....and making sure you have a lot of friends supporting you with every step you take...
Firstly... thank you everyone for all the pre and post run messages!!! I am so grateful!
Secondly...this is a really, really long Floss ramble.... BUT it was a long run!!! Give up if you get tired....
Yesterday we all won a medal... did you enjoy the run? I did
A blue calling card of a sky...pink and white-edged and full of promise.
An early start for me and my wonderful Son in Law...
It was time... all the planning, the panics, the set backs and the steps forward... all behind me now...it was time.
Everything had been packed and checked, and double checked, and at 8 a.m. we were on our way to Bakewell and the Monsal trail Half Marathon.
Gentle chat as we headed through the calm of an early Sunday morning towards our goal. Beautiful countryside, views at every turn and a familiarity with a county I know well. Little talk about the run, we both have our plans in our head, the common denominator being steady and slow.Matt is just about half my age, with long, long legs and the easy relaxed style of a fit young man. I am blessed that when I have needed him to support me, with aspects of my running, he has done so willingly. Yesterday was no exception.
We made Bakewell in good time...and found a parking pace easily. The air was chillier than I had thought, so I was glad of a warmer long-sleeved top under my tee shirt...gloves and cap... belongings gathered... a double check and we were heading up the hill towards the Starting point. Bakewell is a beautiful town and it stretched below us as we used the hill as a brisk warm up walk... a few fluffy clouds did little to mar the morning, and the sun. although not yet full strength was welcome.
Rounding the corner to the start of the race... a sea of colour... flags flying, trophies sparkling and people everywhere; young, not so young, all shapes, all sizes... all ages. A veritable rainbow of coloured running gear, milling around, with a smile on every face. A hum of chatter and laughter... a feeling of companionship even before we begin...I was at ease... no sense of nervousness, ( thanks Matt for doing that first Park Run with me).
We did the obvious thing.. we headed for the loo queues... and as we stood trying to keep warm in the chilly air, a voice said.. “ Floss...? “ What a start to the day...my lovely friend Bluebirdrunner ... in Derbyshire for her birthday weekend, had forsaken family to be at the race; we hugged and hugged, feeling as if we had known each other for ever, not three short years;a face to match the name and so wonderfully, wonderfully welcome.. introductions all round and chatter as we moved slowly towards the loos!
Then a figure instantly recognisable from all his running selfies, Paul or rolysmate as we know him here... he was running with us and going to give Matt and I, the tips to make that finishing line! More introductions, laughter and chatter.. then a quick loo call and we were heading to the back of the mass of runners making ready to begin...I wanted to start right at the back.. this was my first race.. and I wanted to complete it. This would be the furthest I have every run, in one go...
Soon we were off.. two lots of runners released at intervals and then our turn... a last goodbye, see you later to BBR and I was off. The legs straight away, doing what they do best... as I cleared the buildings, the wind hit almost immediately.. a head wind and a real icy touch. I was glad of the warmth of my clothes. The three of us fell into an easy pace. The outward journey is a slow, but steady incline...not the gradients Matt and I are used to, so we did expect a little slow beginning; running past the houses running alongside the Trail, we were soon into countryside and very quickly, seeing the first 1 mile sign...and not long afterwards... the tables outside the Hassop Station cafe,flags flying bravely in a strengthening wind and the cheers and clapping of early morning coffee drinkers, carried away behind us as we passed.
The pace was set, the trees, the greenery beginning to show those first unmistakable stirrings of Spring... mouse-ear leaves. Pussy willow and glossy, fat sticky buds. I intended having fun. I intended to take everything in and I did; the sweet scents in the air, the flicker of the sun through the branches and the steady, rhythmic sound of running feet.
The runners had thinned out, and for many of the next few kilometres, we were running alone. The Trail is not closed to the public, so we were not the only ones there. Walkers, dogs, buggies and bikes, all adding to a party atmosphere, as we ran under small bridges, over road bridges, towards the viaduct which has the most magnificent views on either side.
A quick photo stop... misswobble was with me as I took the photo that I promised I would take, and off again. We did not chat much, just the odd word here and there, avoiding cyclists and small persons and finding our pace.. Those folk who know me know that it takes me to reach 6K to find my happy pace and I was focused on that. We were beginning now to be overtaken by the 10K runners whose race started after ours.. and soon their 5K turning point was upon us...
Just for the briefest second I did think... maybe I should turn here... and head back.. but the snail crawled over that idea and on we went. It is hard to describe the scenery as I moved on, an open stretch and a side-wind now, blowing me to one side.. and 6K reached...
My breathing was easy and steady as my legs found their pace.. they take over and all I do is move with them. Paul and Matt keeping pace beside me.. Matt could do this in half the time it will take me... but he will not leave my side..almost invisible either alongside, in front or behind.. with the odd word to check I am okay.
