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THE HARRIERS HERALD No. 250, December 2013 Editor: Sue Francis

Contents, features, reports, results • Thursday night schedules for December and January • Compton Harriers Committee 2014 • London Marathon Club entry – the lucky recipient is….. • Christmas Meal – update • Berkshire x-country • Race results: Cardiff Half – Pete H races in the Welsh capital; BBO Cross-Country – Rich represents the Harriers; Gosport Half – A season’s best for Lucy; Avebury 8 – A close race between Jonathan and Nicola; Eynsham 10K – Fantastic PBs for 3 Harriers; Oxford Mail x-country – Eleven Harriers tackle a tough course at Culham Park • Glasgow Commonwealth Games – Richard D attends selection interview for Games volunteers • Handicap Race – A first-time win for Piers, as three Harriers battle for Championship title • The Challenge - A short story by Gillian • Webmaster’s article – Mo features Gillian’s choice of running music; boosting your immune system to avoid respiratory infections; Harriers race photos on the Club’s Facebook page; and forthcoming races of interest • Thanks to Gillian, Richard, Mo and Tom for this month’s articles and photos • Copy date for next Harriers Herald – 31st December

Thursday night schedule for December Thurs Thurs Thurs Thurs

5th 12th 19th 26th

Handicap Race, followed by Club’s AGM Nicola to lead Lucy to lead Boxing Day - No run scheduled

Thursday night schedule for January Thurs Thurs Thurs Thurs Thurs

2nd 9th 16th 23rd 30th

Mo to lead Handicap Race Sus to lead Gillian to lead Tom to lead

Correspondence received: None during November 2013

Compton Harriers Committee 2014

– Following the Club’s AGM, the Committee for 2014 will be: Martin Fray (Chairman), Sue Francis (Secretary), Pete Humphreys (Treasurer, Club Account), Mo Francis (Treasurer, Race Account, and Webmaster) and Jonathan Phillips (Membership Secretary). Thanks to Jonathan who agreed to take on this role as Gillian wished to stand down. The minutes of the AGM will be circulated in the near future.

London Marathon Club entry 2014

– Only one member was eligible to receive our London Marathon Club Entry, and that was Terry. Terry is currently building up his running again following a foot injury over the summer months.

Christmas Meal -

Pete O has organised the Christmas Meal at The Fox at Peasemore (www.foxatpeasemore.co.uk ) for the evening of Saturday 21st December. 27 Harriers and partners will be attending. If you have yet to give Pete your menu choices and payment, please do so ASAP.

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Berkshire cross-country Champs These annual x-country champs take place on Saturday 4th January at Buttersteep Rise in Swinley Forest (same venue as the recent BBO XC, and presumably the same flat multi-lap course). The men’s race (10K) starts at 11:00 and the ladies (6K) at 11:45. If you’d like to take part, let me (Sue) know by Friday 20th December, and I will send all entries together.

Harriers vest visits Australia Compton Harriers famous green and white vests have visited Egypt (with Simon), California (with Richard D) and now Australia with Aaron (pictured left) and Tom. Although Aaron didn’t actually go for a run in Australia, he and Tom spent a week trekking in the jungle. If you are travelling somewhere interesting this year, take your CH vest and send me a photo for the Harriers Herald! Photo courtesy of Tom

Race results Cardiff Half, 6th October - Pete H finished 2642nd in 1:45:23. BBO x-country, 16th November Sue The annual Berks, Bucks & Oxon cross-country race was this year organised by Bracknell Athletic Club on a heathland course of the edge of Swinley Forest. The terrain was pretty flat, and a mixture of firm stony sandy tracks, and grass tracks with some wet and boggy patches. The senior races consisted of multiple laps of a 2K route, which seemed to be unpopular with many. In fact some men lost count of how many laps they’d done in their 5-lap race. Rich was the only person to be racing in a Harriers vest….and he only made it there because Charlotte was on the ball and reminded him on race-day morning! Rich ran consistently on the 5 laps and, as always, seemed to be enjoying himself. Being used to Ironman and Marathon events, he found the distance a bit short and felt he was only just getting going by 8K. On the approach to the finish, an Oxford City runner put in an effort to catch Rich, but Rich responded with a final burst, to maintain his position and leave the Oxford City runner doubled-up and swearing! The race was won by Scott Halstead (Bracknell) in 35:16. Rich was 65th in 47:41. I competed for Reading AC (my first-claim club) in the 3-lap, 6K ladies race. I enjoyed the course and had a good run to finish 12th (3rd FV40) from 48 finishers, in 27:07. Race winner was Reading AC’s young star Jess Gibbon (22:55).

Gosport Half, 17th November Conditions were good for this south coast half, and Lucy was pleased to break 1:40 for the first time this year (1:39:06). Her position was 568th out of 1566.

