Races That Never Were – May 2020 (Part 2)
With no races in the month of May, Ryde Harriers members were asked to send in their tails of past races where they didn’t make it to the start, or didn’t finish.
We received some great detailed stories, so detailed in fact, I’ve split it into two parts.
Portsmouth Coastal Half Marathon 2016. By Nat Rose
A year before joining Ryde Harriers, Nat reports that she tried to run the Portsmouth coastal half, and well it didn’t go well.
She was ill before even going over to the mainland for the run, though went over anyway. At 6mile in she found herself being pulled out by the medical team. Breathing was laboured! Cut long story short after seeing the doc etc, it turns out she was trying to run on a double chest infection!
Harriers go mad (for it) in Manchester (Marathon) 2018. By Brian Warren (and by Sam Fancourt)
Did I tell you I never finished this?
Well the travel and accommodation plans had been a logistical nightmare, trying to organise a bunch of Harriers was worse than herding cats, some wanted to go by train, some wanted to fly, some wanted to drive, I think Les even wanted to run there. The only reason I wanted to go and run the Marathon was because I knew the big game was on in Manchester and I wanted to be in the holy land, plus I wanted to wipe the floor with Mike, Elaine, Ken and Sam. I’d show them, they were going down!!!
Problem was, I had discovered that having run the London Marathon the year before in a time of 3:50:59 (well that’s what my magic watch said – thank you Apple), and having spent nine months not thinking about anything else in order to deliver below four hours, you might say my training hadn’t gone too well for this event!!
Anyway, accommodation booked and a group of us decided to take the train, another group led by a bunch of splitters (The Judean Peoples Front) decided to go by car, whilst us the Peoples Front of Judea were armed with Gally Baggers (God knows????), something that Sam and Elaine insisted was full of carbs from Island Bakeries. The train journey was of course a mix of Elaine not deciding what to wear, Jonathan getting lost, Sam feeding us all, Kencan providing us with palm sized times for each mile (The Marathon not the train), and I plotting my cunning plan.
Well we decided to get a tram to the hotel in Salford Quays (right next to Old Trafford Stadium, see how the plan is coming together?), well that was like taking a bunch of kids on an exciting new school trip. All freshened up, the girls dragged us out for shopping and coffee in the city centre (I had no defence for that one, other than I was going to make my escape as soon as practical). Mike, Mark and I managed to sneak off to find a pub to watch the big match, via a beautiful tour of Canal Street, to discover that as City were at home all the pubs in the city Centre were blue that day and packed with blue they were too. We had to listen outside as City completely destroyed United (2:0 City – should have been 7), much to Mike’s glee, a fellow United supporter but the ones from across the Pennines. Half time, we decided to head back to the hotel, this was going to be an awful day, Kencan the guide lost, Sam food lost, Elaine probably in the loo, no pub and Utd being destroyed.
On the way back we arranged to meet the girls at a pub near the hotel. Well, this pub was definitely red, and packed with proper people. Girls re-joined, we got our drinks, standing room only, (answered the usual question from some quarters, such as what colour do Utd play in and what direction are they going in?), to witness the most phenomenal come back from a Utd game I had ever seen since 26th May 1999 (2:3 Utd). I was a very, very, very happy bunny.
So that evening a carb up Bella Italia dinner (that took about a week to get agreement) and gathering of all the Ryde Harriers Manchester Marathon crew which was wonderful, I felt quite teary, catching up with fellow travellers and a last minute glass of wine before bed, nervously thinking about the next day.
How the hell was I going to run 26.2 miles and worse still beat Ken, Sam, Mike and Elaine???
Well the morning was sensible breakfast, up and out, bags put into storage in hotel lobby to collect later and walk down to the start, following the crowds, passed the theatres of dreams and the obvious delays whilst Elaine when for her usual toilet stop, having forgot at the hotel, and being late to join us in the lobby.
Bags dropped off, a quick selfie courtesy of Optimum Nutrition (I have shares you know?)
Everyone was in their different waves, with myself behind the rest as I wanted to be able to see them. I had to win, winning is the only thing that matters, I’m in the holy land, Utd have won 3:2 and this was going to be the best race ever.
Well, having spent a long time with Kencan analysing the course the night before I realised that at 17 miles, the course branched off to do a loop of six miles before returning for the last three miles home???? Baldrick’s brain was in overdrive!!
At 16.5 miles, I had a decision to make, was I going to actually finish this race? Well yes, I could finish but I knew that my body would be in a complete state and take about 5 hours at least. Plus I had seen the rest coming back from a smaller loop looking like they were going for a Sunday social and I was in bits (btw, crisps and beer for six months are not good training food).
