10 July 2016
Apparenetly, a wyvern is a legendary creature with a repitlian body, a dragon’s head, a venomous bite and the ability to breathe fire. Today, we were off to a college named after it in Fair Oak for a little race watching. Last July, while Commando ran the Wyvern 10k, his first ever event with the Itchen Spitfires, I had a slightly wet wander around the trails of Fair Oak. A 10k is a relatively short race so I didn’t get as much time to explore as I’d have liked and meant to come back. I never did get round to it. At Wvyern today there would be no running and no exploring. Hopefully we wouldn’t bump into any wyverns either.
Commando’s ankle is better than it was but not enough that he can run on it. Even walking any distance is a bit of a stretch. Reluctantly, he conceded defeat and gave his place up. Rather than stay at home moping though, we went along to watch and cheer on the Spitfires who were running. The race is part of the Club Championship so there were rather a lot of them, one in every ten racers in fact. My job was to take photos of as many of them as I could and, at the speed some of them run, there was no chance for trail wandering.
Like last year, it started off rainy but this year there was a massive blue marquee, a little like a circus tent, on the field to shelter in. It was full of Spitfires pinning on race numbers, stretching and chatting. Jerry and Theresa were fresh off the plane from their holiday in Mexico, looking very brown, feeling very cold and slightly jet lagged. That’s real dedication.
When the rain eased off a little we all piled outside. If the tent seemed like a very civilised addition to the race venue, the coffee stall we discovered just about made my morning. This was proper coffee, freshly made too. Then there was the obligatory team photo on the edge of the running track. Although it looks like Tarmac, the surface is soft and spongy underfoot.
“Wouldn’t it be great if all pavements were made of this stuff,” I said. “Walking would be a pleasure, well, more than it is anyway.”
“It probably costs a fortune. Besides, it’d be all dug up and full of potholes in no time just like the pavements,” Commando said. “A freshly laid pavement is an invitation for a utility company to dig a hole after all.”
With the photo taken we found a good place to watch the start. It wasn’t long before they were off. The usual suspects were at the front and, while Commando and the other spectators cheered and shouted I snapped away, trying to catch every blue shirt I could. As the last runners crossed the start line I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw a chap in a gorilla suit with a huge rucksack on his back. It wasn’t the rain in my eyes or tiredness from the early start he was real. I’m guessing he was running for charity but I bet he was hot.
Once everyone had disappeared around the corner Commando Gill and I made our way to the big tent. We spent the short time we had before the first runners came back wisely. Gill, who’s done a course in taping sports injuries, showed Commando how to tape his ankle to support it using special sticky tape. I took lots of photos just in case Commando wasn’t paying attention.
Then it was time to hobble back to the finish line. We got there just in time to see the first runner cross the line. Close behind was Scott, then Andy, Gerry and Jamie.
Pretty soon the first women began to appear. Sam was the first Spitfire woman and soon the blue shirts with their orange and yellow flashes were coming thick and fast. There was hardly time to register who was flashing in front of me as I pressed the shutter.
Looking at the photos later it was interesting to see the expressions on the faces of the runners. Some were smiling in relief at the sight of the finish line, others looked as if getting to it at all was taking every ounce of effort they had. Some Spitfires jostled for position, others ran for the line together. The penultimate Spitfires came as a pair, Jan and Lindy spread their arms wide and crossed the line like two Spitfires in formation. Then Jan went back to run the last yards with her husband Dave. In the end it wasn’t the winning that mattered. It wasn’t about times or PB’s it was about Spitfire spirit, finishing the course whatever it took, never leaving anyone behind and staying to cheer team mates over the line even if, like Commando, you couldn’t run at all.
With the last Spitfire safely home there was a second team photo. This one of everyone with their hard won medals. It may only have been just over six miles but it was drizzly and humid and there were hills. As we made our way back to the tent we saw the gorilla man heading down the hill towards the track with the tail runners. Everyone earned their medals but it seems to me he should have had an extra one for endurance. We stood and cheered him on.
Back in the tent there were prizes for the fastest. Scott got a trophy for taking second place. Maybe there should have been one for last place too? We never did see any wyverns but I’m beginning to wonder if there wasn’t one hiding under that gorilla suit, he certainly had the heart of a dragon to finish the race.
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