Quardle oodle ardle wardle DUCK

Allenton residents are familiar with the problem, which has now been impacting upon their letterboxes as well: the magpies that have been attacking the local posties pose yet another threat to our endangered postal system. Unfortunately for our trusty team in red, magpies have very good memories and they attack the same people again and again. If you get on the wrong side of one of those flying missiles, you’d better have eyes on the back of your head.

Last week I had first hand experience of the problem whilst out for a jog. Apparently the birds don’t differentiate between those wearing red and those wearing pink, because from the moment I turned the corner they had me firmly in their sights. Next came the ominous ‘whoosh’ of a kamikaze magpie under the influence of gravity, followed by a flash of claw. That was enough to convince my tired legs that actually they belonged to Usain Bolt and were taking part in a very important race. As a result of this impressive burst of athletic prowess, I can confirm that magpies are much better motivators than any iPod track or personal trainer. In fact, based on the results of my one off and highly scientific study, magpie escape training could well form the basis of the next exercise fad, leaving zumba and cross training in its wake.

You do, however, need to ensure you have a good technique before taking part in this adrenaline fuelled cardio programme. Like any sport, this takes practice. Running down the street waving hands in the air may not look particularly becoming, but it is a natural response to try to keep beaks and talons away from cheeks and ears. A little googling reveals this is also the worst possible response. Instead, it is necessary to remain calm, don your ice cream container helmet as protective headgear, and vacate the vicinity of the fluffy foe.

Sports related injuries may make up the bulk of recreational claims, but according to an ACC spokeswoman, there have been 15 magpie-related injuries lodged with ACC in the last 2 years. Thanks to a serendipitous attack, we now have the opportunity to combine the two. With a little practice, we might even be able to take on an aussie team as well as the aussie bird.

As we know, there is no black and white solution to the magpie issue. Eradicate them? Avoid them? Use them as a sporting supplement to enhance future performance? This is no 80 minute on-pitch battle, but an ongoing exercise at surviving the siege. Don your trainers and watch your back, because as Glover’s poem suggests, the magpies are here to stay.

Originally Published in The Ashburton Guardian

All Out White Out


The annual Peak to Pub race at Mt Hutt combines all of Methven’s best known attractions: Skiing, mountain biking, the Methven Walkway, an up close and personal encounter with the RDR and of course the famous Blue pub as the finish line. Throw in a bit of pain for good measure and you’ve got the recipe for an adventure race that is sure to provide a unique perspective on the area, complete with rolling vista all the way out the sea. This year’s event provided a perspective even more unique than most: come Sunday, white out conditions meant everything outside a 5m radius had been completely erased.

This was something new for me. While I am familiar with sea fog, multisport in Auckland does not include a snow leg, ever. The dizzyingly white ski section with gravity as the only compass gave me a real appreciation for the contrast we often take for granted and gave my body a schooling in the intimate contours of Mt Hutt’s ski face.

Cue the biking leg, where the white fog rendered white knuckles invisible. There was no time to feel fear at the impressive drops to either side of the road, as staying on track with where the road was heading was quite enough. The lack of peripheral vision did have the effect of focussing one’s attention in on the little details, such as the taste of the mud, or the average size of the gravel chunks thrown up by the front wheel. Having communed with the clay and emerged in one piece, it was time to make a run for it. Battling the remnants of the last storm, we clambered over logs and sloshed our way through the stream that marked the course until we met the RDR. RDR mud with more than a hint of cattle excrement was the dogs’ favourite perfume for a good few weeks when the canals were being drained, and I tried not to think about the olfactory implications as I dived into the water.

Rural living provided some interesting moments in the lead up to the event, when a training run along this very route took me into a paddock of mama sheep and their lambs. These woolly mothers did not appreciate my presence and quickly made their distaste apparent. They may be seen most regularly on the dinner plate, dressed in mint sauce, but having seen the zombie film ‘Black Sheep’, I had no desire to find out what would happen if the tables were turned. I made a hasty retreat and ran the long way round, turning my morning jog into a full on 16km run. Who would’ve thought that livestock could replace personal trainers and provide superior motivation mid workout?

The sight of the Blue Pub and the finishing line provided plenty of motivation to summon up the last few gasps that got me over the line. Colder, wetter, whiter and at a higher latitude than any multi-race I’d done before, Peak to Pub showed me a new side to Canterbury’s alpine moods alright.

Originally Published in The Ashburton Guardian