When it’s too hot to run…but you do it anyway

 

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Nearly there – thank you to the wonderful Simon Cullingworth whose photo makes me look like I’m actually enjoying myself!

 

You know it’s going to be a hot one when you’re only on the start line and the sweat is already trickling down your back and gushing into your butt crack. Gross, I know, but sometimes you just have to tell it as it is.

The heat was no surprise, with a forecast of 27C, but I’d paid and I was bloomin’ well going to run, or shuffle at the very least, I’m from Yorkshire, me, I like to get my money’s worth.

The midnight migraine hadn’t helped, though the drugs had, unfortunately they are performance-diminishing and add lead to my legs and that general feeling of fuzziness to my head. Thank goodness there were no random drug tests, though they may have taken pity and upped me a few places.

The Pudsey 10K isn’t for wimps, mainly off-road, just short of 200m altitude gain and lots of hills, including a sneaky one at the end, just when you don’t want it. But I’d run it before and I knew what I was in for. Noel’s ITB was playing up so he didn’t want to risk further injury and gallantly offered to take photos. I considered running it twice, so as not to waste his place, but the marshals couldn’t stay there until midnight, they’d much better things to do.

I made sure I took precautions, hat, sunglasses, factor 50 liberally applied and, for good measure, a pack with a litre of water. There was only one official water stop on the run and that was at the highest point, I was certain I would have expired by then if I didn’t carry my own. I even considered making a batch of marzipan balls for extra energy but in that heat, they’d have been liquid before the first hill, I’m not sure the world is ready for marzipan drinks yet. It seemed over the top when most of the runners around me were bare-headed and pack-free, but fair Irish skin (Irish since the Brexit debacle!), a complete aversion to heat and a migraine-induced fuzziness made it a necessity.

It’s never a good sign when a paramedic comes hurtling past you on a quadbike just three kilometres into the race.  When I got to the water stop, I found him helping my lovely friend Karen, who had twisted her ankle. Her race was over, though she was there at the finish cheering folk in after getting a lift back, and she’d claimed her tee-shirt (she’s from Yorkshire too!)

There were a couple of ambulances near the finish which were unfortunately occupied by runners who looked like they’d succumbed to the heat, I understand they were OK – I hope they got their tee-shirts!

As always, the support for this local race organised by the Pudsey Pacers was amazing. I was thrilled to be squirted with Supersoakers – after being politely asked if I’d like to be soaked. Oh yes, that did very nicely. As did the water from a hosepipe aimed at us (thanks, guys!) and all the extra water to pour over my head.

Even so, it was brutal, I walked where I should have run, if it hadn’t have been for the encouragement of the marshals, supporters and photographers pointing their lenses at me so I had to run, I would have given up and I don’t give up easily.

The best bit, though, was to turn the final corner and eyeball the finish line. Two of my team mates ran beside me, oh my goodness, that gave me such a boost. The rest stood there cheering, I felt like I’d won the race rather than brought up the rear, it was fabulous. I’ll be back next year, whatever the temperature.

Through the eyes of others

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I can say without fear of any contradiction that I know every stone, tree root, puddle, muddy rut and pothole on my training run through the woods. I can tell you where the jay and her family live, the woodpecker’s favourite tree, the exact place where the rainwater will gush out from down the slope after a downpour. And where I’ll trip up. Every time.

I’ve lost count of the kilometres I’ve notched up running through my local woods. They are very familiar old friends, so familiar in fact that they have become ordinary. Maybe even a little dull.

So when my lovely friend Jaz said she needed to do a short Sunday morning run, four miles or so, as part of her training for a half marathon, I suggested she join us. It was just the woods, I told her, nothing special.

As we passed Mud Ridge #1, as I affectionately know it, Jaz marvelled at the view. Yes, I reflected, managing to avoid tripping up in the usual place, but stumbling a little further on, this is rather lovely, beautiful, maybe.

