It has to be said that neither Amanda nor I can really claim to be
hip and happening and with the zeitgeist and all that, seeing as we
are not Bake-Off junkies. But even so, we are not ignorant of the
Soggy Bottom, existential nightmare to pemmaphile and pemmaphobe
['Pemmaphobia' appears to be at least a
semi-real word for "fear of cake", according to Google that is,
although it's not in my old printed Chambers. It's derived from a
plausible ancient Greek word, though, 'πέμμα', meaning a cake,
pastry, sweetmeat, etc. And it would seem the Romans simply
transcribed it straight into Latin, 'pemma', so it has the rare
distinction of being a word that one can argue is simultaneously
both etymologically pure and an unspeakable mixed
Latin/Greek bastard neologism of the sort that undoubtedly caused
the downfall of the British Empire! [cf: 'television' and other
such horrors]. 'Pemmaphilia' is even less well attributed in the
literature — not at all that I can tell — but if the one exists,
then logically so must the other.]
Oops... My point was going to be that the forecast suggests that
the Surrey Slog is going to have soggy bottoms, tops, and everything
in between if we're unlucky. Compare with other years where heat
exhaustion has been the risk!
Let's see: 2011, Amanda's first, mostly sunny; 2012, hot and sunny;
2013, weren't there; 2014, warm but very humid; 2015, blazing sun;
2016 mixed sun and cloud; 2017, again mixed; 2018, definitely very
hot; 2019, probably would have been nice if we'd been there; 2020,
Gosh, I hadn't realised quite how many Slogs we'd done until I went
back to check.
But to the present!
The Duke of Kent School seems to have acquired a herd of wicker
deer. They definitely weren't there last time.
Yes, that is a rather empty looking field below. In a normal year,
it would be pretty much full of cars, but Covid-related uncertainty
about whether the race was going ahead meant that the advance
publicity was little and late. The weather forecast won't have
encouraged anyone who was uncertain either, although right now it's
dry if very dull. We did get some rain as we drove here, but not
that much, so let's be hopeful.
Dave Porter tells me that when they were setting out the signs this
morning, it was surprisingly warm up on the hill, much more so than
down here. He reckons that it's re-emitting heat absorbed earlier in
the week when the sun was shining.
The start is going to be in waves based on estimated finishing time,
with the idea being that the fastest people go first so that the
field will spread out rather than bunch up. Technically, we've been
more or less free of Covid restrictions since the start of the week,
but most event organisers are still being relatively cautious. Mind,
yesterday we restarted parkrun and Bushy Park had well over a
thousand participants, few of whom were thinking much about social
distancing rather than the sheer joy of being back!
Anyway, here's the first wave — more a ripple really — being briefed
by Ken before the start.
The 2021 Surrey Slog is go!
Phil waves from his wave.
As I take this picture I'm wholly unaware of the fact, but the chap
behind him, whose name we presume is 'Tim' because that's what it
says on his shirt, will feature again later.
Amanda and Claire start their race a bit later.
As those who have previously slogged (or just read previous blogs)
will know, the start is a bit of a loop round the school grounds, so
in the background we see earlier starters coming back in preparation
for crossing over the road into the main area of the Hurtwood Estate
where most of the race takes place.
The path leading up to the first mile, though, is very narrow, and
in normal years very clogged up. I have to either head straight up
before any of the runners get there, or wait until the last ones are
clear if I'm not going to get in people's way. With today's small
spread-out field, I should be fine behind the early runners but
ahead of Amanda and Claire. Phil, I'm not sure about, we'll see.
So I'm just behind this woman, who seems to be at the back of her
wave because there's nobody behind me that I can see for now.
Aha, I was ahead of Phil. It's easy not to block anyone when
there's plenty of time to look back for approaching runners and
stand aside if necessary.
A bit further along and here's Amanda. Technically, Claire is in
this picture too, but she's completely obscured by the bloke in
front of her. Amanda will later tell me he was very chatty and she
thought he wanted to overtake, but there's a decent gap between them
so I don't think he could have done.
Claire, on the other hand, was right behind him, but narrow paths
and obstacles like kissing gates mean it's pretty much single file
unless there's a huge mismatch in speeds.
The one-mile mark is where the trail starts to open out a bit.
