My heart on my sleeve and my age on my back


Running’s a great leveller, you line up at the start of a race, rubbing shoulders with lawyers, students, plumbers, firemen and women, teachers, preachers and the odd chief executive. Unless you’re in the Coco Chanel Pose Pout and Prance Memorial Race, you’re probably not going to be a glampuss or a fashion icon. It’s you, your kit and the desire to tread those trails or pound those pavements.

There are no secrets. Running has a very beneficial effect on the body and its many functions, whether it’s streaming eyes or nose in the cold wind or, if you’re a female, the skill of crouching behind bushes avoiding nettles and brambles as you regret having that last drink before you set off. Oh my goodness, I could write books about al fresco facilities I have used, with amazing views from glaciers and mountain tops, which are infinitely more preferable to the chemical toilets in their wobbly cubicles or ill-lit dark and dirty public loos. But maybe not just yet.

Age, a very sensitive subject for many, is no secret at all. I’ve long since given up telling people I’m 21, they just laugh in my wrinkled face. Any formal race you enter shows the result with your age category in the results, and it’s no consolation that the category covers five years. Though there is a clever algorithm that puts we oldies on an even keel with the younger runners. Age grading  takes your time and uses the world record time for your sex and age to produce a score. That’s good news for me, for example I would have been 115th at parkrun this week rather than 284th if age grading was applied – and I didn’t even do a good run!

The Yorkshire Veterans Athletics Association goes one further. In athletics terms, female veterans are 35 and males 40, fortunately there are no further categories such as ‘super vet’ or ‘super vet plus’. It was the first race of the season this weekend over on the hills of Honley, the other side of Huddersfield from us, a challenging and muddy course, just what I like. When you pick up your race number for the front of your vest, they give you a little one for the back, you keep them for the season so they can gather mud, sweat and assorted vegetation. So everyone knows your age, gee, thanks. Fortunately for me, I’m usually bringing up the rear, so there’s no-one behind me to snigger. And thank goodness it hasn’t been caught on camera. No…..wait!

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