There’s that point, just after I’ve collected my race number, completed the contact details on the back to say ‘the other Akers way up front, he’ll wait for me, he always does’ and arrived at the start line that I find myself seriously questioning why on earth I want to run another race, at my age. I ask you.
Wiry, bald-headed men are whipping past me as they warm up, I’m convinced they’ve removed all visible hair to give them aerodynamic advantage. Even their shorts are like my grammar school gym knickers, skimpy and skin tight. They are serious runners, these guys.
I always make my way to the back, well, I might as well start as I mean to go on, and then remind myself that I’m here because I love it, I’m even paying for the privilege. And on this occasion, I’m expecting to be beaten by my nemesis again, yes, that bloody giant daffodil.
To say it’s held in a market town six miles from metropolitan Leeds, the Pudsey 10k is a brutally tough race. There’s hills and there’s Pudsey hills, short and steep, muddy and stony, finishing with a soul-destroying three-kilometre drag on roads and pavements, up another hill to the park and blessed relief. Certainly not for the faint-hearted, which is just as well, as this was my fourth time lining up with the wiry, hairless ones and the damned daffodil. The daffodil, by the way, is a Pudsey Pacer in a green and yellow felt costume, whoever they are, they always beat me. But I’m not there to win.
At my level, ie near the back and only eight years of running on my shoes , it’s not about the winning, how could it possibly be? It really is about taking part in a local race with my mates. I love the experience of running with good runners and seeing them disappear into the distance, of being greeted at the bottom, middle and top of every hill as well as every road junction and even bits in between and being cheered by Pudsey folk, a lovely bunch. One of the local pubs even puts on an extra water stop and a couple of kids hand out sweets. I took one that looked like a mini fried egg, I think it might have been, it still tasted great.
The support is fantastic, and I love every minute of it. At least I’m saying that now I’m home, changed, showered and lounging on the sofa watching a great football match (not England then). Oh my goodness I’ll be back next year, you can bank on it. That daffodil had better watch out, I’m already in training…