Wuthering, Withins, courtesy, karma

Hello, Inov-8 Mud-claws. I haven’t seen you for a while. Not since March, in fact, which was the last time the conditions were too tricky for trail shoes. I did Widdop fell race a few months ago, but trail shoes were fine. This time though it was autumn, it was the bogs and moors of the Bronte Way, and it was time to get out the Inov-8s. I have a great habit of signing up for races and forgetting about them. So far FRB and I have had this conversation a few times:

FRB: “We’re doing the Chevin Chase on Boxing Day.”

Me: “Are we? Have we entered?”

FRB (sighs). “Rose, YOU entered us.”


I do though remember filling out an entry form for the Bronte Way and leaving it on the kitchen table when I left for Salt Lake City. Which was a trip. I did my usual tactic of contacting a local running group and asking to run with them, and had a nice email conversation with a woman named Hollie who runs with Salt Lake Runners. She invited me to meet them at 9am on Saturday morning, but in the end I overslept, as I’ve been jet-lagged or recovering from jet-lag for what seems like months now. But she also told me of a great downtown route out of town and up into the canyon. I had no idea where Salt Lake was before I got there. I thought it was a plains city, and dull. But it’s 2000 m altitude and surrounded by stunning mountains. My trip there took 24 hours, and though I was awake at 5am the next morning as usual, the sky was stubbornly dark and by 7am showing no sign of getting lighter. I googled Salt Lake City sunrise, saw that it was 7.45 and couldn’t wait any longer. A gym workout, somewhat made up as there wasn’t much equipment, then to breakfast and to this wonderful contraption:


I was in Salt Lake to attend the World Parliament of Religions, and this was my first experience of having breakfast surrounded by Sikhs wearing white, Native Americans in fringed suede and beads, and all sorts of others, from Muslims to pagans. It was fun. The next day I decided I would run. I followed Hollie’s instructions and ran north up State Street, up the wide, wide streets that the Mormon leader Brigham Young had built so that a troupe of oxen could be easily turned around. At the junction by the rather terrifying Mormon Office Building (yes, that’s what it’s called), I took a left through a small park, then a larger park, and then I kept going, up and up, into City Creek canyon. The city disappeared rapidly. I ran through woods for a bit, then onto the service road, which is closed to all traffic except service vehicles and bikes. When I ran up the road again on Sunday, it was closed to bikes too, as a deer hunt was going on. It was not an easy run. I was 2000 metres above sealevel and climbing; I was jet-lagged, and I hadn’t eaten enough food the night before. Really, it was more of a shuffle, but it was a very scenic shuffle.


I had to keep stopping and gawping, because Utah is gawpingly beautiful. I ran three miles uphill, ate some raisins, then pegged it back, slightly faster. Then I ate my bodyweight in pancakes again. On Saturday I went hiking with a Facebook friend up to Little Cottonwood Canyon, which is accessible only by car, like most trail routes in the Salt Lake tourist info, except for the City Creek one. And on Sunday I ran up the canyon again. It was quieter this time. And oddly, although Salt Lake is easily the smiliest, friendliest city I’ve ever visited, I ran past plenty of runners who didn’t acknowledge me. Except one who wondered aloud why I was taking pictures of an outdoor public toilet. I said, because it’s great. He said, “well, it sure is in a pretty place” and headed off up the canyon. I did 7 miles this time, to prepare for another 24 hours of travel. It was good.

Home after four days, and more jet-lag. But I still wanted to run. When I ran the London marathon in 2013, I rested for a couple of weeks. After this year’s Yorkshire marathon, I went running after 48 hours, and I felt fine. So I went to club training. Most of the club was doing a bleep test, and I didn’t want to, so a few of us headed out on a boring but flat route along Kirkstall Road, then a less boring and less flat route through Burley and up Burley Hill. I was running on my own, as apparently I was the fastest that night. I ran at a pace that would get aeroplanes and queues and crowds out of my system. I wanted air and wind.

