Well, there it was. The 7th event in the 2009 Eden Runners Road Championship series, the Golden Ball. A mere 5000m, a blast alongside the River Lune, between Lancaster & Heysham. Only 5km, but enough to sap every last drop of energy. Legs which feel like springs at 11am (obviously I’m not referring to my own legs here) feel like lead by 10 past, and then like concrete & clay (oh, the sidewalks and the streets) by quarter past. But you do get a t-shirt, and then if you’re like me, you lose it before you get home. Never mind, I have too many t-shirts anyway.
In 2008, the club went to this race and in the aftermath we had cause to re-focus our priorities and think again about what we are and what keeps us here. All was well in the end, and so we came back - complete, thankfully, with Dave.
7 of us gathered in gentle spring rain on the old Lancaster Road at Snatchems (so called because the pub was a target for press-gangers looking for 'volunteers' for their ships at the height of the cotton trade). Also present were Karen’s two daughters Emily & Tiffany – neither running, though for differing reasons. Emily because she is still recovering from a throat op, and Tiffy because she is “... too little. They said the roads are too busy. Hmph.” (I wonder who she takes after?) Maybe the field was 80-strong or so, and we reflected that the damp weather had possibly caused a few to stay away. In 2008 we had 20deg of blazing sunshine, today we had maybe 14 or so, and heavy cloud cover. Thankfully, there was no breeze to speak of – almost ideal running conditions. Kevin, Dave and Tony engaged in some pre-race psychology that even Maurice Green would have thought twice about. Disgraceful. A few apprehensive minutes on the start line were whiled away considering whether there is a perfect way to tie a shoelace. We briefly touched on hitch, clove-hitch, reef, sheepshank and Old Mother Walker’s Errant Child Restraint. This latter one was reprised on the day by Andy – he said because his laces were far too long. We said it was because he had too much spare time on his hands, as he was ‘Home Alone’ for the weekend.
Mile one includes two sharp left-handers (Brian Lara and Jimi Hendrix, respectively) which put you on your tiptoes as you approach, but mostly it’s straight and flat. Mile one is reached still on the main road, although I can barely remember any traffic at all. Another left takes us off the main road and onto Moss Road, back towards to river. We then run a loop around the lanes, anticlockwise, reaching the two-mile mark at the highest point of the course, with good views back towards Lancaster. That is, if you have the energy to take anything in visually at this point. I don’t. It’s downhill for a short way, then back on the flat for the long run-in to the pub. There are several water hazards on this section, enhanced by the morning’s rain, and negotiating these is a welcome distraction from the unrelenting pain of running hard. Actually, it’s just running through puddles - but hey, it seemed quite exciting at the time. And the tide was out, otherwise we'd have had to freestyle to the finish.
Finished, and I can stop, spent. A few moments later Karen flies into the finish funnel, followed closely by John. We shake hands and exchange exhausted well-dones. Next in comes an unstoppable Andy Walker. Then comes an improving Tony Lowery, hanging onto his 18-second lead over Dave Peacock. Right on Dave’s heels (3 seconds!) is Marathon Man Kevin Whitemore, and that’s it – we’re all home.
We stay for the prizegiving, as Karen has yet another podium finish in her age-group. There are several talking points of course, but the biggest problem we could find was that Tony had forgotten to start his watch. Which mattered to Tony, but was hardly life-threatening. Not like 2008.
So, race seven over, performances analysed and reflected upon, we all returned to our respective homes & families, maybe a little bit richer than when we’d left. See, it’s only running, but it can give you such a lot. Even if it is just 5000m.