The Holly & Mistletoe Christmas Frolic, Dec 14

Brr...whassat? My alarm clock going for it at 6:45am on a Sunday morning! Just had two nights on the beer/wine/armagnac/gin and you want us to get out of a warm comfy bed in Eastbourne and drive to Reading to run around some muddy tracks in cold weather? And it's not even a race? Madness, pure and utter madness! Oh well, better get up and get sorted then. (Undoubtedly the same scenario is being played out in various bedrooms in the South of England and Wales.)

For a change the M25 is a pleasure, with little traffic, and we arrive in Reading just before 10am, and heave to in a car park next to Reading Rowing Club on the Thames. As we walk into a very sunny but chilly car park there's an explosion of greetings from all these strange people with even stranger names: Ratbag, Spans, BK, Dr Nic, Fraggle, Gavo, MM (and his dog, XT) Shambler, richk, Two Dogs (and his two dogs, Megan and Phoebe), Jon, Smitch, Lamby, Multi, Phoenix, Fat Buddha, Petal, Angelis, DD, George , Blond Dog (Mr Blond Bird), Debster, Chaos, Snail, Mr Snail, Muttley, Evil Pixie.

Yep - it's the forum Christmas social - gathering for a run and a few post-run shandies, where the following few non-running forumites will join in the festivities: Barkles, Sam Panther, Blonde Bird, Venom, Susie Bee Snoop, (arrived much later after getting a pass-out from Mrs Snoop) Suffolk Punch, Tired Legs, Tiger, Juliejoo, N(s)icko, Mo.

After much pfaffing around and getting cold, the runners head off for a gentle 10-miler near the Thames on tracks, footpaths and bridleways. A few brave souls decide on shorts and bare legs - most are in tights. Ratbag nearly doesn't start after attempting to fondle Spans' rear when she is bending over and coming close to having his lights punched out by a female rugby player (retired).

Well, not everyone runs as MM decides to do it on his mountain bike, throwing some old excuse of a "knackered achilles" as justification. Blonde Bird (who is a redhead) claims shin splints as an excuse. So what about the rest of us with hangovers (both of the head and belly)? Do we complain? Of course we do!

A gentle 10-miler is a myth. Angelis heads off as if he's on drugs. He's followed by Dr Nic - she says she’d never normally hit this kind of velocity but is being dragged by MM’s enthusiastic dog. TwoDogs (and his two dogs) is close behind, with a few other speedsters (Jon, Phoenix, DD et al), and the mid packers hanging back doing what mid packers do i.e packing the middle. Evil Pixie and Fraggle bring up their rears (oops - the rear). Lovely, if chilly, weather for a run and a chatter - well, for those of us who could breathe, anyway.

Richk is wandering back and forth with his camera and keeps missing shots, so has to keep sprinting forward again to have another go - he must have covered twice the distance of everyone else.

Eventually we stop (absolutely no idea where), turn around, and head back to Reading. What a really pleasant day for a run! Fat Buddha decides to go 'a over t' on a very muddy bit - and about five minutes later (no sense, no feeling says Petal) wonders what’s running down his leg. It's blood! EEK!! MM and Multi add water to wash away the mud to discover a mere flesh wound - amputation can wait till Monday.

We all get back to the car park after a very pleasant 9.3-miler (according to MM's bike computer), get changed and head off to Pipers Island pub for some rehydration/food/beer/beer/beer and... beer. The non-runners join and more names and faces are put together. Barkles storms in wowing the girlies with his purple fleece and weird jeans; Jinglin’ Juliejoo is there looking nothing like a l'il leopard; and the forumite engagees - TiredLegs and Suffolk Punch - turn up.

Mingle mingle, chat chat, natter natter... nosh nosh and slurp slurp... the pleasing sounds of a bunch of like-minded people who have met through the RW forum as they while away a Sunday having a jolly decent time making new friends and renewing old acquaintances.

Eventually, tired (and no doubt a few emotional) forumites head off back home after a great day out.

Thanks to BK for organising it, richk for the pictures (www.richk.co.uk - for those interested), and Fraggle for the labels so we knew who we were talking to.

P.S:

Can anyone explain why TwoDogs, Jon and Shambler were singing "Grandma" on the way home? Answers on a postcard please!