On Friday I did a workout in the park with some hills thrown in, and on Sunday FRB and I set off to do the Bronte Way. It’s a linear race, a BM in FRA categorization. Perhaps it’s time for a key:

  • FRB = Fell Running Boyfriend
  • BM = a medium length not too steep fell race according to FRA categories
  • FRA = Fell Running Association

It starts in Lancashire and finishes in Yorkshire, at the Fleece Inn pub in Haworth, halfway up that famous cobbled street. We arrived at Haworth just after nine, to be transported by minibus to the start in Wycoller Woods. Race HQ was in a converted barn there (and there were toilets!) and we would then leave our bags in the minibus and collect them at the finish. Only 80 people had pre-entered, but it was a beautiful day – sunny, but not too warm – so there were plenty of entries on the day. In the end 217 people entered, which was a record. As usual, FRB had optimistically talked me through the race. Optimistically, because I never retain information like that so that at the end of the race, I’d say, “you told me there was only one hill! You lied!” He does have form for that, but this time he hadn’t lied. He’d said there was a sharp hill near the start, and then another one that everyone walks. I do remember the bit about the bogs near the beck. He didn’t mean toilets.

I started near the back. I was in my usual race-going kit of vest, skirt, and lurid socks. I was the only Kirkstall Harrier running, a condition known in my club as The Lonely Purple:


There were dozens of Stainland Lions, as it was a club championship race for them, and plenty of familiar fell-running clubs like Baildon and Clayton-le-Moors and Trawden. I girded my GPS, and off we went up a woodland track. Apparently according to Human Sat-Nav FRB, we ran this for a mile, then through a stile then a kissing gate then the hill. Though it may have been hill then kissing gate. When it comes to remembering race routes, even when I’ve just run them, I’m an Impressionist, and he is a Photo-Realist.

This, though I do remember: fairly early on, there was a narrow track for a mile or two. It was an occasion where a long line of people forms, there are no passing places, and normal fell-running convention is to bide your time, or if you’re really desperate, to ask if you can pass. I was behind a young man who was doing his first fell-race. He was very careful with the technical bits. He didn’t stop and walk, but he slowed, because he wasn’t too sure of his feet. This is perfectly acceptable and reasonable and though I could have passed him and gone faster, I was happy to wait. Behind me I could hear a woman breathing heavily. After a while, each time the lad slowed in front, her breathing became sighing, then tutting. I was about to invite her to pass so I didn’t have to listen to her any more, when, after he slowed a bit more than usual at a particular bit of bog and slippery rock, she said loudly, “OH COME ON” and without thinking, I turned round and said “Shut up! That’s so rude.” I turned back, and behind me she said, “Maybe I was saying that to myself,” and I replied, “Aye, but you weren’t, were you?” It was rude, and it enraged me because it would have intimidated the lad in front, he’d have got a bad impression of fell races. 99.9% of fell-runners I’ve encountered have been supportive, friendly and great. But if he went away with the thought that such aggressive rudeness was normal, I’d be sad.

We reached a ladder stile. The lad went over first, and I stood aside and said to her, “you go on.” She glared at me and didn’t thank me. Then she went over the stile and fell flat on her face. And I managed not to laugh, but thanked the lord or lady of fell-running karma who bestowed such bounty upon me.

It took me a mile or so to run off my annoyance at her rudeness, but after that I started to love it. It was beautiful: my favourite running terrain of moorland and bogs and becks. It was a little hard to look at the scenery because I had to watch my feet, but I still loved it, as I always do. There’s something infantile about the pleasure of running through nature and obstacles. It’s joy.

There were moors, and a path leading off from a bridge – which it turns out was the Bronte bridge – to Top Withins. But we went the other way, past dozens of teenagers having a picnic who reminded me of birds nesting on rocks, peaceable, watching. On, and on, and I ran some inclines and not others. We ran past reservoirs, and rolling moorland hills, and remote farms, and I thought, what a privilege this is, and is there any better way to spend a Sunday morning. And then I started thinking, how long will it be until I can get to a Toby carvery?