So at 17 miles, the plan was put into action, I’d walk back to the finish. But hold on, there’s a pub there, time for a pint. Lovely garden, watching the runners come past and even scabbed a cigarette.
So I strolled back and eventually saw the finishers coming through the last mile, first up was Sam. This was going to be brilliant! Hide behind large bin, and then re-join race and fly past Sam. You want to have seen her face it was a picture.
Then cheering Elaine, Ken and Sam in to very confused and astonished faces (Not Kencan, he knew my cunning plan). They should have run quicker, instead of their Sunday Jaunt!
Keith Ruth’s was the best picture, he swore I had delivered the run of my life and Elaine had to convince him that I hadn’t, it took her some convincing.
I could have even got a T-Shirt but I couldn’t, could I?
So that was the tale of the race that I never finished.
Stay Safe, Stay Alert and don’t drink beer and steady on the crisps.
(Screenplay by Sam Fancourt, Editing by Brian Warren)
The Long Climb to Nowhere – A Short Story of an Over Optimistic Runner. by Hayley Tutton
I am sure you have all noticed the running, walking, cycling and even swimming communities have all gone a bit mad for virtual races. Of course, they have existed for many years but with the current Covid-19 epidemic and all races cancelled for the foreseeable future the event numbers have exploded. It was one of these virtual races fundraising for the production of PPE visors for Key Workers, and my, as ever, over optimistic view of my fitness levels that led to me being at the start of the Virtual Three Peaks challenge on Easter Monday the 13th April 2020.
The Three Peaks challenge encompasses the highest points in Scotland, England and Wales. Normally climbed in that order, with the gold standard to be to complete in under a 24 hour period, the three peaks takes in first Ben Nevis, or The Ben to his friends, Scafell Pike and finally Snowdon. Many of these attempts to break the 24 barrier are won and lost by the quality and speed of the driver. It’s something I have always wanted to do but for some reason have not yet got around to, why not complete the distance virtually I thought?
So how to achieve this I hear you ask? Well to achieve this on the Island would be difficult but of course not impossible. The total ascent for the challenge was 3408 metres or 11,181 feet. The highest point on the Island is St Boniface Down standing at 241 metres, 791 feet, so that’s up and down St Boniface 14.1 times, doesn’t sound too bad right? But of course, the point of the challenge was not to go out into the country; one of our lockdown conditions is to exercise from home; the organisers were expecting participants to stay at home and climb their stairs.
The day dawned much like every other since ‘lockdown’ had begun. Having been made redundant shortly before the pandemic reached UK shores my days were mostly spent idling the time with looking for non-existent jobs, work in the garden, cleaning and sorting (clothes, cupboards, tidying the tool drawers), running, workouts and my favourite hobby of eating. However today I had a purpose! I would like to say with the challenge ahead as the day broke, I jumped out of bed raring for the challenge, but without work to do and the usual 2000 miles a month of driving, I was already in a mañana state of horizontal relaxation after just 3 weeks of enforced quiet.
So, I took the early part of the day easy; spending an hour or so in bed drinking tea, ‘meditating’, (surfing the internet mindlessly), and planning my strategy. After much thought I decided against taking my Solomon back pack instead relying on the in-house kitchen. This was unfortunately for me five steps away from the bottom of the stairs; I’ll have to limit my fridge breaks, I thought to myself, but still surmising that a few extra steps to the fridge would more than offset the additional energy required to carry a bag.
The next decision centred around every runner’s question prior to a race; which running shoes would best suit the terrain. Like most self-respecting runners I own a ‘few pairs’ and I now needed to weigh up the aged old question of comfort v terrain v weather v weight. For the real three peaks this would be easy; walking boots or fells shoes, depending on the weather, would do the job, but did I really want to add to my ever increasing ‘lockdown’ weight for what I felt would be easy terrain. The decision in the end came down to the weather conditions. The house was sweltering. I had been going through an additional enforced lockdown of having no windows or doors open to the house due to a neighbours tree being in full blossom causing horrendous hay fever; it may get hot climbing, I thought; instead deciding to go bare foot with just some ankle strapping to support my recent ankle twist.
So I was ready? Well not quite, I don’t like to be rushed these days. I needed to take the obligatory photos to share with my running buddies upon completion and take one last measurement of the stairs. I stripped out of the pyjamas that had fast become my standard uniform and opted for short (proper) running shorts to keep cool. Proudly donning my Ryde Harriers vest I attempted to take some photos. Taking on board previous feedback of how miserable I look in ‘selfies’ I tried to smile at myself, and the camera, resulting in the usual grimace. That will have to do I thought; smiling at a camera when no one else is there just doesn’t come naturally to me. Mentally striking off Instagram babe from employment opportunities I attempted to regain focus for the task in hand.