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Avebury 8, 17th November Jonathan and Nicola were late entrants to the Avebury 8, having taken over the race numbers of Rich and Charlotte who found themselves double-booked. Jonathan reports that it was a damp and foggy day, but he enjoyed the race. They didn’t realise until the finish that it had been a close race between them, Jonathan having started fast then slowed towards the end (35th, 1:03:57) and Nicola having run a more consistent pace (41st, 1:04:19). There were 118 finishers.

Photos of Jonathan and Nicola from Marlborough Running Club website

Eynsham 10K, 24th November Sue Six Harriers raced this year’s Eynsham 10K, the largest club contingent for some years at this well-organised local road race. Conditions were good with a light breeze, and we were grateful for the support on each lap from photographer Mo and injured Martin. Three of the Harriers came away with fantastic PBs. Ryan broke 37 minutes for the first time (31st, 36:55). Susanne knocked an amazing 1:17 off her previous PB to record an excellent 38:42, which made her 6th lady, 2nd FV45, and 57th overall in the race. Despite a string of injury niggles this year, Philomena also knocked a significant amount of time off her previous PB clocking 45:30 (221st). The other three of us were satisfied with our performances. I finished in 41:51 (132nd), Lucy in 44:40 (198th) and Richard D in 45:09 (214th). The race winners were James Bolton and Rachel Masser (both of Woodstock Harriers) in 32:42 and 37:07 respectively, and there were 588 finishers. After the race, there was a nice surprise for Lucy as she was given a medal for finishing 1st Oxfordshire FV50 in October’s Abingdon Marathon. The Harriers celebrated a successful and enjoyable day with a pub lunch in The Queens Head. See page 5 for Mo’s photos of the three record-breakers (Philomena, Susanne and Ryan).

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Oxford Mail x-country, Round 2 – Culham, 1st December Sue Race 2 of the Oxford Mail XC series was held on farmland adjacent to Culham Park. This year, the courses were altered to include both the upper field and the lower flood meadow next to the Thames (which was fortunately pretty dry this year), with start and finish on the upper field. From the upper field, the lower field was reached by running down a steepish sandy bank. This meant we had to go back up a rutted grassy bank again at the end of each lap. But the course organisers had cruelly introduced an up-down-up zigzag, meaning two plods up the bank on each lap! The ladies had to do this twice in their 6.5K race, and the men three times in their 9K race. It was what I call a ‘proper’ x-country course and was certainly challenging. The ladies race had 162 finishers. Race winner was once again Newbury’s Susie Bush (23:50), a minute clear of 2nd placed runner (Jess Franklin, also Newbury) who was in turn a minute clear of the 3rd finisher. I enjoyed the race and had been running amongst a group of 10 ladies and holding my position in the middle of the group well. However, I didn’t have the strength on the final hill zigzag, was passed by 5 runners, and rather frustratingly finished at the back of that group (19th, 27:33). Ten seconds faster would have put me six places further up the field – something to work on!! Lucy was 3rd TK finisher (44th, 30:19). Charlotte finished in 37:40, in 130th – a significant improvement on her placing in the last race. New member Jacqueline did well to finish her first Oxford Mail XC in 38:12 (134th) despite still recovering from a nasty chest cold. The team’s performance gave us 2nd place in Division 2. The men’s race was won by Abingdon’s Paul Fernandez (29:08) and there were 263 finishers. Team Kennet was once again led home by Tom Munt (34th) and included 7 Compton Harriers. Rich had an excellent run (must be because his Mum came to cheer him on!), to be 122nd in 36:54, and TK’s 3rd finisher. After a steady start to test his injury, Martin worked his way through the field to finish 134th (37:13). Dave was next (187th, 39:51), followed by Jonathan (202nd, 40:34), Dick (221st, 42:16), Colin (227th, 42:28) and Aaron (240th, 45:23), who was competing in his first race for many years. Jonathan and Colin both unleashed fine sprint finishes to gain several places, following encouragement from Sue and Mo at the top of the final hill. The team finished 3rd in Division 3.

Visit to the Glasgow Commonwealth Games Volunteer Centre Richard D On 28th February this year, I began the lengthy procedure for applying to work as a volunteer at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. The application form, in addition to the expected questions involving previous volunteering experience and sporting skills, required you to select three functional areas of preference in which to work (I chose spectator services, venue operations and results technology services) and three preferred locations (I chose Hampden Park (athletics), the Emirates Arena (cycling) and Scotstoun Sports Campus (boxing, gymnastics and most of the indoor sports). Several months passed until, on the 14th June, I was informed that I had overcome the first hurdle and had been invited for an interview to be a member of the “Results Technology Services” team. Luckily I managed to choose an interview day after the end of my busy season at work, Monday 18th November. This was fortuitous as the interview selection process, having begun in April, had only another two weeks to run and Monday was the last interview day for my chosen area. With an interview time of 11:00 I was up early at 03:45 in order to catch the 06:40 flight up to Glasgow. On the way I quickly recapped what results technology services entails. The application form says that “you will play a critical role in capturing and communicating the sporting results to the world. You could be monitoring commentator information systems, printing and delivering reports, distributing competition information, operating scoreboards or cross-checking the integrity of results.” This is a real auditor’s role, I thought to myself!! I duly arrived for my interview. All of those arriving for an 11:00 interview were being selected for a position in results technology services. In the lobby a large chart outlined the selection process. Apparently, of the 15,000 volunteer jobs on offer, 50,000 applications were received of which 25,000 were selected for interviews. My first surprise was the age of the interviewees – I expected most to be of a student age but in fact most interviewees were definitely in the middle age bracket. Perhaps that’s a factor of the appeal of results technology services! The HH Dec 2013

