The Potters 'Arf and me - Graham McLachlan

Having got into running to address my ever growing body mass way back in 2005 I found out through a friend of mine that there was going to be a half marathon introduced into the city after the Potteries Marathon ceased to be back in 2004 (although it is back now I’m pleased to say).
This was an ideal goal to aim for as it was local and I’d never ran further than 10k in my life before apart from in my army days and I’d certainly never raced that far before.
I eagerly signed up and put in a training plan most befitting of a novice runner and selected the appropriate wrong gear for running as many novice runners do I am sure.
My trainers were like rocks (but they did look cool I thought) my socks were not running socks and my shorts a large baggy pair of footy short and my t-shirt was a nice nipple chaffing cotton number.
I did however choose to run for charity and that helped spur me on through my “not as great as I thought it was” training plan.
The 1st Potters ‘Arf was a surprisingly cool and overcast affair (some subsequent years have been a blisteringly hot 28 degrees Celsius and one was torrential rain) and I set off like a cheetah as I looked to get as close to a two hour finish time as possible but little did I know that the course was as hilly as can be and I really regret that a lot of my “training” had been on canal paths and pretty flat routes…..I mean why the heck would in want to tire myself out going up hills??? 
The long steady climb towards Fenton & Longton was tiring enough let alone the first real test of Anchor Road which inevitably led to me walking for a spell as I heaved oxygen into my lungs.
The support through Beverley Drive was fantastic with wannabe DJ’s lining the pavements and gardens from which music blared out to spur us on and it has been like this ever since and I have only missed the 2007 race when my son was born so I know my onions on this course.
The trip past Carmountside Crematorium towards Baddeley Green is a long jaunt when you’re not on song and it seems to take forever before you turn left down Leonard Avenue and head back down to Leek New Road, here the support is grand to and often plenty of jelly babies to throw down ones energy sapped neck with around 3 miles or so to go.
By this point on my maiden run I was already in a run walk mode but with more of the latter being the case as I was pretty spent and as any runner knows that if you are spent and there are still some 3 miles to go then it can be a very VERY long way till the finish line.
Heading up towards Oldham Bridge is again another long drawn out affair to the unprepared runner and as you near the bridge you turn left onto Berwick Road for some much needed respite but be assured that that respite is all but short lived as a cruel turn onto Milton Road or Heartbreak as it is now known really does hurt even the most astute athlete, only twice I think I have ran all the way up this monster incline which is akin to wearing lead boots.
Although if my memory serves me right the first couple or even just the first Potters ‘Arf didn’t go up Milton Road but an equally torturous ascent and then of course you would reach the top which on the sunniest of days can be a haven of hosepipes and ice pops on offer from the effervescent locals from their makeshift drink stations as you near completion of this challenging event.
I always get someone telling me “It’s not far now” or “it’s all downhill from here” neither of which are strictly true as there is still 1.5 miles to go and when you’re hurting it is a fair way to plod. And it isn’t all downhill cos you still have to climb back to Hanley and The Potteries Centre but we can only smile or grimace to acknowledge their support.
There was a bloke that I gladly took a cup of water off of for a number of years at the junction of Town Road and Old Town Road and I always knew it was him as he had a gold watch which hung loosely from his wrist, I haven’t seen him for the last couple but I always look out in case he returns to the same spot, heck maybe he has just changed his timepiece I never thought of that ha ha.
The last little climb up to the bridge and then a great downhill section towards Sir Stanley Mathews statue is always a blast and a time to try and steal a few second from your finish time.
My first finish was quite emotional and very pained as the moment I ceased running my legs became masses of cramp and knots and the first time I’d ran 13.1 miles it hurt like hell, my shorts chaffed my shoes were filled with blistered feet and toes and my nipples were tender from the non-wicking and heavy sweat soaked cotton t-shirt.
With hindsight I’d never have contemplated such a tough course for my 1st half marathon experience but looking back now on the twelve year journey of running that I’ve been on I would never change it for the world.
I have gone from the man that had one pint and fell asleep in the bath for two hours that day and a finish time of 2 hours 16 minutes 14 seconds to a guy that in 2015 recorded my second fastest half marathon time of 1 hour 39 minutes and 5 seconds and have completed 45 half marathons in that time of which 10 have been The Potters ‘Arf
Quite simply it has grown into one of the best half marathons around and as I look forward to toeing the line for my 11th crack at this beauty come beast of a half and I’ll be drinking in its carnival like atmosphere again.
Be it your first or last ever half marathon I have no doubt that it will register highly in your after race glow and the memories will last forever so I ask………what are you waiting for ???
Graham McLachlan.