Sunday, 27 May 2012

Flying the Flag and Avoiding the Eggs

Hydrating for England . . . . 

ON the same evening Englebert was preparing to go into battle for the UK in the Eurovision Song Contest, I too was flying the flag against assorted Europeans, but on a sun-scorched running track many miles to the west.

In terms of topping the charts, both Englebert and me have seen better days, but we both gave our all on Saturday night for Queen and country. Neither of us ultimately came anywhere near a famous victory, being heavily trounced by Scandinavians, but could both put forward our age as a pretty good excuse.

While ‘Hump’ exercised his golden tonsils in Azerbaijan, my task was to tackle a tough 5k race in the heat of the Canary Islands, a setting given its own Eurovision flavour thanks to the driving Europop emanating from a huge PA system at a ‘BodyCombat’ class at the sports resort/training camp where your Clapped-Out runner is currently holidaying.

I should point out at this juncture that slobbing out at poolside is perfectly acceptable here at Club la Santa Sport on the lava-blackened isle of Lanzarote, but with such an array of sporting facilities to hand, that would surely be a criminal way to pass the time. Hence I found myself lining up on the blue athletics track with other mad dogs and Englishmen, the Atlantic Ocean to one side and menacing volcanic hills on the other.

The intense heat was hazardous enough on its own, but Mother Nature also lobbed in some very strong winds and several long hilly bits to add to our discomfort. PBs were clearly not on the agenda today by any stretch of the imagination.

Looking around at the field of about 30 starters, I could find no sporting superstars, or for that matter anyone who looked remotely well known. With it being May, the track and field season well underway in the northern hemisphere, I suspect the usual sprinkling of famous names who come here to train are absent, even though you would think this is an ideal pre-Olympic getaway.

On previous visits here (this is my 17th trip – I’m expecting a loyalty award soon!) it’s been possible to share the track with the likes of Linford Christie, Steve Backley, Heike Dreschler to name but three, share the roads outside with Liz McColgan and Eamonn Martin, and rub shoulders in the bar with England rugby stars.

But not this time. If the likes of Jessica Ennis and Co are honing their London 2012 preparations here at the moment, they must be keeping themselves very much to themselves.

When big Linford used to come here, he was happy to remain highly visible throughout the days and evenings, even though I recall him continually snubbing my then-clubmate from Ipswich JAFFA (step forward Stevie B), who persistently sought his autograph. Linford even came down to the beach one day to take part in the bizarre organised games that went on, including a session of egg-throwing. My own participation in this ended with a spectacular egg shampoo as I held a 50-yard catch, but failed to prevent the egg ejaculating its contents. As I exited for a shower to great cheers from the crowd, Linford quietly scolded me for soiling the smart Puma T-shirt I was wearing.

These days I’m far too old and jaded to go in for things like egg-throwing, so I am channelling energies towards running, pilates (for beginners), and trundling up and down the 50-metre Olympic pool in an aqua-jogger belt (when your swimming ability is as limited as mine, this belt becomes a necessity, not merely an optional extra!).

Getting back to the 5k run, I can report that it was mega-hot, mega-hilly and mega-windy, which at least gave me three very good excuses for my exceptionally modest finish-time of 23 minutes-something. But might I suggest that conditions were so tough that this clocking could be worth the equivalent of a sub-20 at the fast flat Harwich 5k back home in Essex?  (Dream on!).

* Check out Rob Hadgraft's published books on running at

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