The rest of the run I saw through Jaz’s eyes. It was all new to her, she was drinking in the woodland, the flowers, the beautiful light, the smell of the wild garlic and the last of the bluebells.

“You are so lucky to live near all this and run here whenever you want,” she said, and she meant it.

Our Japanese friend Maika says the more she sees of this country, particularly Yorkshire, the more she loves it, she’s amazed by its beauty, whether it’s the local woods, the moors or the coast. To me, they were ordinary, but now I’ve seen them again through the eyes of my friends, they are most certainly extraordinary, today and every day.

Too good a goodie bag

 

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Heading for the goodie bag – thanks to Maika for the photo

 

Once the race is finished, it’s free calories all around for about 20 minutes. While the muscles and other internal bits and pieces are doing their ‘what the heck?’ thing and screaming for calories, it’s safe to eat rubbish. Well, that’s my interpretation of the empirical evidence anyway. I like to have a scientific foundation for my gluttony.

So grabbing the goodie bag as I crossed the finishing line and guzzling the entire contents seemed like a sensible thing to do. I’d worked hard, ten miles of Yorkshire hills starting and finishing in Ripon and taking in the beautiful Studley Royal, where the hill was so long and steep there were two ambulances parked at the top. I waved as I staggered past, they waved back, something like pity showing in their eyes.

We weren’t meant to be doing this race. There was a half marathon down in Nottinghamshire that had our name on it. The inaugural Sherwood Pines Half promised a trail race in a lovely place with the bonus of just about ten metres of total ascent. But five days beforehand the organisers announced its postponement, saying there weren’t enough volunteers. Now at £28 each to enter, I wouldn’t expect them to rely on volunteers, alarm bells were ringing. Training had been done and my trainers were ready to run, so another race had to be found. Thank goodness for the Ripon Runners!

It was a good start- bacon butties and sausage sandwiches were on sale beforehand, I resisted, I’d a pocket full of marzipan balls and the promise of jelly babies on the way. There were about 400 runners and a fair number of marshals and the day was warm and sunny.

I built up a fair hunger on the way round, and was positively gagging for the contents of the goodie bag as I staggered over the line. I may not have been the quickest runner, but I must have been in the top ten for making the contents of the bag disappear. It’s surprising how quickly  a banana, then a Mars Bar, then another banana went down, followed by a bottle of water and chew on the Yorkshire teabags. There may have been another Mars Bar somewhere in there. The Ripon 10 Buff was looking tasty, but I resisted that.

Without going into any further detail, I concluded that the reason those post-run calories were seen as free was because they didn’t stay around long enough to be …errrr…processed. I blame the teabags. Lesson learned!

 

I am not a number, unless it’s 1

 

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Number 1 and the whitest legs in the race. Thanks to Neil Grant for the photo.

 

I have a friend who takes it as a personal challenge to beat his race number, whether it can equate to a time or a position. He’s a very good runner, if he got number 2, he’d beat it.

There’s three main ways you get a race number in single figures, you can be an elite athlete, you can be the first to sign up, or, and this is where I come into my own, you can have a double A name. It’s sometimes a great advantage, though the downside is I often get phone calls from people’s pockets as their loose change dials the first person in their address book, usually me.

At this year’s John Carr series,  run in memory of a Saltaire Strider who died too young, I am number 1. Even better, it’s a series of three 5k races, so I get to be number 1 three times. Noel’s number 2, the story of his life.

Of course I don’t make a big thing of it, there’s no expectations of coming first, not even in my age category, not even in the red hat group and that is a very small and select group. But it does feel good to be a number one, and it probably weighs less because it doesn’t have as much ink. Maybe I’ll run faster, I certainly went for it at the end. Though as it’s a series of three races, a week apart, it doesn’t do to go all out on the first week. I think that’s when number one comes into its own. Let’s see, eh?

…where everyone knows your age…

 

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Five veterans after our race

 

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.

