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An Ancient Tradition

We proudly maintain the old ways:

The custom of beating the bounds goes back to the Anglo Saxon period at least. In the days before maps and written title deeds a knowledge of the physical boundaries of property was very important. So the custom grew up of walking the boundaries, stopping at intervals to strike boundary stones to ‘mark' the bounds. The practice was often linked to Rogation Days, days set aside by the Church for prayers for the crops; walking the boundaries of the parish was an obvious opportunity to do so.

What's that? Not beating the bounds? Beating the BOAT?!

Oops, my bad.

But then, this is something of an ancient tradition itself, having been born in the Year of Our Lord MMXVII, no fewer than two whole years ago! And our own participation goes back fully half that distance: look! (You should probably read that if you need to know what this whole thing is about: I shan't repeat it here.)

Let's face it, when we have that kind of history on our side, even Jacob Rees-Mogg seems a bit of a modernist upstart...

And speaking of modernist upstarts, I bought a new camera recently. No big surprise but it's not supported by the old software I use (Adobe Lightroom). Once upon a time, I would simply buy the latest version to get the current camera support, but you can't do that any more. Adobe decided that we would all be better off paying them a rent forever, so you can't simply buy Lightroom now, you have to buy a monthly or annual subscription. That pisses me off, so I've been looking at alternatives, and I'm starting to see how Adobe can get away with it :-(((

So if you think some of the photos in this story are a bit lacking technically, that's because I'm presently experimenting with Lightroom alternatives and not having huge joy. The current best of the rest is Darktable, which needs a better graphics card than I presently have installed, so I'm giving it the benefit of the doubt for now, but with my current hardware it's way too slow and clunky for my normal working process.

Ok, enough with the excuses! You want the story, not to listen to me whining about nerdy things that you probably didn't bother reading anyway...

In fair Richmond where we lay our scene:

So here's Merilyn and Amanda arriving. They're not going to run together this year: Merilyn's injured and not able to run at all (or so her doctor insists), so she's going for the power-walk instead.

A motley crew indeed!

The walkers will start before the boat leaves, but we're just slightly concerned that we haven't seen the boat arrive yet. According to the website, it's running its normal service, so it really should be here soon.

And off goes our Japanese tour group leader!

Actually, I'm not sure she's really Japanese, and she seems to be on her own without anything resembling a tour group. Maybe I've got that wrong.

She's the first walker: Merilyn is going to go for a slightly brisker walk, so doesn't start quite yet.

"Why do birds suddenly appear every time you are near?"

We'll have to see if the stars fall down from the sky, but a quick skim of The Carpenters' discography shows regrettably little that I can easily shoehorn into a running tale. I mean, I suppose if this was triathlon I could do something with "Calling Occupants of Interdisciplinary Craft", but still some would think that a bit contrived, to put it mildly.

Aha! The boat!

It's not late, we were getting worried for nothing.

Jude is taking the boat; she's not yet ready to run this distance, but well... it's only 12k as against the 10k she's done... and talking to her earlier, I get the feeling she's definitely getting a bit wobbly on the slippery slope. Probably not the Comrades this year...

Me, I'm still out of my comfort zone doing parkrun!

So the boat has left now and the first runners depart a little later.

As we know, Jude's taking the boat. As many of you will know or assume (and the rest of you are now finding out), I'm taking my bike.

But this young lady is going to cheat seriously: Dad's going to take her in the car! At least, I gather, this luxury will not last. Another couple of years and she'll be old enough for parkrun. I just hope she isn't faster than me first time out.

Ok, next group of runners. I must confess I have completely forgotten what pace each group was going for, so all I can say is that these guys expect to run faster than the people who started before them and slower than the ones starting behind them.

"Thick and fast, they came at last; and more and more and more."

Hmm, best not get me started on Lewis Carroll: I'm sure he definitely has some relevant things to say about runners!

Amanda's group sets out.

You may notice that the sky has fewer blue bits and more grey bits than it did earlier, and the grey bits are darker than they were. The forecast for today has been basically "a bit of everything: take your pick", which is arguably less than helpful as a forecast. But until now, it's generally been quite pleasant, more sunny than not. Last year's oven-like temperatures were really a bit too hot for running, but there seems no danger of a repetitiion.

Ah, now that boat would be easy to beat!

"Doom Bar" is one of the regular beers at my work local. It's brewed in Cornwall, so naturally you'd expect to find it in a Surrey pub, and a Thames boat crew is a pretty obvious sponsorship link. Ok, for small values of 'obvious'.

