Sunday 26th June saw the running of the Bradford Millennium Way Relay a team running event consisting of five legs with two runners per leg, taking place each June. The relay starts from and returns to Bingley, taking in Wilsden, Denholme, Oxenhope, Haworth, Oakworth, Steeton, Silsden, Addingham and Ilkley with some stunning scenery en-route. The race attracts teams from Yorkshire and Lancashire. Whilst the event is not as big as the Calderdale Way Relay it is still a very challenging and competitive event.
As far as I know this was the first year that Queensbury Running Club had entered the event and the decision was made to enter three teams, an open team consisting of all males, a mixed team of five males and five females and another open team of which I was the captain and organiser. My open team was initially to be an all-male team but due to injuries and runners withdrawing from the other team for various reasons it became a team of nine males and one female.
Organising a team is a time consuming and stressful experience, especially when it is your first time. Which runners do you pair up? Which legs do you choose them to run? Transport to and from the start and finish points? All of these take time to organise and of course you have to decide which leg you will run and who with. I decided I would run the last leg, Leg 5 which goes from Ilkley to Bingley with a partner who I felt was of a similar pace and ability to me. Unfortunately, my original partner had to pull out and I asked another club the Northowram Pumas if they had anybody who would like to run it with me and one of their runners said he would.
I had done a reckie of the route twice before so I was familiar with the route. A gruelling climb of around 900 feet and 4 miles from Ilkley, round the back of the Cow and Calf rock and up to the top of the moors before descending through farmland, fields, canal paths and Shipley Glen to Bingley Rugby Club on Wagon Lane. The total miles for the route is around 10.7 miles taking in steep, rocky climbs, open moorland and trails.
I came to the run once again not feeling one hundred percent. On the Friday I had done a reckie of Leg 3 with two other runners and the day before I had competed in the Special Olympics Regional Finals at Sheffield getting a bronze in the 200 metres and a silver in the 4 X 100 metres which meant that I qualified for the national finals to be held later on in the year. However, combined with a persistent cold I was feeling drained and tired before I even started the race. My only hope was that my partner who didn’t know the route would have to run at the same pace as me and therefore I would be able to go at a pace I could manage on the day. Or so I thought…
On the day we met at Bingley Rugby Club and I drove our team over to Ilkley and the start of the leg. We arrived in plenty of time and were able to enjoy the sunshine and watch as other teams came in and set off on the leg. We were relaxed and enjoying the anticipation of racing in competition as we waited for our team to come through so we could set off.
As is quite common our team didn’t make the cut off time so with several other teams we set off in a mass start. This however meant that my plan of leading the run at my pace was in tatters as my partner could follow the other runners up and over the moors at his pace with me doing my best to keep up.
And this is what happened. I set off feeling good and going at a decent pace but very soon I was passed by my partner and other runners as we began to climb up the rocky ascents. My mouth was already dry and I all I could think about was the finish and drinking plenty of water and we hadn’t done our first mile yet! This was going to be a long race.
Very soon we found ourselves at the back of the pack. There were other runners behind us but we had a clear gap between them and us. The climbs were as tough as I remembered them, even tougher at the pace we were going at. Already feeling drained and worn out I opted to walk fast up the climbs to conserve energy for the later parts of the race.
Soon we had got onto the top of the moors and then it was a sprint across them to the road and trail section. There had been heavy rain the day before and parts of the moors were deep in water. At one part my partner stopped to decide how best to get across. I wasn’t far behind him and I just went straight into the water and climbed up the other side much to his amusement!
Over the moors we had the mixed Queensbury team in sight and at one point I thought we might even catch them. However, once we got to the road section they pulled away and we soon lost sight of them. This was around six miles and with another four or more miles to go I felt as if I was running on empty. I could feel the salt from my sweat sticking to my face and I was running on autopilot. I was doing my best to keep up the pace my partner was setting but it was taking its toll on me physically and mentally. Sweat was getting into my eyes, my vision was blurred, I had pins and needles in my arms and I was thirsty. Thirstier than I had ever been before.
We came off the Glen and were soon on the side of the canal and not far from the finish. Then my partner saw another pair of runners in front of us and urged me to go faster still to catch them up and pass them. I didn’t think we had a chance of catching and passing them but we somehow did. Coming up to the canal bridge we passed them and continued on with the relentless, mad pace to pull away from them.
Through the woods and back onto the canal path on the other side and I knew the finish was in sight at last. By now all feelings of pain had gone replaced by a numbness that somehow managed to keep me going. All I wanted to do was finish as fast as I could and get some much needed water in me.
And then there was the finish at last. I did a little sprint to celebrate and then as soon as I stopped the pain really set in. My whole body was aching, my head was pounding, I felt dizzy and could hardly stand up. It took several minutes for me to gather my senses and start to feel normal again. Everybody remarked on the amount of salt I had stuck to my face and I could feel it sticking to me in lumps.
But despite feeling drained, tired and destroyed I also felt proud. I had run like I had never run before and pushed my mind and body beyond what I thought they were capable of. It helped having a running partner who was a lot faster than me but also happy to wait for me and keep pushing me that little bit harder all the time.
This is one of those runs that after a decent amount of rest will make me a better runner. I will be stronger and fitter for doing this and I will know that I can push myself harder than I thought I could. Yes, it hurt but it was worth it and I would do the same again.
At the pub afterwards I felt I had gained a new level of respect from my fellow runners as many of them commented on how I had performed beyond their expectations. We finished around three minutes after the mixed team and many of them thought we would come in around twenty minutes or more after them. This for me was the best feeling of the day knowing I had taken my running up several more levels and that other people had noticed it.