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Phoenix Running Club Stories

Rime of the Phoenix Running Club

Writen and performed by John Taylor at the Christmas Party

On board then, in our minds now,
the ancient coach, he walks.
With glittering eye and uncombed hair,
with caustic tongue, he talks.

Then the storm blast came from hell.
The wind was very strong.
We lost our captain overboard.
Things started to go wrong.

Leaderless, the team despaired,
and chaos ruled the day.
Some said this and some said that.
Was mutiny far away?

Ashes, ashes everywhere.
But wait, what do we see?
Phoenix runners rally round
and vote for coach Larree.

He ruled us with an iron hand.
Our shoes were done up tight.
One wrong move, we’d find ourselves
in Mundy overnight.

The club was tight; “Yes, sir”, we cried.
There was no room for error.
The tension grew enormously.
There was a reign of terror.

With thirty-seven pairs of shoes,
he filled the Phoenix need.
A thriving club, with dashing crew,
on board and up to speed.

Today, our door is open wide
and all are welcomed in.
All for one and one for all.
I’m proud ‘cos we all win.

Where would we be without this group
Of misfits, everyone?
The only thing that we all share
is the ability to run.

Dave peers into his huge, wide screen,
the God that keeps him well.
Then sinks into his Lazyboy
and watches NFL.

Peggy sets the perfect tone.
She’s good to have around.
Without this charming ray of hope,
our ship would run aground.

Life on board is not all nice.
It’s not an ocean cruise.
Sometimes we swear and curse out loud;
our tempers we do lose.

At times like this, we turn to Vic
for his good example.
He clears the path of all things bad
that we otherwise would trample.

For sooth, aromas exquisite,
flow from the Reis’s stove.
The Phoenix chefs must be at work,
a pleasant sight by jove.

With sleeves rolled up and aprons on,
the three of them set to.
Cathy, Wendy, Allison,
to make an Irish stew.

With eyeballs out, at ninety pounds,
Nancy’s an awesome sight.
Cleaning up in every race
and not afraid to fight.

When it comes to recruitment,
Stevie is the one.
With Twitter, Meetup, Skype and text,
he still finds time for fun.

The only one of all of us
to toe the starting line,
while talking to her teenage girls
to see if they are fine.

Maureen is the perfect mom.
Her priorities are right.
Everybody else comes first;
then she’s out of sight.

One of our crew looks at his watch
and tells us when to go.
At workout’s end, we look for him
but he sometimes does not show.

Jim pushes hard no matter what.
He doesn’t count the cost.
This is an admirable thing to do
but he’s  always getting lost.

Now you see him, now you don’t.
He travels to the sun.
All day he windsurfs with the sharks
and still finds time to run.

The sun’s rim dips, the stars rush out.
The solitude is rent.
One hundred miles down the path,
it’s Moses, he’s hell bent.

This mountain man, whose eyes are bright,
whose beard is big and rich,
wobbles slowly like a drunk
and falls into the ditch.

John’s running days seem over now,
but there’s no doom and gloom
‘Cos now he cycles all day long
and sings a different tune.

With his long legs, we love this guy,
but not as much as Mom.
Joey bumps all of our fists,
then shows us how to run.

When flocks of dogs are running wild
and we are sore afraid.
Here comes Mark, with Durham voice,
and they all run away.

Got a problem with your diet?
Run a mile with Kit.
Having trouble with your core?
He will answer it.

With three little kids aged four, two and two,
life can be hectic, just like a zoo.
With soccer and music and even ballet,
when it’s all over, they still want to play.

It’s a balancing act of major proportion,
then she runs on the trails and disregards caution.
Leah’s a person who never says quit.
She charges ahead once her fuse has been lit.

Rene is tall and fond of cheese.
He comes from Switzerland.
He holidays in posh hotels.
His views  are far from bland.

Katherine’s life is quite extreme.
It’s full of stop and go.
She directs traffic all day long,
then to the hills she’ll go.

Her traffic skills are useful, too,
when she is in her home.
She must be careful moving through,
the house a treasure trove.

If world issues is your thing,
link up with Heather T.
As you discuss the Middle East,
your speed will slow enormously.

Five hundred stairs go up the hill,
with not an easy one.
The stairs, the stairs are everywhere,
‘neath the rising of the sun.

Up and down and up and down
like a ship upon the sea.
Up and down he plodded on,
with hands upon his knee.

The sun beat down, his throat went dry.
There was no time for lunch.
Up and down and up and down,
this was the dreaded Crunch.

With foam-flecked face and gritted teeth,
he was an awful sight.
Forever onward, he pushed hard,
with the dimming of the light.

He vowed to fight another day,
he would be coming back.
But until then, he must admit
the stars will fade to black.

Lest we forget those other souls,
whose efforts we admire,
to make this club a better one,
praise Mary, Tom and Saira.
Simrin, Nathan, Nancy, Vas,
Andrew, Chris and Tyler,
and the list goes on and on,
Sharon, Geoff and Sarah.
Raymond, Dave and Warren, too,
what a group of trusty souls;
all  members tried and true.

