WEDNESDAY was a bad day. Work was challenging, my pony had an allergic reaction to his flu jab and, to top it off, just as we were leaving for the South Yorkshire road league at Brodsworth, I cracked my head on the kitchen cupboard and almost knocked myself unconscious.
It was too much. I stood in the kitchen, crying and chuntering for a good ten minutes.
‘Are you finished yet?’ Chris tapped his watch. ‘It’s just that the race starts in a hour, and we need to pick Fiona up.’
Fiona had also had a few mishaps. She’d fallen during her long run, smashed her head open and bruised her eye. That was on Sunday. On Monday a man opened his car door just as she was running past. Her arm was black with bruising.
‘Things can only get better,’ she said climbing into our car.
Unfortunately, things didn’t get better. They got worse. Wednesday was one of those days when everything conspires against you.
The weather was the first thing. It had snowed in Barnsley, but nothing like Doncaster, our destination for the third race in the South Yorkshire road league series. In Doncaster it was white over. The roads were covered with slush.
We passed a car in the hedge bottom, its front end completely smashed.
‘Careful,’ I told Chris. ‘We don’t want to crash.’ He’ll not like me for saying this, but Chris’ driving isn’t great even in good conditions. I gripped the car seat, worried I’d end up in the hedge bottom too.
The car in front braked suddenly and the reverse lights came on. The driver started backing up on the main road, then veered to the left down a country road.
‘Is that Robert Davies?’ Fiona shouted from the back. ‘It looks like his car.’
‘I’ll follow him,’ Chris indicated left. ‘Rob’ll know where he’s going.’
As it turns out, it wasn’t Rob. Thankfully, it was a runner heading to the same place as us. Otherwise we could have ended up anywhere.
We parked in the garden centre and attempted to brave the freezing conditions to do a warm up, which basically involved dodging puddles round the car park. It was the end of April and there I was doing my warm up dressed as though I was going on an arctic expedition. Hat, gloves, jumper, fleece, coat, track suit.
I’d just stripped off to my shorts when news came that the start was being delayed. The layers went back on. I faffed about for a bit, then headed to the start, where I stood shivering wondering what the hell I was doing.
We waited and waited and waited. Eventually the gun sounded and away we went. Well, away they went, because I didn’t go anywhere. In fact, I went backwards. My legs were frozen. They wouldn’t move. I’d lined up at the front, but within a few seconds found myself at the back.
‘Bloomin’ brilliant!’ I thought.
I wished I’d not bothered. I could be curled up with a brew, bar of Dairy Milk and a family bag of Minstrels. But no! Here I was running a five mile road race in arctic conditions with legs made of lead.
I tried to get moving. Up ahead, I could see my friend, Lesley. In the last two races I’d managed to stay with Lesley, but now she was miles in front. I tried not to panic. I tried to keep focused.
I kept so focused that I failed to see the mad woman in the black car trying to undertake the runners. She just wouldn’t stop. We were side by side, me and the mad woman. Now that I’d got my legs moving, I didn’t want to slow down, but neither did she.
I didn’t know what to do. She looked a bit puzzled herself. She wasn’t prepared to wait for us to pass, so ploughed her way through anyway.
I was still chuntering about it when Mark took this photograph. Definitely not happy!
I was starting to feel a bit warmer, so I speeded up. I didn’t seem to be getting any closer to Lesley, so knew I’d have to blast up the hill.
This photo was taken at the top of the hill. This is not a happy face. This is what I would call a decidedly unhappy face.
We turned a corner and the route went off-road. My lovely new trainers were going to get muddy. I tried my best to avoid the puddles.
I’d had it on good authority that the race finished on a big hill, a big pit stack, and I was prepared for it. I’d even saved a bit of energy to have a final blast before the finish. That’s when I glanced at my watched – 4.80 miles it said.
Where’s the hill? Ahead I could see what looked very much like a finish line. It was. It was the finish. Where was the hill?
The race ended without me realising. I crossed the line a bit dazed and confused. ‘I thought there was a hill!’ I kept repeating this to anyone who’d listen. I’d saved myself for a mountain. I couldn’t help but feel a bit disappointed that the mountain had not materialised.
I’d not given the race everything. I was really disappointed in myself. The chuntering began.
‘Where was the hill?’
‘They moved it?’ Chris said.
‘They moved the hill?’
‘No! The course.’ Chris smiled. ‘Did you really want a hill?’
‘You should have tried harder!’ Chris actually dared to say this.
‘Shut up,’ I said. ‘Or I’ll divorce you before the wedding!’
I chuntered all the way home, feeling really cross with myself and fed up that it had been such a disastrous day.
It wasn’t until Thursday that I decided to check my five mile PB. I’m rubbish for remembering statistics. What a nice surprise to find that I’d got a PB by two seconds. Not a lot, but enough.
I called Chris to tell him the good news. ‘Maybe it wasn’t such a bad day!’