High-Tail, Mr Pony­tail! BY BRUCE PIN­NOCK

Fast men are like fast cars – but not in a good way.

Runner's World South Africa - - Con­tents - BY BRUCE PIN­NOCK

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…”

BrucePin­nock

De­votes his writ­ing to the much- ne­glected art of run­ning slowly.

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