15th June 2017 : 7:15pm

T _ _ _ of the Tour

Daddies are like buses; you wait for ages, on little outings here and there then one day, 12 turn up at once. As a group, we know that not everyone can be out on training runs every other night (except Shaun and Liam!) so it was a real pleasure to see our luminous yellow tops with our logos in such abundance at this event.

We were here to contest the first stage of the famous Tour of Tameside. Some of us for the first time, some for the second and some for the first time doing all the components of the Tour. As Paul would later quote on the start line “Full Tour or No Tour”.

We (mostly) arrived about 6pm and had a wander around Oldham Rugby club where the Tour finishers shirt was on display, flanked by beer from Tweed’s brewery and the backgrounds that would serve as photo areas for the winners. As it turns out, we would feature in this bit later!

Old acquaintances were renewed and new ones made. Over to Rick at this point as he seems to know everyone, especially if they don’t shave. A quick check of the heart monitors on the Garmin 235‘s revealed that Akkeal was supercharged and ready, pumping at 115 BPM half an hour before the start. I’m sure everyone else was nervous / anxious / excited (delete as appropriate).

Rick had bought some Jungle Fever, which isn’t an alcopop but an insect repellent. A liberal spraying and I was as welcome to an insect as a fart is in a spacesuit. Steve’s mum and sister had come to cheer him on. Mrs Pete was handing out the Jaffa Cakes and popping her umbrella up at the merest hint of water vapour (Mrs Pete doesn’t do rain!).

It was a short walk down to the start. Some of us walked and others such as Steve used it as a warm-up and a chance to edge closer to his 1000 mile target that he’d set on December 30th to complete on or before the Tour. As it stands, it looks like he will reach the four figures at the end of the final stage. Put the celebrations on ice for now though as we had this race to do.

This one was over 10K on varying terrain and like a flight, all the drama was saved for the start and the end. Akkeal stated his intent before the start; taking a position on the front row. After running legend Dr Ron Hill blew the airhorn, we were off.

The first half mile was a gentle incline before hitting the hill of hell that tests whether you’ve trained or not. A beast of mother earth rose upwards at a frightening rate and pulled hard on those upper thigh muscles. Runners are usually quiet people but the breathing was hard and heavy on this bit as we all tried to suck in the air to fuel our muscles. As it levelled out onto the trail after another undulation, I gathered my normal pace and glanced over my shoulder to see if anyone I know was nearby. Rick was hovering over my shoulder!

There were about 4 miles that made an out and back route which was flanked by trees in full leaf, casting a rather dark area for running. Occasionally the sun punched through and a short squirt of light rain also made us remember this was England and not to get used to nice weather. Rick passed me here looking strong. A little further behind, Liam, Frankie, Paul and Mike were having their own contest.

Up ahead I heard someone shout “Look out, lead runners” so I shifted over to the left and saw them approaching. To my absolute delight, there was Akkeal in third looking cool and comfortable and going at a heck of a pace. Go Daddies! I thought. I made the turn myself and didn’t take water as I tend to choke on it and headed back down the route, passing others coming the other way.

As the route dropped down, I headed down the short hill past where we’d started and onto the trail bit leaving 3K to go. This part was quite flat and again fell quite dark as the leaves took the light. Here I noticed that the course had changed since last year and I thought great, they’ve taken out the steps. They hadn’t (lol). The final K was a shock to my legs as we picked our way through some steps cut into the hillside. Up and down they went and I could feel it in my upper thighs and then I heard that joyous sound of a public address system welcoming home runners a short distance away who were crossing the line. I have expected to see a downhill finish like last year but instead, I picked out the blow-up finishing gantry set in the woods and thought YES!, I’m at the finish.

Crossing the line, I saw Akkeal first then Shaun then Paul and Rick welcoming me back. A few minutes later, Frankie, Liam, Steve and Mike broke the ‘lets finish together pact’ and went for a sprint finish. Spectators just saw a yellow blur cross together. I’ll leave it to those concerned to tell me who finished first!

The news of the night though was that Akkeal had secured third. The last time I came third was at scouts but then there were only three of us! Now Akkeal has only been running with us for about 4 months and if he’s third now, start to think where he’ll be when the university has him training with them. I’m sure they’re all after his signature but for now, the transfer fee will have to wait as he is ours!

We all assembled beneath the trees for photos. I was sweating profusely. Janet put up her umbrella.