As a club grows it develops legends of its own when its members recall incidents which occasionally "improve" with the telling. A selection of headlines follows:
The White Peak
The novice runner who took a nap at 12 miles and, after waking up, continued running but in the wrong direction towards Ashbourne.
The Irish contingent who held up the start after a late dash from the airport in a bid to sandwich our marathon between another two in a period of three days.
The couple accompanied by dogs who were surprised to be disqualified after starting 15 minutes ahead of the field.
Malcolm Taylor who dropped out at Hartington, jogged across to the High Peak Trail just before Minninglow where the astounded officials thought he was leading the field inside world record time.
The year the Brian Howitt changed from Cross Country shoes to Racing Flats at Parsley Hay, but only after receiving written permission from Joe Keily of the AAAs.
Steve Pearson's formula for a good run: 4 pints of beer the night before the race to boost blood sugar. He used it to good effect several times.
Cans of Isostar cached under rocks at Minninglow for use on training runs. All the good was undone by Mick Moorhouse who handed out Jam Tarts and Coke which produced dire effects by the Middleton incline.
Neil Forrest, the same man who had put out the markers the day before, who took a wrong turn on to the road at Middleton Top, and Roland Gibbard who did the same thing with unfortunate consequences.
Rugby player Brian Wardle's fear on his track debut that if anyone elbowed him he might tackle them.
The young Gary Thorpe's worry that he would lose his amatuer status when he was publicly given a cash prize after his win a Tideswell.
The Phantom Runner again: Gordon Cresswell is sure that John Flood existed. He alleges that he still owes him the 30p he borrowed at Barnsley.
Stuart Allsop's interminable mystery runs from Crich, particularly the 12 miles in a thunderstorm on midsummer's night.
Certain orienteers always managing to get lost on the Fritchley course, but always getting back in time for Stuart's mince pies after the race.
Roy Mason's dog assisted races: Tessa once towed him so hard that the leather harness broke. N.B. Roy's PB's were achieved minus dog.
Geoff William's cycle rides to race venues. Leicester to matlock was the record.
The tendency of Matthew Parris to turn out in big championship races wearing sawn off jeans.
Michael Flint's debut inthe Rowsley run when he allegedly reached the outskirts of Bakewell before turning back.
a 1970's run led by Clive Russell from matlock to parwich taking the direct line across country in deep snow and thick fog. We ahd to keep up with him because we were all lost.
French member Alain Mabire who would only communicate with other members by using the chairman as interpreter. Have you ever tried running up Bank Road in French?
The early Buxton "Death Runs" - either a force 10 gale which blew the lightweight Gary Thorpe 3 times up to Solomon's Temple and 2nd place or gingerly descending over the frozen tops of 6 foot snow drifts after the home team's warning of "Don't go through the crust or you'll snap your leg off like a carrot!"
The year Chris Rosling nearly drowned (no joke) when he was pinned against the stepping stones by the swollen River Dove near the start of the Dash. Fortunately ian Farrand was at hand to rescue him.
Neil Tathum's 2nd place in a race while camping in Southwest France - unfortunately he had no use for the prize of a live Guinea Fowl.
A Karrimor entrant who discovered to his dismay on the first night that he had only packed the frame of his tent.
A Four Inns run on a dark night when runners encountered waist deep water on the riverside path to Darley. This failed to extinguish Dave Erskine's portable fairy lights but snorkels are issued to vertically challenged members now.
The apocryphal rule (33b) - Thou shalt not splash thy neighbour when thou runnest through puddles - except in races.
The Louis Armstron and the Ben Johnson runs - how many members can still identify these routes and explain their names?
So, as Matlock AC completes its first 20 years, what conclusions can we draw? If we had our time over again what might we do differently? Would we give priority to organisation and administration, the lack of which has regularly been deplored at AGMS. Probably not, because our memebrs have always been active runners and we lack the nucleus of retired athletes prepared to officiate. We are just all running longer! Would we make more effort to weld our runners into a regular team? Probably not, because of the irreversible trend towards individualism which came in with the jogging bbom. Would we give more encouragement to the Women's and Junior's sections? Probably not, because of the small numbers involved and in the case of the Juniors, only rarely and for limited periods are parents prepared to assist our dedicated coaches with transport and other support.
Perhaps there is one thing with hindsight we might have done differently. At any one time only a small minority of members have actually lived in Matlock and the club's centre of gravity has shifted about 4 times over the 20 years, reflecting the membership of the committee. This is shown in the location of the Club Championships - Parwich; Matlock; South Darley; Fritchley and Matlock once again. There has been nothing wrong with the courses or the dedication of the officials, but it has meant that they have often unselfishly given up the chance to run themselves, and the frequent changes have meant that the courses have never become well known. Any one joining an established club in 1976, such as Derby, knew that his/her first duty was to learn the 5 basic courses over which all the club's internal races had been run for the last 80 years. Thus club races needed no organising. Could we learn from this and keep our Club Championships in Matlock permanently, and in the process reinstate the club "10"; "Half" and "7" as internal events, thus establishing a tradition to take us into the next 20 years?
Finally, what has Matlock AC really achieved in its first 20 years? Quite a lot in fact - some impressive performances by individuals and even by teams when everything has happened to click at the right time, as the yearly analysis has shown. We have a membership of varying interests. Obviously some people would not be seen dead on a track, just as others would dismiss a 2 day event out of hand, but most memebrs have had a go at all branches of the sportand we have remained remarkably free of cliques. On another level the fact that we have enjoyed the membership of the local Conservative MP, the Parliamentary Labour candidate and the Liberal Democrat leader of Derbyshire Dales District Council must prove something - I'm not quite sure what! The club has generated a lot of running in 20 years as its founders intended, a lot of fitness, a lot of fun and a lot of friendships. It may have even changed a few lives.
Rather than indulge in extravagant claims it is perhaps better to state a bottom line with which no one could disagree, certainly not the men - without MAC, Thursday nights would not be the same!
Brian Howitt 1996