Nevis time again and heavy rain throughout Friday night but a forecast of improvement on Saturday afternoon. In fact the better weather arrived in the morning so it looked like near-perfect weather for the race – cool and showery. At the registration table I noticed a lot of newspaper clippings on the wall behind and as I just happened to have a copy of that (in)famous picture of Manny at the 1988 Race in my bag I suggested to Leen Velwerk that it might be a useful addition to his wall. At least it might serve as a reminder of how treacherous conditions could be and of the effect on a ‘top athlete’.

Big mistake! Half an hour later I entered the changing room to be greeted by “You’re fuckin’ dead, ya bastard!” from behind a ruck of half dressed runners. More sweary words followed as I tried to placate the ‘top athlete’. Eventually promises of beer after the race reduce the sweary word content to about one per sentence – normal for Manny. [see the infamous photograph]

Then I discovered he was on a promise of endless amounts of beer if he managed to beat Big Dixter by 32½ minutes (compromise between Manny’s 30 and Dick’s 35 minutes). So that’s what it takes for the faster runners to feel a bit of pressure during the race unlike us poor stragglers who are under intense pressure to beat the checkpoint cut-off times!

Since I had just recovered from an injury (officially approved by Captain Charsel) I had only managed to train enough to have a reasonable chance of getting under the halfway cut-off. Chris had DNFed last year so wanted some target times to run to as well so we both set off near the rear of the field. 10 minutes to Achintee, OK so far; 23 to the first zig-zag, still on target; and 47 at the short cut to halfway, should make it with about 3 minutes to spare! Then we got stuck behind an even slower runner on the narrowest part of the short-cut and just squeezed under the cut-off time. We were now caught in a shower with a cold wind coming out of the north so the top half looked like being unpleasant as usual. Then someone mentioned blue sky and sure enough there it was at the top of the slope with the shower passing beneath us. Round about now the leaders started to come down past us – always a demoralising moment. Ronnie was well up followed by Manny, Mindy and Dave (perhaps not in that order) and I noted Manny’s time to see how the bet was going to turn out. If Dick was going to have to buy him beer all night I might only need to buy him one or two! Much later the Dixter puffed his way down the upper slopes and by extrapolation and guesswork I worked out that Manny was onto a good bucket in the evening.

Arrived at the summit after Drew and Chris and enquired the Scotland v Faroes score: 2-0 against at half time, as if I was not suffering enough.

At the top of the steepening descent a runner from Clayton-le-Moors latched on to me as he was unsure of the route and had got lost last year. Halfway down the scree we had to stop running or divert onto the impossible looking boulder slope while the rescue helicopter came in to evacuate a walker who had tried to follow the runners’ downhill route with spectacular lack of success. We had a grandstand view of the rescue – the casualty’s companion was winched up first then the frightened looking casualty and they were off to the Belford in just under 5 minutes. At least we got a wee rest or did our legs stiffen up. Off again but soon stopped while the Clayton Jonah got a stone out of his shoe at the top of the Green Wall. Round about here he told me that this was where he got lost last year. He had somehow managed to descend to the Youth Hostel then climbed back up to the track and finished by the conventional route! Just before Achintee his shoe split open and after he had stuffed his foot back in and one way or another kept it on to the finish. I let him get a wee bit in front in the last half mile in case he contrived to fall and bring me down before the line.

Later, in Nevisport for a pre-tea pint we were joined by a subdued Dixter who claimed to have lost his wife. But we suspect all his furtive phone calls were to check if his network of spies had spotted Manny out looking for his prize(s). After tea, the usual suspects were in the Grog and Gruel – except Dick. The promised e-mail barrage on Monday did not materialise. Did Muffy intercept them or did Manny uncharacteristically keep it out of the public forum?

Who said Nevis was a simple run-up-and-run-back-down-again race?

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