I’m sitting here on New Year’s Day morning, 2017. I can’t stop eating Quality Street, and I’m already having nervous palpitations about a local NYD ‘Fun Run’ we’re taking part in later today. It’s the worst possible combination for me:
- It’s local. Cue unsuccessfully trying to dodge the Playground Mum who makes a bee-line for me and commences at full throttle with pre-run chatter around ‘Did you have a good one, then?’ and ‘When are you back to work?’. Hmmmff.
- It’s supposed to be ‘Fun’. This concerns me greatly, as most things in life that are promoted as being fun, in fact aren’t. Not at all. And vice-versa. Why can’t they call it a ‘turn up if you can be arsed, and you never know, you might even enjoy it’ run? Far more accurate.
- On both previous occasions when I’ve done said (ahem) ‘Fun Run’, I’ve loathed it. In 2015, for example, it was blowing a gale so hard in weather so utterly vicious, that I couldn’t distinguish between my own (genuine) tears and those streaming from my eyes by the cutting, spiteful wind. That year, both children and adults wept in unison – I’m guessing for the same wind/self-induced misery combo.
But I’ll be back again this year, and will no doubt hob-nob with the fully made-up School Mum, and joke with Competitive Dad about how it’s ‘only a bit of fun’ … but he’ll be secretly hoping his Little Johnny kicks my ass up windy hill.
Anyway, back to my round-up of LAST year. Bloody hell, what a year it was. We’re up to early summer, so here goes.
JUNE – THE GOOLE RIVERBANK CHALLENGE & HELLO CROSS TRAINING
It’s the strangest race, over the oddest distance, in the most bizarre location: Goole. Hmmm… Yes, I know. It’s not quite 9 miles, so neither a 10k nor a 10 miler; and it’s along a riverbank. There’s a small section of road, but otherwise it’s grassy banking and (usually) at least half the course is against a headwind. You can rock up and pretty much guarantee yourself a PB. There are NO OTHER COMPARABLE RACES. ANYWHERE. It’s strange, and odd and a good hour’s drive away from home. But it’s also unique, intriguing, and under the radar. So, just my bag.
I found myself running neck & neck with a delightful, friendly lady who MADE me work for my 2nd place position right up to the finish line. I made a nemesis friend! Both of us would have been entirely happy with 2nd or 3rd place (1st was out of reach right from the off) but we pushed each other hard right to the finish. Lovely lady.
I escaped looking a twat in a Viking helmet – a fate suffered by both the male and female winners, and subsequently posted in the Goole Times (or its equivalent.) For that, I am eternally grateful. Second place was still a lovely thing, and I beat my time from the previous year… without having to wear a nobber of a helmet. Result!
This was also the month I discovered cross-training. Static bike at the gym? What? Yes. I sat on it, and I peddled. Resigned to the notions of ‘running: perhaps less is more?’ and having danced with the devil of overtraining for too long, I decided that a change in tack were needed. And I’ve never sweated as much in my life, whilst realising that there may be something to be gained by partaking in training OTHER THAN running. YES! REALLY! (Do you hear the sound of the penny dropping?)
JULY – HILLS & WIND: THE HALIFAX HALF MARATHON & THE WINDMILL HALF.
The Halifax Half Marathon: I was shitting myself about this one. It’s a nightmare. A half marathon on my doorstep that is 80% up hill, with the last downhill 20% being run on legs so tired you can barely stand up. It is a BASTARD of a half marathon course (and this comes from someone who, over the years, has probably completed close to 80 half marathons in all possible locations and guises.) When I say it’s a bastard, I mean it’s a motherfucker of a route which only gets worse, and never quite manages to get any better. A hard, endless climb followed by… precious little downhill. It’s an uphill, gasping trek to the pub mid-summer, to find the pub closed.
But maybe that brings out the fight in me. I battled with the early, piss-taking hills and they annoyed me to such an extent that I was fired up for the remaining unappetising lumpy miles. I battled and fought with myself and every ounce of my being, and I came in 2nd place. WOO fucking HOO! I was elated. By virtue of the fact that I’d pulled something out of a course that was as likely to break me as any conceivably could.
We stood on a little crappy wooden podium, and – despite the shite medals and absolute lack of fanfare – it felt like a real, personal mini-victory.
The Windmill Half was a funny one. Only a fortnight after the beasting of the Halifax Half, and made infinitely worse by a training run only two days before leading to insanely tired legs. On the Thursday night before Sunday’s Half marathon we joined a Halifax Harriers group to see how we liked it. They shot off like bats out of merry hell, and myself & Gav hung on like limpets to a rock face in absolute shock at the pace and route of said ‘training run’. Whether this was entirely for our benefit, I’ve no idea. But either way, it completely fucked my legs two days before a half marathon. Not clever.
