Just like the Chevin Chase

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There they are, Yorkshire’s finest, the Brownlee brothers, they’ve burst through the finish tape, collapsed, picked themselves up and are greeting their fellow runners. Ali and Johnny, Olympic gold and silver, caught by the all-hearing mic saying , ‘we f#cking did it.’ They f#cking well did.

The two of them are very local to us, so local that we run in the same woods and on the same fells. We’re even in the same races, so I can honestly say I’ve raced an Olympian, usually every year at  the Chevin Chase, that Boxing Day mud and frost fest that’s not for any faint-hearted namby-pamby road runners who don’t want to get their shoes dirty. The fact that they’ve finished, gone home, got changed, eaten the Christmas Day leftovers and returned before I cross the finish line is neither here nor there, I’ve raced an Olympian.

The past two weeks have been glorious as the Rio Olympics remind me of the good things in the world. Nations celebrating sport, loving it and living it, winning and losing and, to be completely partisan, bringing back the medals to Blighty. They are four hours behind us so when sleep beats me to bed, I’ve to dash for the radio first thing in the morning to catch up and what the medal tally looks like. As I write, we’re second in the medals table, we’re flying, our girls, boys and horses are giving all they’ve got.

Who’d have thought cycling could be so engaging with brakeless bikes following a little man in a battery-powered phut-phut? Noel and I were willing them to win, standing close to the TV and cheering, hoping they could hear us. And what about the horse dancing? Dressage, what’s that all about? I don’t care, we were ace, we won! Kayaking, brilliant! Synchronised diving, superb! Hockey, awesome! Sailing, sound! Golf has always been a good walk ruined, but now we have gold, it’s on the ‘like’ list, well, for a while anyway.

It’s not just team GB, the home team in Brazil cheer wildly when their guys enter the arena, going wild at the golds. And the two gymnasts who fell to their knees and wept as they claimed silver and bronze were the happiest people on earth. Oh my goodness I wept then.

I’ve wept too much over the previous weeks. What is wrong with the world? Angry, angry murderous men driven by hatred and no God any right-thinking person can recognise,  killing innocent people, callously mowing them down as they celebrate Bastille Day, shooting partygoers in a gay nightclub in Orlando, stabbing and slashing passengers on trains in Germany and Switzerland, spilling the blood of a priest as he celebrates Mass in his church.

But for just a little while there’s been a glint of light at these Olympics that is making my weeping world a better place.

You can’t get wetter than wet

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By gum, it was wet. Thanks to Andrew Hardaker for the photo

I knew the rain was a bit heavy when it carried stones down the track, which smacked into my calves, bounced off my ankles  and then tumbled down the hill ahead of me and hundreds of other runners. Maybe not the best of conditions for a race, but I’m from Yorkshire, me, and I’d paid for it so I was bloomin’ well going to get my money’s worth, or die trying.

The Chevin Chase is the annual Boxing Day trail run around Otley Chevin, six or seven miles, depending how far you go to avoid puddles, mud or stones. It’s a fantastic event, open to all, whether you’re an Olympian Brownlee or, well, a slowcoach like me. Fancy dress is optional, but rude not to when so many others are going to the trouble. I was one of three Kirkstall Harrierettes, dressed in the purple of Kirkstall Harriers with an added flourish of feather trim and a Santa hat. Karen, Alyson and I ran together, much to the amusement of the handful of spectators who braved the deluge to cheer us on.

Within a nanosecond of stepping out of the car, it felt like someone had hurled a bucket of water at from a great height. I was soaked, the feather trim was dripping, but I wasn’t alone, everyone was saturated. These were unprecedented rains that had already flooded Cumbria, the north west and were working their way across the Pennines to cause flooding and chaos.

That water just kept on coming. Tracks became streams, roads became rivers, Otley Chevin became a lake. As those in front of me headed to the banks of the deep puddles, I was so wet I reckoned that running straight through them was easier and less likely to lead to a tumble than scrambling up the sides or hopping over walls. Besides, I’d lost all feeling in my feet and my legs were chafed by the sopping scratchy feathers and knocks from stones.

This is was my fourth Chevin Chase, the wettest and wildest so far, but definitely the most fun, I definitely got my money’s worth. Now all I need is for my shoes to dry out in time for the next race!

 

A year of running, a year of coffee

Catwoman after the fell race. It was a race, I fell. Twice.
Catwoman after the fell race. It was a race, I fell. Twice.

