Random header image... Refresh for more!

Tough 10 “report”

James Manley reports from his tree in Upper Ruislip-pongo: On Saturday I had the dubious honour of leading a menagerie of HAC members onto the streets of Northwood, Pinner, Eastcote and Ruislip to complete the tough 10. The merry flock were skippered by our very own zoo keeper Alan Butler; who absent-mindedly loosed the cages, which some of these ‘athletes’ usually call home.

As we left the clubhouse, the late summer sun scorched the herd mercilessly. Ruislip common was doing a passable impersonation of the Serengeti, and the lido doubled up as a (not so) fresh water oasis. And so we sought relative respite on the cool peaks of Northwood Hills.

Here the first competition, and one of the day’s rare moments of genuine athleticism, was keenly contested. The King of the Mountains race saw the challengers ascend the summit of Potter Street Hill. Fresh from his defeat in Devil Takes the Hindmost midweek, Richard Mann reclaimed his status as chief mountain goat; even if he already had us convinced with his nauseating bleating for the preceding two miles. He was, nevertheless, challenged by a troop of hardy mountain sorts. The hirsute Edward Campbell resembled a rather spritely yak. Carl Yates bounded like a mad jackrabbit, tanned and with a severe case of myxomatosis from his Mediterranean adventures. Carl would go on to receive the day’s MVP award, proving to be the bunny who just keeps going and going and going.  Another beastly performance came from the lesser-spotted (well on a cold Saturday afternoon at Horsenden Hill) Phillip Warburton.

So it was that the pride began its descent towards the badlands of Pinner. Here the wisdom of the older generation shone through. That wily, silver mountain fox John Bignell scouted ahead. He announced the arrival of the stampede so as not to upset the local Pinnerites; who can be a queer and territorial folk. Alan Wells joined him. In the cross country season he can pass as a gleeful hippo wallowing with abandon in the mud; but here, in the dry August sun, he was a wise old rhino taking charge of his young calves. This same wisdom was not matched, however, by his contemporary Steven Thompson. He found that the fable of the tortoise and the hare will only work if you do not tell Doris you are doing the tough 10; in which case you will be dragged to a family BBQ half way through.

Yet when one door closes another opens; or, in this case, is flattened by a rampaging Mark Speight. Resembling a bull with a blind spot for self-preservation, he tore through the second of the day’s two challenges. He won the sprint competition at a canter, only to find he had been disqualified for his late arrival. You would have thought that the only kiwi in the pack would have given him a run for his money. Ney! In the wake of such a display, Andrew Paterson was left howling a cascade of rabid, animalistic noises like “Streuth bro”, “Fush and chups”, “Joonah Loomu”, and other such foreign nonsense. No amount of barking encouragement from his loyal Rottweiler Phillip Weall could change the result.

And so darkness enveloped us as we crossed the Ruislip borders, and with it, other feral beasts emerged. I would like to say, as the first female tough 10er, Hannah Wells embodied all the qualities of a graceful lioness; combining a sultry elegance with subtle, feminine power. Alas, the sound of a pack of hyenas shrieked through the night sky when she laughed at one particular joke. Her trusty mate James Laing was seen casting the same disparaging look that Badger gave Mr Toad as he motored out of Toad Hall, ‘Poop, Poop’. This cacophony, in turn, set off Simon Connell; nervously standing to attention like a paranoid meerkat, fearful of the arrival of a gaggle of his sixth form charges.

As we returned to the clubhouse, the time for reflection was upon us. I sat down with those two sage veterans of the tough 10, Daniel Thompson and Martin Bateman. Although they normally argue like a murder of squabbling magpies, here they were in agreement: the tough 10 had proved to be a brilliant day out. We had been well supported along the way by some brave zoo visitors, who kindly even fed the animals. The journey into the wild had been epic. All that was left was for Alan Butler to lock up the cage of the clubhouse where the usual demonstrations of athletic prowess will soon be on show once again. The adventure will continue in 2014 and, as ever, new members to the pack are more than welcome.