Posts Tagged ‘race’

Do-Do-Do The Funkay Chicken

Monday, August 4th, 2014

My recent adventures in worm charming have encouraged me to seek further animal-based competitions (all with happy outcomes and zero cruelty, of course.). Jon, my social enterprise and environmental development friend (he’s told me I’m not allowed to call him “Garden Boy”), told me about the annual Hen Racing Competition in Bonsall a few months ago and I immediately wanted to go. So Jon, my friends Pooja and Jonathan, and I headed to Bonsall on a rainy Saturday morning to watch the spectacle.

After a slight detour in Derby, which we decided to blame on ‘technology’, we made it to Bonsall as the races were beginning. It was a wet and soggy day so the umbrellas were out and the wellies were on as a few hundred people turned out to cheer on the chickens. Bonsall is a small town and I suspect that the hen race is the biggest event of the year. Saying that, if the hen race was held in London it would be the biggest event of the year there, too.

The race was held in the carpark of the Barley Mow pub with a 20 yard track sectioned off with plastic fencing. The crowds had gathered close to the sides and umbrellas blocked the view so visibility was low for spectators who had turned up a bit late due to scenic drives through Derby. The atmosphere was certainly charged with previous winners returning to reclaim their titles and new birds arriving on the scene with fresh legs. Exciting times at the Bonsall races.

Fighting for the best view.

Fighting for the best view.

Hen racing requires three parties – the hen plus two humans; one to hold and release the bird at the start line and another shaking seed and worms at the finish line. Training is important – hens don’t just run for the sake of it. They need to know where they are going and what they will receive when they get there. Like me, they make decisions based on their stomach but also have a tendency to get lost along the way and simply stop and stare at people.

One of the competitors.

One of the competitors.

Out of around 52 competitors, the winning chicken for 2014 was Road Runner and his ten year old trainer was particularly pleased with the results. It was a very exciting competition but it was a bit unfortunate that the sun didn’t come out until the race had finished. It then turned into a glorious day as we drove back home through the Peaks. Out of worm charming and hen racing, I would pick the worms as my preferred animal event, simply for the weirdness factor. However, Jon is planning on training a hen and raising it to be a born winner. Perhaps next year will bring improved weather and ultimate Hen Racing Championship glory.

Post-race drinks in the sunshine.

Post-race drinks in the sunshine.

In side news, Jonathan photographed the event and they appeared in The Daily Mail and The Telegraph. This story will go down in history.

Le Tour de Sheffield

Thursday, July 10th, 2014

It’s that time of the year again when super-skinny, lycra-clad men ride around on bikes for the entertainment of us less-skinny, less-lycra-clad folk. The hipsters are excited – Le Tour de France has begun and this year it started in good old Yorkshire, land of puddings. There has been plenty of build up to the big event with an increased interest in bikes and the colour yellow. I was visiting my brother in Sheffield over the weekend, which happened to coincide with the York to Sheffield stage of the Tour. I had hoped to see the bikes in action but the route didn’t pass anywhere near the centre of the city and my lack of transport and inability to plan ahead meant that I didn’t make it. Instead, my brother, Dad and I stood outside the Sheffield town hall and watched the riders do their thing on a very large screen. The atmosphere was charged, we had a great view of all of the action and we could listen to Phil Liggett. The Tour isn’t the Tour without Phil. Oh and we waved to a camera man in a helicopter and appeared somewhere in an aerial shot. FAME.

Bikes on a big screen.

Bikes on a big screen.

Two years standing on the Champs Elysée and this year next to a large screen in Sheffield – that must make me a regular Tour attendee. I should get a tshirt.

 

Une Petite Course à Paris

Wednesday, May 21st, 2014

It had been over a year since I was last in Paris. Despite insisting that I would return regularly to see my friends, the ability to travel between Manchester and Paris has turned out to not be as simple as first thought. While the two cities are reasonably close, the cost and travel time between them is surprisingly substantial. Plus life has gotten in the way and my grand return to my favourite city just never eventuated. Until last weekend.

A few months ago, I received a desperate text message from my running buddy, Becky, asking me to come to Paris to participate in a group run. It was a long way to go for a 5 kilometre race, however I was willing to accept any excuse to get me back there. Unfortunately one of our other team members had to pull out and so we never signed up for the group run. Instead, the week after completing the Manchester Marathon, while still feeling the high of running 42 kilometres, I googled “Run Paris 18 19 May” et voila! There was going to be a half marathon starting from the Bois de Bologne and heading out through the banlieue to St Germaine-en-Laye that weekend. I told Becky, we signed up and suddenly a month after completing a marathon we were doing a half. Mon dieu.

Go Number 2931!

Go Number 2931!

The race started at 8am, an hour earlier than both Becky and I thought. We then discovered it would take us 50 minutes to get to the start line. So working backwards, we realised we would need to get up at 5.45am to eat breakfast, get ready and arrive at the race on time. Yay.

Bon matin, Paris.

Bon matin, Paris.

We played ‘spot the runners’ on the metro out to the Bois de Bologne, as more and more people wearing lycra, race numbers and carrying the plastic bags we had been provided to transport our belongings got on the train. The weather was beautiful – clear skies and a nice light breeze. Perfect conditions for the run.

The race was fantastic – described as being 50 per cent urban, 50 per cent vegetation, the route started in one of Paris’s wooded areas before heading towards the suburbs. We passed through small villages, dodging cars, jumping over curbs and turning sharp corners on footpaths. We then headed along the river Seine, running along a sandy path with the water on one side and huge mansions with amazing manicured gardens on the other. It was very beautiful and peaceful. The two hill climbs were less peaceful and my poor legs, which haven’t seen a decent hill in over a year due to Manchester’s ultra flat terrain, were a little bit shocked. However Team Blonde managed to encourage each other up both hills and we made it to the top without stopping. GO TEAM.

There were two issues with the race:

  1. There were no toilets along the route. This is fine for the french men who are able and willing to go to the toilet against any tree, fence, pole or open space they can find. Not so easy for the ladies who either had to drop their dacks in front of hundreds of people or simply hold on.
  2. The water stations served water in paper cups. Have you ever tried running with a cup of water in your hand? Have you then attempted to drink from it? I dare you to try it and if you manage to get more than half of the water into your mouth and not up your nose, all over your hand or on the ground then I will kiss your feet. Perhaps it was therefore a good thing that they were filling the cups with a high pressure water hose so most of the water jumped straight out and you were served a cup that was only a quarter full. Not great. Water is quite important when you’re running 20 kilometres.

The race finished at the Chateau in St Germain-en-Laye which has views over Paris and the surrounding suburbs. It was extremely pleasant to stretch our legs with such an amazing view. Plus we both managed to finish in under two hours (my time was 1 hour 57 minutes) – very pleasing results considering the warm temperatures, the painful hill climbs and the lack of water and toilets. Definitely one of the prettiest races I have ever completed. And I have discovered that a half marathon is less than half as difficult as a marathon. The painful bit of a marathon hits after you have reached the 30 kilometre mark. Becky and I both agreed that 20 kilometres is the optimum race length – not too short and not too long. Now I just need to find another race so that I can add to my ugly medal collection.

Nice view.

Nice view.