It had to happen. Sooner or later Plodfoot Anne, as I like to call myself when I’m running, would plod just that little bit too slowly. I’ve escaped it by the skin of my teeth a couple of times, but I had a feeling in my not-trained-hard-enough legs that this was my time to be last.
And so it turned out to be, out of 175 runners at the Ravenscar Coastal Half Marathon, I was number 174. Technically I wasn’t the last, because a guy dropped out after three miles, but we all know that last is the final one to cross the finish line and that was me. But do you know what? I really didn’t mind. While many of my mates were among the 7,000 pounding the pavements and streets of Leeds in the city’s half marathon, I’d chosen a 5.30am alarm call to head for the coast for a smaller, more intimate race with grassy trails instead of streets, wide open views of the coast rather than shops, houses and walls and steps instead of kerbs.
The course description used the word ‘undulating’, but implied that this was a euphemism for ‘lung-bustingly hilly’ and ‘leg-breakingly steep’ so I knew I was in for a challenge, more so because I really hadn’t trained as much as I should.
My lovely mate Jill came along with us, she’s a lady on a mission, hoping to chalk up ten half marathons this year. But like me, she was along for the experience and said she was happy to keep me company, I was very grateful as I anticipated a lonely run.
So off we went, chatting, taking in the views, enjoying a bit of banter with the friendliest marshals ever to hand out a cup of tepid water to thirsty runners and generally having a good time. It was then that Roger joined us. Roger was the tail runner and, it turned out to be, a great encourager.
It was definitely a race of two halves, with all the hard work coming after the seventh mile. There were steep slopes, there were teeny tiny bridges, there were slippery slidey paths and there were steps built for giants. As my legs burned and my heart tried to jump out of my chest, I may have shed a silent tear – or was it an audible sob? I forget, but I do know that Roger was behind all the way, saying kind words, keeping me going even through a plague of flies that descended from nowhere and turned my blue top black.
As we reached the final hill, Roger told me to steel myself and go for it. I did and I did, side by side with Jill, though she really could have been off ahead if she wanted. So there I was with my mate Jill and my new best mate Roger crossing the line, last, but not least.
I’ll be back next year, I’ll have trained properly. I won’t be last.