Qualifying for the National Road Relays

WE did it! We only went and qualified for the National Road Relay Championships.

Barnsley AC ladies finished twelfth at the six stage Northern Road Relays in Blackpool, which means we get to do it all again today at the nationals. This is very exciting. But before we start thinking about competing against some of the best clubs in the country, I want to remember Blackpool, because it was a fantastic day, full of laughs, with great camaraderie.

I joined AC because I wanted to take part in the road relays, something Kingstone didn’t do, so I was delighted to make the ‘A’ team. Chris was in the men’s twelve stage race, so we decided to make a weekend of it. On Friday evening, once the dogs and horses were sorted in their foster care, we headed to Blackpool.

We’d booked a hotel on the edge of Stanley Park, but when we arrived it was in darkness. We turned into a long drive, with very low lighting, wondering where on earth we were. As I climbed out of the car, there was a noise, something rustling in the hedge next to us. I had a strange feeling that I was being watched.

I went to investigate and there behind the bush was a giraffe. What else would you expect to see on a Friday night in Blackpool! It turns out that the hotel was next door to the zoo, hence the darkness of the approach.

Like true dedicated athletes we then headed to the bar, which was open for drinks, but closed for food. ‘You could order a takeaway,’ the bar man suggested.

A takeaway! He didn’t realise we were racing the next day. I couldn’t possibly have a takeaway. ‘No thanks,’ I said. ‘I’ll have a bag of crisps instead.’

I was thinking of a bag of kettle crisps, but the man pulled a face. ‘I’m not sure we’ve got any crisps left.’

No crisps. What sort of establishment was this. He disappeared out the back, and returned carrying a box. He plonked it on the bar. ‘This is all we’ve got. Take your pick.’

I peered inside; there were only a few bags of crisps left and the selection was limited. I had a very difficult decision to make. Do I have Monster Munch or salt n vinegar Squares? Or do I leave the crisps and starve? I went for the Squares.  I’d not had a packet of Squares since the nineteen nineties, and after a long drive and a run-in with a giraffe, they were just what I needed to keep me going until breakfast.

Saturday mornings at home are usually very hectic. We have our own zoo to sort – horses, dogs, rabbit – but in Blackpool all we had to do was eat breakfast and get ready to run. It was wonderful. We took our time, then strolled across the park to meet friends from the club.

We chatted. We laughed. I sat on the grass watching people warming up, which is when I realised just how many clubs were taking part. That’s when the nerves kicked in. I was running against some incredibly fast runners. ‘I’m going to get annihilated,’ I said.  ‘Especially running a long leg.’

I spent the next hour faffing and warming up. I did manage to cheer our first runner, Kerry, but missed my other teammates on leg two and three (sorry ladies). It was the nerves.

I was running leg four, 9.5k which was two laps of the park. I set off sensibly, aware that I’d got a long way to go. The park was busy. It was a beautiful sunny spring day, the first good day of the year. As well as the runners, half of Blackpool turned out to enjoy the sun. This meant the runners had to negotiate numerous hazards including dogs, children, and queues for the ice cream van.

I hurdled a few dogs, swerved past a few children, but the real test was the ice cream van. I was so tempted to get in the queue and order a ninety-nine that it took real willpower to run past it. But I did! I completed leg four in 40 minutes and 17 seconds, finishing in seventeenth and consuming no ice creams on the way. Result!

Run over, I could enjoy the rest of the day, and what a fantastic day it was. But it wasn’t until Sunday, when Chris and I were enjoying a morning stroll on the seafront when we heard that the ladies team had finished twelfth out of some of the best clubs in the north.

I was so excited, and so pleased to be part of the team. There was only one way to celebrate, with an ice cream, of course. Today, we get to do it all again at the national road relay championships in Birmingham. There will be no ice creams. This is serious business!




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