A simple post on Facebook about Lancing College in West Sussex brought some wonderful and powerful memories flooding back. It was fitting that the post was made by a South African friend because most of those memories were about South Africa. Lancing College is an imposing building that you cannot fail to see driving along the A27 near Worthing. My friend had posted 3 photographs primarily for the benefit of his wife. I do not know what memories the photos invoked for her; I hope they were as pleasant as mine.
My connection with Lancing College was very brief; I ran a 10k race there in 1999, however that 10k race was one of the most significant moments in my running life; it was when I realised that there is immense joy in simple things and it was when my passion for trail running was first ignited. Why was the Lancing 10k such a pivotal event? Because it was my first event after running the Comrades Marathon, a 56-mile ultra in South Africa, and after that event I felt nothing else would be as good. I had experienced the ultimate challenge and anything less would be an anti-climax. Comrades is probably the biggest and best ultramarathon in the world, with well over 10,000 runners and 100s of thousands of spectators lining the route. It is South Africa’s national treasure. The Lancing 10k on the other hand is a small, low-key event; the year I did it the weather was dismal and it rained a lot, which probably accounted for the fact that there was only one man and his dog out on the course spectating. I loved it. That is when I realised there is joy to be had just from the simple pleasure of being in the elements and putting one foot in front of the other in quick succession. I loved the atmosphere and occasion of Comrades, but I also loved the solitude of a soggy wet hillside in typical British weather.
Thank you Greg for posting those photographs and reminding me of all the good times I have had running and all the friendships I have made, especially those like yours, forged in the searing heat of the Kalahari Augrabies Extreme Marathon also in South Africa. And thank you for reminding me of the simple pleasures running brings. I must go and make some more memories.