My Running Life
DAVID BRIGHTLING, 48, BLOODHOUND RUNNER
Bloodhound runner Dave Brightling
BLOODHOUNDING is a sport in which fourlegged beasts (bloodhounds and horses, with riders) chase down human quarry. No artificial scent is laid down or carried – the hounds follow the runners’ scent as they race cross-country between predetermined points. David Brightling, who works as a horse transporter, is a runner for Coakham Bloodhounds in East Sussex.
‘I HAVE BEEN
running with the bloodhounds for six years. It was the idea of running crosscountry through beautiful scenery that appealed to me. I was a bit apprehensive the first time, but the other runner had been doing it for 30 years. The challenge is a different one to a race, because it’s non-competitive, but it gets your heart pounding nonetheless. It’s made me enjoy my running more.’
‘WE ALLOW THE
hounds to have a good sniff before we set off. We get a 20-minute head start before the huntsman sets off the pack, which is followed by the riders. At a typical meet, we’ll cover eight to 15 miles over four to five hunts.’
YOU HAVE TO PACE
yourself. Too slow and you get caught, too fast and you may lose the hounds. And you really don’t know what type of terrain you’ll encounter, or how many hills. We average around nine-minute miling.
IT’S REALLY QUITE
a thrill when you hear the hounds baying nearby. You definitely feel you are being hunted and you definitely don’t want to get caught.'
I’VE ONLY BEEN
caught once. The hounds don’t pile on top of you when they reach you; they’re more likely to lick you to death!
counted in couples. On a hunt there are twelve and a half couples [25 hounds].
I TRY TO RECCE
the area before a hunt, or at least look at a map, to plan a good route. We don’t use footpaths – we’ll go through thicket or wade through water. I’m much more sure-footed on rough terrain since I started doing this. Our job is to keep the hounds together so sometimes we’ll loop back in a triangle, to let the slower hounds catch up.'
Bloodhounds has been going since 1976. It’s nice to be maintaining a rural pastime. The club’s founder, Nic, used to run a sub-2:30 marathon. He’s in his 60s now and rides with the hunt. A day’s hunt may involve getting the permission of 10-12 different landowners. You get to see some beautiful countryside that you’d otherwise not get access to.' Coakham Bloodhounds ( coakhambloodhounds. org. uk) hunts twice a week between late August and early April. Spectators and riders are welcome. There are 17 packs of bloodhounds in the UK, listed in Bailey's Hunting Directory ( bailyshuntingdirectory. com).
A Coakham bloodhound has the scent