The price I paid? A not entirely disgraceful 1:35, but on fresher legs of course I could have done better. A great day out none-the-less, and I took home a prize in my age category. The prize? An XXXL (male) Slazenger white T-shirt. Possibly the worst prize in the entire world… for a small-framed female runner. Or just anyone, actually.
AUGUST – Askern 10 mile and Arthur’s Seat
I was thick into marathon training now, and sandwiching races in between long weekend training runs. 16 miles; Race; 18 miles; Race. It was a pretty tough schedule starting in early August and it would remain tough until the Yorkshire Marathon in mid-October.
So, Askern 10. I ran hard, and I ran well. I’ve blogged about most of these races already so I won’t go into the weather conditions and other pedantics. I (just) managed to bag myself a 10 mile PB (71:12) and came away a happy girl.
Arthur’s Seat was a real treat (no rhyming intended). Piggy-backing Gav’s business trip to Edinburgh, I greedily helped myself to a double-lap of the famous landmark whilst he was busy being paid to impress some folk, somewhere. What a place; what a run! Thanks, Gav (and Lloyd’s bank) for the opportunity J
SEPTEMBER – GOLDEN BALLS AND GREAT NORTH RUN… AND BURNED OUT GREAT BALLS OF FIRE
Golden Balls 20 miler. This was a classic. It was legendary in the Cullo/Dodd book of racing adventures. It had everything: I could write a BOOK about this race, but a mere blog post had to do. I struggled, yet won; Gav struggled, and had to stop & walk. I cried waiting for him at the end, thinking Is it Dubai all over again? as I wept into my newly acquired smoothie maker and cheap bottle of Blossom Hill. But, I WON THE RACE! So what – there wasn’t a massive field, and so what – I didn’t get a 20 mile PB, and I was actually a couple of minutes outside of where I should have been. And yes – I’d struggled. I stopped at one point, thinking, ‘oh, fuck this’ but then somehow dug deep enough to get me through the final 6 miles. AND I BLOODY WON IT! This was a soap opera of a race for all of the above reasons, but (thankfully) had a happy ending.
It was always a big ask to run the Great North the following weekend. My legs were shot from the Golden Balls 20 miler, and I ran the risk of blowing up or pulling out. But, I desperately wanted to do this one. It was ten years since I’d taken part in the GNR, and I wanted to feel the magic of the race a decade on. I was a different runner; a different person.
I’ve already written blog posts about pretty much all of these races, so will spare those with more pressing things to do (like pretty much anything) the minutiae of my mile-by-mile recollections.
It is also with you – the lovely reader – in mind that I have pressed ‘pause’ on this 2016 recap, here. I could bleat on right through until the end of December, but why rush the job? If Back to The Future could stretch its plot so thinly, then I can surely spin out a Part Three to my yearly review.
Besides, I wanted to update you on today’s ironically titled ‘Fun Run’ as I am now at the other side of said adventure. I know you’re willing for me to tell you of being cornered by the entirely unavoidable School Mum, and the tiresome Competitive Dad with Little Johnny; and the Kansas winds that blew not only my cobwebs away, but also my will to live in one endless onslaught. I know it would be FAR more joyous reading about the calamities of this local non-fun racing spectacular than the honest truth which is that… I LOVED IT.
OH BORE OFF! – I’m sorry – I hear you. I feel in some small way disappointed that I can’t recount a horrific, saccharine fake-fun ‘family’ event with all the unfortunate trappings, as I, myself had predicted. It didn’t happen that way. Not today. My fear had taken a hold and tried to tell me it would be this horrible, painful, socially awkward experience to endure. But that’s what fear does. Even silly, daft irrational fears like those about A BLOODY 5K FUN RUN (FFS!)
We saw people up there who we really like (I know! Can you imagine?); Family came up to watch and cheer us on; Close friends (and heroes) turned up to both run and support; we chatted to new friends, and caught up with those whose paths we routinely cross on the running circuit, including those whose arses we dream of kicking on any given race day.
I ran hard, and I ran strong. Gav did the same. The Kansas winds stayed away, and we both raced our 5k Fun Run as if it were just that.
I’m so relieved I didn’t let my little Bastard Chimp convince me not to turn up today. But I still have an uncomfortable relationship with the notion of a ‘fun run’. Ask me after any race, and pretty much ten times out of ten I’m in an endorphin-fuelled happy place and would agree whole heartedly with this descriptive precursor.
Ask me beforehand, and it’s likely you’d be met with a couple of words. One of which rhymes with duck; the other one is ‘off’.