The Irishness of the Long Distance Runner

It’s like the Irishman said when asked for directions, “Well to get there I wouldn’t start from here.”

I know just what he means. We live down a series of narrow (ish) lanes and they tend to be so quiet that when I go into a field to feed sheep I can leave the gate open blocking the road because nobody will come along.

Wherever you’re going, I wouldn’t start from here.

But that’s not to say we don’t have excitement and see strange and unusual things. Like the day the bus came through. But that’s another story.

It’s just that some years back my father and I were doing some hedging. In the local vernacular the technical term is ‘laying a dike.’ I’ve been warned about using that phrase. Apparently for some of our colonial cousins who no longer speak the old tongue in all its richness and purity it means something entirely different.

Needless to say I’m not adverse to pandering to the unlettered, and thus I will take time out from the tale to explain that ‘laying a dike’ is where you work your way along a hedge, partially cutting through and bending over each upright stem, to thicken it and ensure it remains a stock-proof barrier.


Anyway there me and my Dad were, busy away, and along the lane comes a pack of runners. We nodded to them, friendly like, and they ignored us. I can only assume that for some people, expending effort on courtesy when you’re striving for a dopamine high is counter productive. Or perhaps they just don’t mingle with the peasantry? Who knows, obviously I don’t because they wouldn’t talk to us.

But actually, there was one runner, at the back of the pack, who did wave back and say ‘Good afternoon’ in a broad Irish accent.

Anyway Father and I thought nothing of it. Ignorance is common enough and you no longer get upset by the ostentatious display. We carried on working away, until, about half-an-hour later the runners passed us again; heading in the same direction. Now if they’d been coming back you could understand it. They’d run ‘out’ and now they were running ‘back’; but in the same direction? Obviously whatever it was involved big laps.

And of course they ignored us again.

Except for the Irish lad who stopped, looked at us and said, “We’ve been past here before haven’t we.”

Neither my Father nor I were going to lie to the lad, so we admitted he had. So he said, “And this isn’t the road to Leece is it?”

We agreed with him that it wasn’t the road to Leece.

“So which is the road to Leece?”

Admit it, I couldn’t not say, “Well to get there I wouldn’t start from here.”

But we relented and gave him directions

He muttered something under his breath which might have been some ancient Irish charm for all I know and then he sprinted off after the pack. Five minutes later they appeared again, going ‘back’ this time.

And of course they all ignored us, except for the Irish lad, still at the back, who gave us a cheery wave.


Now available in Paperback as well as ebook

As a reviewer commented, “This is a selection of anecdotes about life as a farmer in Cumbria. The writer grew up on his farm, and generations of his family before him farmed the land. You develop a real feeling for the land you are hefted to and this comes across in these stories. We hear of the cattle, the sheep, his succession of working dogs, the weather and the neighbours, in an amusing and chatty style as the snippets of Jim Webster’s countryman’s wisdom fall gently. I love this collection.”

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16 thoughts on “The Irishness of the Long Distance Runner

  1. The Story Reading Ape January 31, 2015 at 5:10 pm Reply

    (Whispered Pssst – you forgot to mention any books Jim)
    (Loudly) EXCELLENT tale Jim, it just goes to prove that being friendly can, in fact, speed you on your way – the CORRECT way that is 😀

    • jwebster2 January 31, 2015 at 5:25 pm Reply

      Hi Chris. I must confess that I failed to mention the books on purpose. I rather feel that if you endless keep pushing the books people just switch off and ignore that bit. In fact it might seem a bit heretical but perhaps there’s more to life than selling books? 🙂
      But in case anybody is interested then they just have to go to and they’ll find a fine selection of superior fiction 😉

  2. M T McGuire February 6, 2015 at 7:29 am Reply

    Love it. I wonder how many extra miles they ran. Phnark.

    • jwebster2 February 6, 2015 at 8:48 am Reply

      My guess is at least two more than they apparently intended, perhaps three 🙂

      • M T McGuire February 6, 2015 at 11:09 am

        An extra long run… far too long. That’s the reward of snootiness I guess. 😉

      • jwebster2 February 6, 2015 at 12:45 pm

        I always like to think that Courtesy is its own reward, but it’s nice when there’s a tangible dividend as well 🙂

      • M T McGuire February 6, 2015 at 1:31 pm

        Mwah hahahargh! Exactly.

  3. hanleygreen July 18, 2015 at 11:14 pm Reply

    We have a similar problem with Offas Dyke.

    • jwebster2 July 19, 2015 at 5:50 am Reply

      I can imagine you would 🙂

  4. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt January 30, 2022 at 7:24 pm Reply

    Such a good laugh – back in 2015 and again now.

    • jwebster2 January 30, 2022 at 8:20 pm Reply

      It always amused my father and I. The fact he was the only one smart enough to ask 🙂

      • Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt January 30, 2022 at 11:53 pm

        The sad part is that his mates considered it beneath them – and failed to thank you as they went by. Reminds me of a certain Gospel story about the Samaritan who went back to thank Jesus – the only one out of the ten cured of leprosy.

      • jwebster2 January 31, 2022 at 5:54 am

        I suspect it was embarrassment, they were supposed to be the intelligent ones and we were the thick rednecks working outside in all weathers…..

      • Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt January 31, 2022 at 10:13 am

        I think they needed to grow up a bit.

      • jwebster2 January 31, 2022 at 10:19 am

        Apparently that’s the sort of behaviour that passes for sophisticated and grown up 😦

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