The lads were now back in the track changing room. It had been another gruelling session but there was a mutual feeling that it had gone well and a sense of satisfaction filled the air. Sweat from their brows dripped onto the floor and steam rose from their backs as they peeled off their shoes.
Charlie examined the inside of the tongue on his Brooks ST4s.
"What you looking at?", said Jim.
"I'm just reading what it says on the inside of the tongue of the shoe".
CHASE THE NUMBERS!"
"So, what does that mean?", says Ray.
"I suppose it means different things to different runners. Could mean lots of things"
"It's clear to me. Means the number of miles I run every week. I have to get my 80 miles per week in. Whatever. I wouldn't sleep a wink on a Sunday night if I didn't!", says Ray.
"Yeah, and that's why you keep getting injured! You never take a break, you never ease down for races, you do long runs on a Sunday to hit that target when you have a race on the Tuesday. Just to hit that number. Stupid!", said Charlie.
"Me stupid!, replies Ray, "what about you. You HAVE to run your blessed 50 races every year no matter what. Can I remind you of last year when you HAD to do a race on Boxing Day and fit in another 2 in the last 4 days of the year to hit your number!"
"Then didn't race until Easter because you pulled your calf in all that snow, remember?", says Jim.
"Yeah, well. At least I'm not totally hung up on race times like you, Jim. Race times are the only thing that you go on about. P.B. this and P.B. that. There's more to racing that chasing P.Bs, you know."
"So you aren't pleased when you run a P.B.?
"'course I am, but I'm not afraid to run tough courses with great scenery to look at ; even if I know that the time I run will be well down on what I would normally run. All you want to run are flat ,fast races. You won't come to the Lakes, for example, when we go up , will you?"
At this point a runner sat in the corner who had been listening to the discussion felt obliged to make a comment.
"Supervet" had finished his session and had sat silently taking all the banter in before putting in his "two penn'orth" (2 cents for our US readers).
"The number one. That's the only number I like against my name after a race. I race every week. Never fail. Two races in the summer most weeks. Love seeing that number one. Nobody round here to touch me. Could open a shop with all the prizes I win. Never buy any running gear ever. Vouchers by draw full!", says our supervet.
"With respect," chips in Ray, " didn't you have seven months off last year with hamstring problems? Months when you didn't race at all?
"Yeah, well that was last year. They're fine now. Well, just a bit sore".
"So it's going to happen again then."
"Yeah, maybe. But I'll be Ok. I've just won some vouchers for a good physio."
" Vouchers! There is of course a sacred few who only look at the numbers on the cheque they receive for turning out in a race. Be nice to just be able to race 3 or 4 times a year and bring home a big fat pay cheque every time," said Charlie.
"I'd rather do what we do lads. We may not be super stars and we may chase different numbers but we all get on, train and race well together, enjoy a few pints together and we're part of the real sport doing loads of different races including club relays and such like," replied Ray.
"Yeah. We'll be running and racing long after those so called big names can't run their 120 miles a week, can't achieve their P.Bs and the invites have stopped coming." concludes Charlie.
Supervet, meanwhile, had cannily slipped by into the only shower available. Number one again.
Stepping out of the shower was another runner who had been listening to all the group's banter. He felt obliged to make a contribution.
"The only number I look for is the number of runners in the race. I'm not interested in taking part in your small time local races. No buzz in them. I keep fit to run just 2 or 3 televised races a year. Races with a bit of atmosphere. Don't care how much they cost; as long as the numbers taking part are in the ten of thousands. That does for me. A medal, a t-shirt and a wave to the camera. Can't beat it!"
Quietly soaking all the banter in whilst drying himself off, one of the club's stalwart had the final word.
"Just my humble opinion, but whilst your miles per week, your races per year and chasing loads of vets prizes are great for motivation the number you should try to increase is the number of years you have been running. If you enjoy it, and you all would claim you do, don't do silly things which cause injury and prevent you running for long periods. Keep your "number" targets sensible and hopefully you can maintain it 'til you 're receiving your pension. Which the way the government's going might well be 75 or so. Best of luck!"
He reached down for his kit bag and carefully folded his sodden running gear into it. As he reached the door to leave , he turned back towards the changing room and said,
"By the way, did I mention, it's been 999 days since I last missed a day without running!"