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Lord Lawson of Beamish

by leem

April 22, 2011

Val takes the plunge and runs her first Harrier League

If you’re thinking of doing your first race, here’s words of inspiration from our very own Val Baxter. Mother, Club Secretary and now an Athlete.

Hi, for those of you who don’t know me, my name is Val Baxter and my 13 year old son Andrew has been an active member of the club for a few years. I became club secretary last year to try and make myself useful, though I’m still finding my feet! Anyway, finding myself at a loose end on club nights while Andrew was training, I decided to start power walking around Birtley to try and tone up a bit. After a few weeks, I found myself attempting to run very short sections, and these gradually built up until I was running (almost) all of the 3.2 mile circuit. I had a moment of madness one day and told Ed I’d be willing to run a crosscountry for the club, and so the Sherman cup race at Blaydon was destined to be my first (and possibly only) attempt at a proper race!

The day of the race came frightening quickly, and following a night of rain, I had expected to find a course full of mud, but luckily the ground wasn’t too saturated, and it wasn’t bad at all. The senior women’s race is always last, so I had a good long time to stand around and get even more nervous than I already had been, but finally the marshalls shouted and it was time to line up!

It’s hard to describe the feeling I had at the start of the race – a mixture of awe as the hundred or so women all began running at the same time, and out and out terror that I would make a total fool of myself by running out of steam before the first field had even been rounded, or even worse that I’d be sick in front of everyone (a distinct possibility given how nervous I was feeling!).

The course began with a nice flat circuit of a field, followed by a short but steep ascent and descent of a hill near the start (and finish), then the rest of the course was fairly level, with a few nice muddy sections to navigate. After what seemed like an age, the hill at the start of the course came into sight but this time we had to run up and down it three times ! Now, from the sidelines this hill looks like a slight incline, but I can assure you that it felt like Mount Everest by the time I was running up it (and I use the term loosely) for the third time. Now came what was for me the hardest part of the course…getting back to the beginning of the course and realising that I had to do the same distance ALL OVER AGAIN!

With heaving lungs and tired legs, the second circuit of the course began and I tried to concentrate on just keeping running – I wasn’t bothered about my time, or who was passing me, I just kept putting one foot in front of the other and tried to avoid the deepest mud. About a third of the way around the course, I found someone’s shoe stuck in the mud, and for some strange reason stopped to pick it up – I then found myself running with the added handicap of a muddy shoe clutched in one hand! I managed to offload it to Pedro as I neared the finish line – I have no idea what he thought as I thrust a muddy shoe into his hand and gasped that it wasn’t mine as I ran off!

I should mention at this point that during my runs around Birtley, I had never managed to do more than 2 miles continuously without having to slow down to a walk for a short while to catch my breath. At 6k, or roughly 3.6 miles, the course was almost twice as far as I’d ever run in one go, but I was determined (and the various club members scattered around the course shouting encouragement helped a lot) to run the whole thing if I could. To be honest, I was also worried that if I started walking I’d never manage to start running again!

Finally, the horrendous hill near the end came into sight again – gulp! I tried my best to run up it (three times!), though it might be best to describe my efforts as a fast walk, and then I just had to muster up the energy to pick up my legs and make it to the finish line. I can’t describe the feeling of relief as I finally made it past the line, and managed to resist the temptation to collapse in a heap on the ground! I staggered to the tent and changed my muddy shoes for slightly cleaner and drier trainers, and was kindly congratulated by the Birtley members who still remained at the course. I forgot to mention that I was running for high stakes – Ed had bet me a 10p mixup that I wouldn’t come last in the race, and indeed I wasn’t (though 109th out of 114 is fairly close to last!).

I even managed to find the energy to have a cool down run with the lovely Nathalie who had also run her first crosscountry (the only other Birtley lady in my race, who finished a lot higher up than me!) and was surprised to find that I had enough breath left to hold a conversation as we ran!

So, the million dollar question:- Would I do it again? Well, Prudhoe was a fortnight later and I gave it some thought…then thought again and realised that it was a bit out of my league! Maybe next year? ;0)

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