18th June 2017 : 26ºC
Its not often the temperature is attached to the date of a blog post but I’m putting it up there bold as brass as it puts what is to follow into some kind of context.
This was day four of the famous Tour of Tameside and fittingly named this year after the legend who started it, Dr Ron Hill. It was to be a day of achievements on a number of fronts. It would be the end of a first full tour for some, the second for others and for one, the end of an incredible journey over 6 months to honour a loved one.
We’d agreed to meet an hour before the start in the car park at Asda but on arrival it was clear that I wasn’t the only one suffering. From tight hamstrings to numb toes, the Tour had taken its toll on the Daddies and this final event would be both a celebration and a chance to relax and unwind afterwards. Frankie had rolled-up his sleeves. Sun’s out, gun’s out.
Akkeal, Shaun and I decided to try a pre-race massage to see if any life could be squeezed out of our tiring limbs. At a fiver for 15 minutes, this was great value and for me at least made a big difference. At one point while stretching my thigh muscles, the masseur asked me to push my hips through the table which would prove difficult as I was at that point pushing my teeth through the towel. We all seemed to feel the benefit and whatever they did, we got round in one piece.
It was about 5 minutes after climbing off the massage tables that they called us to the start. The skies were clear, cloudless and for people about to run 7 miles, threatening. Rick was ‘talking’ with some other competitors; the type who tend to wear pink and an extra item of underwear.
The race director asked all competitors to observe a minutes applause in memory of those lost in recent tragedies in Manchester and London, remarking how sport and running brings people together. The Mayor of Hyde made a short speech before handing over to Dr Ron to hoot the horn to mark the start. Shortly before, Dr Ron thanked all those who had sent him messages of support to get better which was really well received. Everyone at that start line knew what it takes to run so well and to have done so for so long, and so consistently, yet remain such an inspiring, approachable and friendly man. People acknowledged this warmly with their applause.
Once the hooter was sounded, the final race was underway. Akkeal was renewed and from where I was, saw him take a position with the leaders. If there was any doubt as to whether he was going to give it all he had, he’d really nailed his colours to the mast.
We’d ran this route a couple of weeks earlier but in the evening when it was cooler. I’d felt strong that night and would have been second or third back in our group had I not taken a wrong left turn and gone on a magical mystery tour of Hyde. Not a problem today, as the marshals were out in force, cheering us on at every turn. Its so nice of people to give up their time, both parents and kids alike bedecked in their yellow marshals vests.
The first part of the course takes you up Market Street towards Gee Cross on a steady incline which gets steeper the further you go. A sharp left took us up another hill until we were rewarded with some flat and a downhill bit. Here, my body was up to temperature and some point beyond. Rick, Paul, Liam and Frankie slipped past me. Now I can’t run and talk so just gestured I was OK and stuck to my own pace to make sure I made it round. Rick was chatting away with some chap who had noticed him from Strava. We dropped down into the dip over the railway bridge before another lengthy incline taking us up to the left turn before McDonalds. I was really thirsty here but knew water was about another mile away.
Running is mostly physical but a big part is mental. The day before, I’d been struggling with the heat and after 4 miles, really questioned whether I’d be able to finish but managed it. On 4 miles this day, I just kept reminding myself that I had less to go than I had completed. As soon as I left the housing estate and dropped onto the main road into Hyde, I managed to kick-on and recover some time. Up ahead, the others would either be finishing or on final approach. At the end of this road was a left turn up a hill (the one I should have turned up a couple of weeks before) before levelling out through the approach to Market Street then a nice downhill bit to finish. Flagging at the top, it was here that Tracey Vulcan told me to keep going, sharing some of her isotonic drink with me (Thanks Tracey!).
With the end in sight, I lengthened my stride and crossed the line right on the hour. Dr Ron was there to welcome back all the runners and it was a pleasure as always to meet him.
I walked through the finishing pen and met up with the Daddies. Akkeal had ran a great race and so had Shaun and Steve. Pictures would later show that Rick, Liam, Frankie and Paul had crossed the line arm-in-arm and I wished I’d been able to keep up with them. Never mind, there’ll be other times 🤜🤛.
From here, we collected our shirts and ambled up the steps of Hyde Town Hall to collect our tankards. My wife Janet suggested I filled it with beer so, needing little encouragement I had it filled with lager and it was pure nectar. Akkeal had another massage before we all headed over to Wetherspoon’s for a celebratory drink with partners and kids.
However, we had one further thing to do. Steve joined Daddies Escape a few months ago as he’d got into running by making a pledge to complete 1000 miles of running on or before the Tour of Tameside in memory of the baby daughter he and his wife lost. With ‘milesformolly’ on his shirt, the final mile was fittingly crossed in the final mile of the final race. We had chatted privately over the previous couple of days and agreed that we would do ‘something’. We picked a suitable moment and showered him in Champagne (well, Babycham) in recognition for such an amazing achievement after such adversity.
We’d also agreed to get the wives and girlfriends a token of appreciation for their understanding of all the times they’d washed up, put the kids to bed, done the ironing and all of the above. Liam phoned me on Saturday evening when I was driving home from my sons sailing competition, asking if I wanted anything from Asda then realising VERY quickly that he was on speakerphone and Janet was in the car. Janet found it a bit strange and suggested he could get milk and a four-pack of beans. He’d of course phoned about the flowers he was buying. Top marks to Liam for not letting the cat out the bag. All the ladies received a nice bunch of flowers after the event.
Shaun nipped over to the Town Hall and collected £50 for winning first place in the V50 Category, collecting further honours for the club.
All in all, a wonderful day for the Daddies. We’ll be back next year.