You can’t run away from your problems if your problems are all marathon runners.

Today was both a success and the single most embarrassing day of my life.

Sunday morning has become my designated ‘long run’ day – a day where my personal best is supposed to be challenged and broken and my evening is destined to be spent eating nachos and nursing my blisters.

Over the last two months I have increased the length of my routes around Lancaster and the Lake District to challenge myself and, consequently, I can now run eight miles without crying and hailing a taxi, which is a definite improvement. However today I went a little too far.

I set off for a ten mile route by the River Lune, which divides Lancaster in half and weaves its way to the sea in a rather pretty, seagull-filled kind of way. I set off with two pounds for a drink and my front door key.

The sky was blue, the air was fresh and most people were worshipping in a church, synagogue or cinema, depending on their religious preferences. It was great.

I was only a couple of miles into my run when I saw a large yellow sign, pinned to a lamppost. 14 Miles. Then I noticed several people in fluorescent yellow jackets punctuating my otherwise solitary route. Then some man offered me a little plastic cup of water.

It was all getting increasingly perplexing until I saw a sign that said: “Trimpell Runners 20 Mile Run.”

I had bust in on a professional runner’s route. I didn’t think it would matter – they were probably only starting at midday and I’d probably be off their route in half an hour – or so I thought.

About ten minutes later I was overtaken by what can only be described as a running machine. He was a skinny bugger but he looked like he could rival a gazelle and before I knew it he was off into the distance.

Then more runners, then more runners, then more. It was like some weird postmodern remix of the stampede scene from The Lion King. I was being overtaken by the 100 fittest people in the northwest.

This alone didn’t really phase me. I’m not a proud runner because 1) I’ve only just started to take it even half seriously 2) I’m not good enough to be proud yet 3) No one is ever going to take me seriously as a sports person because I look like a twig.

The real embarrassment only began after I reached my turning back point.

The Cook o’ Lune is one of the most beautiful views at your disposal in Lancaster. You can see right down the river and into the mountains. Most importantly, the viewing platform also includes a shop that sells hot Vimto and Toffee Crisps (a runner’s essential as far as I’m concerned).

As I left the Crook o’ Lune for home, in high spirits and full of toffee goodness, I realised, to my dismay, that all the runners finished their race down this track too. What was even worse was that all the slightly slower runners who were still running towards me seemed to think I was winning the race despite the fact that I was barely jogging, didn’t have a race number stuck on my front and was gasping for breath.

Several of the crowd started shouting, “Go on!”

“You can do it!”

“Don’t give up now!”

I felt myself go very, very red, but to everyone else it must only have looked like exertion. I wanted to explain to every single person I passed that I was just normal and had only stepped out for a bit of a jog.

A few miles into my run back home I wanted to give up. Ten miles is a long way, especially after the fastest week of my life. But all the runners still going past me in the other direction looked so determined that I felt like a right wuss and there was nowhere for me to take a shortcut.

Even worse, when Gazelle Man passed me, along with a couple of the other hard-as-nails sporting aficionados, the other runners started to think maybe I was the first woman.

“You’re the first woman!”

“Go on lass!”

“Catch them up girl, go on!”

Once again, I wanted to die. And I kept thinking that, probably only five minutes behind me, the real ‘first woman’ in the race was passing those same people and the people weren’t shouting anything at her. They’d be thinking ‘Ah she’s fast, but not as fast as Number One. And to think, Number One was only a twig! Just shows you, you can’t always tell.”

I was a fraud. Not on any spiritual ‘oh, no one understands I’m just a normal person level’. On a genuine, concrete, three-steps-from-arrest kind of way. When I finally left the Trimpell route to get back home through town one of the fluorescent clad stewardesses shouted ‘Hey!” as if I had mistakenly taken a wrong turn and was jeopardising my great place in the race. I did not look back.

When I finally made it home, I realised I had beaten my personal best and raced straight through pain and exhaustion to beat my longest run by over a mile. I hadn’t even slowed down on the way back – in fact if anything I had run the last part the fastest.

So if I have learnt nothing else this morning at least I have found the secret ingredient needed to combat physical weakness – guilt.


5 Responses to “You can’t run away from your problems if your problems are all marathon runners.”

  1. Very funny 😀

  2. I think that’s how Paula Radcliffe started. All you need to master now is weeing by the roadside and you’ve cracked it.

  3. Very funny – my own experiences were coming 4th in the Ford and Etal mountain bike challenge until someone worked out I had only gone round the course once (no-one told me you had to do it twice) and when out driving managed to get involved in the middle of the Jim Clark Rally by ignoring a Closed Road sign… I think I held my own by driving like a madman…

  4. i would say that Lion King is one of the best animated films that i have ever watched `;’

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