I’d had a bagel at 7, and a banana at 9, but I’d calculated that it was only eight miles so I wouldn’t need a gel. This was daft, as it was eight fell miles, and I’d be on my feet for about 90 minutes. I realised this at mile 6, when my energy left me and it felt like treacle-trudging. I had a gel with me but by then I wanted to do the whole thing without, stupidly. But I was hungry, and thirsty, and the next time I’ll plan better. I knew we were getting close to the finish when more and more walkers appeared, slightly befuddled by the sight of people running towards them in not many clothes, though they were all swaddled in coats and hats. The last mile was downhill, down into the village, before a sharp right, then right again up the famous cobbled main street, to the crowd of runners outside the Fleece Inn, cheering us in, while drinking pints. I made it round in 1:27, which is OK, and ate and drank as much as possible as quickly as possible. The £8 entry fee included cups of soup, bread rolls and a pint of your choice from the bar, which I think is hugely civilized. A lovely fell-race, rude runner excepted, and I’d do it again. Next, Gisborough Moors: 12.5 miles of lots of hills. I have to qualify for the Three Peaks race with some BL races (longer than BMs), and realised with some alarm a few weeks ago that I hadn’t done any. So Gisborough is one and Trigger – a 20 mile self-navigating race across the Pennines in January – is the other. Gulp.



The Yorkshire marathon, again

I never sleep well before a race. I certainly didn’t sleep well before this one. I was nervous. I was so nervous that I actually properly prepared, unlike my usual last-minute-haphazardness and constant oh-I’ve-forgotten-something trips that drive FRB to distraction. I prepared a list:  IMG_6868

Why was I nervous? The usual pre-race nerves, plus the uncertainty about whether I could actually run a marathon, the doubts about whether I’d done enough training (I hadn’t), my tendon, everything. Oh, and this:


I was a VIP. I had a media place thanks to the kindness of Run for All, the race organizers, who had offered me a place to run in any of their events. They’d sent me a number already several months ago, which was a season ticket for a few races including the Leeds Half, none of which I could do. Then Vicky, the PR, wrote to say that I would be getting a VIP number. I didn’t expect it to have my name on it, nor be number 9. I’ve never been a single digit before. As far as I knew, this meant I would be starting with the elites. With the really really fast people. That was terrifying.

So, to race morning. I slept poorly, and was awake in good time. We were picking up my club-mate Hannah from Leeds city centre at 6.45. That was pretty early but FRB likes to get to races in good time – he was coming to support, by running about ten miles around the course from vantage point to vantage point – and we weren’t sure how much traffic would be clogged up around the university, the marathon HQ. There wasn’t much traffic, and we flashed our VIP parking badge to get past the no access signs. Only no-one knew where the VIP parking was, so we had a merry drive around the campus, which was already busy, until Hannah went exploring for information, and we finally found out where we were going. I had two wristbands for the VIP area, but I smiled sweetly at the man on the door, and as we were so early, he let Hannah in too. Thank you, man on the door, and sorry I was a bit rude about Plusnet, because they supply my office internet and they’re, er, patchy (“do you work for Plusnet?” “God, no”).

The VIP area had tea, coffee, pastries, but I wasn’t hungry, though I knew I should eat something. Most of the time I spent going back and forth to the toilet as usual. I had a banana and I think some pastries. I applied my anti-chafing chamois cream, which is brillliant. If it’s good enough for udders, it’s good enough for my inner thighs:

indexI asked one of the race organizers if I would get trampled by all the fast runners behind me, as we were apparently going to start in front of them. She said, “oh no. You won’t be the slowest celebrity runner.” Obviously I’m not a celebrity. I just write a bit. But the other celebrities in the VIP area included Harry Gration, Mr Burton from Educating Yorkshire, a very large rugby player, the wheelchair athletes, and two quiet Kenyans who arrived with no fanfare and headed to the back of the room. I wish I’d spoken to them, but I was too busy getting in a tizz.