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second surprise occurred when I started talking to the applicants in the waiting area. The first person I spoke to said they had travelled up from Ipswich by train on Sunday and the second said that he lived in Worthing and had flown up from Gatwick! Maybe the majority of Scottish applicants had already been interviewed. We knew beforehand that the whole process would take an hour, of which the interview would be 20 minutes. The first task we were given was to write on a ‘happy card’ (a cardboard disk) in three words what we hoped to get from the Games – these were all collected and as we had to write our names on the back I assume they were reviewed as part of the process. The comments are apparently to be collated in some form for the Games. After that we were shown a short video with a background to the Games and people such as Seb Coe and Chris Hoy extolling the importance of volunteering. These were accompanied with shots of the games volunteers working during the London Olympics. The final part of the process was the interview, which consisted of being taken through a questionnaire with about 15 questions. Because of the 20 minute time available, we were told we would be interrupted if we took too long in answering any question as they all had to be answered. As well as the expected questions as to ‘why I wanted to volunteer’, ‘what experience do I have of organising sporting events’ – a discussion here about organising my running club’s team for the Ridgeway Relay and all the logistic issues that involves. There were also a few unexpected ones, such as ‘Of what achievement are you most proud?’ I gave a non-sport specific answer, as that was the nature of the first response that came to mind and hoped what I said was acceptable. At the end of the interview we ran through availability (very good as I will be retired) and accommodation plans – apparently an issue for many south of the border, but with a Scottish wife, and friends in Edinburgh from my training and student days there, I am all right on that score. Passing by the opportunity to have my photo taken with Clyde, the Games mascot (I hope that didn’t fail me, but I only saw one person availing themselves of the opportunity!) I left the centre just after 12:10. I didn’t manage to see any other volunteers when I left as I had stayed a little later than scheduled as my interviewer couldn’t answer a question I had on the likelihood of working unsocial working hours at the ‘Do you have any questions?’ stage, and was directed to someone else who couldn’t answer the question either as working schedules were still to be put together. A very quick visit to Glasgow as I was back down to Heathrow on the 15:35 flight and a choir practice in Oxford on Monday evening, but whatever the outcome (we don’t expect to know if we are successful until the New Year) I think it was a valuable process to be a part of. Not just being interviewed and becoming focused on what type of person I believed they would be looking for in a volunteer, but also because of the behind the scenes knowledge of the Commonwealth Games itself and how the resources for such an event are assembled. Remember the date of the Games – Wednesday 23rd July to Sunday 3rd August 2014. Post script: Richard heard yesterday that his interview had been successful and he is pleased to say that he will be working at Hampden Park where the athletics will be based.

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Handicap Race Sue Both the November and December Handicap Races have taken place since the last Harriers Herald was issued. However, I have only reported on the November race here, so that the winner of the 2013 Annual Handicap Championship is only announced at the Christmas Meal. I have now determined the winner of the Championship (calculations double-checked by independent adjudicator, Mo) and the trophy has been taken to Nick Bull for engraving. Results of December’s race, and the final Championship scores, will appear in January’s issue. A large group of 15 runners took part in November’s Handicap Race around the 3.1K Village Lap road route. Conditions were good for racing, being dry, still and not too chilly. Three runners – Charlotte, Hana and Jacqueline - were doing the Handicap Race for the first time. Piers, in his second Handicap Race, knew the route this time so was able to push on to his full potential. He took the lead round Horn Street and had a clear 24-second victory recording an excellent time. Meanwhile, there were some close-run battles amongst the rest of the runners, and Jan was grateful for Tom’s help with recording names and times. Rich passed Lucy and Philomena just before the finish to take second place and the evening’s fastest time (I hope you shook Lucy’s hand when you passed her, Rich), but it may have been different if Lucy hadn’t needed a quick ‘shoe-lace stop’. Dick was 5th, ahead of Charlotte, who would have been considerably quicker had she not taken a short detour and then waited for Mo to tell her the correct route. Sue caught Colin, Aaron and Pete up Shepherd’s Mount, but those three can all make good use of the final downhill and unleash great sprint finishes. Pete crossed the line ahead of the other three, all finishing within 5 seconds. Jonathan was next, then Hana who set a good standard on her first Handicap Race. Jacqueline also set a good time and can certainly go quicker now she knows the way. A good performance from Mags gave her second place on handicap. Mo was compelled to start faster than usual as he saw Charlotte take a wrong turn ahead of him and needed to call her back. He later suffered for the fast start, but was pleased to run sub-20. Well done to Piers, and thanks to Jan and Tom for timing. The final Handicap race of the 2013 series is scheduled for Thursday 5th December, again around the Village Lap road route. Finish Position 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15

