Was being unceremoniously woken up and dragged out for a run still nursing a hangover on New Year’s Day the first steps towards Denis’ eventually ending up at the Hedgehoppers? Here he shares his memories. Is Denis the only Hopper have been involved in a battle re-enactment? Read on to find out more…
Please tell us a little bit about yourself? i.e. where you grew up, family etc.
I grew up about 3 miles north of Newcastle upon Tyne city centre, attended RC primary schools and then an RC Grammar school, where I began playing rugby. My father was born a cockney and my mother of Irish descent, sadly mam was ill throughout her life suffering with serious heart conditions, she endured multiple ground breaking heart valve operations in the 60’s and 70’s, which are considered routine these days. Dad was hard working and robust, however died young at 58 from Lung cancer. I am the youngest of 4 with 2 brothers and a sister.
What made you start running?
My first recollection of “going for a run” is from when I was 18 years old, I was unceremoniously woken up by my brother around midday on New Year’s Day, with bit of a hangover and became part of his new year’s resolution.
When did you first start running?
Whilst on a summer placement as a student Electrical Engineer in Cleckheaton, West Yorkshire, my landlord turned out to be an athletics coach, based at Bradford University, he was coaching an Olympic hopeful 400m runner, I often got included in coaching sessions, we’d then go out for beer and a curry in Bradford, overall not too much net gain! I did play one game of rugby for Cleckheaton, and I loved the way we found out if we were selected, only if your name was published in the local paper on the Thursday night before the game.
My first actual running event was completed in anger, I was 21, my dad had just died, I was at Uni. in Nottingham and had just got back from the funeral; I simply turned up and ran, unregistered, in the first Robin Hood half marathon, through the streets of Nottingham and around the beautiful Wollaton park. I hadn’t trained, but it was my final year and I was in the habit of running to Uni. early every morning.
I ended up in Hove after Uni. because my brother bought an apartment in Braemore Road, Hove, he volunteered to go to the Falklands conflict as a Merchant officer his ship at anchor in South Georgia and he left me to complete the purchase. There were no jobs in the North East in 1982, but work was easy to come by in Sussex; whilst working in Burgess Hill, I joined BH7, the local Hash House Harriers, I liked their style, meet at a pub and run, have a half of beer afterwards to be sociable, no more rules.
When did you join the Hedgehoppers and why/what made you become a regular?
Most summers when there was no rugby, I would either do the London to Brighton bike ride or the Southdown 10, so I was aware of a running group called Portslade Hedgehoppers. I joined and became a regular hopper, to help motivate me whilst training for the 2013 Brighton Marathon, I realised it’s a lot easier to run on cold dark nights in a group, than on your own.
Best thing about being a Hopper?
No pressure to perform, it’s very light-hearted and unregimented, abounding with free spirits and free cakes!
Favourite running memory i.e. that WOW moment?
Running in the 2015 Great North run, my “running’s coming home” I loved; that the start was in Exhibition park, (we used to play there as kids), running through the city and across the Tyne bridge, (I used to ride the bus in and out of the city every day to get to school) and finishing in South Shields, a beautiful seaside venue, (we used to spend summer holidays on the beaches around Tyneside). I treated it as a welcome home, slapped every hand offered and still somehow, pulled off a decent time.
What’s the longest distance you’ve ever run?
An early Sunday morning run around the Wharfedale valley in west Yorkshire, between Leeds and Bradford, unrecorded distance (no hand held measuring devices in those days) at around 20 miles in, I remember being chased through a field by a sheepdog, a much needed adrenalin rush!
Favourite running event and why?
I loved watching the competition between Ovett and Coe for the 800m and 1500m medals in the 1980 Olympics. It’s hard to believe the UK produced two such talented middle distance runners, who ended up sharing the medals, but not the ones everyone expected.
Do you have a nickname and how did you come by it?
Dennis the menace, it was comical!
Please tell us one thing about yourself that people may not know?
In 1995 I took part in the re-enactment of the battle of Louisburg (1758), near the gulf of the St Lawrence River in Nova Scotia (NS). We sailed in my brothers’ two mast, eight sail, sailing schooner in period dress from St Johns, Newfoundland to Gabarus Bay, NS, where we joined the French fleet, on the eve of the battle. The British won the battle, so afterwards we French were transported by British long-boat to be locked up in the fortress of Louisburg.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
There is a great sense of community within the Hedgehoppers running group, long may it continue!