Satisfied that we pushed hard,
George turns slowly from the track.
“Meet you in the coffee shop.”
he calls when slowly looking back.

This little rime is over now
as you ponder this past year.
Now raise a glass and all give thanks,
to your teammates, loud and clear.

CORNISH TALES - John Taylor's adventures on the Cornish Coastal Paths

cornwall-2.jpg

May 2014

I was ten years old when my family decided to spend our next year’s summer holiday in Penzance. None of us had ever been to Cornwall so we looked forward to it. Cornwall conjured up visions of shipwrecks, smugglers and pirates, as well as sandy beaches and caves.

The day after we arrived in Penzance, we claimed a spot on the beach, and I raced into the icy surf, turned around and raced back out again, only to see a girl up to her neck in a water-filled hole in the sand. Rushing over to help, I pulled her out, and took her to her parents. The next day, I invited Claire to the Lobster Pot cafe for strawberries and cream. This was my first date. Ever since then, Cornwall has exerted an irresistible attraction to me and even though I didn’t find any pirates, I did save a damsel in distress.

cornwall-1.jpg

In May, 2014, I returned to Cornwall with the aim of walking from Minehead to Falmouth, which went well until the weather turned nasty. Gale force winds drove me into the Mullion Cove youth hostel where I met several other people waiting out the storm. It wasn’t long before we began swapping stories. Here are some of them.

Anastasia’s Tale    

Anastasia Beris is her own person. While most British people travel to Greece for the sunshine and the food, she is one who travels in the opposite direction. She visits Cornwall every year. Her reasons are interesting; she prefers the Cornish scenery and doesn’t like the heat in Greece. She explained how similar the Greeks are to the Cornish in that they all seem to wear their emotions on their sleeves. Love, jealousy, humour, anger and empathy are all very close to the surface. However, there are some things that the Cornish do better. These are Anastasia’s five rules for living. Rule one is to keep moving because doing the opposite encourages very bad health. Rule two is try to be kind even in tough situations. This will result in having many friends and friends are good for you. Rule three is to lighten up. This will reduce the bad kind of stress. Rule four is to try not to do things that you don’t love. And rule five is to start now on the first four.

As soon as she finished her little speech, she gave us all a firm hug and a kiss.

The Historian’s Tale

There must be at least thirty lighthouses along the coast of Southwest England and they say that if you spread out the shipwrecks, you would have one wreck every two hundred yards. Most of the existing lighthouses are now automated but still warn ships with their beams and foghorns. Frederick Farrady, who sat quietly in the corner of the room, was asked by us to explain his mission. He introduced himself as an historian who studies the history and operation of lighthouses. He said he spends about six weeks every year volunteering at lifeboat stations. On this trip, he was walking from lighthouse to lighthouse, and upon arrival, would spread out his bivvy sac and spend the night under the beam as it swept over him every ten seconds. He said he was really lucky when he was treated to the foghorn as well. He was the only one amongst us who hoped the weather would be foggy.

The Botanist’s Tale

Kylie O’Toole, smelling bewitchingly of calla lily, looked at us over the top of large and rather attractive glasses. Whenever she was asked a question on the native flora, she would reach into her fanny pack, pull out her wildflower book, and, after a quick flick, accurately answer the question. Her knowledge of the local vegetation was incredible. Whether it was the blooming season of Calendula or the favourite environment for Sweet William, she knew the answer. Kylie was a sweet lady who could not have been any taller than four feet nine inches and this came in handy as most plants along the path were less than twelve inches tall. Gorse seemed to be the dominant species, it’s colour being so outrageous that it hurts the eyes. Some fields have so much gorse in them that the young bulls find it more comfortable to stand on the path which makes it a bit unnerving for those amongst us who live in cities and find ourselves having to squeeze by.

When we had run out of questions, Kylie seemed relieved, and resumed her prior habit, that of eating chocolate Digestive biscuits.

The Postman’s Tale

Matt Kimber, the postman, was in Southwest England for one reason only, and that was to break the fifty plus age record for the six hundred and thirty mile path. To break the record, he had to complete it in twenty-eight days, which is astounding considering the elevation gain totals four times Mt. Everest, or one hundred and twelve thousand feet! To us mere mortals in the room, who have a tough time doing fourteen miles per day, he had to cover twenty-four. With that pronouncement, he bade us goodnight as he had to get an early start in the morning.

