Well I didn’t want to do this.
Not when I realised there were less than 200 people running it, and it was hilly, and it was an hour and a half’s drive away, and no other Pensby Runner was doing such a crazy thing on a Good Friday Bank Holiday.
Did I mention it was hilly?
You’d think I would have been wise to that fact with the word ‘Vale’ in the place name. A nice poetic name for a valley. I was actually scrabbling around, earlier in the week, trying to find a way to contact the race organisers in order to see if there was a cut-off time to complete it in, and whether the marshals would hang around long enough for me.
This morning finally came around and I spent a lovely early hour, sitting in the back garden with Anne, drinking tea and listening to birdsong. It would have been nice to sit there just a little bit longer but my kit was laid out and my porridge was cooking. Whatever happens, I thought, I am just going to enjoy it.
The journey up was happily uneventful, except that I saw an increasing number of cars and lorries on the Southbound side, coming to a standstill. I later found out that a big section of the motorway was closed while an overturned lorry was being retrieved. Luckily no-one was badly hurt but it’s not what you want when you set off for a long weekend break.
Google Maps took me along some scenic country lanes before I landed in the village. Plenty of runners were milling around, or getting ready for the 4 mile ‘fun’ run, and I was able to ask some people what the race was like.
It’s great. You’ll love it.
Is it hilly?
Err, yes, very.
Will the marshals wait for me.
Absolutely! No need to worry about the marshals – Just worry about the hills.
To be fair, everyone I chatted to seemed really friendly and welcoming, or it could have just been the Lancashire accent, which always sounds friendly. There was no cut-off time, and there was an enormous variety of cakes at the village hall. I just hoped they’d still be there when I got back.
As I was milling around at the start, some guy, who looked very serious, started talking about a 4.5. I think it was an indication of difficulty, and from his animation I think that meant this run was very difficult, but I actually had no idea what he was talking about. Having consulted Google, I still don’t!
It was an understated beginning. Even though I’d ensconced myself at the back, there were not that many people between me and the start line; no gun or hooter. Just a quiet ‘GO’ and we were off. The small huddle of people quickly stretched away into a long snake in front of me, and then within a few minutes, that snake disappeared. There were a handful of people behind me and I could sometimes see a few people out in front, but for long stretches I was by myself, which I didn’t mind. I used that time to enjoy the views and try to get my breathing to a regular level. Even though I wasn’t pushing it, the constant undulations made it difficult to get into a rhythm.
I kept running though, all the way to around mile 6 where there was an incline that seemed to go on forever, and I had to walk for a bit. That was close to when I started chatting to Denise. I’d caught her, and a few other people, up at this point but I was no match for her on this hill. She wasn’t fast but she kept going all the way without walking, which was amazing. We kept each other company most of the rest of the way, which I appreciated because I was starting to feel it by then. That is a lovely thing about running, especially running toward the back, you meet nice people who are happy to chat. Turns out Denise and her two friends all work in the NHS, so it was doubly lovely to have kept them company.
The final mile or two were good downhills with only a few tiny bumps. Everything felt like a bump after having got up mile 6. I managed it all in just under 2 hours according to my Runkeeper. That’s quite reasonable considering I do that time in training on a much flatter route, so I’m pleased. I managed to secure one of the last slices of scrummy chocolate brownie too, a nice icing on the cake. I was the last Pensby across the finishing line, but also the first, and as I’m a glass half full kind of person, that will do.