 

So this is why I run, then

 

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Arty running at Yorkshire Sculpture Park

 

‘Are you the lady who runs?’ the caller asked. Lady? <Snigger>. Runs? <Double snigger>. It was Radio Leeds who wanted to do an interview about running to music, I don’t run to music, I need to be completely aware of my surroundings, I could trip up at any time, but it was nice to be asked.

It’s not a bad title to have, because I do run, dammit (let’s not talk about being a lady). So why do I run, then? It’s always hard, I’m not a natural. I don’t get awards and I never win races, I’m more likely to come last than first, but I do love it.

For a start,  I’m in the great outdoors, whatever the weather, there’s always something to enjoy, the sights, the smells, the splashings. I’m not a keen road runner, I prefer the trails, but if I have to pound the pavements I do, taking in the urban surroundings, watching the flagstones pass under my feet, hey I spotted 5p the other day, I picked it up, I’m from Yorkshire, me.

I love to race, it’s a challenge, I’ve paid for it so I actually have to do it, because, dammit, I’m not wasting money (the whole Yorkshire thing). Sometimes there are medals, or tee-shirts, though never in my size, but always there are team-mates, friends and so many others there to encourage, cheer and generally chivvy me along. It feels good.

Then there’s running with mates, just because I can. Today a baker’s dozen of us met up at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park and just ran, looked at art, tried to be art, realised we were nothing like art, ran a bit more, then had coffee and cake, it was glorious. That’s why I run, it’s glorious.

Why are the trees upside down?

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Thanks to Maika for the photo!

The race was run and the bling was jangling around my neck as I enjoyed the endorphin high. Five kilometres of pure downhill, what a gift, what an adrenaline rush, what a great negative split. Unfortunately the rush was preceded by a five kilometre uphill stagger, but it’s always best to get the hard part over with first.

We’d trotted across the Pennines to Bolton for the inaugural Mast Race, which was a fair description as it was a race to a mast and then back again. Two-thirds were on road and the rest on fell, so footwear choice was a challenge, I went with my trail shoes, hoping the mud wouldn’t be too deep. It was just deep enough to soak my feet and leave a respectable boggy coating on my legs, my kind of mud.

The trickiest bit was giving way to the speedier runners who were on the return leg, there wasn’t that much room on the muddy, icy, rocky, narrow path and I saw a couple of them come a cropper. Amazingly, I stayed upright, even on the icy road.

Our Japanese friend Maika had joined us for the trip to the red rose county, we warned her to listen out for those Lancastrian intonations ‘looooook’ and ‘have you not got no dinneeeeer?’. She confessed she couldn’t spot the difference between our Yorkshire and their accents, clearly we have more work to do there, tha’knows.

We headed for nearby Ramsbottom, if only to titter at the name, and found splendid coffee and blow-torched goats cheese at the Tamp and Grind, an independent cafe run by the lovely Adrian.

The good folk of Ramsbottom had rebuilt and restored the railway station on the East Lancashire Railway, 12 miles of steam nostalgia. A definite delight, full of character and characters. As we entered the souvenir shop, we expected it to be full of Thomas the Tank Engine, colouring books, pencils and rubbers that smell of strawberries. Instead, we were greeted by beautiful batik printed fabric, a couple of Buddhas and a maneki-neko (Japanese waving cat) and a Malaysian lady who could tell a tale. This was not what we expected.

It turned out the batiks were made by Chandra, who had moved to Ramsbottom from Malaysia one cold February a couple of decades ago. Landing at Manchester Airport from the land of no seasons, she was amazed at what she thought was external air conditioning and how extensive it was. No, her new husband explained, that’s winter, British winter. And the upside-down trees? she asked, worried that the English didn’t have much idea about forestry, after all, she’d never seen trees without leaves before!  We laughed and shared our own stories.

That’s why I love running, it’s not just about putting one foot in front of the other, or the bling, though I do like a bit of bling. It’s the places I go, the people I meet, the friends I make and the adventures I have!