The Massage Therapist’s Tale

Silken, (she refused to divulge her last name), was enjoying herself listening to the stories of the other people in the room as she nibbled on almonds and drank from her water bottle. She lived in London and spent her days helping athletes recover from tough competitions by massaging tight muscles and walking up and down on their spines, something that I could have used after already having walked two hundred miles. She had a theory that all five of your senses must be balanced in order to achieve perfect mental health. Realizing that she was overdosing her sense of touch because her job required it, she felt she had to spend her holidays rebalancing. Every year she achieved this by walking the South West Coast Path which offered her the scenery, the sea, the wind, fresh fish, wildflowers, farm animals, cider, seabirds, nasturtiums and Cornish pasties. I made a note to myself that, from now on, i would pay more attention to my senses in case I got unbalanced. I might also drink more water and start eating almonds.

The Pilgrim’s Tale

We have all read about people who make personal sacrifices to collect money for their favourite charity like the man who “ran” the London marathon in a diving suit. It took him five days but he did it. What about the person who rowed across the Atlantic or the fellow who swam from Alcatraz to the mainland in shark-infested water pulling a boat with sixteen people aboard, with his hands and feet tied. Well, sitting in front of us, with his feet in a bucket of ice water, was a man who was well on his way to walking the six hundred and thirty mile South West Coast Path barefoot! Only those who have walked the path can comprehend this feat (no pun intended). Yet, there he was, Christopher Slade, not even complaining. Why complain, he said, when what he was doing paled in comparison to the suffering of the Syrian refugees. Can you imagine the pain? It rivals Terry Fox. All he will get out of it is a great feeling of having helped, a line in the Guinness Book of World Records and never again having to buy another pair of shoes.

The Swimmers’ Tale

There was a knock at the door which the pilgrim answered. He was greeted by two gorgeous twin sisters who introduced themselves as Simrin and Saira Finn from Fishguard in Wales. They were eighteen years old and obviously very fit. When asked where they had come from that day, they said Prussia Cove, three miles away. It soon became clear that they had not walked but had swum and were determined to swim the entire coastline. I asked Simrin what it was like being identical twins doing the same things. She said that they were only identical when they were in the water. On dry land, each did her own thing. Simrin wanted to be rich and spend her free time day trading while Saira simply wanted to pursue perfect blessedness by extinguishing all selfish needs and desires. For obvious reasons, I wanted to find out more about these unique sisters who were extremely easy to talk with. They definitely shared many qualities: both were risk takers and self directed. They were goal orientated and polite with enormous tolerance to physical pain. Like all teenaged girls, they loved music and dancing: Simrin liked Bruce Springsteen while Saira preferred Bhangra and when it came to heartthrobs, both swooned over Daniel Craig. When I asked why they had chosen the south west coast of England for their swim, they said that their coach would not stop talking about it, so, to shut him up, they had to do it. By now, I thought it was time to stop questioning them so I allowed Simrin to move over to the computer and Saira to sit cross legged on the floor to meditate.

The Poet’s Tale

Just as we all thought we had seen and heard everything this stormy day, a man stumbled into the room, wet faced and bedraggled. Sinking into a leather chair, he looked at all of us through glowing eyes, set in a face that radiated happiness. Samuel Greenacre was his name: he was a poet. He had come from Falmouth and wished to relate a recent experience which had moved him greatly. He asked our permission for him to present it in the form of a poem.  He stood up and began.

    It was Valentine’s Day on the old Truro road.
    An old man appeared as if under a load.
    He came to a halt under three balls of brass
    and rubbed a clear spot on the dirty old glass.
    Pressing his face to the small window pane,
    he saw something there that kindled a flame.
    His heart gave a flutter, his forehead grew damp.
    He no longer felt like a useless old tramp.
    The thing that he saw made his fingers fly free
    and from deep in his mind came an old memory.
    There in the pawnshop in a box made of tin,
    lay a varnished and tarnished old violin.
    Covered in dust along with its bow,
    it seemed very old but to those in the know,
    It got their attention and caused them to stare,
    for the strings of this instrument were made of hair.
    The old man who saw it could hardly resist,
    as he saw a bargain that could not be missed.
    He offered ten pounds: twas all he could raise.
    With his tenner accepted, the old man gave praise.
    As he carefully lifted it out of the case,
    a smile slowly spread all over his face.
    And with trembling hand and anticipation,
    tucked it under his chin and felt the elation.
    Then issuing forth and with total surprise,
    out came a tune that brought tears to his eyes.
    With an absence of effort it flowed through the air,
    it amazed the pawnbroker and caused him to stare
    at the little old man as he danced through the shop
    with his heart full of joy and unable to stop.
    This was the best music he had ever played
    from a violin that had been beautifully made.
    The tune that he played flowed like the sea,
    it tugged at his heart strings and set him free.
    When the solo concerto was finally done,
    the shop felt as if it was filled with the sun.
    The old man was moved like never before
    as he hugged his fine purchase and then left the store.
    This wonderful violin would fill his last years
    with happiness, love and even some tears.

When Samuel sat down, there was silence for a few seconds, and then we applauded his touching tale. This was indeed an interesting day in the Mullion Cove youth hostel.

