Fetcheveryone Member of the Month

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Interview with ♪♫ Synge ♪♫

RRR-CAZ 🇬🇧 asks: Congratulations well deserved Synge. The castle challenge has been great. Q If you were to win a golden ticket to any sporting event what would you choose to watch?

♪♫ Synge ♪♫ says: Thanks, CAZ! Nice to see a virtual running companion from another event (in Tennessee!) joining this one!

I saw this question on Saturday and spent most of the day while running my coastal marathon (over six hours!) trying to think of a good answer. My problem is that we were fortunate enough to get tickets for the men's 10,000 metre final at the 2012 Olympics (what was to become Super Saturday) and I can't think of much else that could compare to that.

Maybe tickets for all four days' play in the cricket match that will see Somerset crowned as winners of the County Championship for the first time!
pedroscalls asks: Congratulations Synge. My question is if time and money are no object what route or race would you love to do?

♪♫ Synge ♪♫ says: Thanks, pedro! Darn it, you didn't exclude the limitations of age and fitness in your question!

I love the Berlin Marathon and feel that it would be hard to better that in terms of big city marathon experience, so it would have to be another type of long-distance run. Taking into account age and fitness, I have an optimistic belief that I could still just about do Comrades within the time limit for one of the lower-echelon medals, so that would have to be a strong contender.

However, as I get older and slower, I seem to be drawn to the concept of some of the big multi-day challenges. Throwing realism completely to the winds, which I think is what answering your question entails, I would go for a slow and well-supported run/walk along the full length of the Appalachian Trail. That takes six months for fit hikers, so I would want to give myself the same length of time. Essentially, you can't start until after the Spring snows have melted in Georgia and you have to finish before the snows arrive in Baxter State Park in Maine. That would be an amazing challenge!
Angus Clydesdale asks: Brilliant, well done and congratulations. Love to see folks rewarded for awesome community efforts. Oh, yes... a question: what is the #musicnotes thing about? Do you really sing? And are you a bass, baritone, tenor (or soprano?)? Choir, solo or boyband?

♪♫ Synge ♪♫ says: Hi AC! Thanks for your support for the event! Musical notes? ♪♫ I have a slight concern that they cause Fetch to have to do odd things to his coding every now and then, but, if so, he is very tolerant of them! ♪♫

Well, I have never been very good at thinking of good user names when I register on a site, so on this occasion I just used my surname. But as so many people pronounce it wrong, I added what I thought might be a subliminal clue to the fact that the name is pronounced "Sing". It's the old English spelling of the word (think back to how someone like Chaucer might have written it!). According to family history, the name was bestowed upon an ancestor of mine who was a chorister for Henry VIII, who was impressed by his voice and told him "Henceforth I shall call you Synge".

And the crowning irony is that ... I am tone deaf and can't sing in tune at all! I learned this when I was at primary school. I was about 7 years old and we were walking through the local town singing Christmas Carols when a girl in front of me turned round and said "You're flat!". Ever since then I have taken every opportunity to sing very quietly or to mime when singing in company!

So, to answer your question, an out-of-tune bass. ♪♫
jelly asks: Congratulations singe well deserved! What is your favourite castle on the challenge and have you visited all of them?

♪♫ Synge ♪♫ says: And congratulations to you on being the first finisher! A stupendous performance, even though, as far as I can tell, you just carried on as normal! Favourite castle? Well, I haven't visited many of them IRL.

Of those I have been to, Chepstow Castle is pretty impressive hanging right over the banks of the River Wye. Cardiff Castle is also worth a visit as it is so close to everything else in central Cardiff. And it's not just medieval siege instruments and jousting there, they've got air raid shelters from the Second World War in the castle walls. I enjoyed planning the section around Cardiff, picking up bits of the Half Marathon route as well as an obligatory visit to the waterfront and the barrage. I haven't visited many of the others, but have added a few to my "must visit next time I'm passing" list. I have a sister-in-law near Ludlow and my best man lives in Shrewsbury (or is it "Shrows"bury?!), so there are good excuses to travel to them.

