I love Christmas, I love running, I have a great group of friends who love running and most of whom also love Christmas, so what better way to celebrate the festive season than getting everyone together on a blustery Saturday morning in Leeds to trot up and down the canal for a few hours?
Friends came from far and wide, and Roundhay, and we gathered at the LPSA club in Kirkstall to collect our bibs and timing chips, the club had a distinct feel of Phoenix Nights in a gloriously nostalgic way. By the time I arrived there were plenty of runners milling about in varying levels of festive fancy dress and my running family were there near the registration table waiting with hugs and kisses and Santa hats. The laughs and frivolity started there and then and didn’t stop until we went our separate ways on Sunday morning, to be honest they are still going on virtually, oi oi.
The LPSA club was about a 5 minute walk from the Leeds – Liverpool canal where the race was taking place and shortly after 9.30am we were called to make our way down to the start. The marathon and 20 mile races had already started and we received a full pre-race brief from one of the lovely IGUN team. The half marathon route took us down towards Leeds before doubling back up to Rodley where we turned again (making sure to go around the cone!!) and then back towards Leeds before a final turn to the start/finish area. The plan was to run with friends, forget about times and everything else and just have a laugh, support each other and enjoy ourselves. The opening couple of miles towards Leeds and back took us through a rather muddy section of canal path so there was plenty of splashing and sliding as we tried to stay out of the canal itself, later during the 10k Ben very nearly ended up having an early bath. I ran the first half of the race with Bill, to say he is a raconteur would be an understatement, we ran, we walked a bit as his back was playing up and I stood guard while he had a wee in the bushes! On the way to Rodley the headwind was a nightmare in places and it was a relief to reach the turning cone and take on board some snacks while we waited for the others.
With everyone back together and the wind at our backs we set off again and I ran and chatted with everyone in the group before we splintered into a couple of smaller groups and I ended up running the final few miles with Allison and the lovely Tom. Back through the puddles we splashed and we caught up with Steve who was running his first race since his epic coast to coast adventure last month, it is always a pleasure to see him and he is one of the most determined runners I know. Before I knew it we had turned again for the final time and the finish area was coming into sight with a large crowd of 10k runners already there waiting for their race to start.
At the finish tent there were the usual IGUN treats with a Christmas twist, a lovely festive medal and a bottle of Christmas ale and a selection box, I was in heaven. We waited for the rest of our squad to come home and cheered them all in, Ben and Foxy then went out in the 10k and so I headed back to the car to get my coat and some more cake, yes it was time to break out the gin and lemon cake and really get into the spirit of things. Once everyone was together we had a good old team hug and then it was off to put on something more flattering and hit the Christmas market for a giant sausage. The drinks, food and laughter flowed long into the night and it was the perfect way to celebrate a great year of running. I am truly blessed to know these people and hopefully this will be the first of many such gatherings in the years ahead.