So we're back to Dorset, Thomas Hardy country, for another White
Star event. However, apart from naming the half-marathon the
"Casterbridge", they seem to have no Hardy references whatsoever.
I think WSR are more cow people than literary types.
But nothing wrong with that: if I had to choose between cheese and
poetry, I think I'd take cheese. Actually, I'd take cheese over a
great many things, and most things over poetry. Damn, there goes my
reputation for being deep :-(
"Wouldn't you just die without Mahler?!"
Bugger. Better get on with it then!
I think this road sign may date back to Hardy's day. It's a good job
we have satnav now.
The BBC weather forecast is pretty horrible, so we abandon it for
the Met Office version, which is much more to our liking, although
it still claims it'll piddle [I choose this word carefully, for
reasons you will see] down for a good part of the morning. As we
drive from our B&B, the heavens indeed open, but while we're
sitting in the parked car because we're quite early, it eases off
So it's all a bit damp looking, but not actually raining.
They've booked the Town Crier to do some announcements, and an
agricultural implement from which to make them, but obviously Town
Crying does not include great athleticism in the job description and
the poor chap is struggling a bit. (And look: sunshine!)
There he is, he's made it. I'm not quite clear what the purpose of
the bloke with the phone is: I don't think that the Town
Crier is actually an animatronic model controlled by an app...
Amanda later tells me that she can barely hear a word he says. I, by
contrast, can hear him perfectly all the way along the start/finish
straight and beyond to the main road. Did somebody put the
loudspeakers in the wrong place?
But obviously they all hear him say "Go!" or something, because they
all come flooding out of the farm a few minutes later. Right, here
we are, that's the point-two done, just the twenty-six to go...
They're off into town now for the first few miles. I had pondered a
town photo location, but when we had a bit of a walk around
yesterday I couldn't really see the perfect spot, and I'm not too
sure about the logistical details anyway, so I'm going to cut across
to where they come back into the countryside again.
Ahh, cygnets. Nothing to do with running, just ahh.
There's always one! Let's see if he's so frisky in twenty miles!
Oops. He's cutting the corner as the road goes at right angles and
the footpath takes a diagonal. Fortunately for him, his number isn't
legible in this lo-res picture, but I have the original! Later folk
either have stronger consciences or are more aware that they will be
caught bang to rights on film (metaphorically speaking) and get back
on the road if they're on the footpath at this point.
Oh, and that's Jess on the left of the picture. We'll see her again
Note that Amanda has a hint of a shadow. The sun went away again
earlier but it's starting to come back now. This is not what even
the more optimistic forecast said should be happening, but we're not
Ok, cross-country to the next spot...
Hmm... Satnav says this is a suitable path for a bicycle... Well it
may be a bit marginal here, but by the time I get to the trees at
the end of the field, it's clear that this is definitely a footpath,
not a cycle route. There's a kissing-gate there and a stile fifty
yards further on, and those are just the immediate obstacles I can
see. Bad satnav. Naughty satnav. I reverse my path
and discover that the road route is only the tiniest fraction
You know I said there's always one? Well sometimes there's two!
Err, wait a mo', that's going to be mistaken for smutty innuendo, I
just know it!
You know I said there's always one? Well sometimes there's more than
It's properly sunny now and really getting rather hot. Some people
are already starting to struggle up this long hill, even though it's
not too steep. It's quite humid, too, which doesn't help. Amanda's
channelling her inner lizard though, it's cold she doesn't like.
So look, I know Surrey isn't what you'd call a byword for ethnic
diversity, but this is literally the only black or brown
face I can recall seeing the whole weekend! She's a member of a club
in Dagenham, though, so not exactly a local.
I suspect my own ethnic minority content is pulling up the average
round these parts, although I would be the first to admit that the
proportion of Burmese blood in my veins is not huge, and
casual observers often don't even notice it. Even when we went to
Burma/Myanmar a few years ago, nobody welcomed me as a long-lost
cousin :-( But I now realise my paternal grandmother looked quite a
lot like Aung San Suu Kyi, so there!
So well done, Monique Sapla, 3:46, and I hope you didn't frighten
any of the less well-travelled folk you may have met :-)
And here, just ahead of Amanda as we are coming up to halfway, is
another foreigner: Lindsay of Wimbledon Windmilers! She and Amanda
will swap places a number of times (although Lindsay will be ahead
at the end) and swap stories too. Seems she's going to be doing the
Picnic next month, so we'll have to watch out for her (although
Amanda is only half-crazy and therefore 'only' doing the Munro).
This gesture means, "Where's my gel/sports drink/etc, I need it!!!"
"Err, it's just over there where my bike is, but I need you to pose
against this pretty cottage!" I then employ my ability to run 100
metres in less time than Amanda can after already having done
seventeen miles. But not much faster :-(
People see me on my bike and cry, "That's cheating!" I explain that
it's the only way I can stay ahead of my wife!
In the short time we've known each other we've run a hundred metres
together, she's found another man, she's left him again... And now
she blows me a kiss as we part once more. No regrets, it's been
wonderful, but nothing lasts forever...