Position on handicap 1 3 4 5 7 New Runner 8 9 10 11 12 New Runner New Runner 2 6

Name Piers Rich B Lucy Philomena Dick Charlotte Pete O Sue Colin Aaron Jonathan Hana Jacqueline Mags Mo

Start time 4:04 4:37 3:46 2:19 4:15 0:35 4:04 5:08 3:36 3:29 4:17 4:04 2:19 0:35 0:22

Finish time 16:28 16:52 16:53 16:54 17:14 17:21 17:22 17:24 17:26 17:27 17:45 18:25 18:58 19:49 20:05

Actual time 12:24 12:15 13:07 14:35 12:59 16:46 13:18 12:16 13:50 13:58 13:28 14:21 16:39 19:14 19:43

Handicap Beaten? -0:32 -0:08 -0:07 -0:06 +0:14 New Runner +0:22 +0:24 +0:26 +0:27 +0:45 New Runner New Runner -0:11 +0:05

Handicap Championship: After the penultimate race, three runners – Dick, Philomena and Aaron - were well clear at the top of the Championship score table (see next page) and the Championship winner could only be one of those three, so there will be a new name added to the cup in this 10th annual Handicap Championship year. With only 3 points separating the three of them, and only the best five scores to count for each person, there was all to play for in the final race!

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Pos.

1 2 3 4= 4= 6 7= 7= 9= 9= 9= 9= 9= 14 15 16 17 18 19= 19= 19= 19= 19=

Name

Dick Philomena

Aaron Colin Mo Sue Lucy Pete O Terry Tapani Richard Neil Mags Ricky Gillian Martin Jonathan Piers Nicola Pete H Charlotte Hana Jacqueline

Race 1 12 9 (4) 7 (2) 10 5 6 3 8 1 1 1 1 1 -

Race 2 (1) 12 6 3 (1) 7 10 8 9 5 4 3 -

Race 3 10 8 6 3 4 9 5 12 7 2 -

Race 4 10 (2) 8 6 9 4 1 5 12 3 7 -

Race points Race Race 5 6 6 7 9 10 (4) 6 4 10 5 8 3 7 12 12 9 5 8 2 -

Race 7 10 8 9 12 7 1 -

Race 8 (5) 7 (1) (2) 6 (3) 8 4 10 9 1 12 1 1 1

Race 9 -

Total of best 5 45 43 42 31 31 30 28 28 25 25 25 25 25 21 20 17 14 13 1 1 1 1 1

*************************** For several months, Gillian has been attending evening classes to pursue her hobby of writing novels. One of Gillian’s ‘classmates’ is ultra runner Kathy Tytler of Reading Roadrunners. Gillian has written a gripping running-related short story for this month’s Harriers Herald. Be warned, you may need a hanky to wipe your eyes!

The Challenge Gillian Almost losing my grip on what had become my talisman, I landed on my hands and knees with a resounding splat. The forty five degree slope of water and slippery mud had defeated me. Panting, I tried to push myself up. There was nothing to get a hold off, nothing to grip. With each attempt, I was in serious danger of collapsing completely into the bog. I paused, tried to think. This is what I did for a living. I was a trouble-shooter and good at it. I could reason my way out of this predicament. A young sapling was just out of my reach. I doubted it could take my weight, but it was my only hope. Focusing on that seemingly remote slither of wood, I tightened my core. My years of Pilates and Yoga were about to come into their own. Moving my centre of gravity too far and without adequate control, would leave me wallowing like a pig in mud. Reaching slowly, my finger tips grasped the branch. Pausing to drag in a few deep breaths, I slowly pulled myself closer, inching my way forward though the mire. The word mud would probably suggest a smooth, velvety texture beneath me. That couldn’t be further from the truth. This was the Mourne Mountains. There were sharp peaks of granite all around me. That granite had been chipped away and eroded by the rain, ice, sleet and snow. The black peat bog I was sinking into was permeated with its sharp, tiny spiteful shards. HH Dec 2013

