‘It wasn’t supposed to be like this’ I thought, as we sped along a random country lane in my friend’s car somewhere in Northumberland, the sweat pouring out of us both. This was supposed to be a relaxing trip out to watch our County 10 mile Championships (the ‘Jelly Tea’ 10 miler). Relaxing? How wrong could I have been.
As we almost went through a red light my friend Steve cried ‘it was amber, amber!’ I reminisced about the times a mere hour earlier, at the start line, stopwatches ready, giving last minute words of encouragement to the runners. ‘Does that woman in front not realise we only have 7 minutes to get to the finish! He’ll be approaching 9 miles now and I’m still not sure where we are!’ I heard, as I was interrupted from my thoughts.
The race was a point to point course, starting at the market town of Hexham and finishing the picturesque village of Ovingham. It was our job to collect any ‘last minute kit’ from our club members, drive to the 3 mile point to cheer everyone on before taking a leisurely drive through the gorgeous Northumberland countryside to the finish. Who knows, we could even stop off for tea and scones before they arrived if we got the timing right Just before the start it was smiles all round then…..Bang! They were off.
We arrived at the 3 mile point in relaxed mood. The race was all the more exciting as we have close links to the leader who was on course for a PB and looking to break the course record, there were going to be some celebrations at the finish!
As we pulled out of our parking space, spirits high, we were approached by a race official with the ominous words ‘sorry mate, you can’t go down there, road’s closed’. Ok, we’ll take the other exit ‘no chance mate, the traffic is blocked up for about a mile’. I noticed the first beads of perspiration on Steve’s forehead as he politely asked the best way to get to the finish. ‘The finish? No chance mate, not in time to see the leaders anyway. Go back the way you came then….’I didn’t listen to the rest. The guy was talking for about 3 minutes which gave the impression that it may take a while.
The next thing I know we were heading off towards ….the start (?). The beads of sweats had increased tenfold as we hurtled back towards Hexham. For the next 10 minutes I was hit with phrases like ‘I’m sure it’s down here, we used to come camping here when I was a kid’ and ‘we need to find the train station, look out for the train station!’. Steve is very passionate and to miss the winner, who just happened to be someone he assists with his training, was unthinkable; this passion can often be seen as aggression though (as with most runners I guess). We stopped to ask for directions but instead of calmly approaching a passer-by, window wound down with a nice smile, Steve brought the car to a sudden halt, jumped out and, by this time leaking sweat all over the place and ran towards the nearest pedestrian. Of course the nearest pedestrian feared for his life and upon seeing this aggressive, sweaty, 6ft 4 man in a tracksuit running towards him, simply ran off screaming and threw himself into the nearest hedge. ‘What is it with these country folk’ he said when he got back into the car ‘aren’t they supposed to be friendly?’
So there I was, stressed and irritable, thinking of what could have been when I spotted it, the train station. The train station! We cheered and celebrated as if we were escaping a war zone and had spotted the border. The train station!
The watch was on 45 minutes as we manoeuvred our way through Ovingham. As we spotted the finish in the distance we saw the last obstacle, a ‘Road Closed’ sign, arrgghh!! So without thinking, we parked in the nearest resident’s drive ‘it’s ok, those country folk are friendly, they’ll understand’ and sprinted to the finish, complete with three bags each of ‘last minute kit’, 46 minutes….47 minutes…
We positioned ourselves close to the finish …48 minutes… as our runner, Yared Hagos, came into view. As he raced to victory in a PB of 49.32 we could only just muster up the energy to feebly cry ‘well done’.
It was still a great day but made me realise just how hard spectating can be, I will certainly be racing next time, no matter what. Things were summed up by the winner Yared who only just missed out on the course record. ‘you don’t realise how stressful it is when you’re racing along thinking you aren’t going to make it. No offence but you don’t really know what that’s like when you’re spectating….’. Thanks for that Yared.