Runner – David Lownds, Head of Operations, Hanley Economic Building Society, Leek, Aged 44.
I’m not sure exactly where it all started but I found myself in a relay team in the first Potters ‘Arf in 2005. I remember well the nerves in the legs whilst waiting on Beverley Drive at the second change over point for the relay in anticipation of ‘doing my bit’. It wasn’t long until I was joined by a group of also nervous runners all thinking the same, why me?, what have I done?, I’m sure it seemed a good idea at the time! As the ‘proper runners’ ran past at break neck speed it was sometime before the baton passed into my hands. However, once it did I was off, not quite as quick as the runners had gone before me but fast enough to catch a few ahead. As I ran through Abbey Hulton I remember a guy shouting ‘Go on son – up the Hanley Duck’, it then dawned on me that I was literally running through the streets of our customers. I made it to the last relay changeover point and thought I want to get to the finish so subsequently ran the last leg with a colleague who didn’t particularly take my motivational words about Milton Road too well!
Immediately after the initial race in 2005 I told myself I want to do the whole race in 2006. Had I have known it was going to be 27 degrees I may have revised my decision however, this is one of the many attractions of the Potters ‘Arf - it’s in June. I finished the race in just over 2 hours which I was very pleased with. From that point on I started to take my running a little more seriously and over the next 5 years managed to improve year on year to get under 1 hour 45 minutes which is very respectable for such a tough course. During those years I’d made a number of new ‘Potters’ friends, exchanged war stories about injuries and the approach to Milton Road aka ‘Heartbreak Hill’. I’ve heard it called many names over the years but one thing that never changes is the feeling that hits you when you turn right off Berwick Road. At 11 miles in, the legs and mind are already tired and the finish in Hanley feels like it’s in Australia. The best advice I was given is – don’t look up!
Due to a knee operation in 2014, sustained through years of kicking a ball around I couldn’t take part in the race but instead wanted to be involved in the event in some way. So I helped out on the finish line spotting runners and passing their name to the public address guy. A little role but so rewarding when you see the faces of exhausted runners light up when they hear their name echoing around the town centre.
In 2015 I ran my personal best of 1 hour 32 minutes and have ran a number of half marathons across the country. All different but none as rewarding as the ‘Arf and on reflection the Potters ‘Arf is much more than a half marathon its typifies the people of Stoke-on-Trent, big hearts, passionate, a little crazy but always up for a challenge.