My Run­ning Life

DAVID BRIGHTLING, 48, BLOOD­HOUND RUN­NER

Runner's World (UK) - - In This Issue -

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!

HOUNDS ARE

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.'

COAKHAM

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

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