It's very muggy, and the route has been and remains pretty much all
uphill, so it's not exactly time to put on a spurt, even so.
Dave was going to be tail walker, but unfortunately for him, there
are no properly slow entrants this year, so the poor boy is
having to run.
Me, I'm definitely walking, because although we've got a bit of
drizzly rain now, I've had to stop and take my waterproof off to
cool down! It's not really that warm, but it's so humid that
the first mile ascent had me sweating in my jacket and getting as
wet as I would without it.
And before too long, it's absolutely tipping down. I think I might
benefit from standing under a tree, but it doesn't really work. I'll
just get soaked like everyone else. Fortunately, even though I'm not
running, I'm still wearing tech fabric that doesn't get heavy and
sodden. Jeans and a cotton T-shirt would be pretty horrible.
Here's a couple of Stragglers: despite the club not actually being
part of the Mabac League (under whose auspices this race is run),
they are apparently the largest team contingent. Initially Amanda
was planning to run in a different shirt, and it was pretty much
sheer dumb luck that she had her Stragglers shirt to change into at
the last minute. (All her previous Slogs have been run as an
In years gone by, with the sun shining brightly on the purple
heather, this has been a gloriously scenic moment. Ok, maybe not so
beautiful if you have to run up it in the burning heat, but great
for the photographer!
Phil manages to get his hat on before I can take a picture of him
bare-headed. What's his problem with that? How should I know?!
Claire runs past one of the six water stations. Six? That's an
impressive number for a half-marathon, some might think. But it can
be counted differently: one. The runners pass through this general
area half a dozen times from different angles, so the marshals just
move their table slightly a few times and Robert's yer proverbial!
You can see another runner coming towards us just to illustrate the
Just up that rise is the Holmbury Hill viewpoint where I'm going to
take pictures and set up Steve's Caff: water, energy/electrolyte
drinks and flapjacks, but only for a very exclusive clientele.
First, though, I need to avoid impeding another Straggler who's
fairly close to the sharp end.
(I will find that I don't have any pictures of the winner apart from
right at the start. Serves him right for running too quickly.)
Hmm... I'm at the viewpoint, but I don't think the runners are going
to be distracted by the view today. At least the rain has stopped.
Some stop to admire it anyway. Or maybe just each other? That's Tim
that I mentioned at the beginning, and Rowena who was the woman I
followed down the dark alley. They started in different waves, but
have been running together for most of the time now. One thing about
the small field, you do get to notice people as you see them on
And here are the aforementioned exclusive clientele!
Amanda's got a problem with one of her shoes causing her severe
pain. She's on the verge of tears and says she's on the verge of
DNF-ing. Somehow I doubt it, though. She's a runner. Runners are not
the kind of people who think, "this is a bad idea, I'd better stop".
[At a local event some years ago, I was standing by the
Thames near a marshal, waiting for Amanda, when a woman taking a
walk asked what was happening. "It's the <whatever> race",
replied the marshal. "But why are they doing it?" she asked. The
marshal was a bit flummoxed by this, to put it mildly. I
explained: "There is a sensible part of the normal person's brain
that runners simply don't have. That's why they do it." This was
an entirely satisfactory answer to her.]
Ok, now the way the route works, I can't realistically see them
again if I want to get back to the finish before them, though I can
still take a good few pictures first. I therefore get a few more
here and then head back to the 6=1 water station area.
I'm in time to catch Phil as he heads towards the return trail.
Soon I will need to do likewise.
I let this chap pass me, then as it's downhill and he claims to be
bad at downhills, I run along with him for a bit, chatting. It's his
first time, he's absolutely loved it, and is a bit surprised never
to have heard of it before. I believe the Windmilers are the
second-biggest club turnout, and ironically they are members of
Mabac despite being notionally further away than the Stragglers who
As soon as the path stops being downhill, I let him pull away. My
excuse is the weight of all my kit, of course, although I think it's
a fair bet that I will win the 'fastest photographer of the day'
It would not be a Slog blog without the cows. Amanda tells me she
didn't even see them, but their field is where the narrow rutted
path with barbed-wire fences runs, and a bit of tunnel vision is
In the past, we have often had big bunches here, and as they are
released from the single-file track, there's a frantic last burst of
speed to the finish. The problem with staggered starts is that you
don't really know who you're racing with. This guy is on his own
entirely, so does he need a final go-for-broke effort or doesn't he?