Oddly, I was born in Bedford, but didn't know it had a castle until this year. (Our first grandchild is due to be born in Bedford Hospital in August this year, so there may be an opportunity for a visit there too!)
Mandymoo asks: Congratulations singe. What is your go to snack/the first thing you eat after a long run?

♪♫ Synge ♪♫ says: Thanks, mandymoo! Anything that can be cooked on the twin gas burners of a campervan will do me just fine, thank you!
Serendippily asks: Well deserved Synge. How long did it take you to plan out the castle challenge and what first gave you the idea? You’ve created a fetch community event: runners and walkers of all types speed and distance sharing a route, with lots of unexpected bedfellows and funny chat along the way and lots of motivation to get out and keep the party going. Thank you!

♪♫ Synge ♪♫ says: Thanks - I am loving being part of the event and seeing all the chat and banter on the forum. I am so pleased that Fetch finessed the basic design to make the journey, or just a part of the journey (as opposed to finishing it) something to enjoy, with all the stage incentives, and I hope the participants who may only cover 50 or 100 miles in six months get as much out of it as the speedsters.

I have been a little bit addicted to virtual challenges ever since the start of lockdown 1 and I have entered several paid-for events, including offerings from Conqueror (Hadrian's Wall) and endtoend (the Welsh Coast Path). They are probably the two big names for this kind of thing in the UK. But the one I enjoyed most was a lower key event - the South West Coast Path - organised by a local runner here in South Devon. We somehow ended up with about 20 Fetchies taking part (in a field of only around 250) and we had quite an active forum thread going here. This showed me that the community and chat is as important as the simple covering the distance.

While I was casting around for another event, I asked Ian whether he might be interested in hosting one here. After a bit of thought, he said he would be up for it. We agreed the basic parameters - free to enter, contained as much as possible within the site and 600 miles in six months - and he left me to sort out a route!

I liked the idea of having equal-length stages and I needed something to mark the end of each stage. I'm honestly not sure where the idea of castles came from, it just seemed to be in my mind one day, but it has certainly captured the collective imagination! I think that the overall design, with a few suggestions from me and a whole heap of coding from him, really does capture the best features of the various commercial offerings out there and it is really rewarding to see the implemented event in action!
3M asks: Congratulations Synge!
Why castles? :-)

♪♫ Synge ♪♫ says: Thanks, MMM! Pure dead brilliant genius inspiration, of course!

(See my answer to Serendippily's question for a more modest (and honest!) answer!)
westmoors asks: Congratulations Synge. Loving the castles challenge and community. If you could meet anyone, past or present, who would it be and why?

♪♫ Synge ♪♫ says: Thank you!

I have been working on my list of ideal dinner party guests for years, just in case someone asked, but no-one has! That list, for what its worth, would include John Peel to select the music, Robin Knox-Johnston for tales of no-nonsense derring-do and Michael Parkinson for some amusing anecdotes. But that's not quite what you asked!

I think I might ask to meet my Dad, who died in 2006 and who unwittingly set me off on this running lark. I wanted to raise some money for a cancer charity which had supported him and decided that the only way to do this was to enter a marathon and find some sponsors. The event turned out to be the 2007 Flora London Marathon. I raised about £500 and completed the marathon in 4:25. I had previously run the 1989 ADT London Marathon (remember them?) as a result of snaffling one of a number of tickets which suddenly appeared in the office where I worked and, although I had no running "career" as such, and had certainly run less than 50 miles in the intervening 18 years, it got me to wondering whether I could match my earlier time of 3:48. And within two years, I had!

Back to the question, though, we had a bit of an old-fashioned father-son relationship which many chaps born in the early 1960s probably would recognise. It wasn't characterised by a particular closeness (or by a particular distance). It was just as it was. I'd like to go back and see if we could do it a bit differently, having learned a lot about parental stuff from our two daughters who are now both in their twenties.
FlyingScotsman asks: Congratulations Synge, well deserved. My question is, If you were a professional athlete in any sport, what song would you want played as you walked out onto the pitch?

