Under starters orders

Despite the April showers the going was surprisingly good at the 2014 Rossington Gallop.
The Grand National-style event, which is organised by Gainsborough and Morton Striders, takes place in the lovely grounds of the Northern Racing College. Team Kingstone were out in force; with nine runners out of a field of 153, plus Josey and Chris as the support crew, we were definitely the top team.

Before arriving, I knew very little about the race. In fact, all I knew was that it was six miles (ish), and involved hay bales, water troughs and a bear.

Not being much of an off-road runner and, if I’m honest, having a bit of a bear phobia, I didn’t think it was my cup of tea. But with Championship points to be had, I was always going to run (not that I’m at all competitive you understand). As always, my aim was to enjoy it, and hopefully pick up some points. It sounded fun.

As we trotted to the start, I felt tired already. Only the night before last, I’d taken part in a Fiona Davies suicide session, which involved running five times around Locke Park in the torrential rain. As my Rossington teammates limbered up by jumping over the hay bales, I plodded to the start admiring the beautiful horses grazing in the paddocks.

‘I’ll take it steady,’ I said. ‘I just want to get round.’ That’s what I always say. I don’t mean it. As soon as I’m on the start line, something happens to me. My competitive self takes over. Today was no exception.

We waited on the start line eyeing up the other runners, trying to work out who had the best form. With it being such a small event, I wondered if I’d be able to finish in the top ten women.

‘Go for it,’ JR said. I pushed to the front, right behind Mark Yates.

The starter got us under orders, and then we were off. Mark Yates flew to the front. He must have set a world record as he led the men through the first furlong. I wasn’t far behind. I wanted to win. We’d get a Kingstone double; Mark, the first man, me, the first lady. It would be a glorious day. And, if they’d given out the medals for that first furlong, it would have been. Unfortunately, we still had six miles to run. I started to panic; six miles is a long way to run after you’ve set off at rocket pace.

By the first fence, (the hay bales,) I was shattered and a lady in blue had caught me. I tried to stay with her but she was super speedy, and I wasn’t. She went ahead. I was still second lady, but there was no doubt that I’d have to work for it. I knew it was going to hurt.

The course was fantastic. After a lap of the gallops you head out of the paddock and do two laps of cross country terrain involving hills, water, mud, and jumps. Half way round the first lap, I’d caught the bear who was sweating and swearing as I dashed past.

I could still see the first lady, but try as I might, I couldn’t catch her. My legs were going. I was struggling. At the turnaround, I caught a glimpse of a lady in pink shorts who was currently in third place. She looked as fresh as a daisy, and was quickly gaining ground.

I trudged on. As we headed into the gallops for the final lap, she had the bit between her teeth. She went ahead, and I tucked in behind her. I knew if it came down to a sprint finish, I’d have a chance.

In the distance, I could see the large, inflatable finish line – you couldn’t miss it. The finish line; there it was. Unfortunately, my mind started playing tricks on me. Was it a finish line? Was it a bouncy castle? I could still see people running past it. Perhaps it wasn’t the finish. Perhaps it was another obstacle that we had to run under. Do I sprint now? Do I wait until I am completely sure that it is a finish line? What to do?

By the time I’d made my mind up, it was too late. I sprinted for the line, but couldn’t overtake. I finished third lady. I should have been second, but it didn’t matter, I’d won something. I was delighted. I had never won anything before, not even a raffle. I will forever treasure my £25 vouchers for the Metres to Miles shop in Epworth.

Whilst the first lady did her warm down, I tucked into a lovely sausage roll provided by our official photographer, Josey Dolan. It was a wonderful day. Everyone had a great race and did really well especially Tim who finished first vet 55.

To top it off, my teammates waited ages for the presentation and cheered the loudest when I collected my prize. I loved this race. It was a great day out and I’m already chomping at the bit for next year.
(First published on the Kingstone Runners Website)

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