A Day at the Races. Queen or Marx Brothers?

What’s that best run ever? Jinkies, what a thing to confront. A good friend of mine suggested this and I just baulked. I’ve ran for many years on and off so I have a huge back catalogue to choose from. What’s my favourite record, comedian, film, takeaway? These things change on a daily, hourly basis depending on my feelings. Is it the race, the route, the overall experience, the company or my performance?

Maybe it’s easier to break it down into individual memories that stand out. Boy, oh, boy, there’s been some of those down the years.

Relays may a good place to begin. I’ve always been used to paying sport within a team dynamic, like football. I’ve played cricket which is different as it’s a team game based on the mono et mono battle of batsman against bowler. Running relays revive that team and bonding ethic and that is establishing with the Uphill to Wells relay at Burnham-on-Sea Harriers now. Years ago back in Tewkesbury we regularly entered the County Road Relay Championship and often had success in the over 40 and woman’s categories but familiarity breeds a certain amount of contempt and to dip our collective toes into the the Midland Regional Road Relays at Birmingham was a massive reality check. We entered the 6 stage relay in the Autumn as opposed to the 12 stage in Spring. Spring would affect marathon training. We had a good team, as we thought, but incredibly we finished one place outside qualifying for the National Road Relays. Okay, second and third teams within clubs didn’t count but it was still a huge thing for a small club like ours.

Secondly, we entered the Regional Cross Country Relays at Nottingham. We had a great time. We shared food, England beat Australia in the Rugby World Cup and we really bonded, even our Australian runner, and we turned up sweaty and in running gear at a club member’s 18th birthday party on the way home. As I remember we also put in creditable performances on our runs.

There are those personal runs where you beat adversity like my nervous first run back with the Harriers after cancer. I kind of tried to sneak back without any fuss. It must have been a year after my operation to remove my tumour. It was a light evening, so it must have been May, and Jayne Biddlescombe-Jackson came over to chat with me like we had been friends forever. Her uncle had unfortunately had died from bowel cancer and her father had mercifully recovered from it. As a nurse, she knew everything and how I was feeling and she was a huge comfort bringing me back into the club. The next spring we an a 12-13 mile run while training for the Yeovil Half Marathon. Jayne was running so well but during the second half of the run the weather really turned for the worse with a strong wind and hail. Jayne told me to run on, which I did regretfully, but I felt like a real runner again running in such adversity. I will always remember that and thank, yet, apologise to Jayne for leaving her.

The Pawlett Plod July 2019. I set off at a reasonable pace hoping for an enjoyable run and a good time only to suffer an extreme pain in my chest. Convinced I was going to die, I was prepared to be rolled, naked and shoe less, into the river when Angel Kelly caught up and dragged my ass to the finish, singing all the way and checking on my shoe size in case she knew anybody who was a size 9. I’m glad I finished as we were refreshed with a delicious bottle of Rich’s cider.

I have ran races and genuinely been competing with champions. I ran the Lliswerry 8, near Newport, I had a strong finish and one competetitor asked if I was a track athlete! I tried to talk to another runner, Steve Jones, winner of the Chicago Marathon and past marathon record holder for the distance, but he didn’t want to talk so I thought he was an ignorant c*nt and left him to his tea and biscuits and I got a beer.

After one of my Stroud Half Marathons I chatted with former Olympian Dan Robinson and he was the nicest and most encouraging elite athlete I have ever spoken to. Just goes to show about meeting your heroes. I even finished 3rd to Dan Robinson in one one race and I was truly dumbstruck. He was quite away in front of me but there was only one bloke between us. He won a shitty pot plant and I won a bottle of wine so I was the real winner. Nice guy though.

I do have races that I can put into the memorable races pile but I’ll tease you with that for another time.

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