Tuesday, 7 July 2009

WITTY ANECDOTES FROM THE WORLD OF RUNNING (compiled for UK Athletics 06/08).

A major benefit to training and competing in this crazy sport we so love is that it brings us plenty of amusing anecdotes, along the barmy route of our journey to fitness and success. Run Britain editor, NICOLA BAMFORD researched into a few comical tales and would like to invite readers to submit their favourite stories, too! Go on – give us a laugh at your expense!

The following accounts are extracted from Geoff Wightman and Dave Bedford’s hilarious book; “Funny Running Shorts”...

· DAVE BEDFORD (1960’s) – When Jim Hogan ran in one of the International cross-country races, which were the forerunner of the World cross-country Championships, he did not care for the fact that the organiser had included a couple of manmade barriers of each of the laps. He ran around the outside of each and every one of them, blaming the congested approach. When the results appeared it said ‘Hogan, England DQ’. Jim was not happy about this and marched over to the referee.
“Why the feck have you disqualified me?”
“Because you didn’t jump any of the hurdles.”
“You show me where in the feckin’ rules it says that you have to jump over the hurdles.”
The referee then leafed through the rulebook and read aloud ‘competitors must negotiate all barriers on the course’.
“Exactly. I did feckin’ negotiate them. I went around them.”
The ultimate irony of this episode is that Jim is now involved in training horses to run in the Cheltenham National Hunt racing festival.

· GEOFF WIGHTMAN (1970’s) – My Dartford Harriers colleague Mr X was delighted that he and his neighbours would be in charge of one of the drinks stations on the Dartford half-marathon course. The race is always held in late July or early August and traditionally enjoys hot weather, so the water stops are vital.
X wanted his to be a very slick and spotless operation. He took away two huge black plastic watertubs from the clubhouse store and began the preparations for a world-class water station at mile nine. He scoured the tubs clean for maximum hygiene and coached all his neighbours in the art of the perfect drink cups handover. His attention to detail was well received by the athletes many of whom were tempted by X’s nicely chilled refreshment beverages as they sped past the nine mile point. Unfortunately, 100metres beyond the nine mile point the smooth passage of the race became heavily punctuated by the sounds of retching runners. X had used bleach to clean the tubs and the taste was still there in each and every mouthful of water that he dispensed.

· DAVE BEDFORD (1970’s) – It attracted a lot of attention when I first started experimenting with running 200 miles per week in training but at the time I was keen to explore just how far I could take my limits, even if no-one else had ventured into that sort of territory. Mind you, it can lead to compulsive behaviour traits. I used to start my weekly training log on a Saturday and finish on a Friday because the weekend gave a good start in attacking the mileage.
At the end of my first ever week of my planned 200 miles regime, I climbed, weary but in content, into a hot bath on the Friday night. I flicked through my training diary and totted up the last seven day’s mileage once again, feeling very pleased with myself. To my horror, it totalled 196 miles. I immediately climbed out of the bath, put on my kit and went straight out for a five mile run. Barmy I know, but I can tell you, should you ever be tempted to try this at home, that a hot bath is all the more pleasurable when you have got 201 miles under your belt instead of a paltry 196.

· SUSAN WIGHTMAN (1980’s) – In my twenties, I had the chance to race on the roads in America several times a year. This fitted in quite neatly with school holidays and, during my probationary year as a teacher; I also managed to get clearance for leave of absence to race three times on a short trip in November. The races went well and after the third one, I discovered that I had scored enough points to qualify for the Scholls/ARRA Grand Prix Final race that was to be held the following weekend in Hawaii. It was a fantastic opportunity, but it was with some trepidation that I rang my headmaster back in Bristol to see if he would approve a one week extension to my leave. He was not best pleased and although he eventually did give permission, he made it clear, under no uncertain terms, that whatever happened I had to be back in school in good time for Monday morning registration.
Immediately after the race I began the long journey back home and I finally arrived back in Bristol, more jet-lagged than I can ever remember, at tea-time on the Sunday afternoon. I made a telephone call to a staff colleague to arrange for them to pick me up by car on the Gloucester Road the following morning at eight o’clock sharp. By six o’clock, I could not stay awake any longer and, having set my alarm for 7.30am, I fell into a deep sleep. When I finally stirred I looked at the clock and was mortified to see that it was ten to eight. I must have slept right through the alarm!
Frantically, I rushed around the house gathering my things together and sprinted out the door. I arrived on the corner of Gloucester Road breathless and flustered, at precisely eight o’clock. Then I waited. It was absolutely freezing and by 8.15, fearing the wrath of the Head, I began thinking of alternate ways that I could get in on time. First, I needed to telephone my colleague to make sure nothing untoward had happened. I ran to the telephone box. As I did so, I had a feeling of unease. With hindsight, an open fish and chip shop and a closed newsagents should have been a strong clue. I flagged down a passer-by.
“Excuse me, can you tell me whether it’s eight o’clock in the morning or eight o’clock at night, please?”
The lady looked at me as if I was utterly barking.
“It’s eight o’clock on Sunday night” she replied, hurrying to get away from the red-eyed woman. I had been asleep for less than two hours.

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