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My hands and knees were now as sore as my feet. The granite chips had crept into my shoes hours ago. I hadn’t been a mile from the start, and only half way up Slieve Donard when I had discovered the first area of soaking wet marsh. The ground, deceptively firm on top, hid the accumulation of water which had fallen over the last two months. After an incredibly dry couple of years, the heavens had opened the day a hose pipe ban had been imposed. Eight weeks later, the precipitation had simply not stopped. Granite isn’t porous and the result was that the water and granite chips either collected in peaty gaps, or ran off its peaks in the tumbling, roaring of streams in spate. I had only reached the eleven mile point and I was already well acquainted with these various facts. When we had seen this run advertised, it had captured our imaginations. Throughout his illness Mark and I had joked about returning to our childhood haunts. A mountain marathon set in this area of wild, ethereal beauty was the perfect place to do so. A place we had loved and cherished in our hearts and memories since childhood. The actual physical challenge of the marathon hadn’t really registered. What had caught our imaginations was being within thirteen miles of where we were born at any point within the race. Within minutes we were enrolled. I knew how to train for this. It wasn’t my first marathon. I had completed my hill runs, my fartlek training and my long runs. But at this moment I was beginning to appreciate that this preparation had simply not been enough. Finding my feet, I swayed slightly, trying to cope with the spasms coming from my over-stressed gluteus maximus. I’d never pulled this muscle before and it simply hadn’t registered how often a person used their butt while walking. I knew now, but I needed it under control so I could carry on. The mist and cold had descended as I came up towards the Spelga Pass. At the top of this slope, I would reach the luxury of tarmac. It would only last for two short miles before I re-joined the goat trails. My legs, already soaked, were starting to chill, and frighteningly fast. I had to move, pain or not. If I stayed here, hypothermia would set in. Moving from one blackthorn branch to another, I diagonally crossed the slope. It was too open and wet to attempt the slope immediately above. It took me slightly off course, but it was better than being plastered from head to foot in sticky, cold, wet mud. When my foot touched the black, shiny glory of the road, I took a few moments to clean my key ring. When I had fallen, it had landed in the mud. I rubbed it clean on my shirt until it gleamed. The detail on the purple number was clearly visible again. The number, a teasing reminder of my upcoming milestone. I had told everyone that I wanted no cards with this number on them, but my brother Mark had ignored me. He had chuckled with delight at the outrage on my face when he handed it to me. “We’re almost half-way now Mark.” I whispered as I stared down at my talisman. A slight smile warmed my face and heart. This key fob was his way of being here with me. For him, I would keep placing one foot in front of the other. This challenge was too important to forsake, not matter what pain I went through. I pushed myself onward. The mud and terrain had held me back for too long. It was time to run. I managed one hundred metres before I had to give up. My left cheek refused to permit that stride. There was too much discomfort. It had downed tools and gone on strike. I wanted to slap and punch it out of its lethargy, but that wasn’t going to get me far. Reaching the feeding station, I scavenged a couple of orange segments, chewing on them slowly as I slurped down some water. It was a bit of a shock to see so few supplies. I had only two energy bars left and was already flagging. Rationing them seemed the best option. It was downhill for a while, so it seemed logical to eat one before the next climb. A line of fellow walkers straggled down the hill and into the pass. The huge grey wall of the dam towered above us. Each turn we took on the zigzagging road brought it back into view. The dam was so full from the heavy rains, that a sluice was open at the top. The waterfall cascade it created, threw up rainbows of light in the weak rays of sunlight that were trying to poke through the grey sky. Grey, dank and heavy, like my heart. The glimpse of the sun was welcome. It had been so cold on top. I had hidden out of the wind in the ladies toilets for a couple of minutes at the checkpoint. It was warm enough when walking, but not when your body stilled.

