband. Although a decent stoppage at the superb portiloos (Think of the cleanest race portiloo you have ever used and these are far better!) at the lap start was certainly necessary as the normal prerace ablutions had been completely forgotten in the rush to start the race. Okay this was time wasted but the husband wasn’t wearing a buff so a stop in the woods near the roaming cows was ruled out!
At lap 5 the Lovestation came to the rescue big time!
On the fourth visit to the aid station they commented to the bedraggled husband that they felt sorry for him. At first he felt this was due to them finding out his small mistake over the dates had led to a very disgruntled wife that he had then deserted. But it was due to his nipples. Two large bloody circles had appeared on his shirt – and for blood to show up through the damp purple colour meant there was a lot.
Until this point the husband was oblivious to any self-harm. So he ran on telling them it was fine!
4.4miles of thinking about and feeling every slight movement of his shirt meant that at the next visit to the lovestation the early offer of nipple lubrication was accepted! This is beyond normal offers of a hug or a kiss from lovestation lovelies that power WSR on their way for the last few miles!
Raising the shirt elicited gasps from those present – unfortunately not of lust for the Adonis like chest of the husband but due to the shredded bloody state of his nipples. No tape but a full self-adhesive dressing and then tape to secure them down to a moist hairy chest!
This delay allowed the long suffering wife to come into view on the horizon. After briefly considering running off (especially after hearing that suggestions had been made to the wife where a husband’s battered body could be left unnoticed for many weeks!) the husband stayed and waited for his first wife (after experiences like this it could end in divorce!) to run the last 6 miles ish with her.
However despite his good intentions it was not to be. Not due to his wife’s anger at him… the 11 beautiful miles alone had eased that along with the increased confidence that a lap under head torch would be unnecessary but the pace. The variability of weather over the laps (sun, rain, cold rain, sun, rain, drizzle, cool evening) had meant a deliberate decision was taken to slow down on the final lap, take pictures and give the asthmatic lungs a chance to recover before next week’s marathon. Conversely, the husband when walking looked soon to depart this world as he staggered along painfully but when running looked far more relaxed and at ease. So it was that at the arrival of the first incline our couple parted again, this time as friends, to meet very soon at the finish.
As the medal hung around her neck the wife’s eye sparkled more than the medal she was wearing contemplating the compensation she would extract from her husband for his foolish error or maybe the malevolent delight of having to help remove the taped on dressing from chest hair!
The next day as the couple clapped the marathon runners off on their race, the wife dressed in a new pink WSR rugby shirt, brushed away the remains of a delicious breakfast batch from her husband’s chin commented that WSR put on great races and more from Massey’s should give them a go.
Daniel Connolly 5:52:31 (chip time – actual time add 6 hours!)
Mary Connolly 6:01:05