The Carnethy Interview - Paula Drouet

          Marshalling on Jura - for the Scottish Islands Peaks Race - I had this brilliant idea to chat up Paula. We fitted in the questions and answers between runners being timed out after kit checking. A third of the Carnethy membership is female and the ladies have not been well represented in TCI. It was time to change all that. I thought Paula was Scandinavian. Energetic, blonde, very fit, always pleasant, smiling and joking. Our paths had crossed a few times on Carnethy events. Now to find out about the Paula inside the exterior.

Your French surname, tell me about it and your early family experiences.

        My father is Polish. He settled in England after serving in the Polish Air Force and met my Mum at the end of the War.

So you should be Drouski!

No, his grandfather was a Frenchman who fought in the Franco-Prussian War - its all very complicated including connections with the Polish aristocracy! We lived in Suffolk, in the country first of all and later in Ipswich. I had a quiet (well, not all that quiet!!) family upbringing and was the 6th in the family; I have 4 brothers and 4 sisters.

So were you athletic from an early age?

        At school I did the usual sports (hockey, tennis, netball) but no running. To travel and see the world I joined the WRNS at 18 years old. All the sports facilities were provided and I took advantage of anything that was going. Walking, sailing, road running, etc. I trained as a Dental Hygienist in Portsmouth, where I was based for 5 years. Went to Gibraltar, then Arbroath. While in east Scotland I got into the mountains, particularly the Glenshee and Nevis area. Then out to Gibraltar again and Hong Kong. While abroad I joined the Hash House Harriers for running and walking. They are enthusiasts who do all sorts of things - lay trails with flour for the rest to run and follow.

Paula spoke enthusiastically about "The Hash", social running and doing marathons and half marathons.

My last posting was Rosyth, hence a flat in Edinburgh and a job there.

How did you come to join Carnethy?

        On the recommendation of a friend. We went to the Two Breweries from Broughton to Cockermouth. I met Nick, Peter Brooks, Hilary and Andy. The people were very friendly and welcoming; their attitude to hill running appealed to me. Nick was particularly convincing.

Which was your first hill race?

        The Carnethy, then Tinto followed by lots of others. I recently did the Trotternish ridge with The Hash in boots with a big pack and really missed the advantages of light-weight, fast travel - walking the ups, run the downs, jog the flats.

Do you have a favourite type of run?

        The longer routes appeal to me most. I ran the Nevis race last year for the first time and the Lairig Ghru. My current ambition is to do the Islands Peaks! I've been talking to Jilly about persuading her Dad to do the sailing bit next year, with me and a friend as the runners! (Jilly is The Interviewer's grand-daughter, who was also marshalling on Jura). Marathons, too; my 7th was the New York with 10 others from The Hash. I said that was going to be my last but I've been talked into doing the Edinburgh Marathon in September.

Are you very competitive?

No, very uncompetitive. Friendly, social running is the most enjoyable for me. This is my first sports stopwatch, from a friend. We spent a while trying to adjust it to exact Race time but had to give up and ask Moira (she has the same make of watch).

Do you train a lot, or use a special diet?

        A weekly 20 to 30 miles seems to keep me fit enough, rising to 40 or 50 a week for special occasions. As for diet, just sensible eating (not vegetarian), and lots of lager for liquid refreshment.

What about other sports?

        I play tennis and squash regularly at Edinburgh Clubs . Skiing is great fun and I went to France this year. Time is the great problem! I still do a lot of walking in the hills and love Island visits. With friends from the Hash we visited Rum, Eigg and Tiree; I'm planning to see a lot more Islands, too - Colonsay this summer. The Carnethy trip to St Kilda was great fun.

Are you interested in Munros?

        Oh, yes! On Skye last year Jerry Akroid, a guide who lives on the island, took me and some friends up all the Munros on the Cuillin Ridge. Fabulous! I've done 177 and hope to compleat before I reach the Interviewer's age. Doing the Inn Pinn was a great achievment for me.

Paula talked about valuing her independence and the advantages of having her own flat. She obviously loves the freedom to do exciting things in the mountains with friends, to have holidays with adventure and an aim in view, . I asked her about dreams and ambitions.

Well, I have plans to do the GR20 in Corsica this year. I have trekked twice in in Nepal and Morocco. I want to trek in Peru and the Alps and climb Kilimanjaro. There's so much to do and a good level of fitness and mountain experience makes all these things possible. Not only possible but enjoyable and not a physical burden.

What sort of things do you enjoy reading?

        Well, this is embarrassing but I really enjoy romantic novels. You won't put that in the interview write-up, will you? I keep up with the best-sellers and enjoyed Wild Swans and other stories from the Far East.

Would you like to recommend a book that everyone should read?

Yes, Joe Simpson, "Touching the Void". Just so you don't think I'm a complete sissy.

Comment on Carnethy as a Club - the good things and the things you would change.

        It's a very friendly Club, with lots of running events and groups getting into the hills. There's always an enthusiast inviting others out to do something interesting. Although there some very good purely social events - Burns Night, The Ceilidh, The Dinner - I think I would try to add to those sort of things. A Summer Dance (with tangos!) has been discussed among those keen on dancing, for example. I would support that! Ladies Runs are very enjoyable but I would have more mixed runs with the men. Not instead of, in addition if possible; there's the time problem, of course.

How long have you been a member?

        I joined about 6 years ago.

How many members do you know?

Maybe 50 - I'll look at the list and tot up a figure (*see later).

Have you had a life-threatening experience in the hills?

        Well, it was very, very windy last weekend and a bit alarming but I can't ever recall feeling really threatened. I suppose winter is the time when the accident seems most likely. When its bitterly cold and windy and icy, like our walk on New Year's Day. There was an incident I was involved in when a companion slid in the snow near Loch Monar. He broke an ankle and a leg and we had to carry him out, using my survival bag for the first and only time after carrying it for years and not using it. I always carry safety gear, extra clothes and a hip flask for emergencies. The weather can change so quickly in Scotland.

How do you feel about the risks of running in the hills?

        I don't worry about the risks, just accept them and take reasonable precautions. In an event like the Islands Peaks Race or the big Mountain Marathons all the safety gear specified is totally justified.
Do you go running by yourself?

        Yes, I often go out for a couple of hours in Edinburgh or the Pentlands alone. I don't feel threatened or anything like that. A run by oneself is very enjoyable occasionally. You can switch off and relax and put the world to rights.

Now my hobby horse - where does your motivation and enthusiasm come from?

        It's natural! You're born with it. My Mum and Dad were always enthusiastic about things and well motivated.

Do you subscribe to my re-cycling theory?

In Carnethy it's certainly true that one is surrounded by enthusiasm. Mention anything and there's always someone keen to do it.

What do you think about paying £10 to Big Organisation?

        For what? We pay a Club fee (not much in the case of Carnethy) and race fees of several pounds. Most of us are members of other Clubs, with expenses. It all adds up. If only someone could justify the extra £10 instead of just demanding it.

Whom should I interview next?

        Jane Robertson, Nikki Innes

*Later note: Paula found she would recognise at least 90 members.

AM 1/6/99

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