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Clambering down, like the mountain goat I needed to become, I crossed the bridge and followed the trail along the other side of the stream. A bridge had been a luxury not seen since Tullamore Forest Park. The rest of the streams were traversed by jumping from one wet slippery boulder to the next. Glancing up at how far we had descended, concern ran through me. We were still heading downwards and it looked like that would continue for another mile. That meant a long climb back up to the cols along the south western foothills. Reaching the corner of the valley, I paused and looked out at my hometown. I escaped Hilltown years before, but this would always be home. I thought of my mum and dad, preparing tea for my two boys and a fleeting moment of jealousy swept through me. They were being fed, but it would be a while before I had something warm inside me. Working my way down the rest of the valley, I tried to avoid the stream flowing in the middle of the easiest looking descent. When an ultra-runner flew past me, splashing through the little brook, I stared at him in wonder. Could it be that easy? Surely the stones would be even looser and more uneven in there. The last thing I wanted to do was break my ankle. Stepping forward, I groaned as the ice cold water soaked quickly through my shoes. Cramps set in and I clenched my fists, trying to deal with this new torture. Closing my mind to my discomfort, I kept going. The young maniac had been right, despite the icy water, this was much easier going. The miles passed and the terrain started to gradually climb. When I entered the valley leading up to the Saddle, I stopped for a minute as my memories overwhelmed me. There had been no swings or slides for us. This had been our childhood playground. This valley up to the Saddle, with its incredible views beyond. This had been our destination every day during our brief mountain summers. It had been too wild and dangerous to risk coming up in the winter. Mum would allow us to venture up in the Spring and only then to help old Mr Collins with the lambing. But the summer was our favourite time. Cycling up each sunny evening and sitting on the Saddle for an hour. Just talking for hours or acting out our favourite TV programmes. The Lone Ranger, Hawaii Five-O, whatever took our fancy. As long as our homework was done, Mum allowed us our freedom. That all ended one August evening in 1977. We had stayed up on the ridge too long, enjoying the view of the setting sun. It wouldn't have been a problem, but my front wheel had punctured on the way down. When we finally arrived home, Mum was waiting on the doorstep with her wooden spoon ready. She tanned our hides and sent us to bed without any dinner. It was Dad's edict the following day which brought an abrupt stop to our childhood adventures. “If I catch you up in the mountains again, I will give your bikes to the orphanage. You scared the living daylights out of your mother last night. You will never do anything like that again. It's time for you to study for your exams.” A reserved man, we had been stunned by his outburst. Cowed, we reluctantly submitted to his will. Mark and I hadn't been up here since. I closed my eyes trying to keep my emotions bricked away behind the wall I had built. There was no time for tears, not yet, and not in the middle of this. I could almost hear his voice. “Race you to the top Bernie. Last one there is a sissy.” A half smile touched my lips. “That's you then. Even with a head start I will beat you.” I whispered. As if he was there beside me, I heard his reply. “Not today. I will beat you to the top.” It had been faint but clear. Opening my eyes, I looked around searching for him. Shaking my head at the whimsicality of my thoughts, I moved forward. Maybe the lack of food and sheer exhaustion were making me hallucinate. Half way up the path, I stopped. Staring longingly at the ridge, I silently made a promise to myself. “I'll be back soon. I'll bring him with me next time.” Turning to my right, I aimed for the pass to Leitrim Lodge. The thunder of hundreds of pairs of feet made me spin around. The half-marathoners were now careening across the uneven ground towards me. I stared in disbelief at their crazy stampede. Heads down, arms pumping, unaware of anything in front of them. I side-stepped two of them, but a third sent me down on one knee. They were concentrating on foot placement, not the walker stood like an idiot in front of them. I moved as far out of their way as possible. It was that or accept being run over. At their speed, it would feel like a truck hitting a wall. HH Dec 2013

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Once the main thrust was past, I resumed my journey over the pass and down to Leitrim. Only six miles to go and twenty miles complete. I munched on my final bar and drank one of the sickeningly sugary drinks. Although they upset my stomach, I needed the energy to finish this challenge. I had hoped that from here to the finish at Rostrevor that I would finally be on a track. Unfortunately, another three miles of wading through the streams and bogs awaited us. There were more people around, which broke up the journey. Chatting companionably with those I met, be they locals, or travellers from overseas, it helped consume the miles. Climbing over the last stile, a round of applause and a cheer rang out from the twenty odd people waiting patiently for their relatives. “Is it track from here on?” I asked one couple, who came forward and helped me over to a tree trunk. Pulling at the filthy shoelaces, which were knotted almost beyond belief, the man grinned up at me. “Yes, all Forestry Commission trails from here. Well done and just keep going. Think of the hot tea and stew waiting for you at the finish.” “Yes, not long now. Thank you so much for helping, but I am fine. Don't touch my shoes, they are covered in sheep poop.” I objected quickly. I hadn't seen it until it was too late. Now my shoes were caked in it. He simply laughed and shook my shoes vigorously before banging them against the nearest boulder. “No worries love. They're a bit cleaner now. We've got some wet wipes with us, and you needed help more than we needed clean hands. What's this?” He asked, touching my key ring. “You've never that age surely.” “Nearly. It was an early birthday present from my brother. He should have been with me today, but couldn't make it. It’s a shame, he would have enjoyed it.” “I hope you are going to wind him up about what he missed then.” I smiled and nodded in reply. Their kindness touched my heart. Despite the years of bloodshed and the religious bigotry that infected this wonderful country, there were still so many people with hearts of gold. He brushed off my socks as we chatted and then helped me back on with my shoes. Finally ready, he and his wife hauled me upright. “Come on. You can't hang around here all day. Get moving.” She ordered, as she laughingly shoved me forward. Saying my goodbyes, I followed her orders. The paths undulated as they swept round the side of the last few hills. As I crested the last ridge above Rostrevor, I drank in the view of Carlingford Lough below me. The sun had come out and illuminated the whole area in a warm glow. It changed the colours of everything around us. Higher in the mountains, there were no trees. Just blackthorn and rhododendron on the upper slopes. Here, on the lower hills, the forest blanketed the lower two thirds of the slope. Thick commercially grown stands of pine. Their tightly planted trunks blocking out the sunshine to the ground below. Carlingford was so distinctive, almost resembling a Norwegian fjord with its steep mountains on either side of the sea lough. On grey days it could look grim, but today, the sight of it just took my breath away. In the valley below, all along the lough lay the little town of Rostrevor. Quaint and pretty with it's mix of old and new. The Victorian houses nestled amongst the new posh bungalows and holiday homes. Picking up the pace a little, I jogged slowly down the slope. I was desperate to finish, for this to simply be over. The finish line came into view and I tried to put on a bit of a sprint. As I crossed the line, I collapsed forward into the arms of those I loved. My husband Dan and my two sons held me close. “Well done Sweetheart. We knew you could do it. We are so proud of you.” It felt so good to be in his arms. The reality of what I had achieved hit home. Tears streamed down my face. Like a dam, the pressure had to be released. I sobbed into Dan's shoulder, unable to speak or explain why I was crying. He understood. “It's okay. Mark would be so proud of you. Do you still have it?” I could only nod in reply, my arms clasped tightly round his neck. “It's here Dad.” My eleven year old son Kieran, yanked on my key fob. Reluctantly I released it. It was my connection to Mark. We had promised each other to do this together. He hadn't been able to keep his word, so gave me that key ring so a part of him would be with me today. Dan just held me, understanding that I didn't want to talk. The boys chattered at me, but seemed happy enough at my lack of response. Dan reached up and gently pried open my hands. He stepped back, just half a pace so he could see my face.

