The Ward Green 6. Two laps, two hills, 537 feet of climbing, a buffet, raffle and the friendliest group of runners you could ever hope to meet.
In fact, if it hadn’t been for the other runners, I would still be at the bottom of Mount Vernon Road, contemplating the second climb. Even though everyone was working hard, they somehow found the strength to encourage me, pass on some words of support.
I wanted to respond, show that I was grateful, but I had lost the power of speech. I couldn’t utter a word. I couldn’t even nod in their direction. I just scrambled on, trying to make it to the top without my legs giving way.
You might think I’m being dramatic and exaggerating, but I’m not. Mount Vernon Hill almost defeated me. I struggled. My legs felt wobbly. I felt faint. It seemed like a mountain. Without the support of the other runners and the spectators I’m not sure I would have made it. The cheering kept me going.
The course is tough. It starts on an incline, then drops about 400 feet, levelling out for a few hundred metres, before another incline which leads to Mount Vernon Hill where the real climbing begins. I set off steadily, all too aware that my fitness is lacking. My goal was to get round. I have no idea what pace I’m yet capable of. I just ran, without so much as a glance at my watch.
The idea was to enjoy it and for the first mile I did. My smile was even captured on camera. It was raining and the road was wet. I held back on the downhill afraid that I might slip. On the flat I felt fine and caught a few other runners. Even on the hill the first time around I felt as well as could be expected.
‘You’re smiling, Liz,’ a friend called out. ‘Obviously not working hard enough!’
I was holding back a bit because always on my mind was the thought that I had to go around again for lap two. As the miles went by, I was getting tired. I haven’t done a long run for a few months, maybe more, so with limited endurance it was always going to hurt. I just couldn’t bear the thought of having to tackle the hill for a second time.
But I did. This is where it got messy. Head down, arms pumping, gasping for dear life, I just kept on going. I ran through the pain and with each step I got more and more determined to push on as best I could for the finish.
I was knackered, wet and aching from head to toe, but there wasn’t much time for hanging around complaining. There was a buffet to be had. I may not have been first in the race, but I was definitely first into the buffet.
Here am I with Chris after the race, waiting to dive into the buffet. My face clearly shows how tired I was.
The Ward Green 6 was the third race in my running comeback, but it’s not been much of a comeback just yet. I’ve still not had time to train in between races, so they’ve been the only running I’ve done.
It was no surprise that my time was slower than when I ran in 2013. I had no strength or speed. I just had one pace. But I did it!
With the Travellers 6 last week, the Silkstone Shuffle the week before that, and the Ward Green 6 this week, I’ve completed some of the toughest races of the year. It’s ridiculous really on no training, but I was excited to get back.
It’s been nice to catch up with running friends I’ve not seen for a while and get a bit of support and encouragement in the process.
‘What you need to do now,’ a friend said after the race. ‘Is train.’
‘I do,’ I said, tucking into a sausage roll from the post-race buffet.
‘This is the start,’ he continued. ‘You’ve got something to work on.’
I certainly have. In many ways I feel like I’m starting from the beginning, but that’s okay because I’m seeing it as a challenge and I want to enjoy the process of getting fit.
To get back to my former level of fitness will take a lot of hard work, dedication and determination, but I know that I can do it. I want to be a better runner than I was before, stronger in both body and mind.
This time next year, when we’re all struggling up Mount Vernon Road, I want to be able to utter some words of encouragement to my fellow runners. Hopefully, I’ll at least be able to do that.