I love to win! I’ve always been competitive. I’ve even been known to beat my own kids at snakes and ladders when a subtle ‘miscount of the dice’ would’ve been more appropriate. These days though the only person I’m really out to beat is myself. I started my running career late and I’m thankfully still getting faster. I don’t enter that many races but when I do I always want a new Personal Best. I know there’s no shame in being the final one to cross the finish line but it’s not something I’ve ever wanted to be. This race however was different, that was my only aim … to come last.
Our annual village scarecrow festival starts with a 10k road race. It’s the first race I ever ran. My running journey began eight years ago when I stood clapping in the runners and made a random, “I’m going to do that next year” pledge.
It’s well known for being a tough route with some killer hills and the locals always show great respect to those mad people who run it. The first year I ran it I came second to last and every year since I’ve slowly moved up the finishers list. I feel a kind of ‘ownership’ of this race. It’s my local route, I run round it regularly and I’m always really proud when others come to enjoy it too.
As my followers will know I started a women’s running club in my village two years ago and although some of the members had run a 10k in Liverpool and were capable of running their village 10k last year, they just couldn’t quite pluck up the courage to do it. They told me it was a fear of the route and whilst none actually said they didn’t want to come last in front of the whole community, they implied it.
Another year has passed and they’ve all grown in ability and confidence. I was so happy when a big group of them said they were going to run the 10k and raise some money for the local hospital breast care unit in the process. I had no doubt that they would all make it over the line.
I’ve spent the year teaching for Public Health England as a physical activity champion and working my way around the North West explaining why exercise needs to be fun and inclusive for people to want to do it. A local 10k race where the majority of runners who line up are super fit athletes from local running clubs is incredibly intimidating for the average plodder. I felt a sense of responsibility to demonstrate that exercise is for all.
I knew that along with my wonderful ladies we could change this image. That we could show everyone that this race isn’t the holy grail. That getting out, enjoying yourself and being part of something is more important. We live in the most stunning area and the best way to enjoy it is on foot. A village race is for everyone. It’s not easy but with determination and training it can be done.
So, race day went to plan. The running club did themselves proud. Some were striding out in the middle of the pack and some were bringing up the rear.
All got the same fantastic cheers from the supporters who didn’t leave their cheering posts until the last one had gone by.
This was their race. They were so proud to show how far they’ve come. Running is empowering and it’s fitting that we’re now a 261Fearless running club.
I don’t think they realise the powerful message they portrayed by running that race. I’m sure their energy and enthusiasm will inspire the people they passed to dust off their running shoes.
They showed no fear about coming last, just pride that they had the courage to start.