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“Your mum and dad called. They will be here in fifteen minutes to pick up the boys. We are going straight over to Newry.” I was too raw, physically and emotionally to answer him. I knew what this meant; St Johns Hospice had called with an update. If the boys weren't invited, it wasn't a good sign. Within an hour, we were in reception. Nurse Alice was waiting for us. We went through to the little chapel and prayed for a while. Mark had passed peacefully this afternoon. Mum and Dad had been with him. I should be thankful that someone was with him, but I was just angry and annoyed with him. Couldn't he damn well have waited to hear how I got on? I'd done this for him. Well for him, and to raise funds for the hospice. We should have done this challenge together. He had promised me that he would. He had let me down. How could he just up and leave me? As children we had been as close as twins could be. Now my twin brother was dead. Dan left me. He had to sort out some of the arrangements. Nurse Alice popped in on her way home. “He was lucid at the end. His last words were for you.” She held my hand and smiled as she shared his last moments with me. “He said he could see you. You were heading for the Saddle. He asked me to tell you he would beat you there today.” Her words echoed my whimsical thoughts from earlier. My silence caught her attention. She examined my face and turned her head questioningly. “Is something wrong Bernie? You're a little pale.” “No, nothing really. Can you remember what time that was?” I asked as casually as possible. “About three thirty I think.” Tears filled my eyes. Mark had kept his word. He had joined me, if only for a few seconds. On the Saddle, the symbol of our childhood freedom, we had been together that one last time. We had said our goodbyes in our own unique way. It was time to let him go. Mourn him and then learn to live and enjoy life again. When Dan returned, I was calm and welcomed his embrace. “The funeral is booked for Tuesday. Your mum and dad wanted it as soon as possible. Are there any arrangements that you would like to add to the ceremony? You were closer to Mark than anyone else in your family.” I shook my head, and then changed my mind. “I want this put in his coffin. It was with me today while I ran the challenge for him. It should accompany him on his final journey.” I handed Dan the keyring. The number fifty highlighted in bright lilac with its diamante stones. “Something for you little sis. A reminder that you will reach fifty in a month and I won't” he had told me. He would have gloried in the fact that he was right, but it wasn't important anymore. “Tomorrow, let’s borrow the bikes and ride up to the Saddle with the boys.” My soft request made Dan chuckle. “Mark couldn't beat you, but maybe I can.” “Tomorrow you probably will. Let's face it, the boys will beat both of us.” The snort of amusement that escaped him made me smile. “You're right.” He agreed. “And later in the week, the two of us will take his ashes up to the Saddle. He would like that.” Snuggled in his arms, I stared out the window at Poyntzpass and the South beyond. Dan understood. On Tuesday we would say goodbye to my beloved brother, but tomorrow was all about our future, our boys, our family. And in time, we would scatter Mark's ashes in the place where his heart lay.