What a brilliant name! The only thing that could possibly beat it is
the River Piddle, upon which Puddletown stands. Unfortunately
although I see the Piddle, I don't see a good sign for it.
The "Lovestation" around twenty miles, where all manner of goodies
are on offer to restore flagging bodies and spirits. Note
particularly the beer barrel dressed in the Union flag at the right.
I feel it my duty to share Amanda's struggle by drinking the beer
for her; and as nectar of the gods it is!
Amanda herself is having water poured over her head. "To each,
according to their need", I suppose. Maybe that Marx had something
I'm now diverging from the runners again, going under the bridge
they're crossing. It's a bit weird here. As you can see, the road is
completely devoid of traffic, but barely another lane's width to the
left is the A35. You thus find yourself immersed in the sound
of huge numbers of fast-moving vehicles which are completely
I think this is a "Well done, Daddy" moment, not blatant child
abduction in broad daylight in front of witnesses.
A couple of small boys here are asking their mum if they can race
with any of the runners. I tell them that if they shout "Well done,
Amanda!" to this lady coming, they can race her. They cheer her, but
then their nerve fails them and they don't actually run after her.
Some more Dorset scenery.
Note that there isn't a thing except farmland visible for miles, and
certainly not a soul. So I'm feeling the need of a quick comfort
break, and I literally do no more than stand by the hedgerow when
another trail biker appears out of nowhere!
Towards the end, even Amanda has been feeling the heat, and the last
few miles throw in a bunch of hills just to make you feel you're not
getting off too lightly. She's been walking a bit, but so have
plenty of fit young lads; even the most summery forecasts haven't
been a patch on the day's actual weather, and it's way hotter than
anyone had imagined. WSR's organisation is absolutely impeccable,
though, so there's been no shortage of water and all the help that
anybody might need if they're struggling.
Ah, this would have been a triumphant shot of Amanda
crossing the line, but some bloke got in the way.
Slightly annoyingly, the half-marathon timer on the right is clear
and easy to read, but the left-hand clock is a bit washed out by the
sun. It says 4:13:16, but her chip time is 4:12:52. That's
significantly better than Reykjavík, which is the closest comparison
we have, being another event where it was unexpectedly hot and
Amanda needed water poured over her head. She's been on a bit of a
roll lately, despite a conscious decision not to push too hard for
the sake of her knee.
The Town Crier has escaped his aerial prison and some of his
ceremonial robes, but I bet he's still bloody hot in there! Mind,
we're told he's a rogue! Well that's fine by me, I come from a long
line of rogues and won't hear a word said against them. (I'm sure my
father would have been outraged if he were alive today and didn't
get enough #metoo mentions - I really am the white sheep of the
Ah, a fine pint of Piddle!
Yes, there really is a local brewery called Piddle -
http://www.piddlebrewery.co.uk/ - and this is (well, mostly was)
their very excellent "No. 1 Lager". On a day like this has turned
out to be, a really cold beer is a medical necessity and ought to be
provided on the NHS, but given that it's still a lot cheaper than a
pint back home, I guess I can't complain too much.
That's a good red colour!
In what is known in sporting and gaming circles as an "unforced
error", I clipped one of the "Road Closed" signs on my bike and took
a bit of a tumble. It looks a lot worse than it it actually is, but
it's a good job I was wearing shorts because it would have ruined a
pair of trousers. I think the prang must have looked quite
spectacular, because all the nearby runners stopped and asked if I
was ok. "I'm fine, honest! Thanks, but get on with it you guys, you
have a race to run!"
FTAOD, I'm not playing it down because I'm macho. It really
is no more than a nasty looking but superficial graze.
Hmm... this doesn't really convey the sheer size and weight of the
medal. Perhaps I ought to take a picture of it on the weighing
Final verdict: a beautiful day for a beautiful race, brilliantly
organised by some of the best in the business. Amanda reckons that
this has to be her number one recommendation to anybody thinking of
doing their first marathon.
Damn, I just realised I forgot to sprinkle obscure (ha!) Hardy
references throughout my text. Never mind. In the interests of
broadening your education, I will regale you with some of the
complaints made against Thomas Corton, abbot of Cerne Abbey. Cerne
Abbey is, or more accurately was, in Cerne Abbas, better known for
the chalk giant with the big willy. Sadly, only aerial photography
shows him to his best advantage: up close you can't really see
anything but grass, and from the best terrestrial viewpoint - a car
park on the A352 of all places! - it's still a poor view.
But anyway: the not so very reverend Abbot was indicted for, amongst
keeping concubines in the cellars of the abbey
letting the church and lands go to ruin
wasting the goods of the monastery on his concubines and children
openly soliciting honest women in the town and elsewhere to have
his will of them
allowing some of the monks to play at cards all night and
celebrate mass in the morning
allowing women to stay with the brethren from noon to evensong
There are some suggestions that these charges were motivated more by
malice than an honest desire for truth, but I don't want to think
that. I want to think that the Abbot was a proper rogue, just like
the Town Crier, my father and me!
Love to all,