|In racing mode, aged 79, at the Harrogate 10K
A few days ago I received an email from a running acquaintance in South Africa asking if I'd be willing to participate in a project she was working on to determine what causes someone to change from a self-proclaimed running hater into a die-hard running nut? I'm not sure I ever actually hated running but came pretty close to it when made to run one-off long x-country races during my last two winter terms at school with absolutely no training whatsoever. Only boys ran it. Girls held our coats - which was quite embarrassing because I was among the last to retrieve mine. It's a shame we never had a PE teacher who was interested in some sport other than football for I've often thought, given some specific training, I may have performed rather well.
After leaving school I never thought about running again until almost 40 years later when, due to redundancy, divorce, a somewhat rotund, under worked out of shape body, I felt an urgent need to get back into shape physically, mentally and spiritually before it was too late. Running came to my rescue, mainly because it was all I could afford to do at that frugal period of my life. Initially, I'd sneak out the door when I figured my neighbours had gone to work or were otherwise engaged, but after a couple of weeks it didn't bother me in the least. Far from being embarrassed I began to feel a smug superiority. Running came easy, very easy, and in less than three weeks I ran the 24 miles/4,500ft ascent of the Yorkshire Three Peaks in a little over 6 hours with no ill effects. Exactly twelve months later I ran it again in less than 4¼ hours. Good progress. In subsequent years I recorded even faster times in the annual race and won the men's O/60 category on three occasions.
May 6th 2014 marked the occasion of my 82nd birthday and 28 years of running. I've reached a stage where I experience withdrawal symptoms if I go more than a week
without running. It enhances my quality of life and continues to keep me healthy in body, mind and spirit. I've made many wonderful lifelong friends. It's transformed my social, eating and drinking habits into far more sensible ones - and it's given me some amazing memories to carry into my dotage. From the slough of despond to the metaphorical top step of the podium in marathons, Track & Field, fell, X-country and road racing, running lifted me to heights I never dreamed possible.
|In relaxation mode, running on the Dales Way on my 82nd birthday
Nothing makes me happier than running the hills, having covered well in excess of 36,000 miles, though it's mainly for pleasure nowadays rather than serious training for races. My birthday was celebrated running along the Dales Way from Grassington to Bastow Wood with my wonderful partner. Masses of primroses, violets and mountain pansies adorned our route, a cuckoo had shouted his first hello's, cowslips nodded in the gentle breeze, an early purple orchid shone like a jewel in a sheltered hollow while a whole choir of skylarks serenaded us as we ran through the sunlit limestone landscape. I felt incredibly blessed and just hope I can continue indulging this God-given gift for the rest of my remaining years. Not much to ask, is it?