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A Real Cracker

On the first day of January in the year of Our Lord two thousand and twenty, the World Health Organisation set up an Incident Management Support Team to deal with the report from China of a mysterious cluster of pneumonia cases in a city called Wuhan.

On that same day, a mysterious cluster of running cases could be found on a hill called Box.

It's been an interesting two years...

But after last year's virtual KC, we're keeping it real for 2022. The route is similar to 2020, though not identical, and retains the Denbies base with the start in Burford Meadow and the finish at the Old Fort. Rob claims that it is exactly 10.000 km because that's what he's specified in his online mapping app, although he accepts that runners being a difficult bunch, some of them are bound to deviate from the perfect line and then complain about it afterwards.

So let us commence our tale.

Prepare for an elbow-bump!

Unfortunately for them, the Santa Express isn't running today. They're going to have to do all the running on their own.

Amanda originally bought the Roman Legionary outfit for the White Star 'Dorset Invader' half-marathon, which fell victim to Covid (although she did run it as a virtual). Waste not, want not.

[Yes, yes, I know, that's not a proper Roman gladius she's carrying. There is a good reason for that: we are not gratuitously ignorant! It will become clear later.]

In the background, people are heading off to the start. After my 2020 logistical plans didn't quite work as desired, I'm doing something different this year and I'll miss the start itself. What I'm going to do now is jump in the car and drive up to the National Trust car park at the top, then walk to the top of the first set of steps. After that, I won't try for the Burford Slope, but will go straight to Broadwood's Folly. I wanted to get some pictures there the previous time, but all the runners were long gone before I was anywhere near. But again, no bicycle, because the bits I want to see are easier without than with.

As it happens, I'm able to stop and jump out of the car for a moment as Gaz leads them down into the field for the start, then back on my way I go.

I make it succesfully before the first runners arrive, although it's a surprisingly close thing. Of course, I did have to drive behind somebody who seemed to think that they might skid off the Zig Zag Road and tumble down the hill before bursting into flames if they exceeded 20mph... And then wait for a women to give up trying to scan the QR code on her phone at the ticket machine, even after I did my best to explain to her that the scanner simply couldn't see the whole code when she was displaying it about ten times larger than the version on the physical membership card...

She's looking surprisingly happy. In the past when I've taken pictures here, it's been for the Midsummer Munro, where they ascend these steps twice and they've already had to do some serious hill climbing before they even start this one. They usually look like they're feeling it a bit more then. And I don't quite understand her outfit: ostrich feathers and some kind of elephant-pig chimaera head? Probably not.

Another cheerful one. Just after Amanda had got her number from the registration desk, we were standing nearby and I heard somebody being told they were number 227. The 227 bus played a large part in both my and Amanda's childhood and adolescence, although long before we actually met. This gentleman, however, [quick, check the results, "Hi Peter!"] is highly unlikely to have featured unless as a squalling baby whose frazzled mother was trying to quieten him down so as not to upset the other passengers.

And now I can reveal that Amanda's 'sword' is actually a posh carbon fibre trekking pole wearing a sword disguise! And that's why it can't be an authentic gladius - too short. It took me some effort to find this particular item: most toy swords are either made for kids, or if part of an adult fancy-dress costume, something that won't be cumbersome when worn. This is more like a stage prop, although the ringing of plastic on plastic might slightly subtract from the verisimilitude of a battle scene.

Amanda tells me it inspires much envy!

I had to ask what this was, back at Denbies. A work of modern art, perhaps? A sandwich short of a picnic? No, it's a Jacob's Cracker for the Knacker Cracker. Obvious when you know.

The eagle-eyed amongst you will have spotted that the previous picture is somewhat further from the steps than this one. That isn't remotely because I realised that I was going the wrong way and had to turn round and come back again, Lordy no!

Gaz, it seems is both participating and taking pictures as he goes, which is his excuse for not actually running running. And I don't notice at the time, but that's Christina just behind him, who has done every single real KC in history. I quote from my 2020 blog:

And a special Bah Humbug to Christina, now the only person who has run every single Knacker Cracker ever. Before the start, she told me that this was definitely the last time she was doing it, so see you next year XXX :-)

Well, to be strictly fair, I didn't see her next year, but I guess there was a reason for that.

Anyway, I'm off to the Folly while the runners have another hill to run first.

As I pass the Old Fort area on the road, the leaders are already through, but here's Katie, first lady, who will go on to be female winner.

Still plenty of not so fast people coming up the Burford Slope as I look across from the other side of the steep valley.

Time to break out the long lens! Unfortunately, the piper is mostly obscured behind a spectator, but the piping itself is clearly audible for a surprisingly long way.

And there's Broadwood's Folly. The faster runners are here well before me, but last time even the slowest were.

Oh look, he's come as Leith Hill Tower, perhaps to give the folly a bit of tower envy.

Marshal and one dog on duty! Second dog: "whatever".

Sometimes you don't like to ask, "What have you come as?", in case they're just wearing their normal clothes and think you're being very rude.

Peter's another Trionium old lag, whose knackers have been crackered many many times.

Ok, so now I will run with Amanda so I can offer her some assistance descending the really nasty slippery slope ahead. It's one of those slightly paradoxical things: on a decent surface that's flat or ascending, she will totally leave me for dead every time, but downhill or on bad terrain (and this will very definitely be both) the positions are reversed.

She apologises for holding everyone up, but hey, there's nothing stopping any of them doing what I did and running down the muddy bit of track instead.

But the steps don't go all the way, so on this part I'll take her hand to help her down.

And when I get to the bottom with her, it's back up I go. I need to pretty much reverse my route to get back to my next planned location.

Is she frightened of me or trying to frighten me?!

Ah, now see this lady with her poles? They are the exact same poles Amanda has, but here they are naked to the world. Amanda says that at the start, she was passing her and remarked on the fact; said lady [hi Lynne!] was so fascinated she didn't look where she was going properly and fell in a hole! Sorry!

Remember that Amanda is running in an outfit bought for a White Star race. Well, WSR may be based in Dorset, but their tentacles reach far and wide, and here's Caroline in a WSR "Run Jurassic" shirt, an Ox buf, and what is pretty obviously a Flanci skort. If you know, you know.

Right, back at the Old Fort, plenty of finishers already. I'll take the race route in reverse to the trig point to catch a few more runners on the way.

Amanda tells me that Martyn's light sabre is telescopic, and any attempt to use it as a support leads to amusing consequences, unlike her own sturdy weapon.

Goodness, she's still happy!

ET's expression is a bit harder to read.

Belted Galloways!

Yes, ok, just tiny dots on the hillside, but until we reviewed these pictures, we thought it had been a wholly cow-free day. That just wouldn't do, now would it!

This chap will be just ahead of Amanda as they emerge from the trees onto the final not-straight, but where the correct route is left, he turns right. "Wrong way Winchester!", Amanda and others yell at him, because the only clue to his identity is the shirt that says Winchester Half Marathon on the back. Funnily enough, I saw some other people a little uncertain as I passed there, so maybe the signage could be clearer for those who've not done loads of Rob's Box Hill events before. Anyway, that error loses him the place, so he finishes behind Amanda in the end.

Sword in hand, she crosses the line!

Apparently she has WhatsApp'ed this picture to members of her team at work who have not completed an important online course they are supposed to have done by now, to give them an idea of what may happen if they don't get their act together PDQ. Would you want to mess with this woman?!

In the end, nobody did pump me hard, but maybe next time...

So there we are: starting 2022 with a real Knacker Cracker. More of the same, please!

Happy New Year and love to all,


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