Age is no secret when you run the odd race. Categories are in five-year increments upon reaching adulthood and those pesky race organisers do insist on putting your five-year window right there next to your name. To heap on the whole age-revealing thing, anyone over 35 is a veteran, heaven help us. Fortunately there isn’t a further category of ‘super veteran’ when you reach, say, 50…..and then some.
Yesterday, there were 40,000 seniors and veterans, keeping close company on the streets of that there London, surrounded by the sound of heavy breathing, feet pounding tarmac and deafening crowds where everyone shouts your name, with the smell of sweat, Deep Heat and squashed gel packets, all wearing their race numbers, and very proudly too. I wasn’t one of them, it’s a long way, both to get there and to run, but more importantly for me, why run on roads when there are trails and fells? And why pay £50 to enter and £10 for a skinny latte and over-sugared bun with a fancy name when you can have a great Yorkshire run for £5 with tea, pie and cake thrown in?
So as many of my friends were picking up their race numbers at the expo, having their photos taken with celebrities and giant medals, I was queuing for my number in the first of the Yorkshire Veterans’ Association’s Grand Prix series at hilly Honley, the other side of Huddersfield, within spitting distance of the Pennines.
The good news is that as we’re all veterans, there are no young whippersnappers to scorch past us. No, they are all old whippersnappers, and you know how old they all are because we all wear our age on our backs, so everyone knows our age, runners have no secrets!
I actually love these veterans races, a couple of hundred of us, 10km or so on hills and trails, with mud and river crossings if we’re lucky. No cheering crowds, six deep as they are down in London, just the encouraging marshals pointing us in the right direction and assuring us there’s no more hills…until the next one..and as a bonus this time there was a little boy who thrust his toy tiger at me to push me on. It worked.
The course took us up hill after hill until we broke through to what seemed like the top of the world, I looked across to behold my beautiful Yorkshire, the sun making the fields greener, fresher, and illuminating the line of runners on the horizon ahead, ages flapping on their backs in a devil-may-care kind of way. No matter than an M80 skipped past me or a fellow F55 bounded up the hill ahead, where else would I want to be on such a day?
I did let a bit of competitiveness break out as I hurtled, out-of-control down the final field, almost taking out an F40, and burst on to the finishing straight to hold her off to the loud cheers of a couple of clubmates and Noel, my biggest cheerer. No goodie bags, but a good buffet with lots of pie and cake and spot prizes.
Being from Yorkshire, we’ve to save our numbers for the next race, we can’t be having any waste. Looking forward to it, I just hope the boy with the toy tiger is there.