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Website update… http://www.comptonharriers.org.uk Mo Links of interest this month Music for this month’s ‘Keep on Running’ link has been chosen by Gillian. Photos for Oxford Mail X-C Round 2 at Culham, and Harriers in action at Eynsham can be viewed on Compton Harriers Facebook page. (www.facebook.com/ComptonHarriers/photos_albums ). This month’s article: Boosting your immune system to avoid URIs We all know that Upper Respiratory Infections (URIs in technical jargon) or more simply ‘coughs and colds’ can be a real pain at this time of year, so it makes sense to do all we can to avoid them. Unfortunately, it isn’t that easy to avoid a virus infection, but there are many actions we can take within our training routines and nutrition to boost our immune systems and at least ward off the worst effects of URIs. Prevention is better than cure, as the saying goes, so here are a few suggestions to help you stay fit and healthy through the winter period: Adapt your training schedule and nutritional intake to stay healthy:  Allowing for ample rest and recovery will help head off problems before they start. A hard workout will make you tired and lower you immune response so, if you notice that your post-training fatigue level is progressively increasing, it is time to add more rest into your training schedule.  Record your resting morning heart rate. A progressive increase may tip you off that you are exceeding your ability to recover.  Try to anticipate added stress in advance and adjust the workout schedule accordingly. A little more rest will prevent a problem later.  To make sure your anti-oxidant defence system is tuned up, eat plenty of fruit and vegetables each day.  Take notice of any early warning signs such as: o Disrupted sleep patterns or insomnia. o Loss of interest in pleasurable activities. o Moodiness or depression. o Excessive muscle soreness. o Poor concentration. o Lack of mental energy. o Change in appetite. o Frequent injury or illness. o Lack of physical energy  Get an annual ‘Flu jab’.  If you are suffering frequent URIs or unrelenting fatigue, it could be a sign of an underlying illness, so you should consult your doctor. Follow these Nutritional Strategies to maintain your immune response: o Ensure energy balance through adequate carbohydrate and protein intake. o Avoid micronutrient deficiencies (a daily multivitamin tablet can help). o Keep well hydrated at all times. o Ingest sufficient carbohydrate during exercise (30-60 grams/hour). o Maintain a high antioxidant intake by eating plenty of fruit & vegetables. o Try the following dietary immunity boosters that are known to work for athletes and can all be purchased at Holland & Barrett or Nature’s Corner shops :  Flavonoids/Polyphenols (about 1 gram/day)  Vitamin C (500 – 1000 mg/day)  Probiotics (daily according to manufacturer’s recommendation)

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Forthcoming Events of Interest – see Website Events Calendar for full details and listing: Sun 15 Dec 2013

Sat 21 Dec 2013 Sat 04 Jan 2014 Sun 05 Jan 2014 Sun 12 Jan 2014 Sun 26 Jan 2014 Sun 02 Feb 2014 Sun 09 Feb 2014

Sun 16 Feb 2014 Sun 23 Feb 2014 Sun 02 Mar 2014 Sun 09 Mar 2014 Sun 16 Mar 2014 Sun 23 Mar 2014 Sun 30 Mar 2014 Sun 06 Apr 2014 Sun 13 Apr 2014 Sat 19 Apr 2014 Sun 27 Apr 2014 Sun 4 May 2014

Muddy Welly 5K & 10K MT Runs - Wellington College, Crowthorne Hooky Christmas Canter – Hook Norton Crazy Christmas Cracker - 10K - Beale Park, RG8 9NH Christmas Meal - The Fox at Peasemore Berkshire County Championships XC – Swinley Forest Oxford Mail XC - Round 3 - Warmington Woodcote 10k - Woodcote Village Hall, Oxfordshire, RG8 0QY, Rough 'n' Tumble 10 - Milton Lilbourne, SN9 5LQ Oxford 10k - Cutteslowe & Sunnymead Park, OX2 8ES Oxford Mail XC - Round 4 – Warmington Warwickshire OX17 1JL Long Mynd Valleys Race - 18.5k Fell Wokingham ½ Mthn - Cantley Park, Wokingham Meon Valley Plod (21miles, X-C) - Clanfield Scout Hall, PO8 0RE Dursley Dozen - Dursley sports centre, GL11 4BX BRAMLEY 20/10 MILE - Bramley Primary School RG26 5AH The Terminator - Pewsey Vale School, Wilcot Road, Pewsey, SN9 5EW Cholsey Chase 9-mile MT - 51.573286,-1.155414 Mizuno Reading Half Marathon - 51.422092,-0.982682 Oxford Mail XC - Round 5 - Harwell R.A.L (to be confirmed) Banbury 15 - Spiceball-Leisure-Centre, Banbury, Oxon OX16 2PG Goring 10k - Storton Lodge, Icknield Road, Goring Surrey Spitfire 20 & Tempest 10 - Dunsfold Aerodrome, GU6 8TB Water of Life ½ Mthn & 10k, Marlow - Bisham Abbey National Sports Cntr Combe Gibbet to Overton 16 - Overton Recreation Centre, RG25 3ES White Horse ½ Marathon - OX12 7LB The Bluebell Race 12k – Collingbourne Ducis Virgin Money London Marathon 18th Compton Downland Challenge - Downs School, Compton, Berkshire Treehouse School 10k - Treehouse School, Cholsey, Oxfordshire Three Forts Challenge (Mthn & ½Mthn) - Worthing, West Sussex BN14 9QF

Sue, Jacqueline & Charlotte after the Oxford Mail XC at Culham (we couldn’t find Lucy) HH Dec 2013

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