It’s not everyone that can say they’ve run against both Olympic medal-winning Brownlee brothers in less than a week. Though when I say against, it’s more a case of crossing the same start and finish lines in the same event. The fact that they were back home tucking into their Christmas pudding, having showered, changed and updated their Facebook status by the time I got to the end of the the race is neither here nor there, my name is with theirs.

Yesterday the elder Brownlee, Alistair, showed me how to go down a muddy slope. He fell on his backside, but sprang up again with such agility that he made it look easy. It wasn’t, as I was to find out in the closing stages of the Auld Lang Syne fell race. I’d already done a full frontal flop in the thick smelly mud for no apparent reason except maybe that because it was there. Fortunately, being near the back of the pack, there was no-one around to give me a score for style and artistic interpretation, so I gave myself nine out of ten. The second fall was more of a sit and swear in the mud, so only scored five. Alistair scored ten, but in my defence, he was in the lead so the steep slope hadn’t been churned up by 1000 runners before him. As luck would have it there was a river we had to run through, so most of the mud was washed away. Every cloud, eh?  Personally I think I should have had bonus points, or at least an extra bottle of beer, but there was none of that at the finish, so I snaffled some extra biscuits and a glug of coffee. It was heavenly, though I may also have swallowed a bleb of mud, at least I hope it was mud.

Six days previously his brother Johnny had beaten all comers in the slightly less muddy but longer Chevin Chase. I was there too, somewhere near the back, but, hey, we got the same tee-shirt!

My year had started with the 5km parkrun, and seen many miles, training and races, hot weather and cold, snow, ice, mud, rain and sun. I’ve worn out two pairs of shoes, lost so many pairs of gloves I can’t keep count and put a great strain on my sports bras, but they seem to be holding up. A glorious year of running, recorded in previous blogs.

And of course with every run, there has to be refreshment, and there is nothing like a good coffee, preferably with cake. Much to the amusement of fellow coffee drinkers, I continue the habit of photographing my coffees, it’s my way of keeping a diary – and reminding myself where and when I drank them and who with. These photos do confirm that the best coffees are those drunk in company of good friends and there’s been quite a bit of that over the past year.

So forward, hopefully at a faster running pace than last year, and onward to new adventures, let’s raise a cup of good coffee to 2014, I look forward to sharing one with you.  Happy New Year everyone!

2012? In the words of Jonnie Peacock, f#@king get IN!

A glorious year seen through a caffeine haze
A glorious year seen through a caffeine haze

Today I raced against an Olympian. Well, by that I mean that I was in the same event as triathalon bronze medallist Johnny Brownlee. The fact that he’d finished, changed and was back home tucking into turkey leftovers by the time I crossed the line, was neither here nor there. Nevertheless, he and I, along with 1000 other runners, had enjoyed the mudfest that was the Chevin Chase. Seven miles of mud and hills in God’s Own Country – Yorkshire.

And that’s the story of 2012 for me. The London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics were the absolute highlight that have brought me more tears of joy, thrills, pride and inspiration than I can ever remember. Whether it’s the Olympic anthem, or soundbites from the many winners and nearly-winners on radio and TV, I have loved every minute of it and never grow tired of experiencing it again and again.

They inspired me, all of them. From the arrival of the flame and its journey around the country to the 007-inspired opening ceremony with Her Majesty parachuting into the arena with not a hair out of place, how DID she do that? Then the games themselves, the first medals, Super Saturday, 4 August when we, Team GB, wupped the asses of all the other nations to win gold after gold after gold, I thought I was going to burst with pride. if truth be told, I still do.

Their triumph was my inspiration. My rather mediocre running achievements would never be competitive, but I was definitely stuck in a rut and wanted to do better. And do you know what? I did, personal best after personal best, then my first, but certainly not my last, half marathon.

It has indeed been a most wonderful year, best summed by by the inspirational paralympian Jonnie Peacock who won gold in the 100 metres sprint. I’m no lipreader, but as the 19-year-old sizzled past the finish, he clenched his fists in triumph, exclaiming, “F#@king get in!!’ 2012? Jonnie, I’m with you, f#@king get IN!!

Along with the pure joy of the Olympics, I have had a wonderful year of coffee, it’s three years since I have started a coffee diary, my days in coffee, I do drink an awful lot of it.  The photo above is just a few of them from this year, but each one tells a story. What will 2013 bring?