The Stickler, 25th October 2015
Being so close to the comings and goings of a big road race, and yet quite clearly at the fringe of things was quite disconcerting. I had vivid memories of taking part in plenty of races like this, taking part rather than racing, it must be said, and the sweaty camaraderie, the sticky handshakes, the congratulations and the hard luck stories, the complaints of tight calves or, even worse, blood from a fall, all of that bubbly post-race banter ran the length of the station platforms at Shillingstone along with the hundreds of runners and their proud families at one remove from me, an unattached spectator sitting at my table watching and waiting, hoping to sell a few books.
This was the twenty-first running of The Stickler, and calling it a road race is to do it a disservice. The Dorset Doddlers running club organise a slickly run ten-mile race over three large hills; they call it without exaggeration a Three Peaks Challenge, and those peaks (Okeford Beacon, Hod Hill and Hambledon Hill) frame this part of the Stour valley at the centre of which sits Shillingstone, its station project hosting the final sprint finish and the attendant celebrations.
On such a bright, sunny Sunday morning I wished my knees were ten years younger and I could have taken part. Instead I sat drinking tea, eating chocolate cake and convinced half a dozen souls to part with £7.99 and buy a signed copy of Shillingstone Station. So, a different kind of challenge.