The Anaesthetist’s Tale

Ever since he was a young boy, Kyle Gascoyne was fascinated by the state of unconsciousness, dreams, sleep and sedation. He enjoyed sleeping and dreaming so much that his mother had difficulty prying him out of bed in the mornings. He did not take kindly to these interruptions, especially if he was in the middle of a dream about Madonna, his favourite celebrity. Occasionally, like all of us, he needed a spot of surgery due to various hockey injuries and the doctors were always amazed at his positive attitude towards anaesthesia. He even asked the dentist to put him under instead of administering the needle. So Kyle became an anaesthetist.

Since Kyle’s first visit to the Southwest Coast Path it made such an impression on him that Madonna was shunted into second place. He would rather dream about places like Penzance, Zennor, Fowey and Mousehole. That’s why he was in the lounge that day; he was living a dream. Kyle’s amazing ability to sleep gave him massive powers of recuperation which allowed him to move at top speed when necessary in his chosen sports of ice hockey, lacrosse and running. His bursts of high octane energy seemed to be fueled by a diet of mushrooms, strawberries and cider which he consumed in prodigious quantities.

The Holocaust Survivor’s Tale

Before my arrival at the hostel, I had walked thirteen miles from Porthleven accompanied by Moses Feinberg, an eighty-six year old survivor from Sobibor death camp in Poland during the second world war. He told me about his escape which had been organized by Russian soldiers who were also prisoners in the camp. When the time came, six hundred inmates rushed the main gate. Only three hundred made it to the forest. Moses was one of them.

I asked my friend why he chose to endure such hardship on the Cornish path at his advanced age and he replied that he was toughening himself in case he had to endure something similar in the future. He then confided a secret to me. He had arrived at Sobibor by cattle train with his mother and younger sister. The group was split into two, women and young children to the left, men and older boys to the right. The males were given jobs. Moses’ job was to shave the heads of the women and children and send them to the gas chamber. To his horror, Moses’ family entered the room. He called them over and was faced with an impossible decision. Should he keep quiet, tell them and say goodbye or drop his clippers and go with them? He prolonged the hair cutting as long as he was able and did not tell them. He has suffered ever since.

As we approached the hostel, it started to rain heavily and the wind howled; was God as upset as we were? We both entered the hostel with our faces streaming with water.

The Dogwalker’s Tale

Joey Capone, sitting on an overstuffed sofa in the youth hostel lounge, was covered by three large, tired dogs with their tongues hanging out. Joey himself looked in fine form as he fed his animals handfuls of dog biscuits, eagerly anticipating his turn to tell us what he was doing there that day.

I first bumped him and told him to begin his tale which turned out to be very interesting. Wishing to see South West England and not having a lot of cash, Joey decided to walk dogs for a fee which would cover his youth hostel bills.

He arrived in Minehead and began his search for employment. He found a large stone manor house with a long gravel driveway with a Bentley parked on it. Walking on the gravel alerted the dogs inside the house to bark ferociously. This was a good sign so he rang the bell. This excited the dogs even more and made it very difficult for the lady of the house to open the door. Mrs. Barnardo looked to be at the end of her tether and was less than polite to Joey. But, when he offered to walk her dogs, she couldn’t believe her luck. She ushered him into the great room and served him hot buttered scones and a pot of Earl Grey. Joey showed Mrs. Barnardo his references and they came to an agreement that Joey would earn one pound per mile for each of the five dogs. Realizing how tough it was for the lady to handle her dogs, Joey offered to “walk” the dogs 630 miles to Poole which is the full length of the Southwest Coast path. Money was no object to Mrs. Barnardo so she agreed and even supplied Joey with a backpack full of dog biscuits. Thirty minutes later Joey swaggered down the driveway with Ginger, Phlox, Diesel, Snowdrop and Bighill, the bulldog.

All went well until they reached the high cliffs of Treyarnon which was a breeding ground for seagulls. The sight of hundreds of gulls on the edge of the cliff drove Phlox nuts; he raced to the edge and sailed into space.

This sad event forced Joey to leash the remaining four dogs and the loss cut into his profits. With four dogs pulling him along, he made record time to Zennor, an area known for its adder population. The adder is the only poisonous snake in the UK. Normally, it won’t bother you but when confronted by four charging dogs, it had to protect itself. Poor old Diesel got bitten in the leg and died three hours later. Joey felt badly for the loss of Diesel and his dwindling profit.

By now it was dark outside the hostel and Joey had to retire to his dorm before the three dogs trapped him on the sofa. We thanked him for relating what was one of the more interesting tales of the day. We all lined up for our fist bumps, stroked the dogs and said goodnight.

Reverend Fonseca’s Tale

Completely overlooked in the lounge that evening was a small, wiry man who was tanned like a piece of leather. He was dressed in simple clothing but our attention was drawn to the priest’s collar which was partially covered by his anorak.

