Trouble Man

The Yorkshire Three Peaks of Pen-y-Ghent, Whernshide and Ingleborough, form the basis of many events, whose total distance covers approximately 25 miles. I blogged about the recent event organised by Heart Research UK here, however I felt one particular aspect deserved a blog entry of its own.

Most people taking part in the event were walking, and there were only a few runners, so we had to be aware that we were in the minority. A few hellos, good mornings and thank-yous were exchanged to be friendly en route, which also help to diffuse any potential unrest or upset.

On the approach to Whernside (from Pen-y-ghent), there is a small bridge across a stream. As our feet were already soaked due to the poor conditions, we ran straight through the stream, passing a walker on the bridge. I may have heard a comment, but I couldn’t be certain. Meanwhile, with one of our party falling behind our group, we wanted to wait to let them know that, due to the poor weather and visibility, we would next wait for them the far side of the summit. While we waited, the gentleman from the bridge walked past us, making small talk about us running the event as we held open a gate for him.

We were quite close to each other as we went over Whernside, but we had to help another one of our members attend to an injury as we descended. It transpired that she had to withdraw, but we encountered this particular walker again on the higher section of Ingleborough (which doubles back on itself); he was walking down as we were going up. It was particularly steep, so our run had become a walk, but he made another comment, suggesting that he thought we were supposed to be running. I thought his remark was peculiar, but thought little more of it. Until I saw him in the distance, about 2.5 miles from the finish.

As is often the case, I was determined to catch and pass him before we finished – which we did with relative ease. But he made yet another comment, this time suggesting that we were not running the whole event and that we were only running the downhill sections. This was true to a degree, but so what? I powered up the next hill on purpose, partly in anger, but also knowing that he would see me. While I thought his comments were rude, I still thought little more of them. Until the finish.

As we were catching our breath and recovering beyond the finish line, the gentleman finished a few minutes behind us. His first words to the officials were to say that we had cheated as we hadn’t run up each mountain and were only running down them.

Just think about that for a moment. It’s not even like the event was a race.

All I ask is why? What is the point?

Or, do I just care too much?

Here comes the summer

With the summer holidays upon us, it must be time to hit the beach.

Despite some mediocre weather, I ran along the beach yesterday for the first time in more than five years – from Holkham to Burnham Overy Staithe and back.

And today’s walk along the beach in Southwold was curtailed due to the discovery of a WWII mine, which had to be cordoned off. Nevertheless it was nice to see local industry taking advantage of newfound customers.

I will continue in my search for a regular trip to the beach…

Fail to plan, plan to fail

Being a marathon runner, I know the importance of training and preparation. Being a mathematician, I analyse everything.

So how come on the most recent excursion, we managed to leave behind one of our party in Amsterdam? I had booked the tickets months in advance, coordinated all timings and arrangements to everyone involved, and even factored in room for manoeuvre. Yet as we travelled home, things took a turn for the worse.

Holland had certainly been an eye opener. Everyone had spoken of the Red Light District in Amsterdam, the marijuana, the stag dos. But it was the other things that caught our attention: police on Segways; mobility vehicles weaving through the traffic on just two wheels; smokers smoking while boarding the plane; cars taking off over speed bumps on cobbled streets; thousands of bicycles; and questionable logic at pedestrian crossings. But none of this could have helped us realise what fate was about to befall us.

We arrived at the airport in plenty of time (more than 4 hours before take off), had a bite to eat and decided that, as we had already checked in online, we did not need to go to the desk and proceeded to go through passport control. After a strange look and some strong words from the man behind the counter, we showed that we had boarding cards and passed without issue. We waited for about 2 hours before finally going through to the departure gate and once we had squeezed everything into one bag and separated out the liquids, our luggage was scanned and we joined the queue to board the plane.

The plane was in sight. 50 yards stood between it and us. There was one more door to pass and one final check. I went through without indication of a problem. The next went through without concern. And then the last. The boarding pass was scanned. Nothing. Scanned again. Nothing. Why was the machine rejecting the boarding pass? It wasn’t until many read throughs that it finally dawned on us and the air stewardess that the boarding pass was for a flight on a different date.

We couldn’t believe it. How had it gone wrong? How had we not picked up on it before now? How could we have stopped it going wrong? These questions were pointless. They didn’t matter. We had 5 minutes to react before boarding the plane. The ticket desks were closed so the ticket couldn’t be changed and, despite there being seats on the plane, it was not possible for all of us to board the plane.

I suspect if the plane didn’t have orange lettering, the story may have differed, but we had to suffer the consequences of our previous decisions and sacrifices.

There was no choice. One of us would have to stay another night. The others would then drive home that evening only to return back to the airport eight hours later. I also had to make the phonecall. Yes, that phonecall. “Hi, everything’s ok, but…” and “the reason we had to leave your son behind is…” and “he’ll be fine in Amsterdam on his own”.

If only we had checked the boarding card. If only this, if only that. It was no use.

A plan is only as strong as its weakest link.