Pumps. That’s what we ran in. Pumps.

newshoes

Pumps. That’s what we ran in when I was a lass. Pumps. Thin white canvas glued to a cardboard last and a thin rubber sole with a fancy bit of border to hide the seal, unless they came from the cheap stall on Dewsbury Market. Mine came from the cheap stall so I’d to be careful not to break them, which was zero chance really.

The only way to keep them in their pristine white condition was a thin, white paint. It was the forerunner of the new-fangled non-drip sponge applicators and unlike them, applied as much of the stuff to hands, face, legs and best kitchen lino. I was permanently white, except for the tide mark around my neck and the bits behind my ears. If you didn’t get dirty playing out, then you weren’t having enough fun in my book.

They looked magnificent in their white whiteiness, but as soon as the laces were pulled through the eyelets, the whole lot cracked and fell to the ground like a giant shell. Still, it didn’t affect their performance, I was a slow runner then and I am now. But in their favour, they only cost half a crown, or 12.5p in new money. Yes, it was a long time ago.

Sadly now, there’s not a pair of pumps to be seen, unless you count the Dunlop Green Flash, which is sold as ‘vintage’ and ‘retro’. I saw a posting on a runners’ forum by a guy who said he’d done a 100-mile ultra in a pair and had to have his feet cut out at the end.  Well, that was a waste of good money, that was!

My beloved Salomon Scream trail shoes, which were not cheap, have finally given up the ghost. They’ve seen me through many a mile of mud, streams, forest floors, canal towpaths and, of course, poo. I have three pairs of Salomon trail shoes, ranging from Speedcross, which scythe through mud and peat, bounce off rocks and help form a very special kind of blister, S-Labs, which were eye-wateringly expensive but are comfortable and great for long runs (plus, they are red) and the not-very-off-road-but-too-rough-for-road-shoes Screams which serve me for the training treks through the local woods. Sadly the Screams have screamed their last.

It is all very well ordering replacements over the internet, but there’s nothing like shopping locally and getting the benefit of a good piece of Yorkshire advice, whether you want it or not. Plus, the internet doesn’t know your feet and you never know quite what you’re going to get.  I’d learned this the hard way earlier this year when I ordered replacements for my favourite Asics road shoes. The model had changed and they didn’t fit, yes I could return them, but I’d run in them already, deluding myself they fitted. Thankfully the Complete Runner at Ilkley had the answer, free Yorkshire advice, I’ve loved them ever since.

The choice of running shoes is overwhelming and the prices that go with them unbelievable, none of your half-crown Dewsbury Market pumps there. It turned out that Asics did some rather nice purple shoes, which go well with my hair and club colours. Oh and yes, they fitted very well and were nearly half the price of the Screams, which the unassuming footwear-fitter said he’d only wear in the car going to and from a race. You don’t get that kind of advice from your internet supplier. He offered me a Gore-Tex version but then said he’d only wear them for faffing around in the garden, pointing out that once the water was in, it couldn’t easily get out. I agreed.

So now we’ve had torrential rain, the mud will be nicely sticky, just right to try these beauties out….

Rubbing the dockleaf

Country

Race routes are often like a little present for me, handing out surprise hills, cheeky little corners, the odd river crossing. But most of the time, it’s all there on a map, should I choose to consult one and if it’s the right way up and if I have my glasses. Anyway on the day there are friendly marshals on every corner assuring us that we’re ‘nearly there’, even when we’ve just set off. I suppose that there’s some truth in that, every step from the start is a step nearer the finish.

Usually, I just turn up and run, following everyone else because I know that chances of everyone following me are next to zero unless, of course, the are lost, and then we’re all doomed!

But the rather excellent Country Trail Series of self-guided races throws in a bit of jeopardy. You just turn up, get your instructions and run. No chip timing, no mass start, just pay your fiver in the pub where the organisers give you your number and instructions and off you go.

There is no map, which I’m quite relieved about, I can’t see the damned thing without my glasses anyway and I can’t run in my glasses, so that whole glasses on/glasses off thing is just too much of a faff. Instead, the instructions are written in a code, with the cipher at the start,. Fortunately it’s also on 14pt so even I can read it.

It’s a bit like one of those Magic Eye things popular in the 90s, look at it long enough and it makes sense. So TL out of the car park, go SA to the FPS now makes total sense, and as did turn left, go straight ahead and found the footpath sign. Personally, I’d navigate by coloured doors, pretty gardens, pubs and even fields with bulls, but that’s just me.

Our Japanese friend Maika was initially perplexed by the instructions, she confessed she could never follow those instructions. She wasn’t on her own, we did come across a couple of speedy runners twice, they pretended they’d taken the scenic route, but we know better, don’t we?

Our race last night was over in the east of Leeds, somewhere I’d never been before, so it was a pleasure to see new sights and even more so to point them out to Maika who is well on her way to becoming a true Yorkshire woman. She learned about dung heaps, we passed a steaming one, local crops, including wheat, barley and potatoes, noted the livestock and the very obvious difference between a bull and a cow and picked up the handy tip about rubbing nettle stings with a dockleaf.

We ran in a group of six, stopping to take photos and admire the view, then ambled to the finish where, best of all, we swapped our race numbers for a £2 beer (or soft drink) voucher and ordered chips. Definitely my kind of race!

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.

A personal worst – but one of the best

Mohammed

There’s only really one rule in parkrun, two if you count ‘don’t forget your barcode’,  three if you include ‘have fun’. The rule is about under-11s, who must run with a responsible adult. It’s not negotiable and I have in the past removed youngsters from the results when it became clear that they had run alone.

This week, Noel and I had the pleasure of running with ten-year-old Mohammed and Hassan, his nine-year-old brother. We’d agreed with their mum that we would run with them and she agreed we were responsible adults.

The two were very excited, they’d done one previous parkrun and loved it. Their mum told us they wanted to be sibling triathletes, like a couple of other Yorkshire brothers you might have heard of.

Our parkrun is in a park popular with university students, the previous day had been glorious, with hundreds enjoying the warmth and sunshine, it was also the end of term, so there was a lot of celebrating. Consequently  litter was everywhere. Hassan and Mohammed were scandalised, this is their local park and they couldn’t believe that grown-ups could be so disrespectful to the environment. As we ran, they told us how important it was to take care of our green spaces, they were most concerned about global warming and even described how pollutants could get into the water table. These were two very interesting brothers indeed.

As we made our way round, they were encouraged by many of the other parkrunners, who cheered them on, including the faster folk who lapped us. ‘There,’ I said to Hassan, ‘You can be like him if you train’. Yes, he replied this was what he wanted to do, he wanted that very much. But for the time being, he wanted to beat his brother. He did.

They chattered away to Noel and to me as they ran, which was a bit of a clue that they could run faster if they put their minds to it, but they were having fun, taking it all in, and so were we.

My time was a personal worst, so was Noel’s. But running in the company of two such interesting and interested young men made my parkrun one of the best. They’ll be back, joined by their older sister after Ramadan, we’ll run with them again, until they get too fast for us of course!

 

Through the eyes of others

Jazandme

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?