We asked the Reverend his reason for being in the youth hostel as today was Sunday. He told us that his parish was on Mullion Island where he lived in a yurt and spent his free time bird watching and peering through his telescope to spot ships in distress. As the sea was too rough that day, he was unable to hold Sunday service. He only held church services in fine weather when a calm sea allowed his congregation to reach the island. Instead of ringing church bells, he banged drums to announce the ten o’clock service.

The Reverend loved animals and encouraged his congregation to bring their pets to church where they could socialize with the minister’s resident goats and peacocks. Instead of bringing money for the collection plate, Reverend Fonseca suggested his flock bring food for the animals.

Vic Fonseca told us that his family could be traced back to the days of the Spanish Armada in 1588. Many Spanish ships were wrecked on the Cornish coast causing the survivors to stay in Cornwall. At that time, Cornwall needed men to replace miners and fishermen lost in accidents so the Spaniards were accepted into Cornish society. Even today, the Spanish influence can be seen amongst the locals including the Reverend Vic Fonseca.

The Joker’s Tale

Few Cornish people walk along the coast path and even fewer stay at youth hostels but today we were lucky to meet a true Cornishman. His name was Winston Poldark and he was huge. From his bushy beard to the boots on his feet, he was all in black, a quite intimidating sight really but he did have a kind face and a twinkle in his eye. From his backpack came a plastic tube that transported an amber liquid into his mouth. Winston’s accent was charming and the volume of his voice filled the room.
As he took another swig from the tube, I told him how lucky he was to be born and bred in my favourite county of England. His reply left us all in no doubt about the fact that Cornwall is not a county and is not part of England. None of us argued.

He then launched into a story about a man who had toured England visiting churches. In all of these churches, he had seen solid gold telephones on the walls with signs that read “Speak to God-ten thousand pounds per minute.” As the man crossed over the Tamar River into Cornwall, he visited his first Cornish church. Sure enough, there on the wall was a solid gold telephone but this time the sign read “Speak to God- twenty-five pence.” Mystified, this man sought out the minister and asked him why this call to God was so cheap in Cornish churches. The minister replied that in Cornwall, it was a local call.

Winston roared with laughter, slapped Joey on the back and caused the dogs to cower in the corner. There was a moment of silence after the laughter died down, so I brought up the most popular English subject, the weather. I commented on how strong the wind was that day which brought the Cornishman back to life. “Windy?” he said, looking at me as if I didn’t have a brain. “That’s just a breeze; a real Cornish wind blows lumps of granite sideways!”After that statement, the rich amber fluid took its toll and Winston fell asleep allowing the dogs to reclaim their spots on Joey’s lap.

The Detective’s Tale

Long stretches of the Cornish path are far from civilization and can only be reached on foot or by boat. Cliffs restrict boats from landing and severe climbs limit hiking. Add to this a landscape riddled with abandoned tin mine shafts and it becomes an ideal place for those people wishing to escape detection. This explained why the Mullion Cove youth hostel received a visit from DCI Vera Wycliffe that stormy afternoon.

Vera was not dressed for hiking and was not fit enough to handle the path but she was tough and determined to catch criminals. It seemed that a bank had been robbed in Penzance and the perpetrator had hidden the banknotes under the carpet of his ensuite room in the Mad Hatter B&B. The landlady had discovered the money while vacuuming his room. Vera and her squad had arrived thirty minutes too late. All roads had been blocked and the harbour and train station were being watched. The only way out for the robber was the coastal path which he must have used as his suitcase was found on the trail.

Vera questioned all of us and checked our bags and our IDs but drew a blank. Christopher, the pilgrim, and Fred, the historian, two of the toughest people you could meet, offered to search the local mine tunnels and caves for clues to the robber’s whereabouts. Christopher put on his shoes and all three of them ventured out into the foul weather conditions and we never saw them again.

The Wife of Bath’s Tale

Not long after detective Wycliffe had departed from the hostel with Christopher and Frederick in tow, the door opened and in came a worried looking woman clutching a photograph. She was bodily and facially attractive despite a large gap between her two top front teeth. She walked through the room and proceeded to search the hostel. She returned to our room, held up her photograph and asked if we had seen her husband. Anastasia asked what reason he would have for abandoning her. Betty, the wife from Bath, admitted that she had spent too much time holding city meetings in their house, resulting in her husband, Liam, spending more and more time in the local pub.

Betty came home one night to find his drawers empty. He loved south west England so she had begun her search here. Dublin was where he was born so she would continue her search there. She left dozens of posters on the table, asking that, if we saw him, to tell him she would henceforth give up her meetings and be the most perfect wife of Bath.

The English Teacher’s Tale

Living in or visiting Cornwall makes some people want to write stories or poems even if they have never done it before. The inspiration comes from its history, the landscape and the people that live there. David Sermon, an English teacher from Sussex, told us that Cornwall has produced more famous authors than any other county in England. From Daphne Du Maurier, William Golding, Winston Graham, Rosamunde Pilcher to D.H. Lawrence, the list is endless. David had just walked from Zennor where he had visited the house that Lawrence had written “Sons and Lovers” in. He had lived there with his German wife during World War Two. The locals were highly suspicious of her because, the saying goes, she changed the colour of her curtains too often, and rumour spread that she was signalling German submarines. It got so bad that Lawrence was banned from the local pub, The Tinner’s Arms, so they finally moved.

