|Last half mile
Saturday. Our weekend began with a low key race at Arncliffe, an olde worlde village in the heart of beautiful Littondale. It was Gala day. The village green was lined with stalls, games and competition stuff while the Lofthouse and Middlesmoor silver band filled the air with mellow sounds.
The four mile road race is excellently organised by Mike Critchley who, way back in 1987, was the proud winner of the Pennine marathon, a race at that time rated one of the toughest in the country. His time was 2.34.07 which is mighty impressive for a course with around 2,000ft of ascent. How do I remember that? Well, on that same blistering hot July day I registered the very first win of my athletics career by lifting the MV55 prize with a time of 3.30.04. It was totally unexpected and, without doubt, it changed the course of my life. Now, still going strong after 23 years and 33,000 running miles, here I was lining up with 120 other fit looking athletes for my 286th race.
At 1.30 Roger Ingham, the colourful commentator, shouted 'GO' and we were away, first through a bottle-neck where cars were queueing to get into the car park, then for two miles down the winding road parallel to the River Skirfare to cross Hawkswick Bridge. A sign said 'Drinks, 200 metres' but I totally missed seeing where the welcoming water was. I carried on with dry throat along the undulating route back up the riverside to Arncliffe where Roger announced me as 'this 98 year old world champion' as I crossed the finish line. If my appearence in any way matched how I felt it's possible many spectators believed the first bit of that remark!
I was 84th of 118 finishers. However, my time of 32.49 was far slower than the 29.30 of three years ago which I believe is an MV75 course record. Must check with Mike about that. But my MV70 course record (28.32) was broken last Saturday by an unattached runner from Nottingham called George Buckley who scorched round in an amazing 28.25. Only recently I was discussing the deterioration of Veteran times and performances with someone, then up comes this guy to prove me wrong! Well done George, proud of you.
|Mike Critchley & Runningbear
Other noteworthy performances were registered by the incredible Runningbear who easily won the ladies race with a time of 23.40, by my old friend Ken Chapman of Kimberworth who set a new MV65 course record when he crossed the line in 28.59, and not least by my wonderful partner who, much to her surprise, was awarded the LV60 prize (she was even more surprised to discover she's the current LV60 course record holder!). Prizes in the form of sports vouchers were supplied by Terry Lonergan (called Lonnie Donegan by our comical commentator) of Complete Runner who also ran a creditable race to finish 2nd MV60 in 27.22. Terry, we will be visiting your Ilkley shop shortly to redeem our vouchers. A lady from Middlesmoor who we'd never met before kindly emailed the first two action pictures featured above. Thankyou Ann. Full results here.
Sunday. To say I was 'a bit stiff' on Sunday morning would be an understatement. I'd been called upon to read the lesson again at our local chapel and gave the minister a wry smile as he announced the chapter and verse before adding "Here is Gordon springing out of his pew to come and read it for us." He knew very well what I'd been up to the day before! It was some time after the service before I set out for a six mile run in an attempt to loosen up.
Once I'd got them going the old legs didn't feel too bad as I climbed 600ft in the space of three miles to the old mining hamlet of Yarnbury. From just above Yarnbury I ran a measured mile down Moor Lane, towards Grassington, at slightly less than 100% effort. A glance at my watch told me I'd achieved a time of 6.45 - in spite of being harrassed by a friendly black Labrador intent on having a play. I was quite happy with this time until I realised the incredible Runningbear had run nearly a minute faster than this for four consecutive miles in yesterday's race. That jolly well put things into perspective. Whether it was because of this, or in spite of it, an evening trip across the road to the Clarendon was called for, ostensibly to put some liquid carbohydrate back into the system, but there may have been other reasons!
Monday. As forecast, the day dawned sunny and warm, just perfect for a long slow run across the heather moors with my wonderful partner. We set off with juice and jelly babies to supposedly suss out a new circular route after assuming, quite wrongly as we found out, that our local gamekeeper had extended a track from Grassington Moor over into Mossdale. We put up three decent sized coveys of partridge in Hebden Ghyll and wondered if they'd strayed away from the umpteen thousand pound's worth of birds recently bought into the Grimwith shoot, just over the hill? I'm sure our local shoot will be delighted if that's the case! As we climbed onto Grassington Moor we were disappointed to find the track had not been extended after all. It ended where it always ended. So we were into rough stuff, heather, cloudberry, boggy patches and half hidden drainage ditches, so we'd to slow down and watch where we planted our feet. We didn't mind. The sun was shining, it was warm and we'd clear views of Simon's Seat, Great Whernside and all the surrounding purple moors. Grouse clattered away almost from under our feet and the blooming heather had attracted peacock butterflies. We passed the memorial cairn, erected above the six entombed cavers in Mossdale Caverns, before crossing the fence and dropping into Mossdale for refreshment by the recently refurbished shooting hut. A room that was once full of junk, and an occasional dead sheep that had trapped itself there, has been converted into a rather posh loo complete with hand basin, soap and towel. That's handy to know!
The second part of our run became something of a fartlek session with a few quicker reps, uphill efforts and a faster mile down what we call 'the long wall'. My Garmin reckoned we'd run/jogged/walked a total of 10.98 miles which, at our time of life, is far enough to be termed a 'long run'. And I'll tell you what. We didn't half sleep after it!