Saturday, 18 June 2011

How it all began....

     Like thousands of others I started running to lose weight and restore my neglected body to some sort of fitness. Manual work had kept me reasonably fit, together with frequent excursions into the hills at weekends, walking, rock climbing and mountaineering. When Maggie's axe fell in the early 80's I found myself with no work and no money to pursue my al fresco hobbies. My marriage broke up too, though not acrimoniously. We agreed to differ and go our different ways. It was the end of an era but, little did I know, it was to be the start of another.
     It was on April 9th, 1986 when I took my first tentative steps into the wonderful world of 'jogging', completing an off-road circuit round the fields which I estimated as one mile. On the 2nd and 3rd days I ran two miles and on the 4th day I ran three. Shortly afterwards I joined a 'jogging' class at Huddersfield Sports Centre led by a chap called Alan Taylor, a very good marathon runner. Under Alan's guidance and supervision I was transformed from a jogger into a 'runner'. It was Alan who persuaded me to run my first race, a 2½ mile fell section (with 800ft ascent) as part of a four man relay team. We came away with 24 cans of beer! In September of the same year I was talked into running two 10K's and two ½ marathons thus achieving my first ever PB's - 42.34 and 92.56. I ran eight races before the end of 1986.
      The following year I continued to improve my PB's with a 41.59 10K, 63.36 for 10 miles and 85.33 for the half marathon. 
Pennine marathon trophy, the first thing I ever won.
I reckoned it was time to have a crack at the big one, and the 'big' one' so far as Huddersfield was concerned, was the Pennine Marathon held each year on the first Sunday in July.  It wasn't a popular race. It had too many hills amounting to around 2,000ft of ascent - all very well for those of us who happened to be mountaineers!
     374 runners lined up for the start on what turned out to be the hottest day of the year. After only 15 months of running I wasn't sufficiently experienced to have a race plan. Nor had I done much training. In the twelve weeks prior to the race I'd only averaged 23 miles per week and two of those weeks were spent on a coast to coast walk across the Highlands of Scotland!  I didn't even have a watch to record my splits. Time wasn't a factor. My sole intention was to survive and, by some miracle, I did.
     I crossed the 'Finish' line in 3.30.04, in 82nd position of 316 finishers.  58 runners failed to finish due to cramp, blisters, dehydration and heat exhaustion. I was one of the lucky ones but totally knackered and quite surprised I could still walk!  "Let's get home so I can have a good soak in the bath" I said to my sister, but she wanted to stay to watch the prize-giving.  I collapsoed on the grass, wallowing in the luxury of warm sunshine on my aching muscles.
     Then something happened that changed the course of my life. My name was called out and as I struggled to my feet people were clapping, I was being photographed, almost in tears as they presented me with a silver cup and £25 gift voucher for winning the MV55 category. I was dumbstruck, just couldn't believe what was happening to me.  I'd never won anything in my life before and here I was stood on a platform receiving the adulations of the crowd for coming first of my age in a MARATHON of all things.
     I struggled to hide my emotions as my sister drove me home. When she dropped me off I went in the house, locked the door and cried like a baby, thanking God for what I considered could only have been a miracle. 
     That was 24 years ago but I remember it as though it was yesterday and still shed the odd tear of joy when I look at the trophy and remember the crowd praising my performance.  It was a humbling experience. I've never been the same person since!


  1. Brilliant... and inspirational as always... you have achieved a heck of a lot in those 24years (your blog being chief amongst them!)

  2. What a lovely post. Thanks for that!

  3. great read - i want to continue to win an age category - i may have to go on for another 30 years or more though (i'm 48) !!
    all the best

  4. Enjoyed reading this. Sounds like that was no mean feat, and clearly a treasured memory.

  5. Smiling right now! This was such a beautiful post! I love reading about your running experiences! Thanks for sharing this:)