Today was a day to remember. Having lived in Stoke-on-Trent for 18 years (half my life, OMG!), I had never entered the Potters ‘Arf…. for one reason or another, I was always busy. It had nothing to do with it being one of the more challenging half marathon courses out there, I just hadn’t got round to it. However, in 2013 that was going to change. At the last minute I adopted a friends number, and before I knew it I was at the start of this infamous race, in the heat of the blazing sun.
The last few years of the Potters ‘Arf have been a wash out, and therefore today was unusual. It is the local half Marathon, and therefore a staple of the local running fraternity, none the least the epic Trentham Running Club. Early doors, I collected a couple of friends, and we made my way to the City Centre where the green army was due to gather. Stoke-on-Trent is the ‘sickest city in Britain’ and that’s official. However, today 2000+ people turned out to brave the heat and the hills and run 13.1 mile around the streets of this post-industrial city.
Prior to the start the Trentham Running Club members went for a warm up round the city centre and made our presence known… it was a great feeling to be among this sea of green, with the rest of the spectators and competitors looking on. Soon enough we were stood in the direct stare of the June sun and waiting for the off. I was determined not to race this one. I have covered the course previously, and knew it to be a toughie. I have done two half marathon PB’s this year, and have nothing to prove to myself. Mostly, I am doing #Juneathon and didn’t want to wipe myself out in the heat. So at the hooter, I set at a merry, canter into what would be the most enjoyable race of the year.
From the initial hooter to crossing the finish line, I loved every minute of this race. Em’s had had a mild panic the night before, realising that she actually hadn’t entered (likely story, I told myself!) and the race was full. However, after a frantic Facebook appeal a spare number came to hand just in time. We opted to stick together for the duration of the race: when you run for enjoyment, it’s twice as enjoyable when you’re running with a friend. As we ran we chatted, and laughed, and had the odd sing-song… The miles just melted by.
The locals were out in force. Some had set their hose pipes and sprinklers up to create a rain effect in the road. There were impromptu water stations located here and there and people handing out wet sponges. Marshals stood offering jelly beans, and old ladies with kind words clapped and told us they were proud. The old Bill (@staffspolice) were directing traffic and doing an amazing job, a special shout out to them. I saw lots of friends (and stopped for the odd sweaty hug) but complete strangers also called out support… kids high-fived us as we ran past, and teenagers doused us with water pistols… It was heaven.
Me and Em’s maintained a steady 9.5 minute mile pace throughout, even up heartbreak hill… Half way up, we were spurred on by Phil (aka @6townsrunner), Kayz, Lindsey and the Rug-Rats, who created an unnatural amount of noise, just for us. We were quite overwhelmed. At mile 12 we had slowed to a light canter as we headed back towards the city centre. The crowds were deep here, with people shouting and screaming. We didn’t care who they were shouting at, or what they were screaming, it was just great to hear the noise. It lifted us and carried us to the line. A sprint finish was the order of the day and we finished in 2 hours and 8 minutes, or something there about. The time didn’t matter, the effort had been worth it, even if I do now have a comedy vest-shaped suntan etched into my skin.
For a City renowned for it’s post-industrial decline, it’s benefits culture, and it’s stupidly high rates of disability living allowance among the usual resident population , today’s events are some of which Stoke-on-Trent can be very proud. The support on-route never wavered, and I only hope we’ve inspired other people to have a go at running. It really is a game changer. Tonight my skin in on fire, but I am happy as beans. I don’t yet know how the green army fared overall, but It was a pleasure just to be there, and be a part of something bigger than the sum of it’s parts. #Juneathon Day 9… done.
Juneathon 2013 Stats
Total Miles = 60.01
Total KM = 96.58
Total Calories = 7,215
Big Macs = 14.7
Pints of Strongbow = 30.1
Days Worth Calories = 3.6
Journeys to Work = 4.32