|Roads are clearing...|
|..and so is the cricket field where I sometimes train|
I'd been a jogger for only 15 months and hadn't really done much at all by way of marathon training. A few
weeks prior to the Pennine I'd been sauntering across some of the wilder parts of Scotland on a 200 mile coast to coast walk (TGO Challenge) and I'll admit to being more than a little nervous in the couple of weeks before the marathon. But come the day, the nerves had settled and I was probably as calm as any of the more experienced runners. I needed to be. Drinks stations were every three miles which some reckoned insufficient given it was the hottest day so far that year. I carried no water nor anything to eat. Approaching 18 miles I passed lots of runners who'd ground to a halt by the roadside, some just stood there, others tried to keep their legs moving, some sat with bowed heads looking forlorn and totally knackered. Blisters, dehydration and heat exhaustion had taken their toll resulting in 58 of those stragglers failing to finish. Helpful or concerned spectators brought extra water from their houses, children offered fruit and other goodies while gardeners sprayed us with hose pipes to cool us down. I kept going, ignoring the handouts, though struggling and having to walk for a while climbing towards that 22 mile marker. I suppose I'd hit the wall but it was nearly all downhill after that.
|Pennine marathon route and profile|
I crossed the line in 3:30:04 to take 82nd place of 316 finishers. Mike Critchley of Bolton United Harriers
had won it in 2:34:07, a chap I've met many times since at the Arncliffe 4 mile race which he organizes each year in August. Eileen Denby of Denby Dale Travellers survived the blistering conditions to be first lady in 3:31:17. The best was yet to come. I'd wanted to go home to rehydrate and soak my aching legs in a hot bath, but my chauffeur/sister insisted on watching the prize giving before we went. I got the shock of my life when I was called to the podium as winner of the M55 category, a silver cup placed in my hand together with a voucher that would buy me a new pair of shoes and an embossed towel that has accompanied me to every race since. It was my first ever win, at anything, and it totally changed my life. That was 26 years ago but I remember details of that race as if it were yesterday. And I remember telling the race secretary, Alan Sykes, I'd break the M55 course record the following year. Gone was the casual jogger who'd started this game to lose weight and get the old body back to some sort of shape. Things had gotten serious. A runner had been born, one that henceforth hated to lose, and God help any contemporaries that lined up beside him.
|Breaking the M55 course record in 1988|
Can you tell I've just been watching 'Fire on the Track' - the story of Steve Prefontaine's extraordinary life?