I did not think I was going to finish this one.
SPOILERS: I did!
Hexham in Northumberland is a lovely little town in a lovely little area in a lovely little part of the country. I went to middle school and high school here, and lived in Hexham from the age of 16 until I was 24. So we have a history 🙂
At my little middle school sometimes we would do cross country running for a PE lesson if the weather was nice (and I think our teacher Mr Graham appreciated getting rid of us for a bit) and we would skirt the edge of a hilly field, up onto an old bridle path, and back towards the school. At most I would say it was 5K. I was a chubby lazy kid who played in windband and went to French Club so that she could get an early lunch on Thursdays (ok no, I liked French Club but it was on the same day as chip day so it was like a holy alignment of learning and chips) but I loved cross country running day. I was always one of the last to finish, couldn’t run the whole way without walk breaks, and to look at me you’d think I hated every step, but for some reason my most vivid and fond memories of middle school are mostly from those little cross country jaunts.
Middle school was where I was first allowed into “the outdoors” without having to stick to a neat walkway or within carefully-designed fencing or keeping a tight hold of my mum’s hand, and I absolutely loved it. I grew up on safe little streets in suburban towns or villages, and travelling on a stuffy coach for an hour to get to school in the countryside was like going on holiday every day. Cross country running was when I got to be surrounded by greenery, different noises, smells and things I’d never seen before, and thankfully I’ve never really lost that excitement.
The Hexham Half Marathon on Sunday was the first time this race has ever been done, and it was like an extended cross country lesson but with the benefit of a lot more wisdom, muscle growth and training. I had a lot of fun!
The race started underneath glorious sunshine, but thankfully there was a lot of shade from those glorious overhanging trees along the roads (FUN FACT: those are the roads I learned how to drive on, so you can imagine how much of a culture shock it was to drive in Maryland a few years later…), so after a while you just got used to it. I was glad that I brought my water belt, although there was a water station that was very well-stocked and set up so that we would have to pass it four times, so I got to relax and… wait is that the first hill..??
Full disclosure: I ran the first uphill all the way to the peak, and enjoyed the heck out of that downhill. After that ehhn not so much. The steepest bits I resigned myself to walking up, but by doing that I got to chat with some nice people and swap stories (“I saw three squashed rabbits!” “Ugh! I saw a pheasant which I thought was dead but then it squawked at me!” – ah, Northumberland), and save my energy for the long, hot, sticky straights.
It was the most difficult, sweaty, painful and best race I’ve ever done. I think I want to do more small, rural events; the lack of crowds and cheering was actually rather lovely. It’s all very well having strangers clap you on the back and shout your name, but I do appreciate a bit of applause and a “well done” from a dogwalker who happened to be passing 🙂
Anyway. Next up is the Great North Run in six weeks. I’m expecting a little more noise and fanfare for that 😉