I finished my last dispatch wondering whatever had happened to Max Stuff [aka in race results as Max Stiff, Max Stuff and, when he is sneezing, Max Snuff]. Well, either fortuitously or as a result of my rumination, he has suddenly burst into renewed athletic prominence. Since his emigration to the Forest of Dean, it has been noted how he has developed a tendency to avoid running out in the open, preferring the shelter of the woodland canopy. He has now taken this shunning of the light to a new extreme, opting, if he can, to run among trees after dark. In the Beechenhurst Lodge 10K night race on 13th Dec, he not only took the 1st V50 prize but finished third overall, a really stupendous performance. However, perched on a beam in a dark corner of the pub after the event, he caused some disquiet by swooping silently down to seize a mouse he had spotted crossing the flagstones.

” Well, to be honest, he does have some owl-like tendencies ” admitted his trainee, Rich Wall, a man who also likes disporting himself at night and had a good run in the Beechenhurst.

On the Blorenge on 29th Nov, Max was cruelly exposed to some open ground, even if it did rise at an angle of 75 degrees, but the lure of the woodland as he plunged downhill was enough to ensure another V50 victory [19th overall out of 100], beating in the process not only the accomplished Pete Gardner but recent English Fell Champ, Helen Fines. For his hat-trick, our man went to the Kymin on 3rd Jan not certain how he would manage crossing the open fields on the way to the summit but, despite being as pale as an ocean-floor fish deprived of all light and wearing dark glasses and visor against the [for him] brilliance of the gloomy, overcast day, he again carried off the prize in 11th overall out of 138, yet another wonderful effort. Rich ran this one too, concerned that he had overcooked his Christmas and indeed one spectator suggested that he was running with a turkey tucked under his vest….in which case, he had an impressive race, finishing well up in 44th, 4 places ahead of his useful performance on the Blorenge. In the Skirrid on 13th Dec, he also ran well, 62nd out of 137.

In Wye Valley’s New Year’s Day 10K, we had fewer runners than usual but the increasingly shiny Russ took 1st V45 in 11th [in a field of well over 200] in 38.01 with Rich Hughes, still not in top form, 2nd V50 and 19th overall in 39.18. It was also good to see Nigel Reade back in action, albeit far from his best after a succession of colds, taking 103rd in 48.04.

As for the older generation, they have occasionally managed to prise themselves out of their slippers and away from the mistletoe over the holiday. Steve Littlewood suffered two narrow V60 defeats on the fells, first being pipped right at the death on the Blorenge [42nd] by Grant of Chepstow and then by the speedy Murphy of Les Croupiers in the Skirrid [49th] in both instances losing his wine by a handful of seconds. But never fear, Steve’s consistency has kept him well up in The South Wales Winter Series and it looks like being a battle to the end with Murphy for the overall title, which would give our lad 3 in a row and a bonus mark and, oh yeah, another lovely yellow tee shirt. Cunningly avoiding his arch rival, Herington made his way to the Kymin and stole off with the V60 alcohol [38th].

Just as one leaves the Christmas pud, brandy butter and side scoop of ice cream to last to round off the celebratory feast, so here finally, I set Kev before you, together with a pack of Rennies. Prolific as ever, he put in a mansize appearance at the Skirrid [105th], a fluent effort in the NYD 10K [117th in 48.57] and a hearty charge at the Kymin [84th]. He was unfortunately prevented from competing in the night race after getting caught in his zip and not being able to extricate himself.

“Pity really,” he commented,”I was looking forward to a head-to-head with a wild boar in the dark. But,do they do any night-time discuss comps?”