Final toilet visit, but the queue was huge. I knew I would regret all the liquid and coffee, but at 9am we set off, following a woman with a flag. She led us through the crowds. Hannah peeled off at one point to go to Zone 3, and I headed off to the start. Although when I say “the start,” I’m not being accurate. We were ahead of the start. I’m unlikely to get this view of a start line ever again:


That’s Edmund Kuria, the winner, on the left.

Anyway. There we were, and I realised that I’d forgotten to bring a charity shop hoodie to wear, but it wasn’t cold, and I did a bit of the warm-up. I heard someone yelling “ROSE ROSE ROSE” and turned to see my club-mate Ben, who is fast and was in Zone 1, and he said, “How did YOU get in THERE?” which was a very valid question. I chatted to the country’s most over-active pensioner, also a VIP, and a nice man who said, “oh, you’re the author,” which was a treat (he’s a librarian who will run 5,000 miles in a year to raise money for a hospice). Then sort of suddenly, we were off. And for the next few hours, I was overtaken by about two thousand runners. It began immediately, and it never let up. I enjoyed being a VIP, but being constantly overtaken was demoralising for a while. I didn’t ever get used to it, really. After about two hours, people my pace caught up and it got better. But that’s my only objection. Even if I was given a VIP place again – for which I’m very grateful – I would slink back to Zone 3 where I belong.

Within 20 minutes, I’d been overtaken by a hundred people, and I knew one thing: I was desperate for the toilet. There were no toilets for about a mile, so I had to do my usual and pee while running, then dash to the toilet to wee, wash, dry. After that, I was fine.

York though. What a beautiful place. Last year had been so foggy we could just about see the Minister. On Sunday 11 October this year, the weather was perfect. Cool but sunny. We reached the city walls after about a mile, and then shortly after that, there was York Minister, its bells ringing. At that point. even though I still felt like a snail amongst cheetahs, I grinned. How often do you get bells rung for the simple act of moving faster than walking pace (though for a very long way)? After that, it was down to business: strict hydration and nutrition (nothing for an hour, then a gel and some water every three miles). There were loads of supporters, who were lovely. There was a pipe band again, who stopped playing as I went past, and my favourite Yorkshire marathon feature after the Minster, the priest in Stockton-in-the-Fields who stands on the pavement in his white surplice and rainbow scarf saying things like “Bless you!” “Have faith!” He’s lovely.

I have a terrible topographical memory, so I can only remember highlights: the minster, the priest, the bands, the Elvis impersonator who sang to runners. My neighbour Eve, with a big banner. I stopped to hug her and she said, don’t stop! There were long miles with fewer supporters and more quiet. There were forests. Through one bit of woodland I was overtaken by a tall lad running barefoot. He was extremely serene and very nice, and supporters routinely said, “no shoes! Well done!” (I beat him though). My pace was slower than last year, but I was intent on staying comfortable. My aims were to get round and to get round uninjured. Last year my hip started to give away at mile 18. This year, all was fine. I felt strong, I felt properly hydrated and fed. I saw friends and supporters all the way round. FRB first, at mile 10, then again at 19, on the far side of the switchback. He yelled, “what do you need?” I yelled “coke and chafing cream!” and by the time I got round, he was ready with a bottle of flat Coke (better for the stomach) and the cream. What an angel. I saw the lovely Anne Akers who you may know from Women’s Running magazine and she took this picture:

