W3C "They use it in the Nursing Homes" MEMORIES


God! Was I naive, somebody at the sawmill where I was then working had suggested that this "supplement" called Complan would enhance my running performance, so first thing Saturday morning there I stood outside Bell's the Chemist on Lake Road, Ambleside, waiting for it to open. Finally the bolt was thrown, the door opened, money changed hands and I shot off back home carrying the magic substance.

Once home I carefully read the instructions on the box and mixed a portion, drank it, got changed into my running gear and headed for the fell. That morning was the Fairfield Horseshoe, only about 9 miles, but with enough climbing to be classed by the Fell Runners Association (of which I was member 119) as a Category A fell race. I tried to get round the course at least once per month, but it could only be done at weekends and was weather dependent. I never ever stretched before I ran, straight out of the car/house/tent and started, usually running slowly at first then increasing the pace if the terrain would allow. I never did, and still don't, see the need to go through some complicated ritual before you run; a fell race, unless your name was Kenny Stewart or the legendary Joss Naylor, was going to be a mix of walking, jogging and running. This philosophy served me well, but there were many who appeared to be doing some excruciating movements as part of a warm up routine.

It was a warm, sunny, June morning as I jogged up Nook End Lane, past the farm and over Low Sweden Bridge with the Scandal beck slipping quietly over the stones, a cool oasis under the overhanging trees. Dropping down the hillside I slipped under the wire fence and found myself on the Rydal Hall drive. Several minutes later I passed the Hall and soon found myself climbing up the track on the open fell. I remember walking up the path here as it climbs the fell known as Nab End with its spectacular views of Windermere Lake behind and, as you neared the ridge, Rydal Water to your left with Silver Howe and the Langdale fells shimmering in the late morning haze. I stopped at the stile for a breather, joining a party of walkers who were spread out on the grass just taking in the view and enjoying the day.

The leader looked at me curiously. "No emergency gear then?" he asked.

"Aye," I replied "got the lot," opening my home-made bum bag to reveal two elastoplasts (first aid kit), pen torch (obvious), two squares of chocolate (emergency rations), and a couple of Dextrose tablets. This is the equipment I carried plus a tent and sheet sleeping bag on the Karrimor 2 Man 2 Day Mountain Marathon at Plas y Brenin about that time which I did with a guy called Dave Mounsey. (We did not complete the first day.) The well equipped walker looked at me and rolled his eyes.

Rather chastised I blasted off up the track and to my surprise went round the course about ten minutes faster than I had ever done it. "Bloody hell," I thought, "I'm on to something here."

The next weekend was the Skiddaw Race and if you did it in less than 80 minutes (if I remember correctly) you got a certificate. The first thing into my bag that morning was the Complan. I pointed the car in the direction of Keswick and off we went; it was an overcast day and the mist hung low over the surrounding fells. I stopped on the summit of Dunmail Raise and poured myself a cup of Complan having worked out that it would kick in about halfway through the race. Quietly confident I resumed my journey. I arrived at the venue and parked, went over and registered; pinning my number to my vest I joined the throng at the starting line. The gun sounded and off we went, it didn't take long for the race to sort itself out and by the time we ascended the flanks of Latrigg we were strung out in a crocodile with some already reduced to walking pace.

We crossed the road and began the climb of Skiddaw, at this point I didn't feel too bad and was in the first 30. We climbed the steep section and passed through the wire fence, ahead of us lay the mist shrouded summit. I suddenly felt ill and shot off to one side of the track to be sick. While this was happening the good part of the field caught me up and overtook, even some of those who had been reduced to walking lower down.

Eventually I got going again and finally reached the summit where my number was recorded before I began the decent. The journey down was a nightmare with more stops to be sick and finally I staggered across the finishing line; it goes without saying I did not finish in less than 80 minutes.

I had recovered sufficiently that evening to go to the pub, the lads were in the dart room.

"I didn't see you today," said Bob, "did you go?"

I shuffled my feet uneasily.

"I saw him," said the other Bob, "puking on the track."

There was much laughter. "I take it the magic potion didn't work?" asked Alan in whom I had confided.

"What magic potion is this?" asked Bob.

"It's called Complan," I blurted out, "it's supposed to be an energy replacement."

Mick, whose mother ran a nursing home down Lake Road, looked at me and smiled, "My mother uses it to put the old girls to sleep," he said.

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