Not many people know this but I was a member of Red Rose Road Runners in 1982, fairly close to the club’s origins. It was also close to the origins of my own running experience. The running boom, influenced by the New York Marathon, was introduced into this country through the London Marathon and grew on a wave of Bolton, Piccadilly (Manchester) and Potteries, marathons closer to home. Although I wasn’t grossly overweight at the time, I was squeezing my 13 stones plus, with considerable overhang, into my 36-inch waistband! Despite the fact that I was neither sportsman nor athlete, I had started to plod/jog a short distance every Sunday morning (if I could be bothered to get up, if it wasn’t raining and – most importantly, if I could be back and refreshed in time for the pub opening!). At about the same time a work colleague did the Bolton Marathon. He played Saturday football but, other than that, was not considered an athlete. In fact, I thought, he’s not THAT far removed from me – he’s just human – AND he’s finished a marathon!! That was it! I was going to do that too!
I added an even shorter Wednesday evening run, made a more determined effort to get out of bed Sundays and gradually extended the Sunday runs, started reading ‘Running’ magazine (now Runner’s World) and, even at that early stage, started comparing my times to monitor progress – trying to better my route PBs when I felt good. More routes were added, as were more runs per week and I found a target race to aim for. There was no ‘Couch to 5k’ in those days and my baptism was the ‘Citizen Mini Marathon’, which I entered with my ‘Bolton Marathon’ work colleague. This race went from Moor Park, Preston, via Bamber Bridge and Leyland to finish in Witton Park, Blackburn!! I got as far as two-thirds of the length of Sandy Lane approaching Riley Green before I ran out of energy and had to walk most of the remainder of the race.
Undeterred, I upped my training in pursuit of a run in the second London Marathon. As an incentive, I decided that I would try to raise funds for St Catherine’s Hospice but first I needed to secure an entry. That year, entries were being accepted on a ‘first in the post’ basis, so I wrapped up warm and stood/sat/laid in the queue at Preston Station for the chance to be in the delivery that would reach marathon HQ by first post! The running bug had really gotten hold of me good by this time and I was in serious dedicated training by the time my acceptance arrived. I met with Kitty Sharples from St Catherine’s to formally commit myself to my aim to support the hospice. For the marathon, my aim was to finish at all costs! And, if all went well it would be an extra special, although not necessary, bonus if I could finish in under four hours.
Running through the 20-mile marker with two ladies who I had learned already had marathon running experience, I felt extremely comfortable, well on target and confident when I asked them, “Where does the ‘wall’ appear?” I found out at mile 22! I was still able to walk/jog the remainder and even finished in 3:58:36! I had to walk down-stairs backwards the following morning – no isotonic drinks or gels in those days! Once home, I had to continue on my other, primary, marathon – the fund raising. It had started with me toting round sponsorship forms, face-to-face, department after department at work, family and friends, pub and club. Now it was time to chase up the sponsors. Of course, there had been no social media of ‘Justgiving’ in those days and donations were small in 1982 by today’s standards, so I was collecting in 50ps, pounds, a very small number of £5 contributions and, I think, a couple of £10, as I answered questions about how it felt to ACTUALLY RUN A MARATHON and showed off my medal. After numerous trips to the bank to deposit the coinage into St. Catherin’s account I was invited Hoghton Tower to a ‘DO’, where I shook uncontrollably as I handed over to Kitty a giant cheque for over £350. Yes, the fundraising was more of an ordeal than the marathon although equally rewarding.
As running took more of a hold on me and I learned of Red Rose I signed up to become affiliated, although I didn’t know any member except Bernard Taylor (Steve’s dad). I only stayed with Red Rose for around six months, as influence from a member of Chorley AC and fellow worker, to whom I frequently went for advice, led to me joining him there. My running grew obsessively –
Diary entry of 117 miles in 7 days
as I continued to improve, such that by 1985, I had run a 2,385.76-mile year, including my two fastest marathons just weeks apart, London 3:21:58 and Piccadilly 3:26:49! Yes, I know Cuerden Valley VERY well!! I was eating 7 meals a day with lunchtime canteen meals of soup, main course and sweet (when available, cherry pie, ice cream AND custard was my favourite) as I sweated away enough calories to bring my ‘racing’ weight down to 10st 7lbs and the canteen ladies marvelled at my flat stomach and 28-inch waist! In 1986, one month short of my 40th birthday, I got married to Margaret, who was yet to turn 27! She can still pass as my daughter (hey Yvonne!). The obsession clearly had to stop as I now had a new focus. I wonder how much further I would have improved if I’d have kept up with the obsession? I have no regrets though, as Margaret has been good for me – and to me. We will be celebrating our 30th anniversary later this year.
I stayed with Chorley AC until a break off formed Chorley Harriers, were I stayed until my membership lapsed in 2003. In 2010, having retired to be free of the pressures of work, I returned to my club ‘roots’ with Chorley AC which, since then, has re-united with Chorley Harriers to form the one Chorley club, Chorley Athletic and Triathlon Club. It was like beginning all over, as I started racing again and I relished the improvements I was making. A set-back with sciatica halted progress until I decided to go out for a short jog despite the pain. Running like Quasimodo did nothing for my image but allowed me to eventually beat the pain and straighten my posture, although the pain still shot down through my left ‘but’ into my leg when running downhill. It cleared up completely after about 12 months.
Shortly after the 2012 Edinburgh Marathon, my first for over 22 years, I was side-lined again. Not only was I unable to run but could not look over my shoulder, get into – or even more so – out of the car without shooting pain in my back and either a quadriceps or hamstring going into spasm. After bus journeys, I could not get out of my seat without slowly pulling on one of the floor to ceiling poles! Through Sweatshop Chorley, I consulted physiotherapist David who determined that the involuntary muscles which support the pelvis were no longer doing their job and the large, voluntary muscles (quads and hammies) were trying to do the job. Extensive physio ~ with homework eventually led to me being able to jog up to a mile and to build up to a low key first visit to Cuerden Valley parkrun whilst wearing an Ultimate Performance Back Support belt to protect against the undulations!
The first two runs, with Anneke Crosby and Jenny Fairclough as tail-runners, introduced me to the wonderfully supportive and friendly community in the valley and also to a large number of Red Rose Runners who shared the same ethos. Feeling so welcome at CVp, had me returning and improving my times as well as making many new friends. It didn’t take long before my Red Rose friends outnumbered my Chorley friends and, combined with the fact that the Poachers is only a mile from home, I took the decision to complete the circle, bringing me back to Red Rose Road Runners membership in 2015. Most of those friends will be aware of the further two set-backs I have had since that first parkrun, so I will end this post here at the ‘closing of the circle’.
If you would like to know more about me, or to discover more on how I have dealt with life after my heart attack and current knee problems, I have just started a new blog.
Clicking on: – About will lead to a brief ‘biog’ about me and the purpose of the blog, which currently contains the latest post – ‘Heart Attack ~ and Recovery’, together with a post on a spooky happening on the way to see magician Dynamo and my first post, about my day out with Ben Smith on his way to his 401 marathons in 401 days.