I’m coming back again!

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(The ups and downs of 30 years of running)
By Rob Kersey

I started running in 1982 when we were about to move up to Cartworth Moor from Shepley and with only one car and no bus service to Cartworth Moor the only way Den and the boys would not be isolated without transport was for me to get to work in Shepley under my own steam, so thought I’d try to run.

Rob Pennine Marathon

Finishing at Pennine Marathon,
absolutely shattered
Got time down to 2:52:28 in 1988

Starting off by running to work and Den collecting me in the evening and then progressing to sometimes running both ways (with a rucksack of clothes) quickly built up my running base and by 1984 having joined Holmfirth Harriers I had already run a Half Marathon at Catterick in about 1:36 and the very tough Pennine Marathon on a scorching July day in 3:36:51.

In 1984 I was ready to try a few more races, first the Calverley half Marathon, which I completed in a respectable 1:22:50 quickly followed by the Huddersfield Marathon (on which I got lost due to lack of marshals and did an extra half mile with lots of wandering about) in 3:27:00; Ipswich Marathon in 2:55:03; Leeds Marathon in 2:59:27; Holmfirth 15 in 1:32:26 and Denby Dale 6 in 35:00 all in that first year. At the time I felt like a real runner and over racing and recovery time never entered my head!

As far as I can recall the Harriers tended to run as one group of 4 to 25 runners at that time, all men unless Carol Haigh joined us, for what was, for me at least, eyeballs out training just to keep up. Over the next 4 years I continued to run Marathons and Half Marathons regularly (2 marathons and up to 6 half marathons per year) with the odd 20 mile, the club 15 and a very occasional 10K.

Rob Holmfirth 15

Holmfirth 15 1:28:10, 79th!

Highlights were my 2:00:44 for 20 miles, 1:28:10 for 15 and 2:40:40 for the marathon. In 1986 I ran the Spen 20, York Half Marathon, Huddersfield Marathon and London Marathon (including those best times above) in one mad 6 week period. What the heck, I was only 35, flying and felt great. Pride comes before a fall! Three weeks later I started with a foot niggle that gradually got worse and then kept me out for 4 months and it took another 4 months of gradual rehab before I dared race again.

I came back a more cautious runner taking better care of my running body and apart from twisted ankles keeping me out for a week or two at regular intervals had no more problems till March 1989 when poor technique rolling in kayaks in very cold water caused a recurring back injury. While I was able to run between bouts I was never able to get fit enough to race and virtually gave up till 1992.

Giving up white water canoeing allowed my back to recover and by August I had started running regularly and struggled round my first race for over 3 years, the old Almondbury 10K.

Over the next 4 years I continued to run and race without problem but now mainly shorter races, 10K’s, on the road plus a few fell races for variety. All went well till November ’96 when another ankle injury while training on the moors caused ligament and tendon damage that, mostly due to an initial incorrect diagnosis, despite loads of physio, kept me out till June ’98. In the end a visit to the Podiatry Dept. at Huddersfield University sorted the problem out and I would recommend them if anyone has foot or lower leg problems that won’t clear up.

By 1999, now approaching 50 I was back injury free and over the next 5 years really hit what I still consider as my ‘Purple Patch’. It wasn’t so much that I was running quicker but just that it seemed I wasn’t slowing down as quickly as my age group competitors. In fact I went from 28:18 for 5 miles; 35:04 for 6 miles; 36:24 for 10K; 61:10 for 10 miles in 1999 to 28:48 for 5 miles; 36:30 for 6; 36:34 for 10K; 61:44 for 10 miles in 2005. Thereafter the rate of decline occurred more rapidly but I was still fairly competitive in my age group and generally happy with my running till disaster struck during the last lap of a WYCC race in November 2009. I was chasing Chris Beadle who had just past me when a calf muscle tore and I had to hobble the last half lap to the finish. Several weeks of treatment seemed to clear it up but then in August 2010 the Achilles went on the same leg and another 8 weeks out. 2011 and 2012 were definite lows. Each time I tried to come back I would last about 6 weeks before the problem would return. The physio improved it but could not get rid of it and I was basically told there was no more that could be done, at least with ‘normal’ treatments.

Convinced by now I was not going to run again and thoroughly fed up I bought a bike thinking I could, in the winter at least, cycle round the routes on club nights but then decided to give the Podiatry Dept. at the University another try. Removal of orthotics and several sessions of acupuncture combined with lots of stretching quickly led to a major improvement and I was allowed to start gentle running again in June 2013. Not totally cured but able to run again without hobbling for 3 days afterwards was wonderful and I’ve gradually built up again to about 10miles at a reasonable pace. I still have to stretch the Achilles 3 or 4 times a day and if I increase speed, hill work or distance I still get those warning signs the next day but so far, after 8 months, it’s good enough to enjoy getting out again on club nights, Sunday runs with the ‘Philpott’ group, runs on the moors with the dog and a few races even if at a somewhat reduced pace.

Rob YCCC 2014

YCCC 2014

Those that run with me will know that I now squeak as I run but that’s another story!

So why have I written this? Well I guess I know:

I also know that I am not alone amongst club members who continue to run in some form or another, sometimes long after they have been told to stop or that they will never run again. They continue to try to run, maybe not as fast or as far as previously and perhaps with an awkward gate and many a grimace and groan during and especially after running but they run.

In periods when they can’t run many of them give to the club in other ways; they are (Holmfirth) Harriers after all.

So all you young(er) runners out there remember things will sometimes go wrong, injuries are to be overcome, it’s always worth making a comeback, your fellow club members will always be pleased to welcome you back with encouragement and a few jokes, any running is better than no running and times when you can’t run are opportunities to do more for your club.

Pleased to be back, again!


Copyright Holmfirth Harriers Athletics Club 2012