The first weekend in June is always important for my running club, Kingstone Runners. It’s the weekend we take part in a 73-mile relay race around the Barnsley boundary.
It’s a fantastic event with 10 stages varying in distance from four to 11.5 miles. The race starts and finishes at Cannon Hall, an 18th Century stately home, and takes in some spectacular scenery along the way.
This year Kingstone had four teams taking part. Our A-team won the mixed-team event for the third year while our B team came third. Our Nifty at Fifty team of veteran 50 runners came second in their category, only 40 seconds behind the winners.
But it’s not just about the winning (or losing), the Barnsley Boundary is a fantastic event with a real sense of camaraderie. It was the third year I’ve taken part and I absolutely love it.
We were up early for Chris to run the first leg. He broke the course record for leg one, but lost out to a twenty-something from Kimberworth Striders who’d been up partying into the early hours. ‘If that’s what it takes to win,’ Chris said. ‘I’ll be out every night from now on.’
After that we watched the runners on leg two before driving to the start of my leg in Brampton. It was my first race after injury and I was nervous, very nervous. I didn’t want my knee to explode. I wanted to make it to the finish in one piece. I didn’t want to let my team down.
I set off cautiously. I didn’t want to get carried away on the two-mile canal run only to lose my strength for the last three miles, which are all uphill. Unfortunately, I lost my strength anyway so it probably wouldn’t have made much difference if I’d set off like a rocket. A chap from Kimberworth caught me as we started climbing. ‘Well done,’ I said as he went past, thinking I’d go with him and try to annihilate him in the latter stages. I thought wrong. He started pulling away. My legs were going. I felt dreadful. I wondered what on earth I was doing. I decided I was never, ever, ever going to race again. I was going to withdraw from my next two races. That was it. I was done.
I plodded on. My legs were getting heavier and heavier. I got slower and slower.
And then came the hilly finish. It’s not just a slight incline but a half-mile beast of a hill. I ran through the last gate knowing what was coming. It was going to hurt. When I turned the corner I knew everyone would be standing at the top of the hill watching as the runners struggled to make it to the summit. By that time I was on my knees but I wanted to at least look the part. I took a deep breath. I straightened myself up. I turned the corner. And I ran.
I ran like my life depended on it. I put in so much effort that when I made it to the top, I looked like I’d had a stroke. I know that because my friend took a photo.
‘I’ve got a bad photo of you,’ he said. ‘We’ll have to delete it.’
He didn’t. He showed lots of people and then sent it to me. I showed it to my mum hoping she would feel proud of how hard I work at being an average runner.
Much hilarity followed. ‘It doesn’t even look like you,’ she said. ‘You look like an old woman. And what’s happened to your arm?’
Thankfully, other friends took photos that turned out okay (ish). There’s one where I’m scoffing an energy gel before the race and one where my head is bent to one side, but apart from that they’re ok.
Despite the heavy legs and dodgy photos, it was a brilliant day. The best thing about it is driving to the start and finish of each leg to see our teammates come in. We always take sandwiches and go on a road trip. I love it.