It all started with a conversation half way around parkrun on a wet Saturday in December along the lines of "Have you ever thought of doing a 10K? I did one last month and it was ace!" to which I replied "Yeah, I will do one," and the next thing I know I have entered the East Lancs Hospice 10K in January.
This was my first ever running race since I leaving school, so I had no expectations at all and my only knowledge of how these things were organized was based on the kids races I had attended.
I had my new shiny trainers on expecting it to be a race on paths and roads. How wrong could I be! It had mud, mud, some slippy gravel and a giant hill that I was ordered to run up and then down, hence the industrial language.
This was the furthest I had ever run in one go in my entire life. Of course I forgot to stretch, so woke up in the middle of the night thinking I had broken my foot it was that sore.
My next adventure was at Stanley Park, where once again it was down to Zoe Lockett, who also managed to rope Alison in for her first 10K. I found this run enjoyable with limited swearing and had learnt my lesson – I wore some worn in trainers and stretched at the end. Watching Alison complete her first 10K made me jump with joy.
At this point Zoe mentioned a little challenge with the immortal words "Shall we do a 10K a month?" Without thinking I said yes. For those who don't know me, due to combination of genetics and old football injuries, I have had eight operations on my knees, suffer from severe arthritis in my left, have both kneecaps fixed in place and have done my anterior cruciate ligament three times. The last thing I should be doing according to my knee surgeon is running. So this would be a challenge from a fitness point of view to say the least.
So a little over a week later, I was on the starting line at the Ron Hill 10K, feeling nervous for the first time. In this race I realized why I hate downhill so much and think I got overtaken by a milk float on the way back down the hill!
Month four of the challenge saw me and a few more TAC members head back to Blackpool for a 10K along the seafront on a bright and cold windy day. This run, although flat, was one that I found tough and introduced for the first time a kind of shuffling movement that I am sure if I stopped and walked would have moved quicker.
In May was the race I had been looking forward to the most since I started. The Crazy Cow 10K in Preston. This race intrigued me. The run was a mixture of running through a fantastic park on paths and roads, although a trip through an awful car park was hardly the highlight. On the final stretch all you could hear was about a 1000 cowbells willingly you up the last little hill before a fast(ish) finish to collect your own cowbell that could now be used at future events. This was the first race I had done in which I felt that I was starting to become someone who could be called a runner. Unfortunately, this would be the last race I would run with my 'first running wife' Zoe, as she ended up injured from this race onwards. As I completed the next few on my own, I realised how hard I found running on my own and missed her company and encouragement.
In June I discovered that I am useless at running in heat. The Burnley 10K was the hottest day I have ever run on and I found it extremely challenging. I ran around some parts of Burnley that I didn't know existed and as I was running and walking. I took the opportunity to take in the surroundings, apart from the old tip. What was brilliant was the amount of support that I got, and I am sure others got, from the various TAC people dotted around the course. This race taught me that I need to be better hydrated before I attempt to race.
My favourite run of the year was in July at the Great Yorkshire Run in Harrogate. Although it was one of my slowest times of the year due to the heat and a long downhill section. The course was a mixture of road around the streets of Harrogate and parkland/trail out towards Harlow Carr, in parts the scenery was beautiful. On the course the support was brilliant and for the majority of the race I was running along with a Stormtrooper in a wedding dress. This is one race, although expensive, that I would like to do again.
August took me to deepest darkest Warrington to do the Birchwood 10K. I enjoyed this one, as it seemed that the more races I did the better I liked them, even though my thinking was still only to put one foot in front of the other. Although I have certainly seen enough of the M62 to last a lifetime, I think I went under or over that damn motorway at least 15 times! The course taught me what it means to be part of a club. A member of Warrington was struggling a feeling dizzy, so whilst her club mates ran past her, I stopped and walked with her until I could get her to a marshal. I am absolutely sure that no TAC member would ever carry on if they saw any runner in difficulty. In this race I am positive I did my fastest ever finish, rivalling Usain Bolt over the last 100 meters. My watch says that I did that distance in 14 seconds!
I was joined by my 'second running wife' in September at Wigan, not that she either needed me or saw me after the first kilometre. My claim to fame in this race is that I managed to beat Adam Howard fair and square (I'm ignoring the fact he was injured). Once again the support all around the course was fantastic and was well received. The course was good and is one I would probably do again. The goody bag at the end went down a treat and unlike at the Great Yorkshire Run I remembered to take it with me!
The little town of Littleborough was my next run, the first without my lovely wife being along to support me. I was also on duty at work and had to carry a pager around with me. This was the first race in which I did absolutely no walking at all, and as it was a small race of around 200 people I ran the majority of it on my own, which tested my head, as I can easily convince myself that it is okay to walk for a little. The course was firstly a climb from the town up to the lake and then a lap around it and then back down into the town, finishing on a cycle track. The only disappointing thing from the race, is no medal or T-shirt to remember it by.
So I can appear on the website as fastest TAC man for at least one race, I tracked down another obscure race for my challenge in November, in the Tatton Park 10K 'trail' race. I say 'trail' because 95% was on Tarmac with only the start and finish on anything other. Now I thought that Cheshire was flat and I was not expecting any hills at all, coupled with my knee now starting to really cause me some aggravation, it made me very nervous and for the first time I thought about not doing the run. But to be honest I enjoyed each and every step and for the first time I could have carried on and done a lot more distance.
For the last race of the challenge I chose to do the Ribble Valley 10K. Again on the day of the race, my knee was sore and I just wasn't feeling it at all. However, during this race I had a clear head and was able to think about other things apart from putting one foot in front of the other. The finish was quite fitting for how I felt my year's running's has been, it that it was a hard slog, but very much worthwhile.
For my last three 10Ks my times only differed by 6 seconds and my splits for each kilometre were consistent, so it seems I might have got the handle on pacing myself. My best time for the year was 1:03 with my worst being 1:13 (it was my first). I don't believe I will ever get under 55 mins, as I can't train that much due to looking after my knees, but feel that I can aim for a sub-60 run sometime.
Overall I have grown to enjoy running and once I'd stopped putting pressure on myself to achieve a time I don't have the fitness for, I started to enjoy what I was doing for the sake of what I was doing.
I am proud to wear the stripes and represent the club. I was stopped whilst away with work in Sweden and the kit was recognised! I am also proud to marshal at separate events and see the achievements of others, particularly some of the juniors who seem to get better and better each time that I see them.
Most of all the support that each and every one of us give to each other, no matter where we are in the finishing records, in something I fundamentally believe sets this club apart from all others and long may it continue. I know for sure that without this support I would not have completed the challenge.