THE South Yorkshire road league got underway on Wednesday. The first race was at Lodge Moor in Sheffield.
I’d heard it was hilly.
‘How hilly?’ I asked on the drive there.
‘Hilly hilly,’ Chris said.
‘Worse than Haworth?’
Mark was driving, Chris next to him. Fiona was in the back of the car with me. All of them nodded. ‘Worse than Haworth.’
Surely my friends were exaggerating. Nothing could be worse than the Haworth Full Bronte, with its sixteen per cent gradients.
We drove out to Sheffield, through Hillsborough, and it didn’t seem particularly hilly at all. Then all of a sudden the scenery changed. Things became steeper. Everywhere I looked all I could see were hills.
‘Welcome to Lodge Moor,’ Mark said.
‘I wish I’d packed my crampons,’ Chris said. ‘They might come in handy.’
I stared out of the window at the mountainous terrain. I began to wish I hadn’t signed up to the road league. Having caught Chris’ man flu, I wasn’t feeling my best. I’d got a bit of a chesty cough. It wouldn’t do my asthma any good. Perhaps I should have stayed at home with a Lemsip and bottle of Benylin.
We climbed higher, the car crawling up the hill. The scenery was spectacular, the sun low in the sky. I felt a bit more energised. It would take more than a chesty cough to stop me running. I’d just have to run sensibly, so my asthma didn’t flare up.
‘Are you sure?’ Chris pointed towards the pub. ‘You could watch from there.’
Don’t get me wrong. I could quite happily have sat in the pub’s beer garden, watching the sun go down, sipping a cold drink, possibly something alcoholic. But this is Sheffield, not Spain. If I’d stood about, I may well have frozen. Even though the sun was shining, it was still very chilly – gloves and hats chilly. I needed to run, just to stay warm.
We set off slightly uphill, the sun on our faces, blinded by its brightness. We turned right and started climbing higher. I set off slowly, knowing that at some point I would have to throw myself at a mountain. My friend Lesley from Penistone Footpath Runners pulled up alongside. We started chatting.
I was just beginning to enjoy myself, when I glanced to my right. The road snaked round and disappeared up into the clouds. The runners in front started turning towards it.
‘Are we going up there?’
‘Yes.’ Lesley didn’t look phased. She speeded up, ready for the climb. Lesley is a seasoned fell runner. If I could hang onto her up the hill, I’d be okay.
We were soon at the top, where we resumed our chatting. And then came the descent. A 300ft drop to the bottom of the moor. I tucked in behind Lesley, keeping my eyes on the floor, trying not to fall. ‘Aaaahhhhh.’ I hate downhill running.
‘You’re fine.’ Lesley was a reassuring presence at my shoulder.
I started to relax. Down. Down. Down we went, until we couldn’t go down any more. I looked up and there it was. The mountainous Lodge Moor ready to be conquered.
I couldn’t mess about chatting any more. I’d need to breathe up this beast. There was nothing else to do, but attack.
This is where a spectator kindly took a photograph of both our backsides, publishing it on social media for all to see.
Up. Up. Up we went. I thought we were at the top. We weren’t. We went up some more. We turned another corner, climbing higher. The sun was setting. The views were amazing. It was such a great setting for an evening race. In front, I could see Dave from Barnsley AC. I caught up with him and we worked together to the summit. With Dave as my wingman, I actually started smiling.
‘Have we done four?’ he asked.
I glanced at my watch. ‘Yes.’
‘Over four, or just four?’
I looked at my watch again. ‘Just four.’
We had one mile to go. I love this part of a race, where the end is near, and everyone, no matter how tired they are, always pushes harder. The pace picked up. I knew Dave would give it everything, so I had to do the same. We started the descent to the finish. I pushed on, passing a few men, and beating one just on the line.
I finished in 35.50, third vet 35 and 11th lady overall, which at the time I was pleased with given my dodgy chest and man flu. (I’m not pleased now! Another post to follow). As soon as I crossed the line, Mark handed me a Crème Egg, as a little reward. I didn’t have the heart to tell him I’d bought a pack of ten with me. Chris and I had raided the Co-op before we set off, in case there was a shortage after Easter.
Fiona was waiting for me with a Mars Bar. She finished first lady in 31 minutes something, two days after coming second in the Ackworth Half Marathon, and even though she’s not fully fit. ‘That’s disgusting,’ I said. ‘You should be ashamed of yourself!’
We had a warm down. We ate chocolate.
Lodge Moor was in darkness when we left. As the car chugged down the hill, I stared out into the blackness. Lodge Moor. What a beast. But I had conquered it. What chest infection? What man flu? I felt fine. In fact, I felt great!
The coughing and spluttering started when we got home. My asthmatic lungs tightened. I struggled to breathe. Even though I’d taken it easy (ish), the Lodge Moor climbs had taken it out of me. I couldn’t sleep for coughing. I couldn’t get comfortable.
There was only one thing for it. I got out of bed and went downstairs. When I opened the fridge for a Crème Egg, everything seemed better.