On Sunday I was one of 4000 runners, joggers and walkers proudly taking part in just about the biggest day of the year in these parts, the Sabic Tees Pride 10k. Although I could never describe the actual act of running as enjoyable, endurance would be more applicable, being part of that crowd out on the roads is a wonderful feeling. The relief of seeing that finishing line and the sense of achievement as you cross it is a personal triumph. I wouldn’t swap it for the world.
A couple of years ago I had to make a choice between singing in a club in Berlin and running the Middlesbrough 10k as it was then called. The fact that I agonised before making the decision might show just how much this day means to myself and the thousands of runners and spectators that make this one of the highlights in the annual calendar in Middlesbrough or the whole area.
There was a buzz of excitement and anticipation along the old avenue of trees on Hall Drive, Acklam as runners assembled and clipped their race numbers to their chests. Is it just me that finds it impossible to pin four corners of a paper number to their own chest? Hmm, perhaps it is.
There was such a mass of people, first to watch the 3k and then to participate in the warm up which took on a light hearted feel courtesy of comedian Patrick Monahan. Pat had been out collecting for Zoe’s Place around the 3k route and would hug his way around the 10k also. There were so many vests with charity names on them, some national, many local and often very personal messages make for a colourful, moving and also uplifting backdrop.
Then it was out onto the road itself, taking care to start in front of any emu’s, ostrich’s, or guerrillas. And making sure it stays that way. A couple of years ago I was passed by a nun and a pink panther, at the 9km mark, the energy just ebbed right out of my legs. I still haven’t quite shaken off the feeling of shame.
Yesterday the sun was shining down on an event the entire community came out to embrace. There were 4000 people running the 10k, add to that all the children running 3k and the thousands more folk lining the entire route cheering everyone on and it is a massive day now for Middlesbrough.
As well as the people lining the route, bands played at intervals to lift our spirits. The first kilometre flag is passed along Acklam Road, I recall seeing a teenage girl dropping out at this point one year. I think she had rapidly regretted filling her race “water bottle” with coca cola.
Ladgate Lane offers shade beneath the trees but also a really testing hill past the lay-bye where the Slip Inn stood many moons ago. A change of direction at Marton Crossroads is always a boost as was the sight our mam and dad waving at the corner. I didn’t realise the camera clicking was my friend Tracy capturing a moment of suffering?
I wonder how many times I have driven to town along Marton Road over the years I think that is why it is so special to actually run down the middle of this normally so so busy road. By this stage we are counting the kilometre marker flags and trying not to go backwards compared to all the surrounding runners. I try to roughly time how long it has taken to reach each landmark but multi tasking (as demonstrated with the race number) has never been my strong point and I invariably fail to work out my time schedule en route.
A new departure this year was the kids along Keith Road being polite enough to ask first before spraying us with water. Don’t ask just do it, after 7km in that sunshine we needed all the water we could take on board between the feeding stations. Talking of warm, I wonder what temperatures that man running in a suit is now experiencing. Good to see Julie and kids waving us on near the Art College. This year I smiled rather than grimaced. I can’t be trying hard enough.
Its a long run the whole length of Keith Road and Green Lane, with an energy sapping bank at Deepdale to contend with. You think you will never reach Acklam Road but the sound of all the cheering folk either side of the road near Jack Hatfield’s club is a massive pick me up.
Then it is a case of staying power, being driven on by the band at the Coronation and trying to remember how close, not how far, Hall Drive is past Acklam shops. You see at the 8-9k stage it is psychological war fare raging in the runners brain. As you turn into the tree lined Hall Drive, relief turns to something near despair as you realise the finish line isn’t even in sight. I fall for this every year as the road seems to get longer and longer. Then there are the speed bumps to dodge as everyone winds up to a big finish in front of the gallery. Isn’t that Peter, one of the Acklam Parkrunners in front, better try and finish ahead of him. Actually it wasn’t but it gave me the motivation to pick up my pace again, just as I was flagging and lunge towards the line and Alastair Brownlee’s welcoming voice.
Relief! Grab the bottle of water. Catch my breath and swap stories with so many friends old and possibly new ones made on the day. A final word for John Gray, who is one of the faster runners, normally attempting to break the 38 minute barrier but this year injury restricted him to walking round in 1 hour 38 mins. John collected over £100 for Butterwick Hospice. Isn’t that what this community event is all about.
What a day it has been again. Roll on Tees Pride 2014 and hopefully a better time. Fingers crossed.
If you fancy staying fit between Tees Pride annual runs then why not try the 5k parkruns on a Saturday. We are fortunate to have more, well supported parkruns locally than anywhere nationally. Fit town not fat town. Runs start at 9am every Saturday morning at Albert Park, Stewart Park and just over the border at Tees Barrage. Click here for parkrun
Also please come over to Hemlington Lake on a Wednesday teatime. At around 6 to 6.30 Swift-tees meet up for a friendly community session around the lake waters. Some walk, many jog and others exercise with interval training. Followed by a cup of tea afterwards. All invited. Click here for Swift-tees
That’s Tees Pride
Excellent Photos by Tracy Hyman