I had already prepared in the week by measuring one stair and multiplying this by the number of stairs I had in the house, however rechecking the instructions I saw that the organisers advised taking a measurement from the top to the bottom of the stairwell and so my final procrastination prior to starting was to take this measure. The measurement came out at 2.65 metres which was actually slightly more than my one stair x 13 method. I needed to ascend and descend the stairs 1286 times, marginally less than the 1304 I had previously calculated. Taking this as a win I thought it was time to get started.
But one last thing was nagging at me. I never listen to music when I am out training. For me one of the biggest reasons I enjoy running is being outdoors, preferably in the country or near the sea, enjoying the sights and sounds of nature. However not feeling particularly inspired with the blank walls of the stairwell I decided to break the rules and find something to listen to. It felt very much like a Sunday and if I am ever in the car on a Sunday morning, I will tune into Radio Fours omnibus of ‘The Archers’. I’m sure The Archers used to much more highbrow that it is now having morphed into being as dramatic and scandalous as Emmerdale. In further similarities to Emmerdale or any other of our popular soap operas, you can tune in after a year and be up to speed after one episode. And so, going back as far as I could to previous episodes on the BBC sounds app, I set The Archers to play and now I really was ready.
Not needing to wait for any other competitors I started just before 11am. The event organisers had stated that most people would be able to complete the challenge between 5 and 7 hours so I was looking forward to being done by the evening in time for the weekly episode of Thumps Up Productions. Having visions of a special mention by the hosts spurred me on and I took the first few reps fast.
Prior to the challenge I had done a couple of practice reps which after averaging out for fatigue I had calculated I could complete the challenge in just under 6 hours. The organisers had created an app where you pressed the space key after each rep and this recorded your progress and provided an ETA for completion. I was heartened to see that my ETA was coming down with each rep and I was now scheduled to finish at 4.30pm; a few more reps and I was looking at a 4pm completion time. Listening to the latest antics of the young Archers I ploughed on with enthusiasm thinking I may even have time for a second dinner before that evenings Thumps Up episode.
Things started to look less optimistic after thirty reps. I was so hot and sweating more than I ever do on a normal running race. The sweat was dropping off me and the previously dry terrain was starting to get less so. I wondered if I always sweat like this but go so fast I don’t notice it?! But the windows stayed resolutely closed; I was not risking my hay fever being set off and so hotter and hotter I grew.
Despite the distraction of the Archers my mind was already wandering to the fridge, the walls were boring me and I already needed the loo after my excessive morning tea drinking. A working toilet I thought, you don’t get that on The Ben, there are some advantages to this challenge.
Things started to go further downhill from two hundred reps. I always knew this would be a tough mental challenge, climbing up and down stairs 1286 times is not something I’ve ever considered doing before; you could say its not at the top of my bucket list. The boredom was incredible; I was starting to really dislike the stairs; they are so plain, so samey and the carpet such a boring grey colour. Prior to the start I had committed to myself that I wouldn’t stop until I had completed The Ben (508 reps) but at just over two hundred reps I found myself in the kitchen. Shovelling a few crisps, I then had a word with myself and got back to it.
From then on, the spell of reps got steadily shorter as the food breaks became longer and more frequent. I was not hungry; just practicing my key skill of procrastination; it seems to be the one thing I excel at. My ankle was hurting now, great idea Hayley to do this just 10 days into recovery from an ankle sprain; but it’s just climbing the stairs the other voice said, how hard can that really be?
I reached the first milestone of climbing The Ben at just before 2pm, three hours after I set off. Not too bad I thought to myself remembering when I actually climbed The Ben for real. However, I quickly remembered I took the ‘zigzags’ on that occasion and therefore a straight up and down three hours could not be compared to a six hour up and down on the zigzags with several breaks for pictures. My ETA for the challenge now also stood at 6.43pm, a considerable drop.
After the Ben I stopped for a sandwich. I had always promised myself I would have some lunch at this point and felt it pedantic to concern myself with the snacks I had already had. With the lockdown in place for the foreseeable I could worry about fitting into real clothes in the coming weeks, my pyjamas are very forgiving.
Now with 507 reps completed I was well over a third of the way through the challenge and normally us runners meet these facts with great enthusiasm. For me most events go something like this:
Heading to the race…Why did I get up early for this? I should still be in bed. I bloody hate running and all this getting up early on a Sunday stuff. Its dark and cold and I feel depressed. Why didn’t I just do 10k from home?
Arriving at the start of the race…Yes, I am here. All my running buddies are here, I love them all, I am going to have a good race today. I am going to beat x,y,z, sod it, I am going to win the whole race. I am so excited.
0.5 miles in…This is awful, I hate running, everything hurts, I should get a new hobby. All of my buddies are gone, why are they so quick, you’d think its bloody race or something, I thought we were supposed to stick together, we are a team!
