Every year I read with bewilderment the reports for Brampton-Carlisle. As far as I can tell it involves running from one town to another town along main roads that aren’t closed. What’s the attraction of this bafflingly popular event that every year entices dozens of Striders to head west for this tiresome 10 miles of tarmac? Perhaps it was time I found out. So this year I entered this decidedly unappetising sounding race.
When the coach pulled into Brampton I had to admit it wasn’t the grimy little town I’d expected. I followed Angela who seemed to know by sixth sense where chip registration was and a chirpy series of signs directed us along the corridors to a hall with well-organised queues for the timing chips. Signs. Nice. Enjoy them while you can.
Chipped and numbered I set off to look for the baggage bus. There were lots of coaches but none were announcing themselves as a baggage bus so I followed some runners with baggage who seemed to queueing with purpose at one particular coach. I negotiated the gridlock, got on the coach, and put my bag on the, well, the baggage rack. Crazy thinking I know, right outside the box. Back through the chaotic contraflow to get out the coach and then some hanging around before kick-off.
The start of the race was a big jolly affair but things went pretty much downhill after that. A few timing chips scrunched underfoot as I set off with Barrie, Sue and Angela at the back of the field before I tentatively tested my knee and began progressing through the field. As George says, when you start at the back and steadily pass people you rather tend to think you’re doing a lot better and going a lot faster than you really are. The Garmin doesn’t lie though, and I could see that my 1:20 goal (8 min/miles) was an unrealistic target and at an unmaintainable pace.
What’s there to say about the course? What’s not to like? What is to like? Er, nothing. Lots of roads, traffic, exhaust, noise, roads, cars, pavements, and roads. My race went ok and my knee was completely pain-free for this first time in several few months so although slower than I would’ve liked I was reasonably happy. The marshalls were generally very encouraging and it seemed to me they had a pretty tough job with this course dealing with irate and impatient runners and drivers at the numerous side-junctions. I didn’t envy them their jobs. Good crowd at the finish funnel with most vocal support coming from Greta and Alister.
After finishing and watching while the remaining Striders came in (great sprint finish between Sue and Angela) I started wondering where the luggage was. No signs, no arrows, nowt. I knelt down and put my ear to the ground and heard ‘squash courts’ mentioned. So where were the squash courts? I wandered into the sports centre, out again, then in again, and followed people without luggage until I eventually found the squash courts. What I didn’t find was my bag. I was disconcerted as I hadn’t expected the bags to be unloaded; I thought we’d all just pile back on the coach and locate our own in true GNR style. In a moment of post-race clarity I realised at once what had happened. I was probably the only person to put their bag on the baggage rack, and on the baggage rack, on the coach, is probably where it still lay. No problem. Let’s find the coach.
I didn’t find the coach, but I did find Ken, the organiser, who seemed to want to walk through the script for Airplane. He kept asking which coach I’d arrived on, and I kept saying it was a Gillingham’s one from Durham but that wasn’t important just now. My baggage wasn’t on my coach, it was on the baggage bus. He sucked air in through his teeth and I thought he was going to tell me I needed something very expensive done to my car but instead he cheerfully told me that the coach had gone, and not just round the corner neither. We headed into the sports centre on a fact finding mission; what was the name of the coach company, and how could I get in touch with them? Apparently there were two baggage coaches, from two companies. After a few fruitless phone calls to unanswered phone numbers and voicemails left, I was still none the wiser.
Still, our coach was here and ready to take us to the pub, where a plucky waitress (“we were expecting you, just not all at once”) did a pretty decent job of cheerfully and single-handedly dealing with a sudden influx of hungry and thirsty runners. Wish she’d been organising the race. On the journey back to Durham cosily ensconced in Alister’s Hoodie (nice fabric softener) the rotund ray of sunshine that is our regular Gillingham coach driver only found occasion to shout at another driver once, so all in all it was quite a soothing end to the day.
Today my phone rings and it’s Liam from Messengers coaches. They’ve found my bag! Excellent. Until this moment I’d been pretty mellow about the whole business. Mistakes are made, accidents happen, Alister bought me beer and lent me his hoodie, nobody died. But when Liam then asked me if I wanted him to ‘dig out a price’ for posting my bag back to me, my goodwill evaporated. He rang off saying he’d leave me to think about what I wanted to do next. I thought if they’d done what they were meant to do, this wouldn’t have happened. Perhaps they could have offered to split the postage with me, as a gesture of goodwill. Perhaps they could have said sorry; a simple apology goes a long way. Just perhaps, they could have admitted that they were, in some way, responsible.
Still, who cares. Four hours and about 20 quids worth of diesel later and and I’m just back from a round trip to Carlisle. I’ve got my bag back, with its de-registered Kindle, cancelled credit cards and cold coffee. I had begun to think the chances of ever seeing it again were about as likely as Kathryn giving up her seat on a bus, but all’s well that ends well. Despite this race having no redeeming features whatsoever I shall no doubt have forgotten about it all in a year’s time and be back for more.
|1||YARED HAGOS||Wallsend Harriers||M||0:47:51|
|35||DANIELLE HODGKINSON||Wallsend Harriers||F||1||0:58:33|