Sunday, 13th September, The Yorkshireman Half

8:44am. I’m sat in my car waiting for the start of the Yorkshireman Half. I’ve done it 4 times before but I’m still nervous. I’ve been awake most of the night and felt like going to sleep as dawn broke so I got up and headed over to Haworth to see Claire, Dawn and Trevor set off. I was a bit jealous. I wish I’d entered the full now and run with them. I’ll have to do it next time. Just over an hour to go already and all I can think about is the race. I can see Trevor’s van from where I’m parked. I hope Claire’s ankle is ok. Mine is aching so I’ll have to see how I do. Hopefully I’ll get round ok and get a good time. My stomach is churning and my head is racing at a million miles an hour. I can’t string two thoughts together. I can’t wait for this to start and all my nerves disappear.

10:35am, Monday morning. I’m playing catchup on yesterdays diary so have to try and remember what I can! After seeing Claire, Dawn and Trevor off I went and registered for my race. Soon the carpark was buzzing with people and it was nice to catch up with some friends I haven’t seen in a while. I got ready and made my way to the start and soon I was off. I felt good from the start. I ran up the lane, something I have never done before and carried on running over the moor to the cricket club, down to the road and all the way to the bottom of the steep climb up Haworth Old Road. At the top of the climb I started running again and on the conduit I felt even better. I saw my mate Phillip Bland on the conduit taking photos and he got a good one of me.

After the conduit it’s the tricky technical bit but I made good progress here too and ran up the hill at the end, another first from memory. Up and over Hambleton Lane and up the Steps on Fire, I felt good and I was moving well. I was on target to achieve my target of 2:45, the plan being to smash it on the downhill back to Oxenhope and make up any lost time. I stopped at the first checkpoint at the Withens and tightened my laces. And then it all went wrong.

I knew I would struggle on the road bit after the Withens, I always do, so I wasn’t surprised when a lass past me with ease. I reminded myself to run my own race and not chase people. I could feel my legs going though, my right calf and knee were starting to ache and my left Achilles and glute were going too. I pressed on trying not to think about them, convinced the aches would ease once I got off the road.

Going across the bogs on top of the moor I maintained pace but I could feel my legs going and I was beginning to struggle. I enjoy this route but yesterday it was harder then it usually is. I got to the end and saw three lasses from Calder Valley in front of me. I thought I can pass these on the downhill to Leeming reservoir that was coming up and set off after them. It was on this downhill that things fell apart.

I always struggle in the Yorkshireman Half on this downhill and today was the worse one yet. I could feel my right calf tightening up in a solid lump of muscle, my right knee aching under the strain, my Achilles now throbbing causing me to wince with every step and my left glute painful with every stride. I was getting slower too, I could feel my pace dropping off as I altered my stride pattern to take account of my injuries.

At the bottom of the hill I passed the three Calder Valley lasses and they gave me great encouragement as I went past. The trouble for me was I was hurting, really hurting with every step and I didn’t know how much longer I could keep it up. Past the reservoir and through Leeming every step was now so painful I felt like stopping and crying but I’ve never been a quitter, stupidly sometimes, and I wasn’t going to quit today. I knew I wouldn’t achieve my time but I was determined to finish however much it hurt.

I ran through the park and I could feel my stride pattern getting shorter as my legs tightened up and refused to move as I wanted them to. There was a lass in front of me and on any other day I might have breezed past her but not today. It wasn’t going to happen. Today was about digging deep, gritting my teeth and fighting through the pain and tears to finish.

I thought about all the runs I’ve done with Claire, my Best Running Buddy and what she would think of me if I gave up and didn’t finish. Claire’s a fighter like me and however stupid it might seem to some people I understand why she fights even when the cause seems lost. I couldn’t give up now. I would finish this for Claire even if it killed. I need someone or something to focus on to keep me going sometimes and that’s how it turned out today.

I was now on the final stretch alongside the brook and the pain was getting worse, more intense, every stride a struggle but I knew I wasn’t far from the finish so I kept going despite the pain and the tears. The pain was more than I could bare right now but stopping was not an option. I had to finish or die trying.

I managed to run the trail and then hit the road again as we went through the new housing estate. I struggled again here, every step a painful reminder of my own stupidity at carrying on when I should have stopped. I got through the housing estate which seemed to go on forever and then it was along the park and up the cobbled hill of death. Along the bottom I wanted to stop and walk but I didn’t. I carried on running even though it felt like I could barely move. I got to the hill and there was some so called friends there cheering me on along with some locals. I wanted to lie down and die now, I couldn’t think straight because of the pain. I got over the steep bit and cheered on by the crowd started running again. I use the term loosely but I was moving at more than walking pace.

I did the cobbled bit and then up the hill to the finish. I might have found some pace here, I’m not sure, but I ran up it as best as I could and then under the banner and I had finished. This was the toughest, hardest, Yorkshireman Half I have ever done. The breeze was nice until it dropped and then it was energy sapping sunshine all the way. Even in my vest I was red hot and sweating which didn’t help me. The pain I was in was too much at times, I was gritting my teeth, swearing and crying, but the desire to finish was more than the pain I was in, the desire to do my best and prove to myself I can overcome pain and many other things was more than the actual pain itself.

I finished and hobbled down to the pizza and drinks station, picked up my t-shirt and waited for Claire, Dawn and Trevor to finish. There was plenty of people to talk to although my main concern was not throwing up in front of everyone. Slowly I began to come round and gather my thoughts. My legs were still in considerable pain but at least I didn’t have to run anymore. Moira, Trevor’s girlfriend turned up so I stood with her for a bit and chatted whilst we waited. Claire finished first appearing from nowhere and catching me by surprise. She had left the other two as they were too slow for her which I thought they might be. We chatted, got pizza and drinks and waited for Dawn and Trevor.

Soon they came through and we were all back. We hung about, chatted and then headed home. I showered and had something to eat when I got home before going to the club. I had 2 pints in 2 hours, I didn’t have the energy to drink, but had a good afternoon sat in the sun chatting and laughing. The barmaid Jude was telling everyone how well I’d done, she’s a runner with the Halifax Harriers, and in the end I relented and said I had done well. I got a bottle of wine on the way home and went to bed happy but exhausted.

My official time is 2:51 well under the time I set out to achieve but considering everything a time I am really happy with. On another, injury free day I might have gone close to 2:40 but today was not that day and although I was disappointed with myself and felt that I had underperformed in some ways I performed far beyond my expectations as I didn’t expect to run half the course injured and in pain. More lessons in life learnt in many ways and a day I’ll never forget.

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