Any of my running friends will tell you that the words “flat” and “road” are not in my vocabulary, in fact they make me shudder! Trails and hills are my happy place, tarmac… is most definitely not. So then, what is it about the Border Harriers & Athletic Club Brampton to Carlisle 10 Mile Road Race that made me sign up in a shot this year (whilst injured of course)?!
“I didn’t feel that I had what it takes to be a club runner…”
It is, of course, where my Saltwell love story started, back on November 18th 2018 with the 67th edition of the oldest 10 mile road race in the United Kingdom. My friend Julie (everyone knows Julie…) had been pestering me for a while to join the club but, having only been running for less than a year I didn’t feel that I had what it takes to be a club runner. I did like to do races though, and still fresh and buzzing from my first Great North Run a month or so earlier, I decided to take the plunge and the spare place on the bus that needed to be filled. I still remember that day like it was yesterday, I recognised quite a few faces getting on the bus at the Gateshead Arms and was allocated a seat next to the lovely Karen. We chatted and the journey passed quickly and before I knew it we were on the start line, the gun sounded and we were racing.
It was weirdly warm for November and we ran along the tranquil country roads in the sunshine. I remember absorbing and soaking up the great team spirit around me. There were even injured Saltwellians who had come along and were riding the course on their bikes to support fellow club members. My pacing was that of a novice, I went off too fast (the first few miles are downhill) but still managed to finish in a respectable 1:29:29 for my first Brampton to Carlisle and indeed my first ever 10 mile road race. I had managed sub 1 hour 30 minutes! Maybe I could be a club runner after all…?! The sound of beers popping open on the journey home was music to my ears, a large group were heading straight to the pub from the bus to continue the celebrations. I had found my tribe.
Joining the tribe
It took another month or so until, on New Year’s Eve – I’m definitely not one of those resolutioners, I took the plunge and sent the email to long-standing club secretary Gillian asking to join.
Fast forward to November 17th 2019 and I find myself back on the bus about to do the 68th Brampton to Carlisle Road Race but, this time, wearing the legendary hooped vest! The year of consistent club training has obviously helped and my pacing is better, I knock over 3 minutes off my finish time for a 10 mile PB of 1:26:02.
2021: “I have no strategy”
Back to the present and it is November 21st 2021 and I am at the scene of my “first date” with Saltwell, the 69th Brampton to Carlisle 10 Mile Road Race. Like with all good relationships we are now in the comfort phase, a bit of weight has been gained and I’m not in the form I was. I’m nursing injuries – hamstring tendinitis in both legs, the not so welcome legacy from my first ultra marathon earlier in the year, the beautiful and hilly Race to the Castle (a story for another time), nevertheless I couldn’t miss the opportunity to run this race. A couple of friends ask me what pace I’m planning on running, not having ran more than 5 miles in a few months I have no strategy. My plan is just to run as far as I can for as long as I can, walk when I need to and crawl if I have to.
The start line has been moved back slightly this year and is not clearly marked so everyone lines up in the usual spot, pandemonium ensues as the more elite try and get to back to the front – it’s a gun race, not chipped, so the right starting position is everything! I’m snuggled safely in the middle of the crowd, giggling with other fellow runners when one of the organisers, frustrated, cries out “this is not a fun run”. All too soon the gun sounds and squeals are heard as we set off… maybe it is a fun run after all?! The conditions are perfect and I soon settle in, the first mile passes quickly (figuratively speaking) and I feel good in mile 2 when we hit the only thing that resembles a hill on the course. By mile 3 I realise that I’m running faster than I have in a while and things feel ok.
Angry hamstrings and prize gloves
The route follows the B6264 and isn’t closed to traffic so there are constant shout outs to alert runners ahead of vehicles about to pass. By mile 5 the adrenaline has worn off and the hamstrings let me know they are angry with me, I try not to think about them and carry on. I can see a fellow club runner ahead as we get nearer to mile 6, I catch up, we exchange pleasantries but every step is now a struggle. I seize the opportunity to stop at the water station (ironically situated opposite a very inviting looking pub), I walk for a bit as I have a drink and realise that Julie has stuck with me to this point. We set off again together and the walk has helped me reset, the pace is steadier (read slower) now but I am pleased to keep running. The crowd of runners has thinned out now so it’s noticeable who we are playing cat and mouse with along the route. As we come into Carlisle I am looking forward to the downhill onto Eden Bridge and the hamstrings pass the baton to the quads to get me to the finish. In spite of it being a personal worst (1:32:19) it feels like an achievement to have managed to run the distance and still be able to walk at the end.
With other Saltwellians we head to get our reward — a pair of running gloves — and then proceed towards the car park to find the bus. There is no bus, just a group of cold runners appreciating their new gloves. An hour later after more adventures, including Julie flagging down a car to take her on a bus hunt tour of Carlisle, the bus arrives. Never have a hoodie, flask of tea and packet of salt and vinegar crisps been more welcome. We set off in the direction of Gateshead, goodbye Brampton to Carlisle see you next year!