At one point I do see a woman putting on a last-minute spurt to
sucessfully pip another at the post, but was she 'really' ahead in
the final analysis? Who knows....
Well anyway, Claire's happy!
And a little behind her, but not much, what did I tell you, it's
Amanda. Death is (I think) acceptable as a legitimate excuse for
DNF, but not much less.
The shoes are in the bin. Apparently they were "this year's
model" of a shoe that worked well for her in the past. This seems to
be something of a regular complaint amongst runners: "I bought XXX
and it was great. This year it's XXX+1 and it's horrible!"
This surprises me, because it's a bit the way that people often
respond to software: "Why has Windows X+1 changed from Windows X in
this totally useless and annoying way?!" But in that case, there's
actually a reason. Not a good reason from your point of
view, but a reason nevertheless. You see, software doesn't wear out.
If you buy something that does what you want, and what you want
doesn't change, it will literally last forever. That's not such a
good thing for anyone trying to sell software, because it
means they never get any new business. So to make new sales, they
have to have new 'features': something that will make their past
customers into present customers again. That gets difficult if the
original product basically met people's real needs, so you have to
try and invent imaginary needs that you can convince people they
have, and that only the latest and greatest version can satisfy.
Yes, it's bollocks, and it really annoys a lot of people, but it
works well enough overall that it keeps happening.
But running shoes? Totally different! If you really like a pair of
shoes, you'll wear them out in no time and be keen to buy exactly
the same again.
So why does this not appear to be the case? I wish I knew. Well,
maybe I do...
Back to software, in this case simply because it's my field, not
because it's different.
I'm a techie. I want to do new things, ideally things that haven't
been done before, and best of all things that nobody has done
because nobody else has figured out how to do them. If what excites
me happens to solve somebody's real-world problem, that's great, I'm
delighted, but that's not the motivation. If somebody's real-world
problem is solved by something that (from my POV) is really boring,
that's not great. Yeah, up to a point I'll do it, but if it happens
too much I'll start looking for another job.
I don't think of shoe design as cutting-edge engineering, but maybe
that's my mistake. It would certainly explain the observed
phenomenon of shoes being 'improved' in a negative way if the shoe
companies' managements were making the same mistake.
Oops: </rant>, I think.
Almost last but not least: the final finisher (though not last by
time when we get the results). She's still too fast for Dave to have
And talking to her later (her car is parked right next to ours) she
says that she too is a first-timer who thought it was brilliant but
more or less discovered it by accident.
The race is over, but we seem to have some gatecrashers!
It's a public footpath, of course, so we can't entirely control who
makes use of it.
Well that's the 2021 Slog. Small but perfectly formed, I think one
could say, and let's hope for a better 2022.
Now, many times after the Slog, we've been to the Hannah Peschar
Sculpture Garden, but this time we're going a little further afield,
to the Sculpture Park near Thursley. We've been there before and
would rate it as "good, but Hannah Peschar is better", but Claire's
never been so that's our choice. First though, we need some lunch,
and therefore a spot to have said lunch. We've been asked to leave
the school grounds as quickly as possible, though, so not there.
We're not sure where, so we just head for our destination (ignoring
Google's suggestion that going back on ourselves for nearly twice
the distance would still be quicker) and before long find a small
green on the outskirts of Ewhurst vilage.
We'll set up by the bus shelter-cum-library!
Despite the fact that there have been a few hints of improvement in
the weather, indeed, almost a bit of sun for a couple of moments, we
haven't finished eating before the heavens open again. Our
waterproof picnic blanket helps to keep the ground dry, which is
rather the opposite of what it's supposed to do.
So it's coats back on for the sculpture park. Everything is for
sale, of course, but most of it is one or more of: too big, too
expensive, too ugly. The bubbly glass globes, though, fit the bill
nicely. We might have one or two of these.
These are definitely too big, and we would assume too expensive, but
all three of us are rather taken by these deer made from random bits
of tree branch. Kind of like the big brothers of the wicker deer at
the Duke of Kent School now I come to think about it.
The rain continues unabated, and although we've not seen everything
on show, it's time to call it a day. Hey, it gives us an excuse to
go back again in better weather!
So on that soggy sloggy note, I bid you farewell.
Love to all,