‘If all the year were playing holidays; To sport would be as tedious as to work.’
William Shakespeare 'Henry IV, Part 1' (1597) 1: 2, l.
It was a warm and clear day on Sunday for the Triathlon events at Stratford Upon Avon with many tourists encouraging the participants in the pool, on the cycle and on the run, including those on leisure cruises on the River Avon as the run route goes along the towpath, for a short distance. It is classed as a fun but challenging event with a Sprint (400m swim, 18 kilometre cycle and 5K run), distance as well as supersprint, relay and youth events. In 2019 British Triathlon has a social media campaign, #TriLikeMe designed to show that triathlon is for everyone, and this was certainly in evidence with a range of different abilities.
Just the cycles alone used in the Stratford Triathlon varied from highly specialised to commuter models and many swimmers began the race with a steady front crawl. A range of disability athletes also completed the course, whether assisted by a dual athlete or unaided and it was a very supportive event.
Chaos in the pool
The worst element of the event, in terms of organisation, was the pool. In three 33 metre length lanes, participants had to swim up and down each lane four times, before moving under the ropes to the next lane, again completing four lengths and so on in the final lane. The problem with this were, firstly, that there was no seeding in terms of swimming times, so slower swimmers were mixed in the pool with faster swimmers, and secondly there was no particular guidance as to how to complete the four lengths. So some swam up and down while others swam clockwise around the lane, meeting other swimmers head on. It was therefore almost impossible to get a steady rhythm and trying to get around the slower swimmers was fatiguing, and with four or five abreast a lane, sometimes impossible. This should be improved in future events because it gets the whole race off to a bad start. Kelly swam particularly well and overtook lots of slower swimmers but for Jean, who 400m would normally take between 8 and 9 minutes outside of a race scenario, this was a frustratingly slow 12 minutes. Thankfully this could be made up on the cycle and run sections.
Shakespeare Country: Born in Latin, Died in English
Having taught English, Media and Theatre Studies for over ten years at a Sixth Form College in the 1980s and 1990s, Jean regularly used to bring students to Stratford Upon Avon for theatre trips related to their A Level studies. Stratford Upon Avon is the place where Shakespeare was born, we think on or around 23 April because he was baptized on 26 April 1564. He grew up in the market town, probably attending its famous Kings New School, a Grammar School, where classical Latin was the main language by Royal decree. He married Anne Hathaway aged eighteen and having three children together. Between 1585 and 1592 (his lost years) he moved to London, varying his movements between Oxford, London and Stratford. By 1599 his company had constructed The Globe theatre, and he also bought New Place in 1597, the second largest house in Stratford, also investing in the Parish tithes. What continues to draw people to the town today is the combination of the plays and poetry, which are taught to children in school as compulsory elements of the curriculum and the number of intriguing aspects of Shakespeare’s life that remain difficult to resolve. Not least, did one man write all these works of genius and change the face of the English language, so much so that it is said Shakespeare was born in Latin but died in English, as his funery monument has engraving in English language terms, and even more provocative, a curse against moving his bones. And historians have puzzled over why, having left her little else, did he bequeath his wife his ‘second best’ bed.
Shakespearean Sports and Pastimes
There are many references to games and pastimes in the plays and poetry, some that we would recognise, like archery that were the principle skill in battle at the time that were endorsed as compulsory by several Kings and Queens and to prioritise this others, like football, were banned as too violent. Backgammon, bowls, chess and games of strategy, ultimately invasion games, were also important for battle, politics and war. Others, like bat-fowling were more obscure. This was a sports practiced at dusk to catch bats but also as a reference to con men, who appearing to have dropped a valuable item, would ask the apprentice of a shop at about dusk to light a candle, whereupon when the apprentice’s back was turned would steal from the store. So bat–fowling was also a term for cheating. Flipping the toad was an even crueler form of blood sport practiced by young boys who would place the unsuspecting toad on a long plank of wood before using their cricket bat hit the other end to propel their victim to a spectacularly high, and ultimately fatal, final journey. Some of the richness of the language appearing in the plays is reflected in these terms.
The cycle route took us through some fantastic Warwickshire scenery in and around Stratford itself, and the villages of Charlecote, with its beautiful park and quaint village buildings. The run took us along the towpath where leisure cruises were perhaps bemused to see people working quite so hard in their Sunday morning leisure. Kelly finished in 1.13 and Jean 1.33, both of which they were happy with, considering the pool was quite so crowded. So, if you were thinking of challenging yourself with a triathlon, this is a very supportive and friendly way to complete a ‘bucket-list’ event. Why not #TriLikeMe? It is perhaps one of the most historic venues for a triathlon in the calendar and UK Triathlon is celebrating its 25th year so there’s no better time to sign up! Others like the Royal Windsor triathlon have been going for 29 years, so there’s something for all abilities.
Posts written by Jean or Joanna.