The hare today was our hero, Navy Mike. No doubt about it. Any man who can woo and marry his future carer deserves our awe – and what a cracker Annie is. And the secondary reason for being our hero is that he had his second knee replaced, on the opposite leg of course, on 2nd February and here he was being hare for the day. Along with Annie, the stalwart, he brought his kin to celebrate: Wil and Nina and Rew and Sam and Wayne, the dog. There were over thirty runners and walkers as witness.
He looked fetching in a black running vest that was a gift from David Burley whose grandfather got it from a charity shop. His shorts were yanked up high so we could admire the reconstructed knees. Unfair comments circulated that the surgeon could have done a bit of work on the knobbly bits. Honestly!
Mike and I had a quiet word afterwards about the London Marathon planned for 2022 when he is 80. He wanted to bring it forward but I wasn’t having it. 80 is 80. We compromised on running a quiet marathon elsewhere in 2020 so he could get a time of sub 5:15 and qualify “good for age” for London. “Just be a few hours, Annie. I’m off with the GOMs for a bit of a run.”
Is that a hero for us all, or what?
Anyway, back to safe ground and satire . . .
In this bit I should say that Brian was assistant hare. He could have done better. Mike gave a long-winded pre-race briefing, long-winded because he had a willing audience. Brian felt he needed to add a bit before the sun went down. “Blobs of flour are on the right-hand side of the road facing on-coming traffic,” he said imperiously, “except where they are not.” That was helpful but at least we could get away before Mike tried to clarify.
We set off and within 100m lost the flour trail. Brian, trying to recover from his hubris, ran along behind us and said the blobs were on the other side of the road. There were mutterings among the proletariat that an arrow to the other side would have helped. Nothing worse than frustrated hares when they are only running.
Within another 100m we ran around a bend, led by Rew, and straight into a soldier with a machine gun who was guarding Fairford Airfield and obviously determined to do so with his life as a hoard of guys in funny vests ran at him. He actually levelled the gun before Rew pulled up. If I had been closer with my Irish accent Rew would have got it. Red faces and smiles all around as we backed away with our arms in the air and followed the trail which wasn’t through the militarised zone.
Rew turned the hash into a race by being first at the circles, finding the correct route and then kicking out the circle before we arrived. Very charming of him but it meant there was no stopping and chatting, just run, run, run. His son, Sam, tried to keep up and ran like a greyhound. He had no chance. By the end he looked more like a shagged old Xoloitzcuintli just before it’s put down. Sam complained about his sore hips. He’s 25 for crying out loud and obviously never heard a word his 78 year-old grandfather had said about his knees.
The pace affected all of us. Poor old GOM and the lovely Caroline had to take a rest on a bench. I struggled, though I won’t beat myself up as I had moved 250 barrowfuls of gravel from a mountain that never ceased to give over the previous few days. And it was hot.
I ran behind Viv most of the way which was a first for me. She has a funny style, a bit like Theresa May doing “The Dancing Queen” but when you pay more attention she runs at the same pace consistently. She’d make a good marathon runner and now that she’s decided to stay in post until 70 she should think about it, break the age glass ceiling so to speak.
I ran with John at one stage. We were accosted by a dog called Doggy. His owner was running away but Doggy wasn’t going anywhere. He wanted to sniff out Rocky who wasn’t having any of it. John swore at the animal and it immediately took off after its owner with its tail between its legs. A man of few words, is our John, but boy, what colour when required!
The trail was fantastic, well marked and lots of divergence. There’s something special about paths through dappled woods, then along by fields of ripening wheat and barley. On a sunny day you would wish to be nowhere else.
Back at the pub Annie said the walk was uneventful and Andrea said Annie was unusually well behaved. Decipher that. But then Andrea was so distracted by the soldier and his weapon that she led Helen, Kay and Hilary the wrong way along the perimeter fence and they did the loop twice. Mike had to come to their rescue and hoosh them like errant chickens along the correct route.
I asked Kathy, the lovely Kathy who is always well-turned out, for a comment for the fashion paragraph. She was generous. “The cut of the clothes worn by the women walkers would addle anyone’s brain.” This said out loud to the four wayward women who immediately went on the defensive about heat and what to wear and nothing fits these days. I tempered it before they tore Kathy’s hair from her head.
I asked Chris in her lovely pink outfit what she thought about the hash and she complained that at a circle she had volunteered to walk along the road and there was no flour and it was only on the long way back that she saw two blobs hidden under a leaf. Sue and Dennis sitting opposite tried a tight smile. I hope they come back.
Adam wanted to talk about his sciatica but we had done ailments in paragraph one so enough of that, though we did have an interesting conversation about paddle-boards with Caroline. I suggested it was a sport for old people as you move so slowly. Caroline retorted that she had had a yoga class on a paddle-board and we all went silent as we contemplated her “downward dog.” We lost Nina somewhere along the line because she broke the silence with: “I think Equine Pilates could work.” On a paddle board, Nina? It was that kind of hash.
Keith, our GOM, gave an uplifting thanks to Mike for a fabulous hash and to Brian for being his beautiful assistant. They well deserved it.
First published on Kennet Valley Hash