Tuesday 2 December 2014

Leeds Christmas 10k Challenge

A couple of days ago I read a very interesting blog post by a complete stranger about what it is to consider yourself a runner.  It all came about for her after somebody had questioned her runner's status because they were faster than she was.  Due to the fact that she was aiming for a sub30 5k at parkrun she was not a 'proper runner'.  This was despite the fact that she has completed a marathon and triathlons.

Her exchange* with this running Nazi has been going around my head ever since.  I've always shied away from labels, but I do consider myself to be a runner, albeit not a great one.  I've even had a running related injury, so I must be one.  It seems to me that the only difference between me and somebody like Jo Pavey, other than age, gender, overall ability, and a nomination for Sports Personality of the Year, is that she is a professional athlete and I'm not.  But mentally, for me at least, it boils down to the fact that professional athletes think in seasons and I think in years.

The Abbey Dash was meant to be my end of year run, the culmination of a year pounding the pavements of Leeds.  However, having only just got back on my feet I fancied a little more race action before setting my sights on 2015.  Handily, I was given a flyer for the Leeds Christmas 10k Challenge at parkrun.  At the time I wasn't sure if I fancied it but having survived the Dash I signed up.

So on Sunday morning I took up my place at the start line inside John Charles Stadium.  It was possibly the most perfect Winter's morning, clear blue skies and a chill in the air that was negated by the sun on our backs as we waited for the starter to get us under way.  I shared the 'proper runner' story with a couple of my parkrun friends and we all decided that we would happily give Mr sub17 a reason to run if we ever met him.

The race itself was a multi-terrain affair.  Starting on a running track then heading off-road for three laps through Middleton Woods on bridleways and roads.  Given the recent weather I decided on trail shoes and I'm glad I did.  The initial ascent up Scrooge Hill (their name not mine) was more or less a  scramble up a 45˚ muddy slope, if you didn't take the stairs that is.  The next section was the uphill bridleway.  This was littered with wet leaves covering muddy puddles through which road shoes would have provided no grip.

A steep left hand turn lead to a final steep climb before a gentle tarmacked decent back though the woods, to start the whole thing again.  Only without Scrooge Hill.  By the time I was going up the bridleway for the third and final time I was more or less spent.  I walked past the drinks station and enjoyed a leisurely cup of water without spilling a drop, a first for me in race conditions.  I finished the race with running buddy Debs by my side.  She encouraged me and kept me company over the final 3k and I enjoyed a running revelation.

I may not be a professional athlete, I may not pass as a 'proper runner' in some people's eyes, but that doesn't matter.  Although I struggled at times over the course (I'm still not as fit as I was before my injury), I really enjoyed myself.  Over the last couple of years I have pushed to always beat my last time, to go further, to chase records, but not any more.  Injury has showed me that no matter how much I protest I enjoy running.  If I need to take my foot off the gas to make sure I can enjoy the next run too, then so be it.

I know that I have entered the York Marathon next year so I will be pushing myself to new running territories, but I will be doing so in a way that hopefully will keep me running in the years after I have finished.

For the record, Debs and I both completed the Leeds 10k Christmas Challenge in 54:01, 3 minutes faster than I thought I would finish after 7k.  It was a long way from a PB but I finished with a smile on my face and that makes me a proper runner.  I also have the t-shirts to prove it.

*You can read the whole thing here

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