The grainy sepia-toned picture resolves itself. A man, sat hunched at his desk, typing away on a computer. The bowl of soup in front of him says it's lunch time. He clicks around the screen, flicking from site-to-site, link-to-link. The shot changes and his face is shown, illuminated in the glare of his monitor. His grizzled, bearded visage bears the thousand-yard stare and faintly disturbing grin of the exhausted but happy.
A crackly voiceover crackles its crackly way through the speakers, a voice like an old sleuth chewing on a fat Havana.
"Monday morning and I'm shot through. This weekend just about finished me off. First, some crazy dame and her old man turn up, bundle me into their car and escort my ass way-the-hell north, to some one-horse town in Scotland. Then, they dress me up in all this lycra and send me out to run myself ragged. The Mighty Deerstalker, they called it. Like an invite to a duel, but I'm an old hand, I've run that race many times before. Nothing was gonna stop me taking a personal best, not the water, not the scree, not even the 1500 other people. Nothing"
The screen flickers, a picture of a website, the race results displayed, a time marked off: 2:29:04. The voiceover pauses. A sipping sound, like a man in a homburg with a Jack Daniels on the rocks, then a consumptive sounding cough. The screen changes again, pictures of runners by the busload. A sharp inhalation of breath, then the voice continues...
"I said to them "Where's the hotel?", but they just laughed. We slept the night in a crowded tent. The air was so cold it froze my socks off, but we'd stocked up on knockout juice on the way, so a few drinks and it was goodnight Vienna. The old man said he had something to celebrate, so we celebrated some, then we celebrated some more. We slept like babies, but without the crying and nappy changes."
Another pause, the monitor flicks through a series of labels: Traquair Bear ale; Gaymers cider; Rhymney Dark ale; Jameson's Irish whiskey; Tetley tea; a small tent and three slumbering bodies; a small pile of recycled dinner; a clear sky, the constellations open for all to behold above the frosty ground. Then to a sunrise; a boiling kettle on an aging Trangia; three bikes; a wooded hill.
"The next morning we stumbled out of bed like tramps on Buckfast, and they said "Let's ride". I ain't no cowboy, so they handed me a bike and pointed me down the road. A place by the name of Glentress. They said the trail started there, so we wandered down to meet up with their partners in grime; DB, The Dane, and a redhead by the name of Rossco. I looked around for a clue and saw a sign from above. It said 'Trailhead' so I knew this was the place to start. "The only way is up", I said, so we climbed. And climbed. And climbed some more. The crazy dame led the way, and we climbed until it all got too spooky. Then we stopped."
The screen flickers again, another website. A series of pictures, people on bikes, the sun in the sky, sucking down energy food, and climbing, always climbing.
"We stuck down some chow, then it was time to move on. I looked around again, and said "The only way is down", so we dropped. It took all the strength I had just to keep on the right track and keep my nose clean. Some fool had dropped dirt and rocks all over the trail. I guess they must have been trying to slow us down, but the chase was on. Things got less spooky, and got faster and swoopier. All at once our thoughts turned to food. Mushroom pies, macaroni cheese, and baked potatoes. We rode like the wind, 'til we couldn't ride no more, and we tumbled out of the woods back where we came from. It looked like it was time to call it a day, and I’d have called it a hell of a day. But for now, it was time to eat..."
The images flick past. Tea. Flapjack. Nachos. Pasta. An empty plate where a baked potato should be. More tea. Costa Coffee.M&Ms
"Pretty soon we knew it was time to leave, so we said our goodbyes and headed south. The rain started as we passed Carlisle. The crazy dame and her old man threw me out of the car as we passed my house, but as I lay in the gutter counting my limbs, the only thought in my head was "we have to do that again sometime"
The screen changes once more. A vertical down-shot of an aching man, sitting in the bath with a cup of tea in hand. Strategically placed bubbles obscure certain parts of the view. The man sits back, with a sigh and a broad grin to camera. The image flickers one last time, to words on a screen, before it fades to black, and the credits roll:
Le Cerf Noir: Carrick 'Pyro' Armer
The Crazy Dame: Rebecca West
The Old Man: Tim Stevenson
DB: Davy Broni
The Dane: Lars Hyllested
Rossco: Ross Hendry
Extras: Elise Armer, Jon Reich, Joe Faulkner, Dan Gates, Lizzie Rose, Philip Price
Collective Masochism: A cast of thousands
Organised Sadism: Detail Events
Happy Trails: The Forestry Commission