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Yorkshireman Off-road Marathon, by Sue Bickerdike

One day I will start a race report saying that my preparation was timed to perfection, I 'd had plenty of sleep, and carbo-loaded myself to within an inch of bursting. Sadly, today is not the day.

I've run the full version of this classic race in the past, so knew a bit about the course, in that all of the climb is in the first 1/3 of the race, and that survival for the first 45mins pretty much guarantees a finish. What I hadn't factored in was that the course had changed and started a horrible million feet down the valley, thus adding a tortuous climb right at the start, and that although entitled as a half marathon, was actually published as 14.5 miles, and GPS'd at 14.8!! (I really should read the pre-race pre-amble before turning up to these things..........).

Still, this race was entered to be a counter for the 3 peaks, and a finish was all that was required. Two hills in even this seemed debatable. Poor Nigel must have regretted his amiable promise to run with me, given that this was a training run for his marathon, and he was easily running within himself as I huffed and puffed up the rock-laden gulleys. Some flat bits eased the pain, but this respite was sent crashing back to dismay as checkpoint 1 appeared and we'd only done 2 miles......only another 11 to go......

Somehow the 8 mile mark miraculously came into view, and I had almost started to enjoy myself, proper fell running, bogs of indeterminate depth, paths the width of one shoe, and so much concentration needed that the only thing to go through my mind was remaining upright with both shoes still adhered to my feet.

At this point Nigel pointed out the highest pub in Yorkshire. Great! And I had no choice but to run straight past it. He was doing his best to keep the spirits up, but there was still so far to go. Lots of down followed, accompanied by an overwhelming feeling that we were near the finish. For what seemed like an interminable age I resisted the urge to ask how far we'd gone, knowing that any answer other than 14 miles would be bad. Inquisitiveness overtook me and it was 12. That was ok, I felt good, but feared a sting in the tail in the shape of a sneaky climb that I'd not seen on my brief look at the contour map.

What actually happened was like a gift from above. We ran through the brambly bit by the river to come into a clearing and see loads of runners above us, having obviously taken the wrong route and back-tracking frantically. A Keighley guy behind us shouted and we followed him - apparently he'd flagged it this morning so knew the route - not only did we have our own personal Sherpa Tensing, but had gained 20 places to boot!!!!! Every cloud and all that!

The run in was bizarre to say the least, through houses, a park, past a school, and yes, that hill that had lurked in the back of my mind since 11 miles. But the end came, the T-shirt collected and a seat at last.

I love these races, the feeling that you've overcome mud and mileage, I just wish that one day I will cross the finish line before every other Harrier home has had time to change into warm clothing, eaten their soup, rung home and written their race report. Maybe next time..............x

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