Sir Arthur Conan Doyle*
*As related to Peter Scaife
Pausing for one brief moment in his reverie, Holmes put to one side the well-thumbed copy of ‘Athletics Weekly’ he had been perusing, and in one swift and graceful movement arose quickly, checking his card index on the dresser.
‘’I knew I was right!’’ he exclaimed in triumph. ‘’ They featured the same ‘Ten best tips to improve your 10k times’ article in May five years ago. I must get round to cancelling my subscription,’’ he complained.
Guilty briar in hand, he fell once again deep into contemplation of his current case. Though it lacked the sheer anatomy or cold-blooded evil of ‘The Speckled Band’, or indeed the extraordinary dénouement of ‘Silver Blaze’, nevertheless certain features made it one of the most perplexing he'd ever been involved in.
Deep in thought, he registered with a cavalier toss of his proud, leonine head the heavy tread of Lestrade’s footsteps on the stairs, a sound with which we had both become so familiar of late.
‘’Scotland Yard’s finest, if I am not much mistaken. I warned him about the mid-sole on that Brooks ‘The Beast’ after you, my trusty amanuensis, had purchased the same shoes last year,’’ he laughed.
“Lestrade my good man,” Holmes exclaimed as the door was flung open to take in the portly, middle-aged figure of the detective. Like myself, he was a late convert to road-running and was blowing hard from a demanding, newly installed gaslight session.
"Do come in, my fine fellow. I have been consulting the world-wide-web for the results of the Abbey Dash and you will admit, I am sure, they make most disappointing reading for our man.”
“Indeed Holmes is right”, I opined, “and yet he was more than ready for such a challenge. Lestrade here reports his regular Thursday evening attendance at the cinder track sessions, a presence noted and indeed commended by other members of his club, the Metropolitan Pedestrians.’’
Holmes smiled. “That may be. But you will be familiar, no doubt, with the saying ‘it is hard to teach an old dog new tricks’”.
Lestrade demurred. “Indeed. So you may put it down to age. But ‘The Disappointed Dasher’ had been in fine form by all accounts and had most assiduously followed Bruce Tulloh’s schedule in the copy of ‘Running over Forty’ he had been bought at Christmas three years ago and finally got round to reading.”
A sigh of exasperation was momentarily checked by the great detective. He had long since given up believing in schedules.
Looking up, he gazed longingly at the mantle on which still stood his famed ‘7% solution’, now on the IAAF list of banned substances. “I am afraid the answer may be closer to home than we dare to think, Watson. Indeed, it may even now be staring us so closely in the face that we are too close to see the terrible reality of the truth confronting us.”
This was too much for Lestrade. “Confound it Holmes! The Dasher had trained by the book. He had upped his mileage and partaken of two quality sessions a week. He had abstemiously refrained from alcohol and even forsaken human company the night before the race…” He broke off, his voice hoarse both from his own earlier exertions and his bemusement at The Dasher’s loss of form.
“Lestrade, Lestrade, my dear fellow. Calm yourself down and partake of a glass of this fine isotonic fructose tropical flavour high carbohydrate sports drink. Do you not remember my maxim?”
“Why of course Holmes! Eliminate the impossible, and whatever else remains, however improbable, must be the truth. But how does that explain our case? What on earth can be the reason for our ‘Disappointed Dasher?’
“The answer I am afraid gentlemen, is much simpler. For what then was the improbable? The Dasher was, indeed, in the form of his life. He had, as you have correctly surmised, prepared more rigorously than ever before. The times we clocked on my pocket watch were several seconds ahead of anything before recorded. It is not, as the venerable Mr. Alder is wont to joke, that ‘he started badly, then he faded’! But what if the failing was not down to the Dasher?’’
This was too much even for me, used as I was to the great detective’s circuitous explanations. ‘’ Confound it Holmes! Stop for one moment talking in riddles. It is clear that the mystery to this puzzle has long been apparent to you. Tell us what you know, and then Lestrade can go and carry out his stretches.’’
Holmes laughed heartily. ‘’Well, if you must my good friends. The failings were not those of the Dasher, who had indeed run the race of his life. They were of the measurer on his velocipede. For the course was short, and so all the times, not just of our own man The Dasher, have been scratched from the record books…"