All posts by Stephen Spencer

The Hurt Log Jogger

If you had asked me two years ago to give an example of a sports injury, I would have said a black eye from a secret punch administered in the scrum. Little did I know that these injuries are self-inflicted.

A very late convert to club running, I was keen to try a variety of events. It was on a club training night, running around the local industrial estate, that I witnessed the phenomenon. For no apparent reason, a runner suddenly pulled up, like a lame horse, and sank to the kerb. There was an outpouring of sympathy as he hobbled off.

“I’m surprised you never get injured.” said Paul, although I remained convinced that it would never happen to me, despite the periodic disappearances of my newfound pals.

The first warning sign was a sudden twinge towards the end of a cold Sunday morning run through the woods. We needed to cross a main road. The preceding six miles had been most enjoyable, but then I committed the rookie error of stopping dead, rather than jogging on the spot. No running for two weeks.

The next lesson to learn was that if you are in any doubt, just don’t do it. The local Parkrun course had become very muddy indeed. I had seen people face down in the quagmire and had slipped a few times myself. It became a bit of a strain on the knees and so one of them gave out. Two months out and a few physio sessions have got me back on my feet.

A wiser and warier Frank steps forward.

Hopperish For Absolute Beginners

Brandon Leisure Centre
Forest-edge facility subject of a relatively recent 500k redevelopment. Grid reference TL778863. Rural tennis courts are apparently in set-aside.

Fern
Any one of 12000 vascular plants reproducing via spores.
From the Old English fearn.

Hop (verb)
Old English hoppian, meaning to spring, leap; to dance; to limp.

Ken (verb)
To know. Possibly of Scottish origin. “D’ye ken John Peel when he’s far far away?”?”

Kenometre (noun)
Indeterminate distance. Reputed to be much greater than 1km. Not recognized by Trading Standards.

Steve
From the Greek Stéfanos, meaning wreath, crown, honour, reward. A name disproportionately represented among hopperati and mascots.

Sunday Morning
A two-hour period devoted to fern hopping and often followed by rehydration.

Wibbly (adj.)
Off-piste deviation involving vertical movement, preferably both up and down. 19th Century origins, meaning vague.

Wibbly-wobbly (adverb)
Every which way, but never straight or level. Often run over several kenometres (ibid).

Wobbly (adj.)
Off-piste deviation involving lateral movement. American origin, meaning shaky or unsteady.

Frank’s Journey

Big Frank
‘Frank’ last Christmas

If you have told me this time last year that I would look forward to my weekly 10k run through Thetford Forest with the Fernhoppers, I would have laughed out loud. It’s hard enough walking when you weigh 125kg and your knees are buckling under the weight.

But then a kindly physio referred me to a scheme called Livewell Suffolk. Over the twelve week course I examined my lifestyle and then made a few adjustments. The Livewell group sessions are held in the leisure centre and include free membership for three months. The cunning plan is that you try out the gym equipment and exercise classes. I became addicted first to Body Combat and then to Circuits.

Someone in Circuits mentioned Parkrun and I looked it up. I thought that I would measure a 5k circuit from home, have a go in private and time myself. The first waddle took 70 minutes. But as the weight came off, so did the time. When I was down to 50 minutes I decided it was time to go public and so I signed up for Parkrun and got round without stopping in around 45. The friendly Parkrun became a weekly event. Getting a new Personal Best is a great feeling!

Frank at Nelson Knee Knobbler
Frank at Nelson Knee Knobbler

The same runner who had coaxed me along to Parkrun (he really is called Frank, whereas I am not) got injured and he offered me his place on a curious-sounding race, the Wibbly Wobbly Log Jog. I knew the step-up to 5 miles would be a challenge. The organisers agreed the swap and once I had felt the springy stuff under my feet and seen the green canopy above my head, I was hooked. The extra miles and weekly training sessions mean that I am still getting back into shape, but all this activity is also knocking minutes off the Parkrun time too.

And that’s how I came to be a Fernhopper but perhaps I should also explain how I became “Frank”: There were already six other Steves in the club, including the mascot, an inflatable giraffe. Over the years people have often put Frank and Spencer together. I quite like it really, but I would never wear a beret, despite being a French teacher.