Friday, February 10, 2006

Everyone Needs a Hobby...

Oscar would kick his @$$....

LONDON (AP) - He is reluctant to call himself a human fox, but several times a year John Whetton is chased through the British countryside by scarlet-coated huntsmen and their packs of hounds.

"I get caught very, very rarely," Whetton said Friday. "But, when I do, the worst that can happen is you get licked to death."

Whetton, a former Olympic middle-distance runner who ran in Tokyo and Mexico City in the 1964 and 1968 Games, is a volunteer for the Readyfield Bloodhounds hunt, a fox-less hunt held in central England.

The alternative event has gained popularity since Britain's Hunting Act came into force last February following a bitterly fought political battle over the sport.

All traditional fox hunting and other kinds of events in which dogs chase and kill prey were outlawed under the legislation.

It has led to an upsurge in popularity for drag-hunting and bloodhounding, forms of the sport which see dogs chase a trail of scent - or an athlete - rather than a live fox.

Whetton, 64, said he typically runs 24 kilometres during hunts and gives himself a clear head-start on the bloodhounds.

"I always get a 20-minute start on the hounds and I sweat, so the scent is strong and the hounds go crazy," he said.

"The great thing about it is that it gives me the chance to run over beautiful countryside and it keeps you fit."

The ex-athlete began pitting himself against hounds in 1985 and has since persuaded wife Christine and step-daughter Danella to take up the challenge.

"It's a competition. You are competing against them (the hounds). You want to get to the end before they do," said Whetton of Nottinghamshire in central England.

In 1964, Whetton placed eighth in the 1,500-metre race at the Tokyo Olympics. Four years later, he placed fifth in Mexico City.

He later became a lecturer of physiology at Nottingham Trent University, retiring two years ago.

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