2 miles in…Oh look at that it’s bloody Trevor, he’s already done a lap. He’s so full of it, he’s all, ‘ooo look at me, look at how quick I’m running’, and there’s loads of equally fit people running with him. I hate those people, I don’t much like Trevor right now.
3 miles in…Okay I am halfway now things are starting to look up.
4 miles…I’ve broken the back of it, only two miles left.
5 miles…I think I’ve warmed up now, this is easy. I love running, can’t wait to see all my running buddies at the end. They are all so amazing, I hope Trevor won, love Trevor.
6 miles…There’s the home straight and my running buddies. That was amazing. When can we all run again?
This is not what happened on Easter Monday.
After The Ben I knew I was over a third of the way through. But rather than this taking the positive, ‘I’ve done a third, less than two thirds to go’, this turned into, ‘shit there’s two thirds of this left, whatever possessed me to think this was a good idea’. Rather than the positivity I felt in the morning of having something to do that day, the running devil got into mind. Sat on my shoulder she started whispering, ‘you don’t need to do this, why not go for a walk instead. No one even knows you are doing this, there’s nothing to prove here.’ I quietened her for a time by explaining I was doing this for me and therefore I was proving this to myself, and what about the organisers of the event I pointed out, they will know!
As I approached 580 reps my ankle became more painful. I realised with my focus on the mental considerations of the challenge I had really overlooked the physical requirement. There are many things I love about off road running but there is one I find really helpful; off-road running is much more technical under foot and you need your wits about you; rocky terrain, tree roots, sudden changes in gradient; all require your mind to be switched on. My best running spells are always when navigating a rocky downhill or ridge when my mind switches away from the physical pain and concentrates on where my next step should land. Clearly climbing the stairs did not give me that luxury. I kept thinking the terrain may change, the view would clear but alas it remained the same. I was using the same muscles over and over, no luxury of having to jump to avoid a tree stump or the beauty of a muddy puddle, and throughout this time the view resolutely remained a boring white. The Archers which I normally found relaxing on long drives started to annoy me and I was taking food breaks every 30 or so reps, it was becoming pathetic! It will get better I told myself. The turning point is at halfway.
643 reps! I was now at the halfway point; things would now look up. But the running devil was now shouting, ’What the hell are you doing? Why would anyone choose to spend Bank Holiday Monday climbing up and down their stairs?’. But I’ve nothing much else to do today, I told her. The laughter that returned was deafening. My mental downhill spiral continued. I was now almost halfway up Scafell but that did nothing to improve my mood. I started thinking about the latest box set I was watching on Netflix and thought how it would be nice to spend the rest of the day on the sofa, eating.
At 700 reps I found myself on the sofa, surfing Netflix, deciding now that I didn’t even like the box set I had been thinking about and I should really get the remaining 586 reps done. Visions of a special feature on Thumps Up productions had gone, being replaced with, well it doesn’t matter what time I finish; I really should just finish; they’ll be another Thumps Up edition next week. But alas the optimistic runner of just 5 hours ago had gone, the running devil victorious on this occasion. And now I had stopped I found my legs were stiff and my ankle was berating me.
Reflecting on my wise decision to tell no one of my plans I tore up my manual tracker and promptly binned it, vowing to put the failure to the back of my mind. Later that evening, back in my pyjamas with crisps and hummus, I enviously watched my high achieving running buddies in that evening’s edition of Thumps Up productions, berating myself for not finishing.
The next day I awoke a bit disappointed with my performance, again berating myself for giving in so easily I concluded I should have just got on with it and competed the challenge, that is until I went to move. As I swung my legs out of bed I realised something was off. My knees seemed to have lost the ability to bend, my ankle was screaming and my calves felt like they’d been through a dehydrator. I stumbled to the bathroom holding onto the walls and stared at the toilet. It appeared someone had lowered it during the night. Getting to a seated position appeared to be a mammoth task and I added hand rails to my mental list of things required for the house.
In total in took me six days to recover from my stair challenge, not being able to run again until the following Sunday. It was clear to me that my glutes and hamstrings remain very lazy with pain dominating in my calves and quads. I avoided the stairs as much as possible for the first three days, moving food and drink up and down the levels to avoid unnecessary climbs. Not wanting to face up to my failure it took me until Wednesday to take a glance at the results. Out of the 40 odd individual competitors over a quarter had not finished, and some had taken three days! Feeling mildly better about myself I congratulated myself for starting and told myself at least I had contributed some funds for a good cause. As my legs slowly returned to normality, I incorporated more glute activation exercises into my home workouts, vowing never to tell my high achieving running buddies of the day I took on the Virtual Three Peaks.