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A Brathay Baptism

In the name of the father, son...

The View This Morning

Bathed in sunshine we were last year, even in 2017 when I did the Windermere Marathon the weather was balmy, when we did the training runs in January 2018 and 19 it wasn't bucketing it down, but pretty much all the way round we've been rained on. Annointed with holy H20, that's day one complete. Tenuous link perhaps but thanks for the 'baptism', John (although not John the Baptist). The plan for the next few days is to pace myself and take it easy, the idea being that if I rein it in, I'll last longer before injury (which fingers crossed won't happen, but you have to have contingencies). Even with the rain, it has been a beautiful day and I've tried to take a little more notice of my surroundings, the sights, the smells, the sounds, even salivate at the idea of fish finger butties (marathon recovery ambrosia) slathered in tomato ketchup.

There is a great atmosphere here and everyone is nicely primed, there's no one-up-manship, in fact I don't think I've heard anyone ask each other about times. As any runner will know, we all say we're not bothered, we run for the enjoyment but if we were absolutely truthful we all compare times with one another. You even see it at Park Run, there's those that go for the first time but when (hopefully) they return it's always about goig faster than their previous best. There seems to be none of that at the moment, the atmosphere seems focused on appreciating that today is simply part of a larger collective of other days. By the way if you've never done a Park Run, think you aren't fit enough or don;t have enough time, live in the moment, sign up and do it tomorrow.

I promise you Windermere is beautiful in the rain, from various vantage points today it was as if a fine silver veil had been drawn across distant parts of the lake, then a glance later it had been lifted almost so that you could peer into the distance and towards 'home'. Dibbing (starting) last, the goal set for today was to very stealthily and gently ease into Brathay about thirty or 40 minutes slower than the fastest I've run around the course. Mission accomplished. 4 hours 30 minutes and 2 seconds (see how times become 'important', even when it's not intended). Let's hope I can replicate the day tomorrow. Strange to think that four hours ago it was chucking it down and now Brathay is showered in the rays of a warm, glow of spring sunshine, sitting by the window and taking it all in it feels like I have pulled on some comfy slippers and wrapped myself in a woollen throw before sinking into my favourite armchair and nodding off for a grandad nap.

See 'comfy socks' and sunshine.

All of the children were out at Hawkshead today, those five to ten year olds with their hands outstetched for high-fives lift your spirits. They also pull at your heart-strings too as they serve as a reminder for my three. I always find that a good dousing of rain clears the air, to me everything smells so much cleaner, fresher, like washed salad leaves, or a hosed off recently cut lawn.

Caught short around mile 10, my new favourite friends are Stott Park Bobbin Mill, who kindly let me use their facilities. 'Pit stop' as Guido (Cars) would say and back to the job in hand. At mile 15 there's the unmistakable call of the cuckoo and I smile. Not a fake, transitory, glib, insincere smile but a satisfying tingle in the toes and a prickle of the hairs on the back of my head smile. I've not heard a cuckoo in years. Whether you enjoy it or not, to me its a joy, a call to poke childish fun at others, like when you babble and coo at a baby, I enjoy the sound. The next few miles feel light, only 6 or 7 miles to go and just after Windermere Marina I notice the three trees which a fellow runner has labelled the three apostles, he remarks that he always touches the bark as he passes them, on this occasion I follow suit. Soon after I pass a young couple out walking their baby, you can hear him or her in their perambulator cooing and testing their voice out, the parents are chatting and smiling at one another, I pass them in the opposite direction and 2 metres after I pass them there is the distinct fragrance of baby, no, not poo, that smell of newness, innocence, clean untainted skin, untarnished by life and loved by parents who appear at ease with their life choices. I hope they grow old happily together.

One of the reasons I thoroughly enjoy being part of Brathay, the event, the charity is that I'm doing something worthwhile, I feel like I'm contributing. Hopefully, an unburdening of guilt for the lies, the drinking and the wasteland of my past. We heard in the training weekend of the person born into a third generation of unemployed alcoholic parents and how Brathay through intervention are helping this young man by helping him build his character traits and life skills to hopefully make the right choices to get out of the situation he had no part in creating. We heard of the young women abused by their own father figures, now scarred by the darker side of life but Brathay are helping to provide tools of resilience, determination and choice to allow these women to hopefully help them to distance themselves from that imposed situation and create a lives far removed from that horror. Children are innocent in all of this, surely we should do right by them, want, hope and try to provide the best for them however we can. Choosing to raise funds for Brathay hopefully will help in some small way for the future. Another reason for my second Brathay adventure takes me back 33 years (yes I am that old). Depsite being school football captain, I was never selected for the District or County, yet I was told I was a good footballer. I loved the game, still do. Around the time I left school at 16 a trial was arranged for me at Rochdale FC, my Mum and one of my best friends, Debbie Smith went up to Rochdale for the day for me to 'try-out', I was invited back for a further week-long trial a month later. The atmosphere was amazing, I got to clean the boots of the brother of Peter Reid (at the time Everton captain), in 1986 this was my tenuous link to someone famous, as Shaun Reid certainly wasn't a household name, not even in Rochdale. We painted the stanchions in the standing areas at Spotland, cleaned the changing rooms, ate chip barm cakes, made tea for the professionals and trained, lots of training. I went from being one of the slowest there to one of the quickest in the space of 5 days. I loved bunking up in my lodgings, seeing the 'Pros' in their flip flops and shorts, listening to all of the banter, getting screamed at for a stray pass or poor control in training. At the end of week one I was invited to stay on for another week so that they could have a 'better look' at me. I remember spending the weekend in Padiham rather than go home to Derbyshire and returning Monday morning, travelling to training on the bus (where one of my early memories was catching the eye of an auburn haired lass; nothing came of it, she could have been the love of my life, if only I hadn't been so shy). Sweeping the changing rooms out, the running (especially around the reservoir in the hills), the training, I loved it. Did I do well? We played one game, I played 30 minutes. In the two weeks I received no feedback. New players came in, young lads known to the coach, known within the area. Nervously I approached the Youth Coach on Friday afternoon, with a lame 'what happens next?'. We sat in the stands looking out over the pitch directly opposite the centre circle not far from the Directors' Box. 'Well, son' he said, 'you've got a great engine but there are a few minor improvements you need to make, you need to improve your passing, your shooting, your heading, your control, your touch, your off the ball running, your running with the ball, your positional sense, you need to play more often to get more experience, but you've got a great engine.' And that was that, basically I wasn't a footballer, I was a runner. Unfortunately, I wasn't the best in the county or district at that either. So 33 years on, I'm part of something again, no, I'm not 'winning' but I'm part of a winning team and proud of it.

In the tradition of runners before me who have dedicated each run of their Ten in Ten to someone special in their life, today I dedicate my run to my Dad, who through actions, not words has demonstrated honour, dedication and devotion to his wife and family for over fifty years.

The chorus at the finish line was 'The Sun will Come Out Tomorrow' from Annie (it's in your head isn't it, you are silently singing and smiling).

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