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Friday, 1 January 2010

The 2000 Challenge, Day 5: Meeting My Nemesis

On the fifth day of my challenge, I walked from Loch Ossian Youth Hostel to Dalwhinnie, following the track along the south shore of Loch Ossian (where the Rhodedendrons are really beautiful) to the shooting lodge, then following the path up the Uisge Labhair and ascending the slope to the south east to gain the path from the Bealach Cumhann to the Bealach Dubh, then down past Culra Lodge and Loch Pattack to Ben Alder Lodge, finally following the well-made track along the north west shore of Loch Ericht. What I want to tell you about, however, is not the walk itself, but another Challenger I met and with whom I walked beside Loch Ericht.

To set the scene for this story we need to go back to the early 1980s, when I was a teenage athlete with immense potential (this was before my knees decided otherwise). I won no fewer than five county titles, and three medals at the Southern Counties championships in successive years (two bronze and a silver ... but never, alas, the Southern Counties title). And yet, the one thing that I wanted more than anything else, and yet which ultimately eluded me, were our club records. Because, across all of the young athletes' age classes, in the distances that I ran, there was a solid block of records set in the mid and late 70s by the same person. A person I had never met. By the name of A. Desmond. And, try as I might, I never could quite drive myself hard enough to match the times that he had recorded five and six years before me.

Well, on day 5 of my challenge in 2000, as I headed from Loch Pattack to Ben Alder Lodge, I saw another Challenger ahead of me and I quickened my pace a little to fall in beside him. We were both heading for Dalwhinnie, and naturally we got talking. His name was Andy. Now, I cannot recall quite how the conversation came round to athletics, but it did, and to a famous athlete whom we had both known. He asked how I had known him, and I said we were club mates.

"Really?" said Andy, incredulously. "So were we! Which club were you?"

"Cambridge and Coleridge," I replied - and Andy looked at me unbelievingly. "So was I!" he said. And then, just to prove it, he asked me to describe the club strip (navy blue shorts; white vest with two navy hoops and - at least when I was running for them - the letters "C & C" in navy between the two hoops).

Well, you've guessed where this is going, haven't you? It soon became apparent that my walking companion Andy, and my nemesis A. Desmond, whose club records I was destined never to surpass, turned out to be one and the same person. As realisation dawned, you really could have knocked me down with a feather. At times, the world can be exceedingly small!


  1. Just found your blog via SU. We run against C&C in a summer league, they are pretty much unbeatable but we do OK for such a small club. A very small world.

  2. Good grief ... Ruth ... how the devil ARE you??? We must get together again in the New Year. Message me on SU, yeah??