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.
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.
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?’