We few, we happy few, made our way to the ends of this windswept earth on an early morn in the final month of the year.
Happy is how I describe myself now as I sit by the fire with a full belly. Was I happy at 7.35am when Paul arrived to pick me up in his freshly scraped car?
After two days on the dreadmill in the gym, I was ready to race in the backwaters of Wales. Ready with my vest on, that never saw the light of day because I kept my zip-up jacket zipped right up for the whole of the run. Ready with my bottle of chocolate milk and ready salted crisps for my post-race recovery. Ready with a full set of clothes in case my kit got soaked. It was never used.
On close to the shortest day of the year, the sky barely cleared beyond dank. As we headed along the A55 with John and t’other Paul in the back, the coastal waters were frothing. Although the trip was very long, we realised that those poor sods from Ynes Môn had to do that travelling for most of the other Borders races, coming the other way. So it was only right that we rock up to this wild, empty, edge of the world spot which had no lights on in the ladies loos, but did have hot drinks which we gratefully swaddled with our icy fingers.
This was the second time I’ve ever run on a racing track, after having had my debut last month. There were no real hills this time, just a few inclines, but the headwind made up for that and the horizontal sleet coming at us during the first part felt like a free session of acupuncture.
I didn’t get the expected soaking, as the cold rains died down but the winds stayed strong, sometimes pushing me along, sometimes knocking me off course, and sometimes just getting in my way. A small wind turbine we saw along the course, was whizzing round with the speed of a Catherine Wheel, sounding like a helicopter about to take off every time we passed it. On the odd occasion that I ventured to look up, the seas around this outpost were roiling magnificently, but it was mostly head down, move forward.
What really amazed me was when I was leaning forward and swimming through the invisible treacle, I was getting lapped by the first runners ploughing straight through like hot knives in butter. Note to self: do some more strength training.
I had been running with John, for the first couple of laps, but at some point I edged forward and started to pick off the stragglers in front of me, one by one. Surprisingly, despite having been running for the previous three days straight, my legs felt good. Good enough for a final fifty yard smack down with the last guy I was trying to reach. As I got to his shoulder he began to speed up, but I managed to out kick him to squeeze ahead at the finish.
I was pretty pleased with my effort, but it still meant that most of the rest of our crew were waiting for a while in the cold garage, and although John picked up my usual accolade of last Pensby in, he wasn’t so far behind me.
The main thing was, though, that we weren’t penalised for being short of the minimum number of runners. We scraped in with the minimum three women, and eight men (one spare). As newbies to the Borders League, it would have been a bit gutting to not show that commitment. But our little band of brothers and sisters fought to fight another day.