Ready to race

Taking part in a race is not only a great challenge and achievement, it’s also fun. Usually I’d target four or five races a year, but since joining a local running club, I’ve raced more than I ever have. In the early part of the summer I even raced three times in the same week, which is madness, but like I said, it’s also fun. Plus at many of the local races, there was cake to be had. I wasn’t going to say no.


So I raced. I enjoyed it. I ate cake. I enjoyed that too.


And being in a club means the race results are sent to the local paper of which my grandad is an avid reader. ‘You’ve got another write-up in the paper,’ he said happily trawling through the hundreds of names in the results. ‘There you are, column five, three inches down, E Champion.’ My 91-year-old grandad became my biggest supporter. with nan and grandad


Then at the end of July the races stopped. ‘You’re not in the paper,’ he said sounding a bit disappointed. I last raced at the beginning of July, an off-road 10k, which was my final race as a senior lady, before moving into the veteran ranks. I was pleased with my run, but felt tired. My legs were heavy and I was looking forward to a rest from racing.


The break was nice. I got stuck into training, I enjoyed time horse riding and doing other things, but I missed racing. I found myself looking at the calendar willing the time away until the next race, a 10 mile race. I couldn’t wait.


Then Hurricane Bertha came hurtling across the Atlantic reaching Yorkshire on the morning of the race. It was cold, windy and wet, as you’d expect the tail-end of a hurricane to be. Before we’d even set off, I was drenched. I didn’t think a PB was possible.


I set off cautiously, afraid that Bertha would get the better of me. After spending the first mile trying to avoid the puddles, I realised that my feet were going to get wet no matter what. So I splashed on, getting into my stride, and by mile three I could see one of my teammates in the distance. I wanted to catch him. I was strong on the main hill just before mile five and knew I was gaining on him. Then on the downhill he pulled away again. I kept working. I finally caught him on the hill at mile seven. ‘Well done,’ he shouted. ‘It looks like the sun’s coming out now.’ After working so hard to catch him, I found it hard to keep going. I fixed on a few female runners, and passed three in the final stages. I felt strong and even managed a sprint finish.


Drying out in the bar afterwards, I realised I’d got a PB by about 20 seconds. Not a huge PB, but a PB nonetheless. I was delighted. Then the presentation started. I hadn’t realised but it was also the South Yorkshire Championships. The winners of the senior ladies race collected their medals. I sipped my cup of tea and applauded. ‘Next year,’ I said to one of my teammates. ‘I’ll try to win a prize.’ I was joking of course, thinking that would be impossible, but just as the words were out, my name was called. In my first race as a veteran, I’d won a silver medal. I couldn’t believe it. Being old definitely has its advantages.

 grandad and his hat

On the way home, I stopped off at my grandparents’ house to show them my medal, because even at 35 I still wanted to make them proud. ‘Well done girlie,’ my grandad said. ‘Will you be in the paper this week?’



Timing it right

Finding the time to train can be difficult. Sometimes there just aren’t enough hours in the day. Juggling work, family, horses, writing and studying has sometimes meant that I didn’t have time for a run.

When I set my PB challenge last year, I knew I needed to organise my time better. Instead of being casual about when I ran, I had to have some structure. Running had to move up my list of priorities.

Being a morning person, I like to get my trainers on and go. If I leave it until evening, that’s when the trouble starts. By then other things start to take over; it gets later, and the six mile fartlek I’ve planned may turn into a three mile jog, and there’s a chance I’ll not run at all.

As well as training in the morning on my own, I also joined a running group who train in the evenings. I have to be somewhere at a set time, which means I plan my day around the training. And, it’s working. I’ve not missed a session. Time management no longer seemed to be an issue, until last Friday that is.

My coach had planned a monster hill session: two sets of four reps up Smithies Hill to the traffic traffic lightslights. It would have been fine: meet at coach’s house at 6pm, jog to the hills, do the session, jog back, have a recovery drink and flapjack, drive home. But this particular Friday, Coach was recovering from an operation, other members of the group were racing or working or on holiday, so it was just Chris and me, which meant we had flexibility over the training. ‘We’ll run at 6pm like we normally do,’ I said on Friday morning. Despite the million and one things I needed to do, I was determined to stick to the routine.

Friday was a busy day. As well as work, one of the ponies had cut his leg, which needed cleaning and bandaging, then my sister rang asking if I could babysit for an hour. Then I’d got a writing deadline, paperwork which took longer than I thought, and a visit to my elderly grandparents. Six o’clock came and went.

I was annoyed we’d let it get so late. But after such a hectic day, I needed to run more than ever. So, very late on a Friday evening, when most people are in the pub, or in bed, we were powering up the hills of Smithies. I’d got to the traffic lights on my last rep when a man in a van wound his window down. ‘It’s a bit late for running,’ he said. ‘And, you look knackered, love.’

I’d climbed 790 feet, covered six miles (Chris had done seven). I was bent double, gasping for breath, sweat pouring out of me. Plus, it was so late it was nearly Saturday. I managed to raise my head and nod. He had a point, our timing wasn’t quite right, but I’d already made a mental note to get out earlier next week. With the best will in the world things don’t always go to plan, but at least I could go to bed knowing that I’d done the session. Timing isn’t always everything.

How do you find the time to train?  I would love to hear your views. Reply to this post, or find me on Twitter @championrunning.