Squirrel Watch

Danny Coyle

Tuesday, 4 October, 2011
I’ve been having a recurring nightmare. A huge dog is running after me through a park. His teeth bared, drool swinging in thick, white pendulums from his jaw, eyes ablaze with visceral intent.I reach a giant oak tree and start to climb. But I’m not fast enough. His teeth are on my tail, he’s pulling me back to earth and I’m about to fall to the floor. And then I wake up, wipe the sweat from my brow, my wife mutters ‘not again?’ and I go back to sleep. What am I worrying about? Dogs aren’t allowed to enter the Royal Parks Half Marathon.Loading...
Chester the Squirrel gears up for the Royal Parks Foundation Half Marathon 2011...
It was a dark winter’s evening in the MR office when I walked in from the kitchen. Our ad team were sitting at their desks sniggering and nudging one another like kids at the back of the class. ‘You ask him,’ said one. ‘No you ask him,’ replied the other. ‘Ask me what?’ Our friends at the Royal Parks Foundation had floated the idea that one of the team (me) run this years half-marathon as their official mascot, Chester the Squirrel.Whether I’m simply a sucker for the power of suggestion or I just can’t recall if they’d promised to buy me a beer or two, I agreed, not having even clapped eyes on the outfit.Fast forward to the summer and I met my alter ego at the Royal Parks Offices to see whether he was even feasible to run in. The answer was yes and no. The lower half is light, but the long, offset tail does slightly pull me to the left as I run. The upper body is like wearing a fur coat done up right to your chin, but it doesn’t restrict your arm swing.And then there’s the head. It is huge, but the hole in which to insert my napper is barely big enough. Inside there is what seems a Heath Robinson head brace and chinstrap, with an equally makeshift fan perched in the nose cone operated by a small switch somewhere near my left sideburn.Once the head brace is altered to fit and the fan is in operation, the wearing of the head itself is fine. Until you start to run. Visibility is afforded only either side of Chester’s nose and covered in a fine mesh that makes it feel like you’re trying to peer through a set of net curtains that used to belong to your Nan and haven’t been washed since the Queen’s Silver Jubilee. As you run, the nose sways from left to right and you find yourself constantly trying to fathom where to place your next step through alternate sides of Chester’s oversized hooter.All of these problems, of course, are easier to cope with with practice. Deciding, however to suit up for a team run with the MR crew last Friday, the hottest September day since records began, was perhaps a bit stupid.teamchesterOn our usual towpath route that can take even the slowest guys in the office less than half an hour, it took some 1 hr 20mins as Chester. Granted, we stopped to take some snaps and do some video interviews, and one bull terrier took grave offence in a slightly hairy encounter (pardon the pun), but I had to stop several times for water, which meant removing the head, which meant clumps of ginger fake fur plastering themselves to my face each time I took it off and put it on.At least my colleagues were sympathetic, encouraging me to try and climb a tree for yet more PR shots, before enacting a sprint finish across Hammersmith bridge to a chorus of car horns and abuse.That was just shy of four miles and I felt as though I’d run a marathon. I’ll be doing a rain dance all week in the hope that by the time October 9th comes, London will have settled into the sort of weather we have come to expect rather than the heat wave that has blighted the capital in recent days.dannychesterThank F*** thats over!This weather has caused flowers to come back into bloom who had long though their time was up, it has played havoc with the leaves on the trees and it has sent 999 calls through the roof. And, I can confirm, it is causing one squirrel in particular no end of sleepless nights.

The Royal Parks Half Marathon starts at 9.30am on Sunday October 9th. For more information on where to spectate/hurl abuse at Chester, visit royalparkshalf.com

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