David’s next port of call would be Menabilly in Fowey, the old house where Daphne Du Maurier wrote most of her books. After completing his journey, he would bring students from his school to see if the gift of writing would rub off on them.

The Writer’s Tale

When the Cornish tin mining industry collapsed because tin could be mined cheaper in Malaysia, Cornish miners emigrated, taking their skills and work ethic elsewhere. Many travelled to North America. Kay Penhale told us that her ancestors were part of that migration, ending up in and around Savannah, Georgia. Kay was visiting Cornwall to seek out the towns and churches from whence they came. Her search closed in on three places; St. Just, Rock and Fowey. The churches and graveyards of these towns just happened to be some of the most interesting in the county. She had already visited St. Just and St. Enodoc and soon would see St Winnow near Fowey. Walking long distances did not present a problem for Kay as she had recently completed the Camino de Santiago trail in Spain and written a story about it. She is a bright, high energy person, who, rather surprisingly, hiked in a skirt; her reason being that nylon hiking pants made a swishing sound as one leg passed the other and twenty thousand swishes a day was annoying. She stood out amongst the other people in the room who mostly wore browns and greys because she had chosen purple. Apparently, purple confuses bulls and they back off.

She found this worked in Spain and so far was working in Cornwall, even though she disliked purple. Kay encouraged me to write this article and it was a unique opportunity, one that may not happen again, but I am sure she will be motivated to write a far superior one and, maybe, one day, we will read about ourselves in National Geographic as she is a contributor to that magazine.

The storm raged for most of the night, but, as is often the case in England, the weather changed and we were greeted by a calm, fresh, sunny morning. I spent the first part of the day making notes on the people I had met and then, after lunch, I resumed my marathon. As I walked along the beach at Kynance Cove, I felt rejuvenated and refreshed. It was the calm after the storm. It was late afternoon and the few people who had been there during the day had gone. There was no wind. The sea was quiet. The sun was two hands from the horizon. The sand ripples were as regular as the lines in a child’s exercise book. Barley and wheat were ripening in the fields nearby. The voices of the people I had met rang in my ears and I was already looking forward to my next visit to Cornwall which would give me a physical challenge and an emotional boost, two things which the South West Coast Path provides like no other place on earth.

Joey’s Story - 2013 BMO Marathon

July 2013

Hello this is Joey here telling you about my great first experience at this year’s BMO Vancouver Marathon.It’s race morning and everybody is dancing, talking and having a good time. The race starts: I said to myself let’s go. I feel I am doing a good job with my pace and endurance but at about the 28km point in the race I had to stop and walk a bit due to a hip pain which surprised me, but I said to myself “Don’t give up yet, you must continue, you’ve trained too hard to quit keeping going, you’re doing a good job.”

 Stiff and sore, with a few gel packs and water breaks throughout the race I get myself back into the run.  Finally, I see the finish. I said, “Okay there it is I’ll just jog it for now and see how I do!” Suddenly I found myself sprinting for the finish line and I just ran like I’ve never run before!!!!! Finished with a time of 4 hours and 30 minutes. I was happy with this time for my first marathon.

 After the event I was proud of myself for finishing this amazing race.  Also, I’m glad that I had this opportunity and you know what they say, “If you train hard and set goals you can achieve anything.”

Once again I would like to thank all my friends from Phoenix Running Club for helping me get to the marathon as well as my parents and sister and her fiancé Adam for their support. Looking forward to next year!

 -- Joey Gargaro

Bon Voyage sendoff for Saskia and Arianna

August 2012

Phoenix Running Club wishes all the best to Ariana and Saskia, two loyal club members, as they embark upon exciting adventures for the upcoming year. Saskia has already travelled to Belgium as a Rotary exchange student to participate in her Grade 12 school year and very soon Ariana will be attending Lester B. Pearson College, on Vancouver Island, for the International Baccalaureate program. We know that they will be successful and that they will return having benefited from the wonderful opportunities presented to them.

We also hope that they will keep fit and return to Phoenix better than ever.We will, however, miss their enthusiastic discussions and joy of running as will their mum, Tasha, but at least she still has one daughter whom we hope will come running with us to fill the void.

Good luck, girls; we will miss you a lot. Have great experiences and don't forget your 45 minutes of daily physical activity.

Have a wonderful year!

My First Ever Half Marathon - Joey Gargaro

Sunday 26th June 2011

Hello this is Joey Gargaro here again to tell you my story on my first half marathon. For starters, before I started the race I asked myself, wow, you're really going to do this? Then the race started. It was easy for about the first 10k but after that it just got tougher and tougher but I thought to myself, don’t quit, don’t give up, look how much you’ve run already. So, the race went on and I got my second wind at the 15k mark and when I kept seeing the signs getting closer to the 21.1 mark, I was like ok I’m just a couple of kilometers away, just keep on moving. Before I knew it I was at the finish line!

