A guest report this week, from Karen Rooney at our sister club Tyne Bridge Warriors, on the Great Cumbrian half marathon. Go Karen.
“A difficult nut to crack,” I said, gesturing around the massive, crimson-coloured bastion that is Carlisle castle. I was standing with Dave Young in the Castle’s central square. We were waiting for the off, and as we sauntered through the gate way, it suddenly struck me, how much the inky, medieval gloom and the dank drafts of stale, urine tainted air, which always seemed to cling to these ancient structures, wafting up from the dungeons – mementos of a bloody and violent past – contrasted with the gaiety and merriment, the kaleidoscope of colour and carnival atmosphere of the 1000 or so athletes packed into the inner court. It was quite surreal.
Now, up to tea time the previous night, I had no idea, that the next day I would be tearing along Cumbria’s charming but undulating country lanes in frenzied pursuit of a walloping new half marathon PB. It was all Dave Young’s fault, of course: “Halfs are easy, especially this one, it’s flatish….. You’ll get a PB, you’ll see… Don’t you worry about that!” But it’s fair to say from the moment of that fateful ping on the Blackberry, I was hooked. “He’s so damned persuasive,” I pondered ruefully as I took my position amongst among the serried ranks on the castle draw bridge. “Must be his sales background… A right charmer.” Now Mal Gibson’s quite immune to his influence and his response had been typically laconic, typically gruff, “Halfs, a wud stay away from them, Lol”. Well I hadn’t stayed away and here I was awaiting the off, lost in the looming, foreboding shadow of Carlisle castle.
The first couple of miles or so, meandering through Carlisle’s commercial heartland was straight forward enough. However, I quickly realised, this little jaunt was going to be anything but straight forward. The Jelly run had been a fantastic experience and result for me, but, then, I was well-prepared. I had stumbled into this excursion with virtually no prior preparation.
Maybe it was that, or the reality that running big mileage and the aging process don’t mix, but I was soon discomfortingly made aware of a gnawing pain in my left glute and a corresponding stiffening of the left leg. That quickly preoccupied my mind: and that was a shame, because the route, once it found its way out of Carlisle’s sprawling suburbs, was lovely: peaceful roads lined with stately avenues of oaks enriched by the autumn; sunken lanes fringed by exuberant hedgerows and under the cool, green gloom of a rustic canopy; and the quintessential English village with its mishmash of Gothic dwellings clustered around the proverbial village green.
I simply wasn’t enjoying it. It was difficult to focus the mind. I was tired of looking at the Garmin, which was fluctuating wildly between 7.00 and 7.40 pace; and the landscape, flicking by in its customary blur, a blur which was accentuated only this time by – and I’m sorry to say this – a certain degree of apathy toward the whole event.
Maybe it was those energy-sapping climbs, which seemed to follow one upon the other in monotonous, unrelenting intensity, leaving me each time that bit more weary, drained and enfeebled. The locals tried of course. Whole villages seemed to converge by the road side to hearten the ragged runners; the farm workers drifting to the edge of the fields to watch the fleeting spectacle with mischievous bemusement; and of course the ever beaming stewards on hand to shepherd their unwary flock through Cumbria’s labyrinth of lanes.
Water was again an issue, unlike, however, with the Hadrian’s Wall half, I had no intention of stopping, but each time I slaked my thirst, the Garmin spiked to 8 min pace. I think it was during miles 8 to 10, gripped by an insidious and perhaps irrational sense of panic that all was lost and I would pitch over the finish line amidst shame and humiliation, that I managed to squeeze the pace down to 6.20 or so.
But, my God, that took its toll. As we re-entered Carlisle and the brooding, sullen sky decided to empty its contents upon the weary toilers below, I felt, well… hardly like an athlete. I couldn’t even manage the little bumps in the path, or that little hump-backed bridge in the park. I decided to enlist the support of one of the stewards, a young girl, a mere slip of a lass, who seemed keen to catch the eye of the runners scurrying past. “How far left,” I gasped. “Oh, you’ve got miles yet,” she came back at me with an impish smirk. I have to say, I felt a spasm of real anger. “Aren’t the stewards supposed to be considerate? I mean, aren’t they supposed to make sympathetic cooing noises in response to the pain and suffering of those, who having battled through adversity, are finally coming to the end of the ordeal?” But the moment was past, drowned out in the exuberance and celebration of the stadium: the final destination.
And then: crossing the line in 1.34.30 a PB of 13-mins. I met up with the others. Jon Moss ran particularly well, coming in in 56th, not bad for a beef cake; ever green Dave Young 1.30.08 and Sophie, she comes across as such a shrinking violet, but really is as tough as old boots, just over 1.31. The goodies bag was good, would’ve preferred a real running top to the usual cloth nonsense. I was quite enamoured of the medal, but I was less enamoured with the results pages: Karen Rooney indeed! Of TyneBridge Warriers! Well, as Mr Dilks put it; no problem with the warrior bit.. but as for the rest, I’ll let her speak for herself!