Smile like you mean it….



The lovely Christine


There are some races I’d much rather photograph than run, especially when, as we say in Yorkshire, it’s cracking the flags. Give me the cold and wet any day, especially when there’s mud, you can’t go wrong with a bit of mud.

The popular Leeds 10k was set up by Superwoman Jane Tomlinson, who fought a massive and brave battle against cancer, raising £1.85m before she died ten years ago. Each year thousands pound the pavements and roads between the city centre and Kirkstall. It’s a magnificent sight, which Noel and I like to support.

I take my camera, little wooden Ikea step to stand on, a good supply of water and a couple of Yorkshire flags. And my shouting voice, actually, I take that everywhere.

The beauty of not being any kind of official photographer is that I can take any photo I like, I’m not bound to snap snap snap. I do like to take arty shots, shapes and shadows, taking advantage of the angle of the sun and all that. Sunday was particularly good for sunshine and shadow, the runners looked like they had a golden outline, their shadows a mini version, joined at the feet.

By the time they reached us just beyond the 4km mark, the sun was high and the heat was rising from the black tarmac. Not many of the runners looked as if they were enjoying themselves, I didn’t blame them.

I do have a golden rule when photographing runners, I won’t upload any shot that will make anyone look terrible. It was a bit of a challenge with everyone looking so hot and bothered, so I had to resort to my secret weapon, shout something silly, make people smile. Actually, it’s not too secret a weapon, silliness would be my middle name, if I had one.

There’s always the added advantage that I know quite a few runners in the city, so calling their name and cheering them on usually brings a smile and I’m pretty certain they mean it. Then there are the folk who recognise me, there was more than one ‘Hello Mrs parkrun!’.

At one point my steps came in handy for a couple who needed a rest, and I did come to the rescue of a superhero who was rapidly dehydrating in his rubber suit. Well, they don’t get any sun in Gotham City, Batman should have known better.

I posted the best photos to Facebook, the others, I just deleted! Have a look and see what you think.

The morning after the run before

Thanks to Tricia Grant, fellow Eccleshill Road Runner, for the photo.

Thanks to Tricia Grant, fellow Eccleshill Road Runner, for the photo.

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!

The best of weeks

Jane Tomlinson's Run for All at York

It’s been the best of weeks. It started and finished with 10k runs, rewarded with ample chocolate-filled goody bags and four tee-shirts, as Noel yet again got the wrong size (result!). Midweek, I had an article published in Women’s Running, guess what, I get a teeshirt! Oh and I got a job, though no teeshirt with that. Yet.

Work’s been a little hard to come by this past 12 months, for some reason I cannot fathom no-one seems to want management consultancy services from yours truly. But I had an interview during the week, now known as The Best of Weeks, and, pending paperwork and references, will be in gainful employment from September.

Not that I’m defined by work, but I do actually enjoy it, and it pays for wonderful things like ski holidays, climbing gear and food. I don’t need to buy clothes, I’ve enough teeshirts to last me a lifetime.


Rain and the sound of 18,000 feet running

Marshalling of the marshalls

Six o’clock Sunday morning and the rain’s hitting the conservatory roof so hard it sounds like frying bacon. Sadly there was just porridge on the breakfast menu as we fuelled up ready for the big race.

For a change we weren’t running, we’d volunteered to marshal at the Jane Tomlinson 10k Run for All in Leeds and that meant an outrageously early start. Both Metcheck and the BBC weather reports were in the black books, the rain wasn’t forecast this early and my plans to catch a few rays as I stood in my tee-shirt, shorts flip-flops while sporting the rather fetching flourescent marshall’s jacket had to be shelved and Gore-tex waterproofs dug out from the back of the cupboard, it turned out to be a smart move.

As we took our places on Vicar Lane, one of the city’s main bus routes, Chief Marshall Stuart warned us that some drivers would assume the road closures didn’t apply to them. It was like a scene from On the Beach as the city centre stood silent, then Mrs This-Doesn’t-Apply-to-Me appeared in her whacking great 4×4 which she presumably needs to navigate the potholed roads of Yorkshire.

Noel stepped out to speak to her, she wasn’t amused, she had an important trip to make to the shops and had to cross the closed road. But it’s closed, Noel told her. But I have to get to the shops, she said, loudly. But it’s closed, Noel told her. I want someone’s name, she said. Why, he asked, don’t you like your own? She disappeared down a side street, using her 4×4 to mount a couple of pavements and go two-wheels Dukes-of-Hazzard style down the narrow ginnels to get to the shops.

The coach driver was more polite, he needed to pick up 50 Japanese tourists who were stranded at the Park Plaza. Pragmatism prevailed, the coach was abandoned and the tourists made their way across the city with their luggage, dodging the runners as they went, we threw up our hands in despair, such is the lot of race marshalls!

The rain stopped and the runners ran, all 9,000 of them, including Elvis, Scooby Do, Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble, two Roman centurions, Batman, Robin, a Clanger and a pair of pandas. We cheered, encouraged and clapped until our hands were sore, it was a wonderful moving sight. As we walked up to the finish line, our duties done, we were passed by many of those we’d cheered on, clutching their goodies bags, flushed with pride, thrilled. That was us last year. That will be us next year.

Paul Lockwood, who won in 32.41