I have, as you know, run my fair share of Saxon, Viking, Norman (SVN) races over the years. Looking back at the Alice in Wonderland Caucus Race (prep for Copenhagen), Punk Run (winding down from Stones), and Gothic Challenge (getting the legs working for TGC) they are useful as a way of damping down the fires of maranoia by proving to myself that I can, I will and I shall. Ordinarily. The Yorkshire Double Marathon Weekend of Cakeathon and Chocathon is just that. It is a way of convincing myself that I can run marathon distance on consecutive days with the spectre of Fire and Ice Ultra on the horizon. I know, I know, I did run Tower over 2 days and therefore have done it, but that was last year, and this year I had planned to up my game at Pilgrims with two days of 33 miles and came up a day short there. So…
I have also run a lot in Yorkshire (relatively speaking). Thinking back I ran the Great Yorkshire 10K in Sheffield as my 3rd ever race. I ran the York 10K too, and more recently Hull and Yorkshire Marathons, the Hell on the Humber lap race across the bridge, the Gunpowder Plot 10K with Luke and his boys, and most recently a parkrun in Leeds. I like running there, and am always glad to see my northern peeps.
The plan was simple. Leave work early to get train to Penistone via Sheffield from St Pancras on the Friday, check into the B&B that is 10 mins from the station and 5 from the race HQ/Start/Finish, food with local people, next day big fry up, lounge then complete my second Cakeathon Marathon, pub, food, sleep in comfy B&B, get up, complete Chocathon Marathon with the peeps at their pace, lift to Sheffield, and train to St Pancras home and in time to blog before bed…. But, and this is where the story really starts, this weekend could not have gone more wrong.
On Friday, leaving work early (as I did for Nottingham Christmas Marathon), getting crap for leaving work early (as I did for Nottingham Christmas Marathon) and catching the Northern line to St Pancras (as I did for Nottingham Christmas Marathon) when I arrived the entire departures board was cancelled (as it was for the Nottingham Christmas Marathon) with no idea of when the trains would start running again (as per the Nottingham Christmas Marathon), and so I called the hotel/B&B that I had booked 2 nights for (as bla-bla-bla), to say I wouldn’t be up, and walked home as per…. you get the idea, with the plan on going the next morning.
The Night Of
This was ultimately the turning point, as overnight, after a evening spent chatting with my (sick) housemate about tapering Venlafaxine I woke early on the Saturday coughing my lungs out. No other symptoms though, this was not a total disaster, and so, after repacking for one less night in Penistone (tee-hee) I headed back to the Panc for a 3 hour train ride oop North.
I like trains. I travel a lot by train to races, it is ordinarily a civilised, calming mode of transport. The trip to Sheffield was just that. Plenty of free seats. I shared a table for 4 with just one guy who, despite us both having the window seat, sat in the aisle so we could stretch out and read. The onward journey from Sheffield to Penistone was less pleasant. A 3 carriage bone rattler, it was already filled when it arrived at Barnsley Interchange, a staging post for nightclubs in the cities where scantily clad women supped blue WKD as their menfolk attempted to stay buttoned in their overly tight dress shirts whilst noisily and boisterously working their way through a four pack of Strongbow Dark Fruit. They would turn the train into a loud, shouty, and genuinely not fun Hell hole for the next half hour until I finally escaped and found myself in Penistone (tee-hee).
Probably would make a good episode of Dr Who or Sapphire and Steel. Time has forgotten it for sure. The only places open when I arrived were a small Co-op, opposite a mid-sized Spa, right next to a large (relatively speaking) Tesco, oh and a Greggs.
My room was basically the main bedroom in what was someone’s house. There was no en suite, and the bedding had been washed with so much conditioner, or dried with so many drier sheets that the aroma of whatever it was supposed to be (summer meadows, alpine valleys, a detergent aisle at a supermarket) that it made my eyes burn as I tried to get some sleep as I now had started to feel the cold taking hold and was thoroughly bunged up as well as coughing.
I decided to have a cup of tea and a biscuit (Custard cream and Bourbon clones) first though, after my journey. The UHT cartons were lumpy. Now the thing about Ultra Heat Treated milk in my experience of it, is that it has all the goodness boiled out of it and is effectively white water that would last long into the zombie apocalypse.
This had actually curdled. As I binned all the cartons one after another I opened the biscuits and they did not taste right at all. Apparent custard creams tasted of old caramel and worn insoles, and they fell apart when in the air like ancient parchment. I checked the date…
This was going well and so I went to bed.
The Night Of
I woke coughing and spluttering in time for a pint or two with one of the local peeps down at the White Hart, the only pub offering food that gets over-booked and so full they send people across the road to the curry house opposite, or sort of garam masala scented drip tray. We wanted beer though, and a curry would not have gone down well the day before a 6 hour lap race and so persisted. Although there was no food even being ordered until after 8 o’clock due to the throng in the restaurant. This, despite it being a mild annoyance, was tolerable.
What was intolerable was that, when I finally got to bed, an all night illegal rave was taking place in Langsett a few miles away and the high speed thudding could be heard as is coming from next door. Initially I genuinely thought it was coming from next door and was ready to go and complain, but no, on private land a local event company was acting like it was 1992 again. It meant, along with coughing up all manner of goop every time I moved, the eye burning bedding and now the constant drums beating their way over “God’s own country” I got virtually no sleep at all. And a sick and tired Knees is not a happy Knees.
