This week’s Friday Feature is Paul Stratton. One day Paul and his beagle were innocently walking on the South Downs Way and they were ambushed by a desperate collection of runners. Following this episode he was quickly recruited into the Hedgehoppers. Paul has very kindly shared a little bit about his life and running memories:
Please tell us a little bit about yourself? i.e. where you grew up, family etc.
I was born in Wolverhampton in 1943. During my infant years I lived in a small country village in Wiltshire, where my father was the vicar. We lived in a large Georgian Vicarage, standing in three acres, with an ancient gardener, who had a large bulbous nose.
From three acres to three rooms. During my junior years we lived in Queens Park Road, Brighton. My grandmother slept in the living room, where she and my mother made a living, dressmaking. My mother, sister and I shared a bed in the bedroom, topping and tailing. My mum at the top, my sister and me at the tail , with the cat and gazunder underneath. All washing and cooking, took place in the scullery with it’s butler sink, a cold tap and a gas stove. The W.C. was in the back yard. Hence, the gazunder, for cold wet dark nights. My weekly bath took place at the Park Street Public Baths. I left school at the age of fifteen and joined the Royal Navy, (to see the world), training as a seaman, specialising in radar plot
I started running during my time between ships, at HMS Dryad, a “stone frigate” (shore base), in the Hampshire countryside, which had a delightful cross country course. Little did I know, but during that time, when I was cruising around the course, a certain ex RAF National Service man, Roy Taylor was flying around the same course, and vaulting the same farmers gates. It was many years later with me still cruising, Roy still flying and us both still chatting, that we realised that our running paths had crossed many years before.
I left the RN after seven years, in 1967 Pauline and I were married and came to live in Portslade, within spitting distance of the South Downs and the Sports Centre.
When did you join the Hedgehoppers and why/what made you become a regular?
Years later, in the late 80’s I was innocently wandering the SDW, with Bosun, my beagle, when we were ambushed by a desperate looking collection of runners, and I was recruited into the Portslade Hedgehoppers that was when I started taking my running seriously and making so many real friends in running with Hedgehoppers, WSFRL and parkrun.
Best thing about being a runner?
Running and most sports are great levellers, you make friends, from all walks of life & when you meet up again after many years it’s big smiles and happiness.
What’s the longest distance you’ve every run?
The longest distance that I have run was the BAF British 100k Championships, in May 1994. This involved running 62.1 miles, made up of heaven knows how many circuits of Sutcliffe Park Athletic Stadium and Greenwich Park.
Favourite running memory i.e. that WOW moment?
My favourite running memory is the London to Brighton Race in October, also in 1994. We started from Westminster Bridge as Big Ben struck 7am, just as it started to get light. I had a cracking support team, in fellow Hedgehoppers Colin Pacifico, & Duncan Cruttenden, who kept me fed and watered throughout.
The big WOW moment was when after surmounting, the sting in the tail, (Ditchling Beacon), and on past Old Boat Corner, I could see the lovely blue sea ahead. Then it was all downhill to the Palace Pier!
Favourite running event and why?
My Favourite Running Event is………………The Hedgehoppers parkun Series! When I can dig out my Hedgehoppers kit, shake out the moth balls and join in. My thanks to all the little gnomes who beavering away in Hedgehoppers Towers to organise this event
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
During lockdown I’ve been running, from home up to Ian’s Gate and back I don’t think that there is any better view than looking south from Ian’s gate. I’ve tried extending my run up to Peter’s Post but someone keeps moving the post father away!