The Yacht Handicap 11 April 2021, by Ziggy Marston, aged 10 mumfs

My pawrents tell me it’s very good for me to have lots of positive hexperiences while I’m still a puppa, but it’s been difikult because of something called ‘lockdown’. I’m lucky though because they are members of ‘the best running club in the world’ and other Tealsters have been helping with my edukashun. I’ve met some lovely two-legged BvHers, some of their doggos and some small hoomans too! I’ve loved those walks but Momma says I pull too much on my lead and show her up; I know that they’ve helped her too though, she always seems happier when we’ve had some company.

Anyway, my pawrents decided I was ready to take my socialisashun up a level as Mom wanted to run in a race and they said I need to get used to being there and watching all the runners, and be around people who are clapping and cheering, although there wouldn’t be as much of that as usual because of soshul distancing so it would be a little step on the way to being able to go to bigger events in the summer. 

The race was called The Yacht Handicap – I didn’t see any yachts or anywhere to sail, but nobody else seemed to mind that. Mom said she was going to wear a costume and I didn’t know what a costume was at first but then she tried on a big purple thing which she said was supposed to look like an ohbujean… to me she just looked funny though and I tried to eat it. Again the hoomans kept saying it was important for my socialisashun to see people in funny costumes and with things on their heads, but I think Mom just likes to wear fancy dress and that it was a hexcuse!

On Sunday morning we got up earlier than usual (well earlier for Dad, I usually make sure Mom is awake very early in the morning). I knew things were different because we didn’t go for our sniffari walk when I check all my wee-mails on the railings and lampposts. We got in the car which means an adventure is happening. Thankfully we got to Rowheath Pavilion in no time at all, just in time to see the first group of runners setting off on their 5km run.

We watched from a distance as Barrie Roberts was on his lap and one of the other runners, Andy Wheeler who was dressed as a traffik cone. I wondered if I should cock my leg and leave a wee-mail, but apparently that’s not polite!

I had some fuss from Claire Daniels who is the Covid marshul, she was making sure everything was done properly. Suzanne and Emma were supporting and taking photos, and Dave and Imogen were the starters, timing everyone and setting runners off in groups of four at ten minute intervals to keep them soshully distanced.

I was glad that the 2 metre rule doesn’t apply to four-leggers and people could say hello to me and give me scritches and they told me I was handsum. Dad tried to stop me jumping up but sometimes I just couldn’t help myself. One of my favourite hoomans was there too; we sometimes meet with Pete “the dog whisperer” and his dog Lacey and I recognised him straight away. Later he must have been freezing as he was just wearing a string vest and shorts on a day when the temperature was 2°C and better suited to my big fur coat!

The race is two laps with each one going around the playing fields, down Bournville Lane, turn left at the bollards (no stopping to sniff for the runners), through Woodlands Park and left along Woodlands Park Road, then left up the big hill and back past the start line. 
Mom’s start time was at 9:20 but I was getting a bit excited (noticing a theme yet?) so Dad took me to have a run around on the field. There were so many other doggos to say hello to and small hoomans had started to arrive with footballs! Another group had set off on their run already, this one included a Tigger who was even more bouncy than me, and some bunnies. It was snowing a bit but everyone was just so happy to be there they didn’t really notice. 

Next it was Mom’s turn to run. The race is ‘naked’, which means you can’t wear a watch or you have to cover it up and try to get as close to your predicted time as possible. She’d changed her predikshun to 28 minutes and 30 seconds because of the costume and because the last two weeks hadn’t gone to plan with training (although for once this was not my fault!) She said she was just going to enjoy it and looked very smiley when she came past and Dad cheered. I wanted to run too but I’m still too young so we went to wait at the finish line instead.

Mom finished her run and she wasn’t far off her predikshun, she said that enjoying her chat on the way round with Stewart meant that she did not think too much about her pace which probably helped. Still she was very surprised later on to see that her mile splits were all exactly the same! I had some cuddles and Dad said I’d behaved myself. Then I had even more fuss and scritches from other hoomans finishing their runs, including the bunnies who made a beeline for me and another lovely doggo called Boswell and his hooman sister who were very friendly and put up with my excitement. We all had our picture taken together and I decided I wanted to say a big HELLO to Fran just as he was kneeling down for the photo.

It was then time to go and have ‘second brekfast’ which Mom said is one of the best things about a morning run! I was very tired when we got home and had dreams of running races when I am old enough to. Mom was glad she did well on the predikshun and came second (“more luck than judgement” she said) but also very happy for Barrie to win – he was only two seconds off his time and both Mom and Dad said Barrie is a ‘legend’! They loved looking at the photos too and started looking forward to more races in the future.

Mom and Dad also asked me to say: Well done to everyone who ran, thank you to the organisers and those who supported too, and thank you for helping to make Ziggy’s first time spectating at a BvH event such a positive experience.

Photo Credits: Suzanne Bunn