On the Run


Glucose gel tastes sooo bad….

Wait a minute – did I just say ‘tastes?’  That’s a generous word for the sensation of substanceless sweetness dredging between your teeth.  Not even desperate sufferers of severe hypoglycaemia find it appetising.

But they are easy to carry and consume and therefore marketted not only to diabetics (which is how I first heard of them), but also to fell-runners. Hubby and I bought some for our run.

Gareth told us a story about his friend.  His friend set off on a fell-race, but took along a different sort of energy-gel to usual. Apparently some brands can cause near-immediate diarrhoea in sensitive people…… the friend never finished her race.

Yes, of course team Gareth and Naomi have researched and practised with the specific brand of energy-gel that they are using today.  But I haven’t even tried my backpack on yet, so the finer risks of energy-gels just didn’t seem important at the time. But now that it’s one-minute-to-race-time, I am worrying:  What if I get the shits?

It makes a change from what I’ve been worrying about for the last hour, which was: Will we arrive in time?

We persuaded Grandad to kiddy-sit, months ago.  He was reluctant at the time, and since then he has come down with man-flu. This morning, he arrived looking so dreadful that I nearly cancelled my run. One child immediately sat on top of him, demanding stories. The other started climbing up his legs.  We car-convoyed him to Dad’s Group in the hope he’d find some respite there.

So we arrived at Fairholmes carpark with less than seven minutes to spare.  We spent five of those minutes trying to find a parking space:  runners are surprisingly inconsiderate parkers.  I glared at them through the window: knarly outdoor types with suntans.  Crikey! – they looked ready for anything.

And now I am one of them.  Minus the knarles, the sun-tan and the ready-for-anythingness, obviously, but I do have a number safety-pinned to my front. At some inaudible signal, there is a smattering of applause and the crowd surges forward. Slowly.

I am surprised how slowly: it’s like being stuck in traffic.  A first I feel a shot of despair every time a runner squeezes past me, but then I watch them all getting stuck behind another pair of legs a few paces further on.  Luckily, runners’ grid-lock is more cheerful than commuters’ grid-lock: small-talk prevails. I chat a bit to Gareth and Naomi’s friend, Cat.

I am, I realise, hardly out of breath. Neither is a talkative bloke in front of me. He has exactly the same blend of South-Yorkshire / Derbyshire accent as my Dad, so I have developed a soft-spot.  He is experienced, aiming for four hours.  That’s faster than me.  I decide to stay behind him for the time being.

Up and up…. and suddenly, the view of the valley opens up beneath us.  Beautiful.  Once we’re on top, running along the ridge is sheer priviledge.

9edge2I have good footwork: I overtake people running downhill; most of them pass me on the following incline and I pass them again on the next descent.  Thus we leap-frog along the ridge’s undulations.  There are around ten of us; the crowds have vanished, either in front or behind.

I realise how much I like overtaking people; after High Neb on Stanage I start picking them off.  The two guys ahead look pretty fit, so I am surprised when I catch them easily.  I have just got past, when one of them says cheerily, ‘Hello!’

It’s hubby.  We run along togther for a while, but when the route flattens out around Burbage, the samey gait starts to jar my tibial band.  I stretch out my legs and speed up.

‘Flat’ really isn’t my gradient.  It’s boring, repetetive; its saving grace is the tourists, who make me feel good.  Three years ago, I walked home from Ladybower with baby ‘Toddler’ in a rucksack carrier and couldn’t help feeling a little tame next to the stream of runners who kept passing me.  At the time I didn’t know they were nine-egders, but the reluctant admiration was acute.

Now that I am one of the runners, the walkers make me feel good, especially the ones who clap and say ‘Well Done.’  Gareth’s parents are there; some walking mates of my Dad’s just happen to be on Curbar.  For every set, I feel a surge of enthusiasm and speed up a bit.

When nobody’s watching though, I am getting slower and slower, until I am alternating between a jog, a walk and a limp.  The scenery is becoming less impressive and I am seeing increasingly few runners.  At Longshaw Estate, which seems to go on forever, a posh woman’s voice calls out cheerily from the steps: ‘Only eight miles to go!’ and I try to look lively…..

Eight miles….?

…..they really drag.  I feel terribly lonely and a bit decrepit.  I don’t see anybody and am so demotivated that I almost reach a standstill.  Eventually people start to overtake me – I am just pleased to see some familiar faces.  Including the man with Dad’s voice. ‘I knew I’d peaked too early,’ I tell him, ‘when I lost you.’

I think I might be hypoglycaemic.  I swallow my third energy gel of the race.  At least I haven’t had the shits.

Then, up the hill behind me comes Cat.  Cat!  I’m so chuffed to see a friend.  Suddenly, a surge of happiness and a surge of blood sugar appear to coincide. I run downhill directly in her wake.  Wheeeeeeee!  Gareth and Naomi are waiting at the finish.


(Pictures: http://blog.alistairpooler.co.uk/2013/09/the-edges-above-dovestone-reservoir.html and www.grough.co.uk).


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