Day two and I had decided to not run. There were options available to me. This was a SVN race and I could have just walked one lap for the medal and goody bag, but why? I had spent close to £300 on a B&B, train tickets and 2 marathons, as well as food and sundry items and a bag of chocolate/beer/crisps and a walking medal just wouldn’t fix it for me. And so I met up with the team of Rich Hayes, Rachel and Ant at the start.
And this was the real reason for coming all this way. I hadn’t see Rich for 4 years, not since the last good Running Awards, Ant since St Wales 2018 and Rach since the Big Half. I have said it before, this year, as with most years, it is the people that make the races. I treasure my time with the good ones, and lament the sometimes years that pass between meet ups. Well, maybe not the years…
I was in no state to do anything, so used the time to catch up on as much as possible, discuss future plans, and then it was the race brief and they were off as I slowly made my way to the station via Greggs to plan what should have been a straight forward journey home.
The Way Back
The cold was now an eye burning, nose blocking, tickly throat enticing mucus fest and everything ached from the small of my back to my knees but I paid for a new ticket to get me home to my bed. It was all I wanted as I climbed aboard the bone rattler in time to see Rich, Rach and Ant all go back to complete first half of their first lap. Rich would go on to win, Rach would complete her 7th marathon and Ant would have run decent distances on both days. Well done team, at least they kept our averages up.
I, however, had a nightmare ahead of me. The train to Sheffield, and the Penistone connection on the way up were on platform 2 and 3A, next to each other and there was a 35 minute wait. The train from Penistone to Sheffield came into 3A and the London train was on 6, and only had 6 minutes between them, and the bone rattler had stopped twice outside of Sheffield, so that was even less, forcing me to leg it, skipping the chance of grabbing something to eat and drink at the station cafe before the 3 hour leg back to London.
Or, it should have been a 3 hour leg. After one stop the “fast” train got stuck behind a stopping service. The “quiet” carriage was descended upon by a middle aged stag do already leathered at noon as the train crawled it’s way to Nottingham. It was here, after half an hour of sitting on a platform, that we were told that the train would no longer be going to St Pancras and that no trains would be due to power lines coming down in the Cricklewood area. The train would be terminating at Luton Airport Parkway. The collective groan from the passengers could apparently be heard from space.
People were staying on, and I ummed and arred between coughing fits, as I could catch the Thameslink from Luton Airport Parkway to West Hampstead, and then walk home from there. That, however, would be dependent on the Cricklewood issue not affecting the Thameslink too. There was an alternative though, coming over the tannoy and made by the French conductor. We could change here and go to Grantham, and from there catch a train to Kings Cross. Hussar!
I jumped off the train just in time to see it slowly leave the station and went to find a departures board to see where I could catch the Grantham train from. One slight downside, there was no such train on the display. I did that whole, this is page 1 of 3, maybe it is on the other pages, wait, wait, wait, cross fingers, nope. I found a member of station staff and they said there was a bus to Grantham outside of the station.
When I got outside a gleaming white coach was utterly full and the beleaguered driver was dealing with the masses who wanted to get on. We needed to wait for the next bus, and that bus we would need to wait until it was full.
Two came at the same time, a mini-bus and a coach. The coach arrived first and its Pitbull impersonator of a driver would not move to let the smaller bus take the first slot. After all, the number of people waiting would have filled the smaller vehicle and we could have been on our way a full 45 minutes sooner that we actually did.
The bus ride, and I get motion sickness on buses ordinarily, but with concern about seeing my home again, and my ever worsening cold, I did not on this occasion, took 40 minutes until we hit Grantham. Grantham, from what I can tell, is a traffic jam. We sat in a line of stationary traffic for what seemed like the rest of the day, before coming to a roundabout where no one was giving way to any of the vehicles attempting to join the party. Pitbull was having none of it, and with a consummate amount of skill, forced the bus around it and into the next jam, at the entry/exit of a small retail park where the people of Grantham will soon be able to enjoy the discounted bulk buying joy that is Iceland. Those exiting the park eased the front corners of their cars into the oncoming line of traffic and we enjoyed a stationary life for the next ten minutes before racing into the station car park, injured our spine taking off over the speed bumps and sprinting through the station to find out we had missed the planned London train and now had a 20 minute wait for the next. Time to finally get something to eat and drink, dispose of mucus soaked tissues and make use of the platform toilets for welcome sanitary relief.
The train, as it was, was quite empty at the back. I had originally waited at the absolute front but for some reason wanted to be as far away as possible from my fellow passengers as I coughed up a lung. I found a window seat at a table. No one joined us at Peterborough and within 90 minutes we had made it to London in one piece taking my journey time including the Northern line and brief walk in the sun to 6 hours instead of the originally planned three. Lord knows what would have happened if I had actually run the 6 hour race, I would probably still be somewhere in Yorkshire now, eating mouldy biscuits with a bunch of ravers still off their tits.
Luckily I believe in Karma. This weekend may have been a disaster of Frank Spencer proportions but this is the sort of shit that tests your patience. I am more upset with being sick that anything else. It reminded me of the Lloyd Cole song “It was a lost weekend, in a hotel in Amsterdam, with double pneumonia, and a single room.”
The money wasted? Meh.
I did get to see Rich, Rach and Ant. That was good. It did feel like a wasted weekend at times, and I am currently writing this in bed surrounded by cold meds. But I have a fortnight until Hannover marathon and that is my focus now. This was so shit that that one will be amazing, PB all the way, happy, beer drenched, sunny, relaxed and everything I need to counter Penistone (tee-hee). We shall just have to see.