Wombwell 5, February 2022 – Ben Hales

Mid-February saw the welcome return of Kingstone Runners’ Wombwell five-mile race.

I was determined to do well, as I had set one of my best ever times here in 2020, so as Saturday Night turned into Sunday Morning I felt a little nervous excitement about my first race this year.

Alas, it was wet out. ‘It Always Rains On Sunday’, according that overlooked 1940s novel and film, and precursor to the kitchen-sink realism movement. And here at Wombwell Football Club, with its puddle-filled potholes and rickety stands next to the disused railway line it seemed particularly bleak.

We’re in Barnsley, setting for Barry Hines’ novel A Kestrel for a Knave. Me, Melissa and Simon, three trail running enthusiasts have turned up to this all-road race. It starts on a Go-Kart track, then feeds onto the road to Darfield, known as Snape Hill, a testing climb, the only one.

Or was it? Feeling pleased at making it up okay, me and the runners around me approached a marshall on a corner who assured us “it’s all downhill from here! Except…” I didn’t catch the last bit, but rounding the corner realised that comment was a cruel sort of assurance, as we had another hill to run up. Still, type 2 fun, as they call it, is A Kind of Loving.

Heart pounding by now, I did my best to keep up with the person in front, a Steel City Strider, easing away, but I didn’t mind having a little Room at the Top. Certainly no sense of Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, anyway.

From here I did my best to run fast downhill and hold on when it turned flat around the 4-mile point. A lap of the Go-Kart track and then a battle with another runner in a very fast sprint resulted in a three-way photo-finish and a satisfactory 35:04 chip time. I Looked Back, not so much in Anger, but in mutual respect for the other runner.

Simon was waiting to congratulate me, apparently already recovered, and it wasn’t long to wait to watch Melissa Come Home.