You know when you were a child, and you fell over, and you cried for your mum? She’d come pick you up, dust you down and put a magic plaster on the almost-invisible graze. What’s a grown-up to do when they go full-length in the moorland peat? Who does the picking-up then, eh?
I was seven miles in to the challenging and optimistically-named off-road Half Yorkshireman, which was less than half of the 14.8-mile course, we like to get value for money, we Yorkshire folk. The conditions were perfect, not too warm, a slight breeze, skylarks skylarking about and the heather laying down a stunning carpet of purple. As I chewed a home-made energy-giving marzipan ball, I was contemplating how lucky I was just to be alive on a day like this. The next thing I knew, I was watching a slow-motion movie about myself, amazed as I flew through the air, marvelling that my hat stayed in place and hoping that the drinking tube didn’t land in the mud (it didn’t, I did). I landed at full speed cushioned only by the elastic tension in my Factor Four sports bra, putting the ribs I broke earlier in the year in a bizarre falling-over incident in a municipal car park at risk of further damage. They held as I rolled on the ground, wondering if I would ever stop and hoping I wasn’t gong to lose the elevation I’d gained, well, this was a race after all.
The first instinct from this middle-age woman was to cry out, call for mum and sob. But there was no-one around, apart from two startled walkers who must have witnessed my undoing. Naturally, I jumped up, scraped off the dust and mud, pulled the heather from my socks and announced ‘well, that was embarrassing’ before running off, stifling a sob. They’re not easy, these fell runs, you know.
Just a week previously I was running the inaugural Vale of York half marathon, and it couldn’t have been more different. Fast and flat, the publicity said, long straight roads, I gave it a go because, well, because I thought I might like it. The sun shone, the organisers and support were fantastic, but I hated it. No hills, no rock, no mud, no puddles, just plod plod plod. Why run on a road when you can fly on the fells? Why tread the tarmac when you can pound the peat? Why be safe when you can fall over?
I have many running friends and they do fall into two camps, some wouldn’t dream of leaving the roads, others wouldn’t touch them with a trekking pole. And me? Even though my mum’s not around to pick me up when I tumble, I love the trails and fells and will never do a road half marathon ever again!