I heaved a heavy sigh of relief when Age UK decided to push back the date of their Wrap Up and Run 10k event due to M arch’s unseasonal bout of snow.
The thought of training for a run, never mind completing a race, in Arctic temperatures and three inches of snow made me want to bury myself under a duvet and eat a huge vat of cheesy pasta.
But when the race finally went ahead, on Sunday, April 28, the mild breeze and glimmers of spring sunshine did not quite seem to fulfill Age UK’s Wrap Up and Run ethos.
The string of Wrap and Run events scheduled across the country – from Oxford to Sheffield, Coventry and Southampton – are organised in the first few months of the year when the British weather is particularly punishing.
And the freezing temperatures which novice runners, charity runners, and seasoned runners challenge themselves to train and race in serves as a symbol for the 200-plus elderly people who die every day due to the cold weather.
“It was very sad we had to push the race back but we had to take the advice of the venue and of the people here who know it very well,” Lydia Curran, Age UK fundraising co-ordinator, told me before the race by the main stage, busting out the latest motivational chart tunes.
“The health and safety of our runners is absolutely paramount and it was always the plan to just postpone it and not cancel the event completely.”
As I wander through the crowd of 2,000 runners before everyone gets warmed up with personal trainer recruits from Pure Gym in Leeds, it is clear to see the race attracts a variety of runners, with some people dressed in bright pink tutus and matching tiaras, and some serious runners attired in Lycra leggings and the latest high-tech stopwatches, already doing laps of the grounds.
Lydia tells me the race attracts a “real mix of people” as ageing is an issue which will affect everyone, young or old, at some point in their lives.
“Age UK is a charity that affects most of us,” she tells me.
“When you’re young you never imagine you will get old and we provide a really powerful voice for older people in the UK.
“Every year 25,000 older people die needlessly in the cold, and that includes people living on your street and my street. That number is completely avoidable and when we look at comparisons between the UK and countries that are colder than we are, we come up much worse. That really shames us a nation.”
Lydia adds that events such as Wrap Up and Run 10k “shine the light” on issues which seem to unconsciously lie beneath society’s surface and “give people the chance to make a difference”.
And despite a boost in weather conditions, the track was still a challenge – with plenty of muddy patches and undulations on a rocky terrain – and my first off-road race for the past two years.
For some runners on the day, it signalled a return to running after a number of years – and, for some, even marked the start of a promising new passion.
Member of Wetherby Runners Valerie is planning to complete a half-marathon in September, despite not completing a 13.1 mile route for 10 years.
“I’ve been running with Wetherby Runners for around two years now and train with them twice a week. It’s such a great atmosphere here today and you have so much more motivation when you run with others,” she said.
As I continue to work my way through the crowd, I come across a somewhat terrified looking Stephen Hankinson doing some warm-up stretches with girlfriend Charlotte Smith.
“I have only just started running, and it’s a bit of a challenge for me. I have never done anything like this before and I am quite nervous,” he laughs.
A 10k distance is a great goal for relatively inexperienced runners to aim for; 5k is a do-able distance for most people of reasonable fitness levels, whereas a half-marathon requires special training and dedication to avoid injury.
But for a lot of people, charity runs are simply a bit of fun.
On approaching the start point of the race from Harewood village, the bustling crowd and sense of excitement is immediately evident.
Age UK Wrap Up and Run 10k is only in its second year in Harewood, yet the sense of occasion almost rivals Race for Life’s status as a hugely empowering and exhilarating mass participation charity event. Families were even able to walk a 2k route through the scenic grounds for the charity, as the main race started at 10am.
And although I may not have had to wrap up warm after all on race day, with Lydia’s words ringing in my ears about the suffering people in the UK unnecessarily endure each day, I was able to run 6.2 miles faster than I have ever ran before.