Today, I was out walking with my hubby in the hills near where we live. For those that know Northern England, this was the Pennine hills. We parked at Greenfield, walked along the canal to Diggle, then over the tops to Marsden, from where we got a train back to Greenfield – 6.6 miles in all.
Much to my delight, as we began to rise out of Diggle we came across some runners. They were running back towards Diggle, and we learned that this was what is known as the cake race: http://www.fellrunner.org.uk/races.php?id=4914. It works out as just shy of 10 miles, which is quite a run over the hills. According to the Manchester Evening News (http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/oldham-saddleworth-runners-cook-up-7111366), some of the runners also bake cakes, which are judged while they are running, and which entitles them to run for free.
I don’t run these days, not that I was ever a fell runner. I used to run for the train when I worked for the University of Leeds, because I always left the office too late and so it became a necessity. It was when still working in Leeds that I started noticing the pain in my right hip as I charged along towards the station. At first, it felt as if my right buttock was going into spasm. It wasn’t until much later that I realised it was all part and parcel of the start of arthritis.
These days, I walk with two poles, which makes me very trendy. Almost Nordic, you might say. It is recommended for arthritic hips, as it helps to take some of the strain off the joint – though I have to say, that when mucking about and taking all my weight on my poles last august, I managed to injure my shoulder, just before going off to New Zealand to support my daughter who was having twins and needed help with her two-year-old. D’oh!
Anyway, back to today. I have to admit that most of the runners were men, and in a certain age group – but I was delighted to see a few women among them. I made a point of congratulating each one as she passed. I do hope I did not sound patronising in my feeble attempts at solidarity.
And then, my heroine appeared. I have no idea what she is called, but she gave me permission to take her pic and use it in my blog. OK, she was fairly near the back, but what an inspiration!
As it happens, I was recently listening to BBC radio 4 (we are so blessed to have intelligent radio in the UK!), and I learned something staggering about women and long distance running, so I followed it up with my own research. According to one seemingly reliable source (http://www.marathonguide.com/history/olympicmarathons/chapter25.cfm) it was not until the 1980s that women’s long distance races were included in the olympics – a fact I find staggering! Prior to that, the longest women’s race was the 1500 metres, and that was only introduced in 1972! Women were deemed too fragile and weak to run very far. Sadly, it seems that women are still rare in the longer and more arduous races, despite the fact that we now thankfully know they are not too weak to run.
Whether or not we choose to enter long distance running races, exercise is so important as you get older, and never more so than when you have some of the conditions we associate with ageing as a woman, like osteoarthritis and osteoporosis. I didn’t want to hold up this wonderful woman by interviewing her, and so I don’t know her motivation for running.
What I do know, is that number 51 is blazing a trail, whether she realises it or not. All I can do is walk in her shadow, and feel pleased with my average of 2.5 miles an hour, over a total of 6.6 miles.