File photo.

Stablemate Jonny “the Don” Williams sliced an honest 49 seconds off his 13.1 best at the Wokingham Half-Marathon—bettering the PR he set in the same race last year Placing 171st overall and 42nd M40, the Don crossed the line in a stunning 1:18:45.

He was glad of the dry and fresh conditions—5-7°C, with a light wind. Optimal, by anyone’s standards.

The Stable News resident bouncer, Ally “the Chin” Smith, met up with Jon at the local: 

Ally: Hey there, Jon, nice to meet you. 

Jonny: Hey, Ally; I thought you’d be bigger! 

Ally: Ha-ha, haven’t heard that one before. How’d it go? 

Jonny: Limited expectations: arrived a bit fatigued from training, and I changed in a bog (not a toilet, an actual bog, where they had helpfully located the baggage area). So I started the race with sodden shoes and socks. 

Ally: Squelchy! 

Jonny: Smashed out the first mile and didn’t feel like I was dying, so went with it from there. Felt great for most of the race, and was definitely stronger than in previous years over the bridges towards the end. Super happy with the result—was tired, but not wrecked. 

What will they think of next?

Ally: Nice one! Going in weary and still banging out a solid effort. Anything else coming up? 

Jonny: Boston Marathon incoming next month. First-timer and bricking it, to be honest. 

Ally: Hahaha, that’s a good thing! If you weren’t nervous, I’d be worried. Good luck with it, Jonny, and I’ll see you then. 

Jonny: Thanks, Ally. See you then. 

Coach Stazza was putting the finishing touches to his packing before jetting off to some far-flung location when he gave the News a call: 

“Alright, lads … Before I head off, I just have to say something about the Don’s threshold trot! … He went out like excrement off a spade and held on fine … The fitness is coming … Watch out Boston!” 


(It’s Friday morning in the Stable News office. General Puffball is at his desk as Ally enters.)  

Ally: Awright, pal; thur’s the esteemed editor himself! This week’s brill coverage o’ they half-marathons an’ ultra up on the site then, ye?

Puffball: (Grinning.) But of course. Your wildly inspiring descriptions of our Stablemates’ gutsy efforts were absolute literary masterworks.

Ally: (Pouring a drink.) Aye, ya cheeky bam, coorse ah got a hern o’ punters oan the grove already bunnin’ me up as the next Rabbie Burns ower it. (Drinks.) But ma pure genius is just workin’ class drivel tae yer posh numpty ways, is it no?

Puffball: (Chuckling.) Hardly drivel, my friend. I was particularly struck by those lines evoking Weissman’s derring-do.

Ally: Aye, felt like ah pure tapped poetry wi’ the sweet floo o’ they lines, did-nae?

(He nods at the printing presses, which clank loudly.)  

Ally: Soons like yer beloved auld manky machinery’s got a case o’ the durie guts. Ah thought the repair crew wis meant tae come earlier this week.

Puffball: As did I, though those incompetent louts couldn’t be bothered to show, evidently. (Another loud clank.) Going by that decrepit wheezing, it’ll be a miracle if the machines don’t conk out altogether before long.

Ally: (Scoffing.) Well, if the auld rust-buckets finally breathe their last fae their blinkered ways, good riddance. It’s the digital era, whether they’re hag-haud or no.

Puffball: Ally, Ally, Ally. Just because everything’s ones and zeroes now doesn’t mean we should abandon old-school print. There’s an almost sensual quality to holding physical paper, don’t you think? Gets the synapses firing like nothing else. And I contend there’s a route to a sort of avant-garde melding of modern and “ancient” crafts, as Tyler Brûlé himself might appreciate.

Ally: (Rolling eyes.) Aw, here we go wi’ that poncey MONOCLE bam again! These ramshackle units huvnae pit oot a single hard copy in ages, hiv they? Oor wee rags are PDF, like.  

Puffball: Well, I … That is to—

(He’s cut off as the presses explode with a loud bang.)

Ally: (Recoiling.) Beggin’ yer pardon! The auld junkers hiv kicked aff like crazy!

Puffball: It’s a mechanical insurrection! We must evacuate before this blaze consumes us both! This way to the stairs!

(He rushes Ally to the exit as fire spreads rapidly around them. They scramble down, hacking from thick smoke. They stumble out.)

Ally: (Gasping.) Cannae … Get … Any air … Thur’s fumes aw ower!

(They retreat across the street, watching the building become fully engulfed in towering flames.)

Puffball: (Shaking his head, sadly.) All those years of top-notch journalistic efforts … Reduced to ashes … (Beat.) What a bitter pill.

Ally: (Anguished.) Whit’s puir auld Stazza gonnae make o’ this shambolic disaster, General?

Puffball: (Grimly.) The legendary coach will understandably be crestfallen. (Resolve returning.) But have no doubt; we shall overcome this material immolation. This is merely a minor, foul-smelling detour. You have my word. The Stable News shall be reborn—perhaps as a publication truly straddling the frontier between ink and pixel.

Ally: (Snorting.) Aye, an’ ah’m the King’s butler, ya daftie. Ah’ll believe it when ah see it manifest as mair than just yer usual big talk.

(They watch, Puffball stubbornly determined, Ally sceptical, as the fire rages in front of them.)

Whither The Stable News?