And now.. the first tunnel, Headstone... I was a tad worried about the tunnels, as when I cycled them a few weeks ago, they were icy... and I got overly cold... in we went, and the cold hits you... but the welcome paved surface and the lights overhead, provide a welcome shelter from the wind and my new top is keeping me snuggly warm. The tunnels are slightly spooky, for me anyway, their stone wall tapes exuding the story of their creation.. the railway, the trains, the workers, blurring in the dark shadows and all around, strange sounds, feet echoing; disjointed voices, until I am out again into the sunshine which feels much warmer now; two tunnels to go as we pass all the sights en route... Cressbrook Mill, Cressbrook tunnel....Litton Tunnel..Litton Mills... below the Trail.. neat white terraced houses, cottage gardens and the River Wye, white and tumbling, running loudly, chasing along the floor of the Dale gurgling with laughter at the feeble efforts of our legs.
As I carry on, I hear my own forum voice.. land lightly, round the heels, steady and slow...relax the hands and face and shoulders... getting warmer now and as we are getting closer to Millers Dale, we are seeing the speediest of the runners on their return journey...high fives... supportive shouts and encouragement all the way... as we get even closer to the turning point.. there are even more encouraging remarks... and talk of Jaffa cakes.
It has been a steady climb and I am delighted to know, that the unknown has not upended me and my 10K time is not too much slower than my very first 10K...on for a while past the station, which is in the process of renovation and a welcome water stop for a quick drink. Matt downs five small Jaffa cakes... I try one, but he finishes mine.. a drink of water and the most wonderfully genteel marshal who take his hat off to me as he applauds my efforts. Off we go and quick loo stop for me.. the choice of a warmer indoor wee, as opposed to a wild wee...no contest... the boys will take their chances en route.
Then off again and the prospect of downhill but not before a slight uphill climb.. I am being reined in, yet again, by Paul, as he warns me to slow down and keep it steady. (Yes... that is perfectly true! ) He has run HMs before, so we acquiesce to his knowledge..
A return journey and yet no view the same.. it is impossible to absorb all the glorious scenery, the tailwind I was hoping for is absent, the wind has dropped, the sun is warm on my back I am glad of my cap, and as I reach Litton Tunnel I need to shed something, so, a quick striptease in the tunnel entrance whilst the boys have a wild wee... ! I shed my long sleeved top and put my short sleeve back on, to the delight of a group of young men walking, who clearly thought I was a) younger and b) fitter...
Down we go.. passing a couple of runners with one of the medical team.. the support on the run is amazing... on again.. steadily downhill but almost indiscernible... I am delighted that my breathing is steady and as we pass a lass we have passed before, and who has passed us in turn, she praises our efforts and compliments us on our steady style...two more tunnels... and on the homeward stretch... I have stitch and have to walk for a few yards, I never get stitch , why now? I do what works for me and off again. I cannot lie, I feel fine...my breathing is steady...my pace is even... but as Matt closes in once more, beside me, he asks., “are you okay,” and I do have to say, “my legs are really tired”. Three miles, still to go... and for the first time in the run I feel the faintest inkling of doubt... and that my friends, is when you step up from just behind me, where you have been the whole time, and there you all are.. right by my side... all your thoughts, your encouraging comments and your overwhelming support.
Your names run through my head... my feet maintain their rhythm... my legs are aching, so, so, much and I feel their weight... but somehow, on I go. The flags flying above Hassop Station. The clapping and shouts of some stalwart supporters.. and a helpful ???? onlooker who shouts.. “Only a mile to go”... Matt and Paul in unison... “ Not that far, Floss “,.
I know I will do it... it will be so. so slow, and so, so steady but I will cross that line... all of you, every single runner on the forums were there... with me, taking me on to that line; and the thought of the friends who were waiting patiently to see the snail home... and suddenly... Matt runs on ahead, with a pace that is unbelievable, to get his chip time and take our photo... Paul grabs my hand and I round the corner and see the smiling face of my dear, dear Bluebird runner, flanked by @Sandie1961 , who has given up part of her holiday to be there, as I run home... and then, I see that Finish Flag. Somehow my legs find a burst of speed... and we are over that line and into the waiting group. I do cry... I am so, so happy that I have had the strength and the health to do this.. and you are all standing with me as the medal is thrust into my hand.
We did it .
Thank you for being there with me... thank you for being my friends.
I have to mention @misswobble.., because, without her I would never have done this.
roseabi for the HM plan.
Paul for keeping me slower and steadier than is possible.
Sandie1961 for being there and the great photos
And... Bluebirdrunner... without her...she who made my congratulatory card before I even ran... well? Enough said xxxx