Sincerest apologies to the late great Gerry Rafferty
Racing for many Burnham-on-Sea Harriers begins this weekend for the Not The Glastonbury Around The Tor 10km this Bank Holiday weekend. Due to Covid-19 and social distancing the ‘race’will be a 6.2 mile time trial in the nearby and less likely to be populated town of Street.
Because spectators are persona non grata and our resident Cheerleader, Madame PomPomadour, can’t attend. She is quite noisey so this will help those suffering from the usual Sunday morning hangover. Odd as you can fill half of Wembley Stadium or the whole of the Crucible for some snooker chukka but folks are prevented from standing, social distancing, to watch a running time trial. It’s fine as she has some decorating to do. She has some help from Carrie Symonds and I can’t wait to see the final outcome!
I think most of us have found in the last 12 months that sport without spectators, fans, those people with a vested interest, is shallow. Like crackers without cheese and like a bacon butty without brown sauce that most important component is missing. People who don’t even like sport appreciate somebody ‘having a go’, trying their best to do what they can in an event or race. Everybody has their own personal agendas be it to prove something to themselves, to accomplish a feat after an addiction, raise money for charity or to honour a loved one. Some, God forbid, just want to run fast and win but that’s cool also as sport must be inclusive to all. Most are anxious. Not sure if their training has been enough, not sure if they really fit in, not sure they should be there. You are the main part of the event. Fifteen years ago I could run a marathon in under 3 hours but someone who runs a marathon in 5 or more hours still covers the same distance, has the same experience of joy and pleasure and pain.
Well I think it’s fair to say I nervous, apprehensive, worried, scared, anxious, and yet delighted to be on a starting line again even if it was in groups of 20 and in one of 50 waves starting at 2 minutes intervals. I even took a Covid-19 test to prove I was negative and posed no threat to others.
My good buddy and vice captain of The Harriers, Tracey Thomas, kindly gave me a lift to the race and we spoke of club matters and the usual frivolous nonsense that nervous people talk about before a race. This was particularly odd as we hadn’t competed in over a year and over this period we had not pushed ourselves.
Walking to the start line we met up with other club mates as we would have normally 14 months ago and it felt weird to observe all the protocols like social distancing. As none of us had raced in well over a year none of us were really sure how the event would turn out. Race packs were sent out a few days before race day. This included a snood for masking, final instuctions and our bib number on which was printed our wave number and start time. We were all informed to enter a holding area, car park, which also served as a warm-up track 30 minutes before our start time where we would be called to the start in wave order and sent off on their way. I must admit that any fears I had were completely quashed and the organisers carried out this procedure with Germanic effiency.
At 10.22 am my wave were off and away. The nervous joking was over and the serious business of racing began. The only other Harrier in my wave was Lewis Perry and we set off together and within the first few hundred metres 6 or 8 runners sped off into the distance. I immediately thought I was definitely in the wrong place and time and I was no way prepared for this. I was also hoping that the subsquent waves wouldn’t swallow me up. Lewis and I carried on as best we could encouraging each other but trying not to waste too much energy or breath on chatting and we gradually got into race mode and rhythm.
The course was a quiet country road that had been closed to traffic and was out and back. At the 5 kilometre turn I felt strong so I kicked on. Only a park run to go 🤣 is normally the mantra but of course that is complete 💩. I could now see other runners on the other side of the road heading towards the turn and waving encouragement to my friends. Not wasting valuable oxygen by shouting. I passed a poor lady runner hobbling badly, her race had clearly been ran, and soon after the supporting cavalry in the shape of an ambulance was tearing up the middle of the road to assist her.
The kilometres passed quickly and I started overtaking some of those in my wave who got off to a fast start. Approaching the 400 metres to go sign and I felt sorry I was finishing as the whole event had been a hoot but some hadn’t even started their adventure. I stopped my watch but without my glasses I couldn’t really make out my time but I was well pleased with my effort.
Heading back to the holding area, after picking up my medal and bottle of water, we gathered to excitedly speak about our emotions of the morning. Each finishing Harrier was bekoned over to our corner that was Burnham-on-Sea to tell us of their own tales of joy, or woe.
All in all a fabulous morning and many thanks and congratulations to Mendip Athletics Club for staging a very successful event. It certainly was a rare treat to wear club colours again and to see others wearing theirs. Right, when’s the next race?