Running Together

300 runners in a quiet village on a Sunday lunchtime. I lined up at the start line with a bunch of young lads. In youthful eagerness, they were several metres beyond the line. Adults teased them about disqualification. On this sunny spring day the local community had put on their trainers for a companionable, albeit demanding, run over drumlins and along verges. These weren't fast & flat courses to attract those hunting PBs. A few had travelled from distant lands of Ballymoney, Lurgan or Belfast; most had not. Perhaps parkrun deserves some credit for it, but for whatever reason, running has been discovered as something fun to share with friends and family. It's how we spend our weekends and evenings together, enjoying fresh air and the escape of a bit of strenuous activity. We're reclaiming outside spaces and sharing them with our neighbours. We feel connected, with an after-glow of better physical & mental health. What's not to love?

I ran the 5K, starting behind the lads in their football shirts. As the flag lowered, off they raced up the hill, looking across to check that they were ahead of their mates. An adult male had immediately strode out in front. That was okay. Then in turn, each boy heard the light footfalls of someone approaching from behind. They glanced back, concerned that a mate was about to overtake. Panic! Not a mate, it was an old lady. (Well, middle-aged, but for 11-15 year olds that's ancient.) A small part of me felt guilty about these minor assaults on emerging manhood. The remaining child in me wanted to go "Nah, nah, ne, nah, nah! This is me taking it easy." I was taking it easy. I stopped to drink water at mile 2, I coasted down the hills, I took a couple of walk breaks to relieve the persisting Achilles/calf problem. I enjoyed the run. I loved the leg massage afterwards. Magic! I loved cheering on the 10K finishers, chatting with friends & hugs with fellow runners. I loved that my husband was there, doing an important job - taking the photos you can view here. Did my finish time matter? A little if I'm honest. I'd aimed to run ~7:15 pace and I managed 7:05 without aggravating that right leg too much. I feel good about that. It's a lot slower than my pace for the 10K here last year, but I'm pleased. I've been making adjustments to my running form to take pressure off my hips and I'm learning to be speedy and strong in the new, safer form. As for the young lads, guys learn from those 3 miles: life needs pacing; enjoy each challenge for its own sake; reaching the top after a hard effort is hugely satisfying; and the ups & downs keep things interesting. OK, teacher/governor moment over. Just go celebrate life with a run.

Thank you Termoneeny Running Club for another wonderful day of running. It's one of my highlights on the running calendar - friendly, exceptionally well organised and those undulating, twisting country roads make for an interesting, enjoyable run. Not flat and boring - heaven forbid. Thank you.

Photos by David Smyth. For the full galleries click: 5K event or 10K event.

10K results via Ryan at NI Running.