Screen Shot 2015-10-26 at 14.30.04At mile 19 I was interviewed by a man on a motorbike. I tried to look as if I was running serenely, which was good for my form. Also it was nice to have someone to talk to. It’s odd, but despite being surrounded by thousands of people, I was alone for most of the 26.2 miles. It would have been nice to have company. I kept my thoughts busy with the usual: wondering why so many women have terrible sports bras or shorts, wondering at godawful tattoos, admiring fancy dress costumes, gazing at fields, working out how far the next bottle bin was (helpfully, there were signs to tell me). I did run for a while with Jim Meta, a club-mate with a purple beard who has run hundreds of marathons and is faster than me. By then it felt like most people were faster than me. At 20 miles though it got a bit better. 20-23 were hard. I didn’t hit the wall. I’ve never hit the wall yet, thankfully. But those miles just seemed empty. I knew my family were waiting, I thought at mile 23, but in fact it was mile 24.5. So, just as I did last year, I ran through villages that all looked alike, asking spectators, “is this Osbaldwick?” until it was Osbaldwick. Even then, my family were waiting outside my step-brother’s house, at the far end of the village. I made sure to look like I was in one piece. I was, in that I wasn’t injured like last year, when I had to secretly stretch before I reached my mother, so she didn’t see me wincing. This year I felt fine. And I looked pretty good, I think:

York Marathon 2015 05By “good” I mean, all legs in working order, smile on face. And I did actually feel that good. And it was so lovely to see my family waiting there, with hand-painted sign designed by my niece Amelia:

York Marathon 2015 01

They all insisted I run on, but no chance. I stopped for hugs. I suppose in hindsight getting a hug from someone who has run 24.5 miles on a warm day may not be desirable. Oh well. I love this picture of me and my mother:

York Marathon 2015 34

Just round the corner from them was FRB. He hadn’t realised he was so close. He shouted “well done Rose” and then, “Super proud of you!” and that was exactly what I needed to hear. By now I was overtaking people. I knew there was a hill up to the finish, and I ran it all, overtaking people, and I ran and I ran and then I sprinted, and somehow after a year of injury and trouble, I ran a marathon. I ran it in 4 hours and 27 minutes, a personal worst of 28 minutes, and I didn’t care. My tendon didn’t hurt then or afterwards and that’s the most important thing. If you want to run a flat (ish), fast, friendly, marathon through a beautiful city and gorgeous countryside and villages, which is extremely well organized and with wonderful support, but not as head-busting as London, do this one. Next, back up to the fells.



New York City

Big city running. I try to avoid it. I run through Leeds city centre, but always in company, and Leeds is a small city. I’m happiest in an early morning park or running through woods or on moors and fells. But here I am in New York, and I needed to run. I didn’t really know how far because my marathon training has been haphazard. I’ve only done one long run, at the Vale of York half marathon, to which I added five miles by running up and down the airfield before the start. I felt I should do another, but I couldn’t find any marathon plan that agreed with me. Most suggested much less for the last two weeks before a marathon. So I was winging it.

I was in New York to watch the Global Citizen festival, which I’ll be writing about elsewhere. But I was also jet lagged so I left the concert at 9pm, after Beyoncé and before Pearl Jam, and as usual was awake at 5, then 6. I waited for it to get light, and then I set off, west towards the Hudson River. I’d run up the riverside path a couple of years ago when I was in the US to give a talk, and my seafarers’ welfare friend Roger ran with me. It was the day of the New York half marathon, so the roads were closed. It was freezing, and I was so cold, I begged for us to stop before we got to the George Washington bridge, which had been our plan. But I remember it was a lovely run, and the path seemed quiet and calm.

I decided to aim for that again on Sunday. It was ten miles to the bridge from where I was staying, near Union Square, but I thought I’d get as far as I could. This time the riverside path was rather different. Without a closed road, much of it runs alongside the noisy and busy West Side highway. Without so many runners running the New York half marathon, it was also busy on the path, with runners, cyclists, walkers. There are sections of riverside park, and – well done New York City parks – frequent and functioning water fountains, which I needed because I’d forgotten to pack a waist pack or backpack. The further north I got, the thinner the exercising population got. I ran past ships and docks and cruise-liners, and on the right, wondered what the city looked like. Every so often I’d see a street sign. 50th street. Then 72nd, then 105th. That must be Harlem, I thought. The path cut in, under a roadway, and alongside road-building equipment, past a football field belonging to FC Harlem. I kept going. There was a park next, and a police officer there on his motorbike who grinned at me. There were enough people about that I felt OK, but I didn’t like knowing what kind of neighbourhood I was running through. Also, I wanted to get to the bridge, but god, it seemed a long way away. Finally I got to some basketball courts, another blessed water fountain, and I decided that was enough. I took a picture to show Roger that I’d got a lot closer than we had done:


