By Terry Welsh
That was no road trip for old men,
Although we did use our concessionary bus passes.
It was a voyage for unageing spirits, who met at Heworth at seven on a freezing Saturday morning to board the southbound Greyhound. It was an expedition to go and run in the legendary Albert Park, to the fabled glades where North East Park Running is said to have begun and the times are always fast.
We headed for Highway 19 with the lower deck of the bus to ourselves, but you only need three Claremont Roadrunners to start a party ;we cheered the young sun as it chased dark veils from the day; then we were rolling down the road, looking at the mackerel coloured sea, and the green fields and woodlands still teeming with the seasons wildlife; then after hailing the fiery towers of Hartlepool, we gazed on the smoking grandeur of Teeside, set before the magnificence of the Cleveland Hills and the Moors of North Yorkshire; in Stockton we passed a bridge called Infinity and roared beyond it along wide glistening boulevards.
And there we crossed the River Tees
And came to the holy city of Middlesbrough.
From the bus station it was twenty minutes walk to the Park, down a shuttered street which was just awakening into teeming cosmopolitan metropolitan life. We were on our way to race in a Claremont vest, and the anticipation, amid the sights and sounds of the Middlesbrough Saturday morning was making our souls clap their hands and sing.
Then we came into the Park where the Run’s route lay waiting. Surrounded by great manmade things of iron, steel and concrete, Albert Park is Nature giving an arrogant laugh at paltry things and showing off what it can make. We were part of a mosaic of many coloured leaves , tinged today with frosts and runners vests . The Park looked like it was not part of Nature after all but fashioned by goldsmiths with hammered gold and gold enamelling, and painted with heraldic colour so that it could sing to the Park Runners of Middlesbrough.
There was a smiling welcome at the visitors centre. We were shown a warm place to get ready and to leave our bags and shown where to get coffee afterwards. We met Luke Jones, our recent Claremont handicap winner who had made his own way there.
We ran the race, laps past trees in their autumn beauty, along dry woodland paths, around a lake where under the November morning light the brimming water mirrored a still red sky; and on the lake, laughing at us were watching graceful swans
You know those dark grim days when you have the desire to be out running but your spirit feels that it is fastened to a hibernating animal that wants to remain under warm blankets, or by a comfortable fire with a laptop and a smart phone. Dreams and memories of days like this day in a magical place like Middlesbrough will nourish your spirit and give it the strength to pull your howling body on its leash through the door, rather than just sit waiting for it to die so it can soar away free.
We finished full of an ebullient vitality which made us want to shout to the whole world about how glorious it was to feel young and strong and to run for your club. We went roaring back to the delights of Middlesbrough town centre and showed them all how Claremont boys have a good time.
Middlesbrough. Worth a road trip.
( thank you to Mr W B Yeats for additional dialogue)