How long have you been a Horsforth Harrier?

Just over 20 years. My eldest and youngest daughters, Natalie and Anna, used to run with the juniors and I didn’t see the point of taking them to the club, going home then coming back for them so I stayed and ended up helping Andrew Charles and a couple of others coaching the juniors.

A few years later I inherited the club website. I’m one of those people who forgets to take a step backwards when volunteers are being sought so I have a propensity for attracting thankless tasks. It’s this trait which means that I’m in my 20th year as a Trustee/Governor of Horsforth School and my 30th year as Treasurer of British Telecom’s North East Zone Recreation Association.

Fortunately Jamie Stewart took over the website and it has improved beyond all recognition, however somebody worked out that I’d then have enough time to be Membership Secretary. It does however give me an excuse to create some spreadsheets and produce some membership statistics every month.

Photo by Andrew Hardaker

Which training group/s do you normally run with?

Keith Park’s, which is just as well as I’m his deputy. We’re a perfectly formed group, content with mid table obscurity. We do have a settled hard core of runners but inherit a few from the ‘slower’ groups and then, after a few months, see them disappear and chase after Martin Coates. We like to think that we’ve done our little bit.

What are your running goals for the year ahead?

I’m way past trying to achieve PBs so trying to avoid PWs is a more realistic goal. I set a couple of good ones earlier this year so I should be able to beat them for a while.

Nevertheless I do have a three goals for the year, the first of which is to maintain my parkrun age grading, although this is proving difficult whilst pushing my granddaughter Felicity round in a buggy.

Steve Wood & family celebrating 350th parkrun

The second is retain the Woody Allen (© Tommy Dickson) trophy (it doesn’t exist so it’s a virtual one). I’m not saying that Steven Allen is competitive however he has admitted to trying to beat Natalie and me in the same race. He did beat me a couple of times last year however fortunately Natalie has been getting quicker and has managed to uphold the family honour.

My third is to help my middle daughter Ceri with her half marathon training. She doesn’t like running but decided to do the Vale of York Half in memory of two of her friends who died suddenly earlier in the year. As a result I usually now run twice on Tuesday and Thursday and am doing increasingly longer runs on Sunday. It’s given me a bit more motivation and I’m benefiting just as much as her.

What is the PB that you are most proud of?

My first Long Distance Walkers Association (LDWA) 100 (miles) took me 32 hours and doing my second in 26 hours meant an impressive improvement of 6 hours, however I’m most proud of my 2:56 in the Benidorm marathon. When I worked for BT in Leeds several of us used to go running along the canal towpath at dinner time. One of my fellow runners was Keith Cluderay from Valley Striders. After a couple of years running together he enquired about my marathon PB and when I replied that it was 3:13 he told me that I could do better than that. I knew that he helped to train Tracey Morris, who had run in the marathon at the Athens Olympics, so I thought that if it was good enough for her then it was good enough for me. I ran what Keith told me to for almost five months and ate a load of pretzels and it worked.

What was your first race?

I don’t think that it was actually a race but I did the Run the World event in Guiseley in 1986. If I remember correctly you had to pay £3.00 for your T shirt and raise some money for famine relief. I always did like Tears for Fears.

A couple of years later I did a one-fifth marathon in York, starting and finishing at the racecourse. My brother and his brother-in-law had trained for this and talked me into doing it. I just turned up and beat them so the next year they entered the half marathon and trained for that. I just turned up again and beat them again so they packed up running and I carried on.

What’s your favourite race and why?

I did the Northumberland Coastal Run last year and really enjoyed it (honestly) and I’ve always liked the Guy Fawkes 10, however my favourite race is the London Marathon which I have done eight times. I’ve done marathons all over Europe and New York (twice) and whilst London isn’t the most attractive course the crowd is by far the best, especially the last few miles along Victoria Embankment when you really need some encouragement. It’s also downhill so what more could you want?

What is your most memorable experience as a Horsforth Harrier?

I really enjoy the team relays as they are a great way to pass a couple of hours with somebody with whom you don’t necessarily run. Getting lost on the recce beforehand is always a good laugh too. I’ve competed for the Harriers on all six legs of the Leeds Country Way (LCW) and all five legs of the Bradford Millennium Way (BMW) relays and only need leg 4 of the Calderdale Way Relay (CWR) to complete the set, team organisers please take note.

The first relay that I did was leg 5 of the LCW, Golden Acre Park to Thorner Lane and my partner was Bob Foulkes whose leg speed impressed me then and still does. I don’t have a preferred partner, I’ll run with anybody. Angus Teanby and I have done leg 5 of the CWR on a few occasions but my most regular partner was Barry Ellis and we did leg 3 of the LCW for a few years in a row. I consider Barry to be a proper runner who was really quick over shorter distances up to 4 or 5 miles. After that he used to slow down a bit and he always used to ask for encouragement on the last mile or so of the leg on the uphill bit after Duckett’s crossing. One year we were going rather well and had passed quite a few couples including a mixed pair sporting Virgin Active vests. The woman seemed to be going rather well whilst the man was struggling. As we climbed out of the valley near Tyersal and up towards the bridge over the disused railway Barry slowed down to a brisk walk. Suddenly the Virgin Active woman came past us and Barry shot off after her and shouted ‘Come on Steve, we’re not being beaten by a f**king gym’. Needless to say we weren’t. Happy days.

Do you have any favourite motivational running quotes or things that inspire you?

A lot of you will have known or will have heard of Marc Springer, a club legend, who sadly lost his battle with motor neurone disease a couple of years ago. Marc, Theresa Duckett and I were in the front of his van after a run one day when he told us the diagnosis and prognosis and I don’t think that Theresa will mind my saying that all three of us were in tears. Marc and I ran thousands of miles together, a lot of them doing LDWA events during the winter months. My wife, and presumably Marc’s, used to tell people that we’d got up at ‘stupid o’clock’ to go and run around the moors of North or West Yorkshire. We had some really good runs but on a few occasions one or both of us would struggle. When it was my turn he’d just glare at me and tell me to keep going and not be a tart. Not very politically correct but it usually had the desired effect. I struggle a lot more now than I used to but those words keep me going. Rest in peace Marc.

I run therefore I am …

Still fit for my age and still able to eat several big bags of kettle crisps each week without worrying about it.

Steve Wood at Solstice Saunter 2019 by Nigel Pepper