The sky gets darker, but nobody is deterred. I think this is the biggest single group.

Andrew, who has organised the whole thing, forms half of the penultimate group. It's either embarrassing that I can't remember the name of his co-runner or fortunate that her jealous husband won't find this page when he googles her name.

And the final few are going for a sprint start!

Bye guys!

Now it's hare and tortoise time as I jump on the bike and try and catch earlier people up.

Still together. Still nothing for anyone to google.

I'm told there's an old naval proverb: "A stern chase is a long chase". I can believe that. It's surprising how far towards Kingston it is before I get ahead of many people.

I'll snap a few more here before trying to get ahead again.

"Look, it's a man with a big lens!"

Aha! Just before Kingston Bridge, Jude has to change boats. It was the same last year, although the timetable only says it's sometimes necessary. We can speculate but the company doesn't actually say why.

Some of the runners have already passed by here, so unless the second boat is a lot faster than the first, it's pretty plain that they've beaten it.

Amanda's group runs past John Lewis. They almost have a runner philosophy: compare "Never knowingly undersold" with "Never knowingly overtaken".

Bernie and friends think that "Never knowingly unnoticed" is their motto.

"Take it to the bridge" as James Brown said. Well, the bridge isn't all that photogenic today, so having taken it to the bridge, I'll take it to the towpath.

Everyone say, "Take it to the towpath!" in your best funky voice.

They've taken it to the towpath. "Get on up (like a running machine)".

But what's this? It's the boat! Just behind the bush, so a little hard to see here, but it's getting close now.

Yep, that's definitely the boat.

But we know two things about the boat from the past. Firstly, it takes a while to turn round and dock, so even if it seems ahead of you, it has further to go; and secondly, it cheats! Or perhaps, to be more diplomatic, the timetable allows for maximum adverse tidal flow which is not normally the case. The boat therefore arrives ahead of schedule more often than not.

For unambiguous formal boat-beating certainty, we have declared that the boat's timetabled arrival is what counts, not its mere physical presence.

The tour group leader has acquired a tour group!

Notice the chap behind has his rain gear on. Yes, it's gone from sunshine to overcast to full-on raining, but it's not all that cold and most people are just getting wet. I've got a raincoat in my pack, but don't put it on because I'd almost certainly get overheated then, and instead of being wet from the rain, I'd be wet from sweating, so not exactly better off.

For some reason, I thought for a long time that Carole King's song, "It might as well rain until September" was actually a Carpenters number. In my defence, I don't think we're talking musical genres that differ as much as, say, Beethoven and gangsta rap. Or even Beethoven and Schubert. [I would offer a similar analogy from closely related modern musical styles that would be directly meaningful and relevant to the youth of today, but I'm not stupid!]

So it's the high road and the low road here. The high road is a better surface, the low road is slightly more direct. We generally take the former, because normally at least one of us is on a bike, hence restricted to that path, but after trying this alternative, Amanda reckons that it's actually poorer, not better.

If everybody had kept to their estimated pace, then everyone would arrive pretty much simultaneously. Of course that doesn't happen, and here's the first little gaggle. They've beaten the boat by quite a margin, which means that they've been particularly poor judges of pace. It's biblical in a sense: the first shall be last...

Amanda's estimate is better, but even so, remember that the boat has still a way to go. Oh, and it's early of course, so Amanda is well ahead of its notional arrival. She may have controlled her pace a bit more accurately than some, but she's still been too generous by a fair old bit.

I think I'll make this photo a caption competition.

And to avoid accusations of sexist bias, this one too.

The tour group arrives in triumph!

As I rode past them a little earlier, I felt it appropriate to emphasise that Merilyn should resist all temptation to run, even if the boat was in sight and others were running past her. And you know what? She did! If proof were needed that she's taking this injury and her medical advice seriously, there you have it.

Jude has disembarked. In a technical nerdy pedantic sense, the boat has arrived, although in the purer, more abstract world of Boat Beating, it's not here for another ten minutes or so.

Which means this racing finish is still ahead of the Platonic Ideal boat.

And so are these guys.

And so are the final three, who, while last in time, can also be seen as first in accuracy. Dig that Matthew 20:16, people!


Not quite sure what the boat crew make of it all...

So let's reward ourselves in the pub.

Cheers! Best pint I've had all day!

There aren't quite enough medals to go round, as the supply is just what was left over from last year. But hey...

Look at that! The spirit of Blue Peter lives!

You know, I can't seem to find any Carpenters songs that feature boats to any significant degree... 

But here's an alternative, contemporary with their heyday. Enjoy!

Love to all,


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