When it was all said and done, I said to myself, “wow this run was amazing; I can’t believe I accomplished my first half marathon”. Now that I am hooked, I will keep on practicing and training for half marathons in the future.

Thank you Phoenix Running Club for all those workouts and good advice from the well experienced members, it feels great to come this far, who knows what the future has in store for me.

-- Joey

Tales from Boston

April 2011

As my legs are just beginning to be able to support my body again I recount the events of last weekend’s 115th running of the Boston Marathon. Although it seems debatable now, I choose to run Boston despite the lack of training required to run the distance. It was definitely an incredible trip well worth the journey.  What made this destination marathon all the more memorable was the fact that I was surrounded by fellow Phoenix members.

We arrived early on Saturday morning after a delay with our connecting flight in Minneapolis due to high winds in the mid-west. We later learned that The Frilund Family suffered a similar fate with their connection in Dallas under the same conditions. Despite a lack of sleep I couldn’t wait to attend the Runner’s Expo and Race Package pick-up located next to our hotel. I didn’t think anything could rival the expo at New York but the sheer size and free samples at the Boston Hynes Centre easily surpassed the former.

The next evening we shared a cab ride with Chris and Peggy to the Pre-Race Pasta Dinner held at Boston City Hall. I was amazed at how efficient the organizers we able to accommodate the amount of people who showed up for the dinner. We were lucky enough to find Dave, Adam and Cindy amongst the throngs of humanity.

The next morning we shared a cab with Chris and Peggy to Boston Commons, the site of the buses to transport everyone to the start at Hopington. We were lucky that the cabbie dropped us off at the Northeast side of the Commons because we were seated on the bus before a lot of other people who had lined up patiently further down the park. My only complaint of the bus ride was that Chris asked the bus driver to turn up the heat which was already much too hot to begin with. It must be living so close to sea level in Port Moody that makes your blood thin?

When we arrived in Hopington we were herded into the Athlete’s Village constructed on a high school field. We were treated to warm coffee, bagels, bananas, and canned music. Again we were lucky to find Dave and Adam in the masses. We stood in line one last time for the port-o-potties before being ushered to the starting line.

In preparation for the marathon I read that you should practice a lot of running downhill since the first half is mostly downhill. I was also told many times to go easy for the first part because you will pay for your digressions later in the race. I ignored both points by politely elbowing my way to the front of the pack and ran like a 2:30 marathoner. It felt incredible to run so loose and fluid, something I had not felt in a long time in the months prior. The quaint suburban houses of small town America adorned with American flags proudly displayed on every roof gable flew by without any perceived effort.  But gradually the 3:30 pace per kilometer changed to 4:30 as the feeling of weightlessness changed to a feeling that I was running with hockey goalie pads. I realized early in the race that I had overestimated my fitness and was in for a difficult next few hours. Usually when I reach the halfway point of a marathon I assess how I feel and decide how much faster I can run for the next part. At Boston I was distraught with a sick feeling that I had an insurmountable distance still to cover.  I began to fear I may need to ride the medical bus home. As I climbed Heartbreak Hill in Newton I spent the last remaining energy reserves to force myself not to walk. Oddly enough everything except my injured hip was hurting. My toes began burning as I was convinced I had laced up my new racing flats on the wrong feet. I shuffled the next few miles towards downtown Boston. With a mile to go I came upon a slight underpass which proved to be my demise. I started down the decline with a slight hesitation. That fleeting moment was all that my brain needed for my quad muscles to retire for the day. I collapsed to the ground. I couldn’t believe I had come this far but wasn’t able to continue. I received encouragement from a passing runner but to no avail. I collapsed again after trying to get to my feet. I didn’t know how long I would need to wait for the medical bus but felt demoralized realizing I would receive no finisher’s medal. I heard the screams of a crowd of spectators to my right shouting to not give up. I rose up on my wobbly legs and began the long death march to the finish. As I walked down the underpass I turned and waved to the crowd with gratitude. I made it to the finish and collected my finisher’s medal. It was an emotional moment. I don’t remember ever feeling so bad yet so good after a marathon.

I found Chris at the finish looking like he could run another marathon. He wanted to go for a beer and a peanut butter burger at a famous tavern but I was too sick to oblige. We all met that evening at P.F. Chang’s for Adam’s birthday dinner. Only then did I begin feeling better as I was surrounded by my fellow Phoenix Club members. I vow to run Boston again one day, next time… smarter. The manager of P.F Chang’s gave me his business card asking if I ever needed anything to let him know. I’ll keep it; I may need a place to sleep next time I run the Boston Marathon. 

