New Experiences Fourteen Years On
Or, Does Anyone Speak Welsh?
We walked around the crazy golf course at Club La Santa half a dozen times this year, and not once did we see Dave Webb. This however, was only one of a whole bundle of new things that happened to the Lanzarote team of 2003.
Every year there are murmurings of various people not going for one reason or another, exams, birthdays, finances, bad backs you name it. Yet despite all this, we had over twenty LBAC associates back to put themselves through the rigours of the International Challenge, whether they were running, watching or just having to hear about every tortuous stride.
There is one thing that needs to be pointed out first. For the majority of our party, the running is not the focus of the week. Some wanted to go diving, some had a few tennis or wind surfing lessons and some were most keen on the evening recreation of drinking and chatting to the Green Team girls. Very much in the minority were a couple of people who were keen to give their best possible performances in the challenge.
As I said though, the running is merely the morning wake-up exercise. Occasionally people venture into other activities during the trip. The difficulties in choosing between a Club La Santa or a Green Team Sandwich are often shown by the need to lay by the pool for a couple of hours to recover. Although we all disappointed in the egg throwing competition this year, for the first time to my knowledge, we had a couple of girls winning the bolas tournament on the beach. They really did look lovely in their sarongs, so well done Tom and Rob.
While we were away the International Rugby Board had the thoughtless idea of organising a world cup final but to everybody’s utter amazement it was not being shown at Club La Santa. The majority discovered that it was however, being shown in Lucy’s, a small bar in the village that seats about twenty on a normal day. Morton (the owner) made his fortune that day selling coffee and bacon sandwiches to about eighty Brits, intent on watching the rugby, despite the Spanish commentary.
However, a small but elite squad made their way over to the tourist resort of Puerto Del Carmen. Lots of bars were advertising the rugby and most were packed to the rafters, but up towards the end of the strip we found a small bar with three TVs and a spare table in the middle, perfect.
We sit down just before kick-off and immediately realise that the commentary is not English, but then discover, somewhat surreally that we are actually watching S4C, the Welsh language channel in a bar in Spain at nine in the morning. The lengths we go to in order to see England beat Australia at something is incredible.
Thirteen years ago, our esteemed promotions director – Uncle Pete Watkins – was on stage at the end of the week collecting his award as 1st V40 for the challenge. For the last nine years, we have seen him only fleetingly on the courses and more often than not, handing out water at the aid stations. Once again this year he was on stage at the end of the week, not collecting anything other than very warm applause and admiration for completing the challenge after overcoming very serious illness and injury.
This is what the week is really about for most people. It is great to have good performances and win prizes, but it is the camaraderie that exists between everyone that makes the week. Notable people to complete were a blind man, a lady with a broken arm, two twins whose 18th birthday was on the day of the final race and the hundreds of other people who have become synonymous with our annual pilgrimage to the Canaries. Everybody gets shouted over the line and if you like lots of support it is best to stay near the back because nobody goes anywhere until all the LBAC team are home.
For those of you who are unaware, the races themselves are horrible, if anybody tells you they enjoyed any of them, it is either a lie, or they got lost and found a pub on route. They take place on four consecutive days and gradually wear you down until you cross the final finish line in a crumpled heap of blood, sweat and saliva. The first race is a windy three lap 10K (ish). The second is a very windy 13K consisting of 8K up a mountain and 5K down. The third is the shortest, but always produces the greatest amount of whinging and moaning because it is 5K on a soft sandy beach. Then, just when you think the hard bit is over they make you run 23K across the island, starting with a 3K climb up the steepest road on the island.
Yet, despite all the complaints, nine club members completed the event and another three dipped their respective toes in to various races and for the first time in many years we actually won some prizes. Pete has been mentioned, but John Parr was able to get past recent injuries and complete the challenge for the first time in five years and Paul Dimmock completed his ninth challenge in ten years. With their daughter Gemma as support, Daren and Tracey Haseldine both finished strongly while Andrew, Tim and Richard Inchley packed out the middle of the field and Richards was his thirteenth consecutive completed challenge.
The outstanding performance of the week however, goes to Rob Elmore, who finished third individual in every race and second overall for the challenge. Mainly as a result of Rob’s efforts, but with assistance of Andy and Daren, LBAC won the third team prize, in what was a very strongly fought competition.
The running would not be worth doing though if there was no support, Val Parr, Pam Watkins and Meg Churm all helped on aid stations. Liz Box left early to walk the Ridge route on her own in order to get to the top before the runners and both Liz and Tom Inchley had bikes out for two races to scream at us all over the course. If that wasn’t enough Nikki, Lesley and Joe were strategically positioned in the stadium to shout us around the last lap.
In short. The people of the International Challenge make the trip a delight even if the running is hell. Everybody wants to win but is happy just to be part of the atmosphere. If you haven’t tried it, do. There are not many people who have only been once. I believe that Watkins Tours will be available for taking bookings in January.