The River Ayr Way Race: Swimming With Sharks

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

The River Ayr Way Race (Challenge). It's a reported 41 mile source to sea route that follows the course of the River Ayr from Glenbuck to its terminus in the North Atlantic (now shortened to bring the particpants' misery to an end at the Dam Park stadium in Ayr).

I've run this race every year since its inception and despite my shortcomings in 2011 decided to partake again in this, my Annus horribilis.

For me, like any race that takes place in the land of the skirt wearing man, the journey begins at a public transport hub in or near London. Due to Mr O'Leary's distaste for Staffordshire Bull Terriers aboard his Ryanair freedom birds I'm pretty much limited to the train; so it was the 12:30 from Euston to Glasgow for me and Mason (dog).

Aaaah....the train. Let the train take the strain. I may have become used to taking this idea to the extreme. Boots off, Ipod on, glass of vino collapso poured and lose oneself in a psychologically contorting world of music and alcohol.

The key to this particular journey is the timing. You see the 12:30 requires its passengers to change trains at Preston in order to reach the journey's end in Glasgow. Likewise my innate ability to time the quaffing of the wine to coincide with the journey's completion kicks in to ensure the final sip is taken as the train arrives in Preston.

A twenty minute connection provides the adventurous traveller with the opportunity to seek out and purchase a second bottle of wine to be enjoyed on the Preston to Glasgow section of the journey.

And so Glasgow City sees the arrival of a Londoner with lips so purple he resembles The Joker out of Batman and legs so wobbly he could give Shakin' Stevens a run for his money. This is, of course, standard fayre for the Subversive Runner who has a history of mixing hangover and race. But the existence of a drunken Londoner in Glasgow is like an alternative reality of the drunken Glaswegian complete with purple can and shouting at the traffic in England's capital city.

Anyway, race day and sobriety arrive and Richard Cronin, the author of the excellent blog, The Beirut Taxi, who is in town from Ireland to undertake his first ultramarathon, is raring to go on the start line having indulged in nothing more intoxicating than Strathaven tap water. His attempt to hogtie the Subversive Runner with spiced beef failed miserably as historically this particular Irish delicacy is probably the forerunner of the kebab- a normal pre-race meal for SR.

Personally I toyed with the idea of not starting the race: I haven't trained (nothing new there); I've suffered major emotional and mental kickings this year; I've been gorging on spiced beef all night. But what the heck, I'll have a go anyway.

I know I've got fifteen decent miles in me and after that I know I'll start to suffer a little. I should be able to get over that hurdle to grind out a marathon after which I'll just hang on as my body slowly begins to fall to pieces.

And so I begin the race in my normal way: no plan, just run comfortably and await the pain. I know the route but the recent wet weather has transformed the going under foot to little more than a bog and the reduced income of the local authority has allowed the nettles to grow to armpit height.

To begin with I try to dodge around the nettles with my hands above my head. I feel and look like John Inman in Are You being Served so before I start developing an appreciation of Kylie Monogue and Cristiano Ronaldo decide to man up and allow the nettles to sting me to anesthesia.

As I run I know that Richard is in front of me and I'll never catch him. In my wake are Rachel Stevenson, Tim Downie and Big David Ross. I sense their belief that the under trained wine appreciator is easily catchable and will be eaten up like a Krispy Kreme doughnut left alone with Vanessa Feltz.

This keeps me moving forward and after 8 hours and sixteen minutes the Subversive Runner arrives at Dam Park (do you get the idea that I'm not going to bore you off your tits with running shit?).

Shortly after my arrival Rachel runs in with Brian Kennedy.  Shortly after that Tim arrives. Tim is astounded that he's been beaten by an idiotic Londoner and staggers about dazed, and in a strange accent reminiscent of someone from the land south of Hadrian's Wall, repeats:

'He beat me....he beat me....he beat me...'

To be fair Tim hadn't trained either. But there's something I failed to explain the Running Fool at the time that I will detail here.

Racing against an under trained idiot from London is like avoiding a shark attack.

If the shark has been caught and is flapping about on the land it's easy to avoid his razor sharp teeth. You just stand a foot or so away and laugh in his face.

The grounded shark is me in an under trained condition and his tormentor is a fit and race-ready Tim.

However, if the shark is in his home environment and free to manoeuvre and the person that tormented him on land is now attempting avoidance he will be caught, eviscerated, disemboweled and beheaded in a frenzy of blood and foam.

The shark is me in and under trained condition and his tormentor is Tim in similar shape.

The lesson of this tale, Tim is that if you're gonna swim with the sharks make sure you're inside one of those metal cage thingies.