Our run report this week written with apologies to Ernest Hemingway...
The old man leaned wearily on the weather beaten arris rail that enclosed the lowland meadows that men called Knowle Park.
He gazed across the fields with his rheumy eyes then hawked noisily.
“What do you see old man?” asked the young man at his side.
The young man spoke in tones of respect because did not the old man wear the T shirt of the great tough mudder? In the cantinas of old Cranleigh some whispered that he had been at the mudder run when El Ferrier had fallen and had been so badly trampled by La Bryce that now he could not even beat old ladies because he had injuries that men did not wish to speak of.
The old man said nothing for a moment – then whispered “…soon…soon..”.
The young man could see nothing, but then he turned and gazed around.
“Why are there tables over there, old man, groaning under the weight of chocolate cake and other lite bites forbidden to all those over the age of 5…?”
The old man did not shift his gaze from the empty meadows.
“That is the celebration of landmark table” he murmured.
“Look closely – it is for many. It is for the mighty Mike Saunders. He has done the run 233 times at many festivals and today it is 100 runs just at Cranleigh. But he has been so battered by the mud he needs a map to find his way – look …
The offerings are also from La Deborah Riseley – she will have done 200 runs today – if she survives. She is wise – she knows that 200 runs is actually one million metres – and she says she has counted everyone.
And then we have those who are joining the red brigade. Fifty runs and still they go. Emma De Vos – today, as so often guided round by the youngster known as Rupert of the rapid run. Alex Jacobs - joining her sister in the brigade and all marvel at how she has turned into a runner in just a year. And then of course Amy Giacomuzzi - she of the 16 PBs, today escorted through the bad lands by the speedy one and now 50 runner they call Karen Bryant”
The old man paused, and he peered intently across the fields. He raised one wizened arm to point.
There they were. Runners pouring down the hill then following an ancient zig zag path across meadows – urged on by shouts and guided by the waving arms of the stewards of the course, La Geraldine and La Julia.
On they ran. Towards a fence then veering up along the length of the fence until unerringly they found the gap and raced back down the fence, round the stewards’ poles and then were herded into the gathering funnel. Here the two Stephens took note of their time while La Chloe branded them and then La Stephanie recorded their achievements.
“People say you know all the runners as if they were people Old Man – is that right?” the young man respectfully asked.
“That is the way” said the old man.
“Let me tell you the tale of the run”
“First home is that famous runner that appears at many festivals – the unknown. He was chased home by Paul Quinnell – seven times he has been in the first three of the runners.
The third person to race into the funnel is a visitor to this festival, and breaking with our traditions – a woman… Roanna Vickers ran as fast as the wind on the first lap, leading the men then showing her mettle to carry on into a strong third place just 25 seconds off the record female time.
Third man in was Dave Newby – charging like a young bull of the plains and going faster than he had ever run.
Roanna the runner was followed by La Abi Truelove – yet again teasing all by closing in on her fastest time but not quite getting there this week. Wait until the bartenders start to take the wagers from the big players and then see her fly. Then Philippa Staddon popping up for her occasional run and dashing on for another fast time.”
The young man, paused, looking at the increasing throng. “Why are some of the runners going into the gathering funnel, looking at their watch and then jumping up and down as if a matador had stabbed them with his estoque?”
Ah, said the old man “That is the ancient celebration of El Personal Best – look closely young man…look at the youngster they call Pippa Helm, on her first appearance at the festival she fought the course in 40 minutes, now she flies round in 24. That we also see with Oliver Lamboll who has learnt from the old fighters and has improved from 27 minutes to 19 minutes. The day is good for the young ones as Jess Jones ran a wonderful 26 minutes for the first time, and Freddie Jupp celebrates his 4 bests in his last five appearances.
The celebrations continue with Alison McKenzie speeding home to a best ever time – all her friends rejoice with her. Our golfing walker Pat Adams improved by almost 10 minutes in three weeks. And look – joining in the revelries are bestists Kirsty Taylor, Peter Wilkinson, Nicola Anstey, Jason Birnie, Zoe Leslie, Rosanna Gethin, Sam Cornwell, Gabrielle Etherington, Alex and Julian Smith, Ian Carlisle, Clare Harding, Richard Kelly, Tim Wright, Sarah Morris Amy Creak - and Elizabeth Campbell straining every sinew in an attempt to stay ahead of the her nemesis.”
“And who are those at the end of the fencing wandering around clutching a scrap of white paper and looking confused?” the young man asked.
The old man peered and then a fleeting smile crossed his face. “Ah, those are the newcomers to the running of the festival, they are trying to find out what to do with the ritual of the scanning. The director of the run he has already welcomed Trevor Green, Louise Hollington, Ellen Wright, Emily Hodge, Isobel Morton, Anna Holland, and Marie-Claire George. And then there is young Annabelle Rushworth joining her famous father Jamie of the fast feet, and Matthew Campbell, trying to keep his mother in sight.
“And those wearing the Apricot shirts with the strange names?” the young man queried.
“Ah, the tourists – they have braved the perils of the B2128 and the bandidos that call that pass their own. So, they have come from far-flung places with exotic names like Guildford, Horsham and Woking – they will have learnt that the running at Cranleigh welcomes the visitors.”
“And the lady doing the Pirate Challenge?”
“It is the way – you choose to run courses with names so that you can say you have done seven ‘c’s and an R… (!!!)”
And old man, is there anything else that people will talk of in the days to come?
The old man pondered a moment.
“They will say that there were 107 people who ran, jogged or walked and the whole festival was only possible because of the people in the cuadrilla – that is Chris and Julia Finill , David Andrews, Kate and Chris Mason, Martyn Greaves, Geraldine Williams, Andy Harris, Stephen Haynes, John Green, Stephanie Lawson, Steven Hextall and Chloe Hextall and Steve Browning”
“Shall you be here next week?” the young man asked.
The old man paused; “Every week the festival takes place and as long as I have the breath in my body and the use of my weary bones I will be here to celebrate - unless it’s raining in which case find me in the café…”