I went to school in Redbourn during the early 1970s when the chances of finishing a school cross-country race in one piece were about the same, as those of a Russian cosmonaut returning safely back to Earth.
When our Physical Education teacher Mr Hasty (now that’s another story) was in a particularly belligerent mood, the cry would go out cross country boy’s…… These involved epic battles against wild and icy winds, wading through deep and icy streams and clambering up impossibly steep and icy mud-banks. Pretty much everything was icy during those dark midwinter challenges. Split into 3 teams (houses), Scott, Rhodes and Purcell.
Team Scott took these races seriously. To help me along the way, I had an old strapless Timex watch, just small enough that I could wrap my icy fingers around its circular shape. I’d inherited it from my father and it had about 50 per cent chance of jamming during the run. For the runs where it didn’t jam, I remember recording my times and those of my team-mates in a vast table on scruffy paper. Although our team never came close to winning any so-called races, we nevertheless considered those running statistics to be so vital to the continuation of the human race that we kept copies of the table in three different lockers incase one should mysteriously disappear or be destroyed by a rival team.
Our running times were recorded in the table’s first column. The second column was reserved for “estimated distance”. The team took it in turns to calculate this distance and we used a strange implement donated by our geography teacher. At one end, a little wheel was run along the surface of a map, carefully charting out the route. At the other end, a dial showed the distance. The method was so precarious that we had a rule of best of three attempts – the slightest bump in the map could add 100m, a bad crease would add 500m.
My best friend was a real runner and belonged to the real sports team Rhodes, he maintained that his balance during runs was so sensitive to variations in atmospheric pressure that he could sense changes in weather before anything actually happened. There was no reason not to believe that he could be wrong. Mr Hasty would holler, “So Archer, what’s it going to be like out there boy” “awful sir” he would reply…. Umm we would all agree. So later, we would enter “bloody awful”
The fourth column was marked “misc” and was regarded as the most important. Perhaps the most hotly debated factor in this column was marked “hair”. After much discussion, we concluded that long hair gave men real strength John Walker had just broken the mile world record, which concluded our speculation, so we decided to record our hair length in this column.
Another important factor was “socks”. Although the wisdom of this policy has since been lost, it was believed that black socks made you run faster. Another entry in the column was mysteriously marked “underwear?”
These days when we set out for a run, satellites follow our progress with precision and beam down messages to let the “Trainer” on our wrists know how we’re doing. Perhaps sadly, virtual training partners have now replaced ‘old School team-mates’
No doubt (if they are still running) the old members of Scott House are being tracked by the same satellites. Today, after their runs, they will plug their Sport Kit and Trainers into a computer, allowing vital information to be sorted into columns.
No what in the @#$% was the underwear column for?
Source : The Redbourn Scribbler