I think I’d have got to the bridge in about a mile, but I turned round and ran back. I felt OK, but my legs were tired. I think despite the water, I was quite dehydrated, as I’d definitely not drunk enough water while standing for five hours at the concert, and I always get dehydrated on planes. I’d had a banana before I left, and I had three gels during the run. So I wasn’t hungry, but my legs were. I kept going though, on and on, southwards, past the football field, past the sight of the tower of the Cloisters peeking over the trees. If you go to New York, go to the Cloisters, it’s magical.


I got back to the busier sections, when suddenly some police came past on motorbikes, strongly urging people to get the hell off one side of the path and onto the other. I thought it was a bit officious, then I turned round and saw hundreds of people on bikes, horizontal bikes, tandems. They were all wearing fancy Army cycling kit, and had their names on little ID badges hanging under their saddles. It was quite a sight and kept me going for a while. I stopped at the clean and lovely public toilets provided by the Parks Commission, had a gel, and then kept going. And then I stopped.

It was at mile 14. My legs were tired, my feet were tired, my brain was tired. My foot caught a metal grate that was covering some tree roots, but which was not flush. I went flying. A proper face-plant, at speed, onto tarmac. I lay there for a few seconds, shocked, then got up. A man was running right past me in the other direction. He must have seen me fall and I was so furious I shouted, “I’M FINE THANKS” but he had headphones on and ignored me. There were lots of people all around me and not a single one asked how I was. I sat on a bench and pulled myself together, but I was very upset. That would never happen at any race I run in the UK. It wouldn’t happen even if it wasn’t a race. It wouldn’t happen on the fells, and nor would it happen in the city. I thought it was disgusting. I know that big cities require a certain way of life. The sociologist Erving Goffman calls what city humans have to do “civil inattention.” To live together in such quantities and at such close quarters, humans have to ignore other humans. They selectively tune in and out, and society proceeds harmoniously. OK, I get that. But this was more than that. This was inhuman and unpleasant. Not just that I was prone on the ground, but that people had seen me fall. Shame on you, New Yorkers.

Later, I told my New Yorker friend Vanessa about this. She said she had once, in winter, been crossing a road covered in snow and ice near her apartment, with a rucksack full of books. She slipped on the ice and also went flying. Her nose was bleeding, her clothes were covered in blood. She thought her nose might be broken, and so she went to her local nail salon and asked if she could use the mirror to check whether it was broken. They said, no.

I lived in New York for six months or so in the early 1990s, when I was an intern at the Nation magazine. I loved it. But this has punctured my enchantment. If that’s big city life, I don’t want it.

I got up from the bench and carried on running for another three miles. But I ran with anger in my heart, and that’s not the way to run.


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Vale of York half marathon

I don’t remember entering this race, but then, I don’t remember entering many races. I do them in a flurry, like I’m on Racebest crack, and then months later, discover I’m running them. Apparently I entered Vale of York when I was still off with injury, so I must have been feeling optimistic, like I could actually run a marathon, as planned, in October. By September, I was feeling less optimistic. I was back running, but any formal marathon plan had long since gone out of the window. I’d done a few longish runs, but the longest had been 15 miles. So I had no choice: I’d have to turn a half-marathon into an eighteen mile training run.

