High-Tail, Mr Ponytail! BY BRUCE PINNOCK
Fast men are like fast cars – but not in a good way.
EVERY RUNNING MANUAL
has a chapter devoted to speedwork. The back of the pack take about as much notice of that as a gourmand does a sugarfree, dairy-free ‘health café’ that he passes on his way to the artisanal ice-cream parlour.
Why? Because running manuals were written with fast runners in mind.
A new coach had joined our athletics club – a Frenchman. He invited the members in the ‘top category’ to a speedwork session, on the local soccer field, every Thursday.
Unbeknown to the Frenchman, he had also invited Fats van Vuuren.
When it came to prowess, Fats had delusions of grandeur. What’s all this got to do with the
back of the pack? I hear you ask. Let me explain. Of the three certainties in life – death, taxes, and the fact that no runner, no matter how slow, would ever admit that he or she had finished a race behind Fats – the last was most important to us. How utterly shameful would it be, if Fats stole a march and beat us?
So we couldn’t resist lining up next to Fats at the first speedwork session. The Frenchman instructed us to jog, then speed up to a run, then – as we hit halfway – break into a sprint across the field.
Of course, the coach ran in the ‘top category’. We thought we were doing okay, but his actions suggested he’d grown tired of waiting for us: he overtook us – twice.
And he did so with an effortless stride, which even included a highknee lift, driven by bulging quads. A tight T-shirt revealed sculpted pecs. He had a ponytail, which begged to be shorn off with a pair of hedge clippers – one snip and it would offend no more. But he certainly could run. Boitumelo was the first to comment.
“Wow!” she exclaimed. “He doesn’t just run – he glides.”
Which, while an accurate observation, didn’t go down well with her fiancé, Mpho – who didn’t glide, or stride. The word ‘stride’ could never be used to describe his waddle. Constipated ducks en route to the pond move more elegantly.
The third time he overtook us, Mr Ponytail stopped suddenly, and stared at us.
In a strong French accent, he asked: “I do not weesh to be impertinent, but… why are you here?
“In zis part of ze world, zere are overloaded old bakkies... yes? You are like ze kitchen appliance – how you say, ze fridge in ze kitchen – it runs, but it stands still. Zerefore, ze speedwork should be left to seriously, ridiculously good-looking sports models – like me.
“Perhaps, Boitumelo, you might prefer ze experience of a Ferrari?”
His voice conveyed seduction and suggestion in equal measure.
Boitumelo didn’t hesitate in her reply. “Sorry for you, Mr Speedy Gonzales, but Ferraris are only fit for the race track.
“They’re too low-slung to tackle the speed bumps on real-life roads. And the nerve of you, calling us kitchen appliances!
“I’ll have you know that my wonderful food processer, Mpho, and I are perfectly happy together.”
Then she addressed the back of the pack with what sounded like music to our ears: “What d’you say we sprint over to the clubhouse for a beer?”
Kosie shook his head. “That sounds like a good idea. But do you mind if we trot slowly over to the clubhouse instead, and drink four beers?”
In the end, Fats caved in and joined us for a beer. Mr Ponytail watched Boitumelo go, before attempting a shoulder-shrug of indifference.
He wasn’t fooling anyone.
“He had a ponytail, which begged to be shorn off with a pair of hedge clippers…”
Devotes his writing to the much- neglected art of running slowly.