I knew the Travellers 6 at Denby Dale was going to be a hilly race when mountain rescue was on standby, I just didn’t realise how hilly.
I’ve driven through Denby Dale before and it’s never seemed particularly hilly, but when we arrived at the Pie Hall on Sunday morning the hills were the main topic of conversation.
A group of friends were huddled round a phone looking at the course profile. ‘You really don’t want to see this, Liz,’ one said. ‘It’s bad.
I thought he was being dramatic. I thought they all were. It’s only a hill, I thought. Get over it.
Then we set off and within the first mile I began to understand that perhaps it was hillier than most races. But, even then, I wasn’t particularly fazed because what goes up has to come down. If it was a tough first half, the second half would be a doddle.
My plan was to run sensibly for three miles and then pick up the pace in the second half. A few hills were nothing to worry about.
At three miles I felt fine, especially as the course dropped slightly. I was about to begin my dash for home when up ahead I spotted another hill. I say hill, but it was more like a mountain. I kept my pace consistent and made it to the top, only to turn a corner and have to face another hill and then another and another and another.
‘Are we there yet?’ I wanted to ask the runner alongside me, but I couldn’t because I didn’t have the energy.
With such an onslaught of hills there was no time to recover, I just had to keep going. The plan to attack in the second half was quickly revised. Dragging myself to the top of the mountain became the goal. I shuffled onwards, taking tiny steps. I can only describe it as hill torture. And I wanted it to end.
This was my first road race in seven months and only my first week back into training after a year away from the sport. It showed in my form and fitness. It was a real test of mental strength, but unlike my last race at the Silkstone Shuffle when I doubted myself and what I was doing and whether I would ever make it to the top, at the Travellers 6 I knew I could do it.
In the last mile the route finally started to descend, but it was a steep drop and although I wanted to go for it, I held back on account of my knees. I’ve been having some knee trouble as a result of endless hours commuting to work, and I didn’t know how much of a pounding they could take. Thankfully, they didn’t give way, and after a last short hill the finish line was in sight.
I finished in 50.41 in nineteenth place and fourth in my age category. It was a solid run and I was delighted. I was also excited to be back racing on the road. It’s my favourite!
‘You could have picked an easier one to make your comeback,’ a friend said afterwards as we tucked into the post-race buffet.
He had a point. If I’d known it would be almost 800 feet of climbing, I would have reconsidered, but what is done, is done, and I don’t half feel proud of myself now.