 

A Fresh New Start At This Year’s Stevestons 8k Race

Hello this is Joey Gargaro here again to tell you about my 1st experience in the Stevenson ice breaker.   For starters I ran in the ice breaker 8k just to break the ice for the beginning of the road racing series.  Thankfully half of the team was there this time which helped me out and I appreciated it.   Anyway I ran this race at a good strong pace then coming through the finish,  I was running so hard that I broke away from everyone and I could see the finish.  I pushed and pushed then as soon as I opened my mouth my jaw locked on me! Thankfully it was near the end of the finish line.  After the race I was all bumped and bruised then it turns out that I came 5th in my age group and I cut three minutes off my 8k race time from the last event I was in.

This race has given me the confidence and incentive to keep training and improve plus it helps with all the baking I have been doing lately at school.

“See you at the next Race Competition!”

-- Joey

The Gunnar Shaw 2010 

A picture story coutesy of Hans Fenz

A reminder of a bright and muddy day.......

A Marathon Experience

by Kit Slade

Since I began running in 1970 I have read and listened to countless stories about running a marathon. While I had long wanted to do one, I never seemed to have the time to commit to doing the long runs necessary to complete a marathon. So after 40 years of running, and retirement giving me the extra time, I thought that, perhaps, time was running out and that I had better do one before the full onslaught of niggling nagging injuries prevented me from running one! Last summer I decided to train for the Victoria Marathon. Vic Suddaby was training for the Wroclaw Marathon in Poland, so we could do our long runs together. I was curious to learn about those fulfilling experiences that I had long read about.

Marathon weekend arrived and my wife and I went to Victoria and stayed with our daughter and her husband. I knew beforehand from my training runs that my goal time of 4:45 was doable as long as my sometime-uncooperative hamstring didn’t fail me.

 

While the wind and rain hammered Victoria the night before, race day morning was clear, crisp, and sunny. Running through Beacon Hill Park was glorious with the morning sun high-lighting the Garry Oaks resplendent with their spectrum of yellow and red leaves. The elite runners passed us on their final circuit through the park, and I was excited to see how well our Phoenix runners were doing. Things went easily until somewhere around the 15 km (9 mile) mark when my hamstring started to tighten. After several stops to stretch it I saw that my goal time was not going to happen. After some muttering to myself about not reaching my goal time I took stock of the situation. I felt a twinge of guilt for my whining after I realized just how lucky I was to be there. The weather was perfect! The crowd along the entire route seemed to be truly supportive and genuine in their encouragement, and I was taking part in a long desired goal! This was a great day! All ages from seniors with walkers to toddlers with home-made signs lined the course. The runners, themselves, ranged from the sleek, smooth, and swift to the overweight and plodding. At my position in the pack people were very friendly and seemed to me not to be taking themselves too seriously as runners, but very seriously as individuals striving to attain their goals. As the mileage and fatigue increased, the brief lighthearted comments between runners around me ceased. My hamstring continued to protest, and I ended up plodding on at a very pedestrian pace. At the 32km (20 mile) mark I walked/jogged and stretched and the miles seemed interminable. I shared a joke with a woman I had been running with since about 19 km (mile 12): Before the start I knew that not meeting my goal was a possibility, but I never expected that I would have to gut it out just to finish before they closed the course! At 37K my daughter met me and jogged the final kilometers with me. That was a very special time for both of us. As I hobbled to the finish line, Dave King (the announcer) called out my name, age, the fact it was my first marathon, and my running club. I couldn’t help but smile as there was a slight pause after he announced, “Phoenix is the club of well respected and successful runner, Nancy Tinari.” In my mind I knew that the silence was in place of, ”How is this guy in the same club?” I stifled a reply of, “Yes, we’re training partners!” An official put the medal around my neck, someone else wrapped a plastic sheet around me, and they both congratulated me as if I were first overall.

 

While I have to admit that there was a time on the course that I thought I may have made a mistake entering the race- it definitely had its painful and frustrating moments. But that was brief and, overall, it was, overwhelmingly, a very positive experience! Since then, I’ve reflected on many events during the marathon, and it still remains one of the highlights of my life. Despite missing my goal time by the biggest margin (proportionally) of any race I’ve been in, it was well worthwhile. It may be that my recalcitrant hamstring has met its limit, thereby restricting potential future marathons to the same time results. The benefits, however, greatly outweighed the relatively brief pain and frustration encountered.

 

Some of the physiological benefits I noticed are the following: even after running for 40 years and with the club for over 11 years my aerobic conditioning and aerobic capacity improved greatly; because of these improvements Saturday warm-up runs became easy; both my pulse rate and blood pressure lowered; on endurance runs, I was able to maintain at least a 95+ % max heart rate.

 

There are a number of intangible effects that make any event special, and my marathon has its share. Our club has many marathoners who have run a number of world class marathons very competitively, but we also have runners who haven’t yet done one. I encourage every one of you who haven’t done one to give it a try. If your experience is anything like mine, you’ll have a very rewarding run. And if I can do it…well, you know the saying.

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