IT’S three years since I last took part in the Silkstone Shuffle, a local 4.5-mile multi-terrain race series which takes place every season. Three years! I can’t quite believe it. In fact, I didn’t believe it, so I looked it up on the Power of 10. And there it was. I last raced in December 2015, finishing in a time of 32.20 and coming second in the race series.
I have such happy memories of the Shuffle so three years seemed a ridiculously long time to go without running it. A lot has happened during those three years. Firstly, I completely forgot how big the hill is and, secondly, I abandoned hill training (and any other training for that matter). It doesn’t take a genius to realise that a big hill and no hill training is not a winning combination. Standing at the foot of the mountain, about to begin the climb, I knew I was in trouble.
I went slowly, afraid that my weak legs and body would not have the strength to make it to the top. But when I started climbing, it wasn’t my weak legs and body that were the problem. It was my mind.
My inner critic, that voice in my head, would not shut up.
What am I doing? Why am I here? I can’t do this. I can’t. It’s getting steeper. I’m struggling. I’m shit. Maybe I should walk…
You get the idea. The self-sabotaging voice was having a brilliant day. I took it a step at a time. I was running with a man in very bright patterned shorts, so I just focused on following the shorts and did my best to push the negative voice out of my head. With each step closer to the summit, my positive voice started making a comeback.
I can get to the top. I will get to the top. Just keep going. No walking. No giving in.
The climb got steeper and steeper, but eventually I made it. There was no time to celebrate because a gust of wind hit me full in the face and almost blew me back down again. I uttered a swear word, tucked in behind shorts man and put all my efforts into getting over the top.
Here the route dropped before the runners faced another hill, this one on the road. Someone had chalked No pain, no gain, on the road which made me think about why I was putting myself through the pain.
I want to be fitter, and to do that you have to face the pain. There is no other way. I wasn’t aiming to get a particular time or even to race other people, I was running for myself to improve my fitness and enjoy the race. Me against me. The only pressure I was putting on myself was to complete the race to the best of my ability and have some fun along the way.
Granted, the hill hadn’t been much fun but as I turned to begin the downhill part of the course, I couldn’t help but smile. I felt okay. I was doing fine. The man in the shorts and a few other runners were with me and that really helped.
The route crosses fields and rocky paths, bridges and stiles. The countryside is beautiful, but it can be a tricky course. I concentrated hard, trying not to slip or fall. The route has changed since the last time I did it, so I had no idea what was coming next. I just ran.
And then all of a sudden, I was out of a field and running up a muddy hill towards some stables, and I recognised where I was. I knew I was in the final part of the race. I felt good, which came as a bit of a surprise. Obviously, I was working hard but I was confident I could sustain my pace, possibly pushing a bit more.
I was scared that I’d go head over heels as I ran down the muddy field, so I waited until my feet were firmly on tarmac and then I upped the pace. It was such an amazing feeling to be back racing and getting into my stride. Once I’d got up the hill and started relaxing, the negative voice had disappeared. All I had to do now was keep working and get to the finish to where Chris and my six-year-old niece were waiting.
I overtook a man as we neared the gate, but then had to ask him which way to run. ‘To the right,’ he said. ‘Then up the hill.’ I did as he said and that’s when I heard a little voice shout from the crowd. ‘Auntie Liz!’
Hearing Olivia was wonderful and made me so happy. I wanted to make her proud. I adjusted my posture so at least I looked the part and attacked the final climb. The hill is short and sharp and reminds me of the travellator bit on Gladiators if you can remember that far back. Although it’s not actually a travellator and there were no gladiators in pursuit, just a few Barnsley Harriers.
I made it to the top which is when I heard Olivia again. ‘I think that deserves a strawberry jelly,’ she said, because whilst I’d been running, she’d convinced Chris to take her to the shop for a pick and mix. I was tempted to stop and indulge, but I pushed on as fast as I could towards the finish. I crossed the line in 39.04 finishing in ninth place, which I was delighted with.
Olivia sprinted over, holding out her strawberry jellies. ‘Well done, Auntie Liz!’
I took a jelly and started thinking about what might be possible if I did some hill training. It’s three months till the next Silkstone Shuffle, so I’ve set myself the challenge of seeing how much I can improve by then. I’m looking forward to it already.
If you’re interested in joining me at the next Silkstone Shuffle in March 2019. Here’s the link to the race series.