I read this quote from Roger Miller on a photographer’s website today;
‘Some people walk in the rain, others just get wet.’
I loved it, you can wrap so many thoughts and emotions around it. Every time I read it I can feel, hear and smell the rain. It made me think of a run I had a few days ago, it wasn’t raining, but it was certainly in the air. We passed a tree and I said to the person running next to me “Wow isn’t that beautiful.” “What?”, she said. “That tree” “Oh” she replied and ran on while I stood and stared for a bit before taking this photograph.
I run in the rain, she just gets wet, or would have done on this occasion had it been raining. It is probably a fairly ordinary tree, but I love trees. Trees stand there being witness to everything, us at our best and us at our very worse, but never pass judgement. Most of them are there when we are born and they will be there when we die. They will be there when our children are born, when their children are born and those children’s children are born. They will offer us shade in the summer and shelter in bad weather. They will herald in the spring with leaves of exquisite green and celebrate the end of summer with a blaze of dazzling colour. They will be quiet sentinels during the dark winter months before being reborn. Yes I love trees, there is something magical about them, something to draw strength from and perhaps something to be in awe of.
Trees became incorporated into a nickname due to the curious incident in the night in South Africa. This is a fairly long story so hold on tight and bear with me. It all started in Cape Town in 2006 when I met Nadia & Estienne Arndt, organisers of the Kalahari Augrabies Extreme Marathon and the Addo Elephant Trail Runs. We only spoke briefly, my children liked them (children tend to be good judge of characters) and an instant bond formed. I met them again in England later that year when they took part in the Marathon of Britain and I was on the crew. Then in 2007 I flew out to South Africa to take part in the Addo 50 mile trail run (the best one day race I have ever done). The morning after I arrived in the Addo Elephant Park, Friday the day before the race on Saturday, Estienne asked me if I wanted to come with him in the 4 x 4 and help mark out some of the route for the 100 mile race. That way I would see some of the amazing views not on the 50 mile route. I jumped at the chance and soon we were driving along rutted tracks and spotting game. Then he got a radio call from the park ranger to say that there had been massive thunder storms in the hills and the race could not go through there due to the fact that all the mud would prevent safety vehicle reaching any runners with difficulties.
We rushed back to the park ranger’s office and after a quick discussion Estienne realised that the 100 mile race as planned was not going to happen, the 50-mile race was okay. Conscious that runners had travelled a great distance for the race and had been training hard for it Estienne tried to plan out a new route. He succeeded, a lot was on 4 x 4 tracks rather than single track, but at least it was a workable route. The route was drawn on the large map on the head ranger’s office wall, we tore that down (with his permission) so that it could be re-drawn onto smaller paper that could be photocopied (that was my job) and given to the competitors. While I was doing that Estienne and Nadia had to rearrange the checkpoint provisions and crews. Originally some of the 50-mile checkpoints would also serve the 100-mile route, this was now not going to happen. Things were getting a little fraught because the race briefing was only a few hours away and there was lots to do.
We made it, although after the briefing there was the small matter of marking the course out. Estienne and I had a sandwich and a beer then headed off into the setting sun. It was pretty hairy racing along jeep tracks in the dark, especially as a Kudu got in our way and only survived because the Landcruiser had excellent brakes. I thought to myself, I’m in the middle of Africa, in the middle of the night, in the middle of nowhere, with someone I hardly known. Not good. We eventually got to the first part of the course we needed to mark, Estienne slowed the vehicle down leant out of the window and said “Hello little tree do you mind if I tie this piece of tape to you”. I thought I’m in the middle of Africa, in the middle of the night, in the middle of nowhere, with someone that’s not quite right in the head.
The next tree was on my side of the track so, when Estienne slowed down, I wound my window down and said “What do you mean I can’t tie the tape to you, your friend across the track was quite happy to help”. We continued through the night with this banter, eventually returning to base two hours before my race was due to start. I snatched a tiny bit of sleep before setting out to run 50 miles, which I did. I then had some food and a few beers before going to sleep in a chalet designed for 2 people, but occupied by six. I slept very well.
The following morning I was a little surprised to discover that there was a story going around that I talked to trees. Estienne had been telling everyone about being unnerved by me leaning out of the window and saying “What do you mean I can’t tie the tape to you, your friend across the track was quite happy to help”. I can only assume that he didn’t realise that he did it himself. Anyhow that was when my nickname in South Africa became Mr Treetalker, now abbreviated to Mr TT.
I like that name