Sometime back in May after we’d just completed the Rock n Roll Half, Marc and I were approached by a lovely chap called David, with a proposition. In all honesty I’d drank a prodigious amount of Desperados at that point (experimental form of post race hydration not to be repeated as I ended up somewhat dishevelled) so I hadn’t taken in the full extent of what he’d asked us to do. As it happened we’d agreed to come to Scarborough in September (the weekend of my birthday) to be the official starters of the McCain Yorkshire Coast 10k.
Birthdays are weird. They’re a stark reminder that the clock is ticking and you’ve still got a lot of shit you want to do. Added to that when people wish you ‘happy birthday’ you kind of want to reply with ‘happy birthday to you too’ or you just feel like a self important twat. So yep, it’s a celebration of having a bit less time to play with along with an acknowledgement that you’ve managed to survive another trip around the sun. But I guess it’s more than that, it’s a bookmark in your life story-a chance to breathe, see where you’re up to and then make plans. Plus there’s cake, booze and gifts so what’s not to love? As a general rule of thumb I don’t bother much with the day, as long as I have a run, a chill and eat then I’m good. This year’s birthday though was bonkers…truly effing crackers but after the year I’d had it seemed kind of fitting to do something epic.
And epic it was.
On Friday night we had an Ambo night out which is never good pre race prep but we took it reasonably easy and so managed to get to my birthday morning on Saturday uncharacteristically intact. After a brief but overwhelming appreciation of my brilliant gifts (guitar, perfume, make up, booze and mince pies-pretty much sums me up) we headed off to sunny Scarborough. And it did start off sunny, in fact that Saturday evening as we shared a delicious meal with David and the race director, Mel it was difficult to see how despite multiple weather warnings tomorrow’s proceedings would be anything other than late summer sun and balmy breezes. Nature however, is a badass bitch.
Sunday morning arrived with a torrent. It was like she’d been saving all the rain from the last 765 thousand years to throw onto the East Coast in one go whilst throwing in a seriously blustery wind from the sea.
Truth is Marc and I were far more concerned with the condition of our bowels than the meteorological conditions as we arrived at the Spa Complex for our moment in the now metaphorical sun. We’d made the bold choice of a full Yorkshire breakfast complete with black pudding and copious amounts of jam toast which threatened to return to haunt us. We honestly didn’t know whether to collapse laughing at the prospect of someone trusting us to start a race or to merely shit ourselves at the responsibility. Thankfully the standard pre race Imodium near overdose had kicked in so we opted for enjoying every moment of the experience…which we did.
The first thing that struck me about this race was the atmosphere. Despite being pretty much the worst imaginable conditions for an entirely coastal route the place was electric with good vibes. Although it’s a sizeable event there was a tangible community feel, the kind that you only get at smaller, local runs. People had come from far and wide but everyone seemed familiar and friendly, split shorted fast club runners and fancy dress clad fun runners joked together and the whole crowd felt like a family wedding. As we stood on the balcony that overlooked the couple of thousand participants on the start line our nerves dissolved seeing nothing but smiles. After a brief warm up we began the countdown, blew the air horns then splashed down to join our fellow runners as we crossed the line for our first Yorkshire Coast 10k.
The route itself is a dream, fast and flat along a sweeping and beautiful coastline. The race organisers have committed to reducing plastic and it was refreshing to see paper cups of water being handed out. Any runner who has taken part in a major running event will tell you the staggering amount of bottles that strew the route along with the hazards they can present as the both roll under the feet and fly past your head. The local community had too set up their own additional water stations which even on a wet day were much appreciated. Parts of the path were scattered with seaweed which was 100% right up my street, I’m a beach runner and I adore the sea. Feeling the salt air in my lungs and the smell of ozone gave me a joyful, familiar buzz and it was impossible not to enjoy it. More through bad organisation than intent it was the first time I’ve run without my Garmin so I had no idea of pace or distance. For our part we kept the pace a bit faster than our runs of late, we were full of adrenaline and sausage and it just felt right. Around midway I felt my jaw ache a little so we steadied off just a smidge but nonetheless it was a really joyful run and as we crossed the finish line I was almost sad it was over. We finished in a nice, steady 52.31 which I was more than ok with.
The medal and t shirt were genuinely ace and the post race organisation was fab with plenty of warm, dry areas to change, a cafe, a decent bar and a really well priced hot drinks stall. All the kind of stuff you want post race but are often not there. The whole event really delivered in both atmosphere and set up and the bigger players in running races could learn a huge amount from these guys. As we made the long, rainy journey back to Liverpool we reflected on how this is what races should and could be like. We’ll definitely be back. Some of our running mates had come along mainly to run but with the added bonus of having us to laugh at. It’s always so cool to catch up though, these are the people who’ve been with us from the start and we with them, it’s incredible how much we’ve all been through in our individual lives over the years but running has been our common theme and for many of us, our saviour.
Yesterday it was back to business and for both of us that meant a long run, a half marathon. We ran separately but passed each other along the way, as so often I found him at one of the hardest points on the run and just seeing him gave me what I needed to get home. Not one of the ridiculous things that we get ourselves into could I do without him at my side and over this last year he has carried me both literally and metaphorically.
And this was my real birthday run, and at 46 years old I think I’m doing ok. It was good to get out without any constraints of time or pace and just amble along my own beach, stopping when I felt and just having space in my own head. I’m not gonna lie, it wasn’t an easy run but it was a good one. I’m so glad to be getting back to some form of normality with my running, I just need to remain consistent and conservative with my progress. And yep, it was a wet one too. I bloody love nature.
So many times in my life I’ve found myself way out of my depth with my comfort zone far out of sight. This weekend and the last year as a whole has been a lot about that theme. Running has taught me to how to hold on when it’s hard, how to manage my own fear of failure and more than anything to trust that everything will be ok if I just keep breathing.