There’s a long, lonely, straight, stretch of tarmac just outside York city centre which sends the heart of many a marathon runner plummeting to their boots. Of course the scenery is stunningly beautiful, it’s Yorkshire, for heaven’s sake. But it’s nearly four miles of out and back with a slow slog up the return, and when you hit the infamous Wall of Pain and Despair at mile 18, you need something to keep you going, like sweets, oranges, flat Coke or maybe a free hug.
That’s why for the past three years, we’ve taken a little team of supporters and noise-makers, gathered club flags, filled our bags with sweets and other goodies and headed for that stretch of the Yorkshire Marathon just outside Dunnington to cheer on our mates, or indeed any other runner who passes us on the way down, then on the way back up for the final six miles.
It’s a kind of running a marathon by proxy, I’ve never done one and if I was to commit myself (hey, that special birthday is just a couple of years away), it would be on trails, somewhere muddy, and hilly, possibly snowy, but definitely not on a road, not even a Yorkshire road.
So Noel and I, this year joined by our Japanese friend Maika, who was fascinated by the hedgerows and fields of stubble, Joan, whose daughter Melissa was running, and young Curtis, to cheer and be generally noisy. It takes a lot of noise to fill that four-mile void, we wanted to take people’s minds off their tiredness and pain, if they were suffering, or to encourage them along if they were going great guns.
It always fascinates me to see the shapes and sizes of the runners, along with the way they run. But whether it’s upright and long strides, or bent and shuffling, they are all heroes in my book. The front runners hardly seem to touch the ground, the guy who won, and won by some considerable distance, looked like he was out for a morning jog, he was beautiful to watch. But those I admire most are the ones who set their goal, trained and trained, then headed for the start line, anxious, but ready. They may not have been fast, but what the heck, how many people have actually run a marathon? Come to think of it, how many people acually run? Ever?
After taking photos of people looking good (or good-ish) on the way down, we put the cameras down and picked up supplies to hand out for them on the way back up what couldn’t really be called a hill, but when you’ve run 18 miles, it must feel like it. We even offered free hugs, and we had quite a few takers, it was wonderful to encourage them on their way. My favourite hug was from the guy in the Minion costume, imagine running a marathon in that? I hope with all my heart he had a spectacular sprint across the finish line!
All being well, we’ll be back next year, goodies and hugs at the ready!