I’m sure that when the alarm clock shattered my slumbers this morning it was screaming ‘day of pain, day of pain, day of PAIN!’ First and second attempts to swing my legs out of bed had to be aborted, the first because I couldn’t move them. The second, well, same reason really. So why exactly DID I run the Leeds Half Marathon the day before, then?
It had been an early start with the usual pre-race multiple toilet visits, there will be no more information or description on this particular matter. The main meeting area was bulging with runners of all shapes and sizes, jiggling about and performing weird stretching movements. Old teeshirts covered in paint, binliners with armholes and foil blankets used by many to keep warm, were cast aside as we were herded towards the start. The air was strong with with smell of anticipation, fear, Deep Heat and the warmth from the seats of 50 exhausted chemical toilets. 7000 runners were ready to go.
We don’t usually enter big events, they are expensive, busy, the music is too loud and rap-dominated and parking is usually horrendous. But this is our home city, and it would be rude not to run it just once.
And there is something very moving about running up The Headrow, cheered by friends and strangers alike and seeing the fastest and the best disappearing up the hill into the distance. Soon those hills were behind me and I was enjoying the company of like-minded souls, exchanging pleasantries, complementing the organisers on the availability of toilets en route and counting down the miles.
The route takes up one of the lanes of the city’s ring road, bringing the traffic to a crawl, many of the drivers shout encouragement, at least I think that’s what it is, it’s hard to tell with all the noise. But then we’re in suburbia, weaving around leafy lanes, where residents have come out to cheer, hand out jelly babies, oranges and biscuits and hose down anyone who’d care to be cooled. There’s plenty of little hands wanting high fives, though I do remember one lad calling from the window. ‘This is BORING’. It made me chuckle.
Another change of scene as we hit Kirkstall Road for the final three miles, or as we all know it, ‘a parkrun’ and we’re nearly home. One of the advantages of being a slow runner is that my mates are waiting for me at the finish, cheering, encouraging, high-fiving, oh it’s marvellous!
I stopped over the line and waited for Amy, who was doing her first half marathon and we hugged. We staggered to the enclosure to claim our bling and tee-shirts. ‘By gum, we’ll ache tomorrow,” I said, stating the bleeding obvious.
In a way, it was over too quickly, I reflected as I sat in the lounge, my aching feet submerged in hot water in the mop bucket, my medal clanging against the bowl of hot medicinal custard. And it was. But at least today I can continue to enjoy the experience as every step reminds me of those 13.1 miles as my muscles click and ping. Still, it’ll wear off in a week or so, just in time for the Ilkley Trail Race!