♪♫ Synge ♪♫ says: Thank you! A good question. When you start thinking about it, you realise why the same old songs get played at every running event - We Are The Champions, Eye Of The Tiger, Chariots Of Fire - they all foster some sort of confidence which makes you think you can win anything!

But I’m going to go back to the 1976 Montreal Olympics and ask you to play Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s version of Fanfare For The Common Man. I love the build up.
geordiegirl asks: A very worthy winner!! Thank you so much for creating this amazing Castle Challenge. What inspired you to do it? If you’re could run a section of the route for real where would you chose & what distance would you do?

♪♫ Synge ♪♫ says: Hi gg! I'm glad you are enjoying it. I still find it a bit weird that all we are really doing is logging distances which Ian converts into a point on a wiggly line on a map, but there's something about these virtual events that really seems to capture the imagination - it's brilliant! I think there was originally a heavy dose of lockdown "cabin fever" with virtual events - if you couldn't get out far from home for real, at least you could go exploring from your desk. But they have taken on a life of their own and I think they'll be around long after we can go running anywhere again. The community and the banter here on the forum is really entertaining and it's the first thread I look at each time I return to the site (many times a day!).

As for my choice of where to run, I think I would pick the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal towpath. It's a bit of a shame that the google camera van hasn't made it there. but I love that area and I would also welcome the chance to run a few miles on the flat, which is pretty much impossible here in South Devon!
Wombling Plodder (Welsh Womble) asks: Congratulations Synge - I am loving being part of the Castle Challenge (thank you). Which one is your favourite castle? And have you visited in the real world?

♪♫ Synge ♪♫ says: Thanks, WP(WW). I'm really pleased you're enjoying it and it's great to hear your progress reports too. I'm kind of leaning towards Caerphilly at the moment, which I have never visited. It looks so imposing being right next to the high street like that! Mind you, that may be just that it has had so much coverage on the route so far and I might well change my answer once everyone starts sending in reports and streetview images of faraway places further along the route!
HappyG(rrr) asks: Congratulations - very well deserved. My question - are you The Masked Fetchie?! :-) G

♪♫ Synge ♪♫ says: Thank you!

I'll start by answering the easy question. No, I'm not.

Hmmm. Before I press "submit", I need to think about this one. I guess that I would give you exactly the same answer if I was. So, maybe I should admit that I am? That would confuse you. Well, it's confusing me, anyway. I thought this was an easy question! I'm going to press "submit" now.
BigChiefRunningBore asks: Which Bit of you is the Fittest?

♪♫ Synge ♪♫ says: Ha! The bit of my brain that thinks I can run further and faster than I really can, that's got very high aspirations to fitness. Unfortunately the rest of me usually lets that bit down!
Pothunter asks: Congratulations! What would you have for your death row meal? Starter, main and desert with something to wash it down.

♪♫ Synge ♪♫ says: Well, I hope I have a lot of time to think about this one ahead of that fateful day! Good question!

Starter will have to be something Italian/Mediterranean/fishy, maybe squid or octopus. I have gone a bit seafood-crazy on the couple of occasions we have visited Italy. Sitting at a restaurant in the middle of Catania's fish market when it was in full swing was a great experience.

Main course. I might be tempted to go for a vegan dish in recognition of younger daughter's preferences. Perhaps I'll cook up one of my fantastic three-bean chilli dishes. I usually add at least a couple of extra types of bean to see who notices, so let's go for a five-bean chilli. Cooked in advance and warmed up on my campervan stovetop. (I'm thinking about my escape and now I have the wheels!)

Dessert. Well, if it's my last night on earth, I shan't worry too much about my waistline, so i'll have a good selection of cheeses, please. And a glass or two of port.

For the washing down bit, I'll order a bottle of Theakston's Old Peculier. Probably the first beer I ever tried in the Lake District and so I've always had a soft spot for it. And it would revive many happy memories of hiking and peakbagging on the fells.
Chrisity asks: Est le Synge dans l'arbre?

♪♫ Synge ♪♫ says: Oui, et il te jette des noix de coco!
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