We got to Sherburn airfield early. Martin and Mark, the race organisers, were still setting out the start bollards. The airfield had looked on the map to be about a mile long. I’d looked on gb.mapometer, my usual source, for a nice five mile run, but the lanes around Sherburn-in-Elmet were mostly the country kind that don’t have pavements. In the end it seemed easier to just run up and down an airfield for five miles. So I did. And it was nice, actually. I saw hares or rabbits scampering off at the far end of the tarmac road, and at the other far end were two polite RAF cadets marshalling the traffic, who looked at me quizzically until I said “marathon training” and then they looked at me pityingly instead. Martin shouted from his car, “You’re in the lead!” and I shouted back “this is the only race I’ll ever win!”. The miles passed quickly, and I’d left myself half an hour between finishing them and the start of the race, for the usual toilet necessities, and for some coffee and bananas. It could have gone wrong, of course, and I could have stiffened up in that half hour, but actually I was fine. The sun was out, and it was a beautiful day. I told myself to put the first five miles out of my head (a tactic that didn’t really work as my Garmin kept going rather than going back to zero) and off I set again.

I knew the first mile on the airfield road intimately, having run it several times already, up and down and up and down. I started near the back to avoid congestion and because it was chip-timed. I didn’t have a pace in mind, but it turns out my legs wanted to run at 9.30 minute miles and didn’t really budge from that. There were about 1400 runners but the congestion disappeared pretty quickly, there was always space to run, and it was a friendly atmosphere, with a good mix of club and unaffiliated runners. The route is lovely: flat, mostly – hence its PB reputation – apart from a railway bridge near the beginning. The views were fields or woods or pretty villages, and supporters now and then: thank you to them. I liked the three in camping chairs who were sitting by the road in the first mile, and still there for the thirteenth.

I’d guess half the route was sun-exposed and half went through beautiful shady woods, though I am probably misremembering because the woods are what I remember most. I didn’t find it too hot but I know some people did. I watched Burjor and Patrick (lovely, lovely blokes but usually a lot slower than me) overtake me and disappear, but I wasn’t going to budge from my pace. The voice in my head said, “this is a training run. This is a training run.” I made sure to drink at every water station and take a gel, and I felt properly hydrated and nourished all the way round. I loved that the water volunteers were bikers with big motorbikes, and I enjoyed the little girl spraying us with her hose-pipe. Being overtaken by a Dalmatian – a woman in dotty shorts with dotty legs and two black floppy ears who told me about Pet Rescue and how it does pet therapy with children – was fun. I ran alone for most of the race so had time to think my usual thoughts which are not, as most non-runners think, always the compassionate and caring kind, because sometimes I’m thinking, “your bum’s a weird shape,” or “you’re going to get a hip injury with that flailing foot,” or “for the love of god get a decent sports bra” or “TAKE THOSE HEADPHONES OUT” to some veering numpty: those fleeting running brain thoughts that keep you going, like oil on wheels. I bet you have them too. I ran behind a tattooed woman for a while, but all I could see of her back tattoo underneath her vest was a wing and a nipple. That kept me entertained for a while, not least because I was trying desperately to speed up so I didn’t have to look at it any more.

About four miles from the end, I thought, this doesn’t feel too bad, and then, I’m going to be over two hours. This bothered me a lot at first: my PB is 1:49 and I’ve never run a half marathon in over two hours. But then I shoved my ego back in the box and thought, I’ll have run 18.1 miles (actually Martin, it was 18.2), I’ve had a crappy few months with injury and it’s amazing I’m running at all. Not only that, but my tendon doesn’t hurt and I may actually be able to run a marathon. By the time I got to the final strait, I was still managing to overtake people, and getting cheered on by my team-mates – now all pretty in the pink technical t-shirt – and I was quite happy. Even if Burjor and Patrick both trounced me.

Vale of York has a reputation as a nice, fast race. It’s definitely nice, and if you don’t run five miles beforehand or have had a spotty running year, or if it’s several degrees cooler, then it’s probably fast too. There were some grumbles about the bottles of water not having caps on – making the bottles difficult to run with – and about chaotic marshalling at the finish, so that the fast runners found themselves competing for space with an ice-cream van. But overall, it was smoothly organised and run. Also, how often do you get very polite young marshals in RAF uniform? Or a medal? There are rumours that the race may not survive building plans for the airfield land. I hope not, because I’ll be back.

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