I was excited this morning, very excited. Not like that, you dirty-minded people! I was excited about today’s run. That was until I heard the rain lashing at the bedroom window of the B&B.
The Wife and I were in a village called Hutton, just outside Weston-Super-Mare in Somerset to celebrate Gemma’s 30th birthday. The weather for the party on Saturday had been great, especially considering rain had been threatened all day. It was a chance to catch up with a whole heap of people we hadn’t seen in ages and to meet some new people too. A great BBQ had been laid on for the afternoon which helped to line our stomachs for the alcohol.
And what party wouldn’t be without an impromptu camp site centred around a campfire, set within the charred stump of an old Oak tree. We were told of the demise of the great Oak that once stood tall – unfortunately it’s death warrant written, when it was discovered that most of the 4ft wide trunk had rotten away, to ensure a controlled and dignified felling rather than one causing chaos, damage and destruction to the surrounding roads and houses.
There were a few inspiring runners amongst the guests – Gemma’s brother Oli (who completed his first marathon in London earlier this year in just a smidge over 4 hours, 4:02:16), Gemma’s mother-in-law, and host of the party, Margaret (who among other very athletic things had completed this year’s London Marathon in 4:43:53) and Steve Naylor (who, at the age of 32 and in only his second full season of club running, has become somewhat of a local celebrity by pretty much winning every race Oxfordshire has to offer) – so it was no surprise that there were a few running-related conversations.
With Juneathon on, I had taken my kit, looking forward to running somewhere our of Witney for a change. Steve had brought his kit too and I was excited about the prospect of going for a run with the Steve Naylor. Oli had also got his kit in the car but wasn’t so enthusiastic about joining us and Margaret was leaving her options open, having described to us a 5 mile loop, as we all headed for some sleep.
When the sound of the rain was accompanied by a text from Steve, who’d been trying to sleep in a tent, saying “Rain check on the run. Things a bit wet over here + been up since 6am ish” the excitement drained and with it, took any motivation to go out in the wind and rain. An hour later, and having just used the in-room coffee & tea making facilities to make The Wife a cup of tea I got another text:
“Dan, f*** it. I’m going to pop out for a run. You nearby..fancy it?”
The excitement and motivation couldn’t get back in my body quick enough. I was like a kid who’d just been told he could play out in the snow! So I replied, playing it cool:
“Go on then. I’ll get changed and come to you. See you in 5.”
We decided, on Rich’s advice (Gemma’s husband, Margaret’s son and birthday boy himself too) not to tackle the 5 miler described by Margaret but instead headed off through the village to see what we could find. The first couple of k were nice and flat which allowed me to just about keep up with Steve’s toned-down, warm-up pace. As someone used to running alone, it was a whole new experience for me, trying to maintain a conversation at the same time as gasping for air!
As we left the village at the 3k mark we started to ascend. At first not too steep and I felt good but I could feel myself slowing losing momentum. I urged myself on past the point where I would have stopped if was on my own to show to Steve that a) I was thankful for his company on a run that must have felt like running on the spot to him and b) that I wasn’t completely rubbish at the thing that he is so amazing at! I’m glad I did as the undulations allowed me to compose myself again and continued.
We turned right onto Canada Coombe, the ascent and undulations continuing. The legs were getting tired now. Steve decided to scout out the summit of the present hill (or rather, do some proper running allowing me to try to recover!) and report back, hopefully with the news that there was a cable car round the corner that would take us to the top or maybe a taxi to take us home!
I plodded on and watched aghast as Steve’s true pace was presented to me. Now, I know Steve is quick. I’ve watched him a number of times – from his first ever race where he unexpectedly but comfortably took the win, to the Bupa 10000 last month where he finished 22nd out of 10000 runners and only 90 seconds off GB olympian Mo Farah – but never before have I realised just how quick he is. Maybe it’s because I had a much clearer reference point: he had just run along with me, round the same corners, up the same hills, and as I was beginning to slow, he had just disappeared into the distance at Warp Speed 9!
Luckily for me, as I stopped to catch my breath and give my legs a rest, Steve had quickly managed to work out that this hill just kept on going and returned, just as quickly as he’d left, telling me to turn around and enjoy some downhill running back to the village.
It was brilliant. I felt the most knackered of any 5km I had ever run but it was great. I felt like a competition winner who’d won the chance to have a kick about with David Beckham or a sparring session with David Haye. I was a little star struck. I knew that our run was nothing like the real thing but at the top of that hill I had got a glimpse of it.
So thank you Steve: for deciding to go out in the rain anyway, for allowing a mere mortal to run with you, for patiently running with me and for stretching me just that bit further than I would have done myself.