It was once a hub of the railway network and a confectionary-manufacturing centre. It’s home to the largest Gothic cathedral in Northern Europe. It’s where my wife and I listened to a talk about how to become paranormal investigators from a group of people who came across as slightly less competent than Mystery Inc.* Yes, York has a lot going for it. And in addition to the York Marathon which looms large on the horizon in October *clutches chest*, its home to the York 10k, now in its 7th year.
Let’s be frank (Bruno? Sinatra? N furter?) – I didn’t have a great start to the day. We rocked up to the car park and I’d forgotten my tub of Vaseline, putting ‘chaffed nether-regions’ high on the list of probabilities. It was cold – 12 degrees in August? Can’t global warming do anything right? It was raining. It was costing me £8.40 to park. And I was knackered, owing to an early start and last week’s lakeside exploits still taking their toll. Gah.
Still, on the plus side I had my new UK Fitness Bloggers event clips to try out! No more using safety pins like a mere mortal for me. And after several minutes of an expletive-ridden inability to follow the simple instructions followed by several more minutes of expletive-ridden repositioning of the clips, I was clipped and good to go.
Despite the fact that I’d called in at York Station to take advantage of their ample latrines, the pre-race ritual of sampling the event’s bogging facilities had to be undertaken. This led to a chance meeting with an old acquaintance over the urinals, with both of us engaged in polite if cagy pleasantries as we tried to ignore the undeniable sense of awkwardness that comes with making small talk whilst whizzing.
Then I had a mission to undertake. The joy of Twitter led me to knowing that a few of my followers/followees would be here. And I could see them. In real life. And say hello. Alas, no I couldn’t, as I couldn’t find any of them. And after a (very) brief warm up jog, it was time to be corralled into the starting grid/pen as I took my place with what felt like 400,000 other runners in the ‘sub 45-min’ area. Where we waited for the race to start. And waited. And waited.
I think what was meant to be happening was the unbridled horror of the organised warm-up. But given that we were crammed in face-to-armpit in a manner that would have made a battery hen feel a comparative sense of liberation, there was going to be no knee-bendin’, calf-stratchin’ or shoulder rollin’ to the infrequently jerking tones of Carly Rae Jepson. When that was given up as a bad job, the local dignitaries were wheeled out to give a short demotivational speech, flick some holy water over the starting tape and bless this race and all that sail in her. And we still weren’t away. Space shuttles have been launched quicker.
Just as it looked as though we might finally get going, something extraordinary happened. A large bumblebee zigged and zagged its way though the starting ensemble, with people emitting appropriate screeches and doing the type of involuntary terror-dance that only a large bee/wasp/spider can induce. As the bee moved towards those people in my immediate vicinity, a man to my left reacted with pure, alarmed instinct and threw a punch at the bee. The bee fell to the ground. This dude has punched a bee out of the air. It was like when Mr Miyagi catches the fly with the chopsticks in The Karate Kid. Only better. Amused hysteria overcame me immediately as I struggled to ask this clearly bemused stranger ‘if he’d really just punched that bee out of the air’. Now, don’t get me wrong – I’m not condoning man-to-bee violence. Alas, I have every confidence the bee would get back up, although possibly not before the count of 10. But it’s rare you see a chap punch a bee out of the air. In fact I’d go as far as to say ‘I’ve seen a lot of shit, but I ain’t never seen no man punch no bee outta the God-damn air’. And with the aforementioned amused hysteria choking off my oxygen supply, unfortunately we were finally away.
Regaining my composure (eventually), it was time to focus on the ‘pre-race plan’ which was just to ‘get round’ because I ‘hadn’t done a pre-race plan’ because I ‘couldn’t be bothered’. No, I decided just to enjoy this one and not pursue the PB like a demented idiot. What became apparent quite quickly was that, owing to having spent the last year doing an MA at York, I actually knew where I was. Most of the time. And a fair few people had turned out to cheer on us runners. Even the Minster played its part, bonging away as I passed it. In retrospect I’m assuming this was because it was 10 o’clock, not because the chief campanologist let out a cry of ‘THERE’S TAYLORSON! GIVE IT ALL YOU’VE GOT, LADS!’
I don’t know whether it was the conditions or the fact that it’s a relatively flat course that might encourage people to set off faster than they should, but I noticed an unusual number of runners having to pull up and rest. Either that or they’d just decided to take in some of the sights, as York is a rather picturesque city. As the route took us down by the river and into the final stint I passed one guy who was emitting an all-too-familiar death rattle-type breathing noise. I’d been there. Another chap was letting out occasional grunt-roars. Groars? I think it was for self-motivational purposes. Or he was trying to attract a mate.
At several points throughout the route, bollards used to dissuade cars from driving on the footpath were neatly wrapped in foam should someone be unfortunate to run straight into one. Naturally, the prospect of this appealed to my particular sense of humour, even though in reality there’d be nothing amusing about taking a ‘bollard to the bollards’, so to speak. One had even been adorned with a traffic cone to increase its visibility, leading it to look like King of the Safety Bollard People. They come in peace. And in foam.
Soon York Racecourse came into view and I was on the final straight. I engaged in the usual ritual of ‘select a stranger to secretly sprint past as you head for the line but try and pick one you can actually beat’ which as usual became ‘be unable to catch stranger and overexert whilst not doing it’ as I crossed the line in 43 mins and 54 seconds feeling that I perhaps could’ve given it more and thus regretting my choice of taking it a bit easy when I should have perhaps tried to ‘bomb it’. Ah well.
Due to one of exercise’s more enjoyable paradoxes, I was of course feeling much more awake and energised after running 10k at nearly full pelt. I collected complimentary water – spurning the opportunity to sample an own-brand ASDA Lucozade rip-off – and the goody bag that contained THE MEDAL. Plus, one of the best things about having a best mate who is vegan – who I should add had made it to the finish line some time before me – is that I get all of the post-race confectionary he can’t eat. Just call me Two Mars Bars Taylorson.
Adorned in a new t-shirts and sporting the medal, it was time for stroll into town to ‘cool down’. Unlike the planned rigorous stretching/ice bath/massage-based cool down of the real athlete, this involved going to Costa Coffee, petting a passing cat and taking in a fine display of owls in York Museum Gardens. That’s what the Olympics needs you know. More owls.
All in all, a good day was had. Not sure quite what was going on with the delayed start, and it would be remiss of me not to mention that if I’d been exposed to much more of the screeching tannoy lady I may have felt the urge to take an axe to the PR system’s speakers. But all in all, any day where you’ve bagged a medal and seen a bee punched in the face is a good day in my book.
* – Really.