Not to the swift

The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong.

Ecclesiastes 9: 11

Photo by Snapwire on

“Ooh lovely!” I exclaimed, “running socks!”

“Happy Mothers Day, Mom!” said daughter Joy.   “I thought that we could run in a race together.” 

“Sure, great!” I agreed.

(This was many years ago.  Why it swirled around in the mists of the past, and landed again in memory was because California daughter Lizzie had recently run a half marathon, and did it well!)

We eagerly trawled our diaries to find a Running Date that mutually clicked.  Super – the 10k race organized from nearby Hitchin on a Sunday coming up soon. Hooray! 

The day came.  The throng of runners bounced on their toes and stretched their legs, ready for the start, Daughter Joy and I among them, me looking at them through the corner of my eye, trying to imitate. 

“Errrrr, are you sure you can do it?”—this came from an experienced runner I knew.  “Why not? I answered with confidence.   I’ll just start slowly and keep going.” 

And we were off…..

The road was lined with friends and family, babies in push chairs, grannies breaking their British dignity to bless us, stranger or friend, with cheers and encouragement.  I was surprised at how uplifting this was.  If you’re ever by the side of the road when runners pass by, wish them well.  Loudly!


It took about 2K for the walkers to overtake me. 

After that, life was a long excruciating blur.  I remember the time when – horrors! — I could no longer talk.  Not only was I unable to respond to Joy’s continuous conversation, but even more disastrous was that The World would never know what I was thinking.  What a shame!  

Eventually, Joy, in order to stay with me, would literally run circles around me, singing uplifting ditties on her way.  Fortunately, her repertoire was vast.

Meanwhile, Husband John got himself out of a sick bed to wait for us at the end of the race, having persuaded the organisers NOT to take down the FINISH LINE posts, assuring them that there were still two more runners to come. 

By this time all sidewalk cheerleaders had met their favorites and melted into normalcy.  No one was around.  Traffic chugged on as usual. 

So, as we neared the end, I could see the FINISH LINE planted in a wide-open football field, empty except for a lone husband and two people leaning against the sign’s posts, arms folded.  Waiting.  Even from that distance I could feel their exasperation. 

Now.  I’ll tell you a myth.  Have you heard that when runners see FINISH before their eyes, they get a new spurt of energy and surge forward at triple speed?  Not true.  At least I didn’t.  I could have sat down right on the path 200 yards from my goal and have been content.

It was then that Joy really fired up into enthusiastic cheering:  “Mom, See the finish line?  See Daddy!  Run to Daddy, Mom!  Run run run to Daddy!”  Yep. That’s exactly what she said.  Even in my brain-blurred, chest-heaving, limb-aching state I was suddenly transported back to visions of teaching Joy-the-baby how to walk: “go to Daddy, Joy, go to Daddy. …….Wheee!  Well done! That’s my baby girl!”  Now, here in the pain of the present, it was her turn to say these same words.  I could hardly hear her through my pounding heart, but she did it, bless her, she did it.  She ran beside me and talked me over the finish line.  Wheee!  Well done!  That’s my grown-up daughter!

The dulled look on the organisers’ faces, underwhelmed by my achievement, eager to join the others in the pub, whisked me out of the way and unceremoniously yanked out the posts, rolled up the sign, and were gone even  before I could catch breath.  .

Funny.  They had my email address, but they never asked me back to further events.

Joy’s Caramel Pear Cake

I just have to include a Joy recipe here. I love this cake, its warm caramelly goodness with a pear pinwheel on the top.  I made it for a visiting nephew, wife, and daughter who came for only a day.  We were talking and sharing and delighting in each other so exuberantly that I forgot to take a picture for you.  Joy says the magic of the cake is to use eggs from her chickens.  However, it’s worth taking the risk from a source other than Myra, Phyllis, Betty or Dora, and see how you get on.

Ingredients: eggs, butter, self-raising flour, baking powder, salt, brown sugar, caramel essence, golden syrup, a firm-ish pear, peeled and cut lengthwise into thin slices.

Preheat Oven to 180 degrees C  (325 F, moderate)

When a daughter invites you to run a race, how can you say no?

Line a single layer cake pan with baking parchment.  Butter the inside generously, then pour a layer of golden syrup over the well-buttered parchment (about 2 tablespoons or so)

Make the cake.  In a food processor whizz together 4 ozs SR flour, (1 scant cup, 125 gms)  1 teaspoon baking powder,  a pinch of salt, 4ozs light brown sugar (1/2 cup, 52 gms), 4 ozs butter (1/2 cup, 114 gms.) , 2 large eggs, and a scant teaspoon of caramel essence.  Whizz until smooth.  Core the pear, and form a pinwheel design in the prepared cake pan on the butter and golden syrup.  Pour on the batter.  Bake  25 – 30 minutes until springy when touched lightly in the centre.    Let it rest a minute.  Loosen the sides.  Turn upside down on a rack to cool.  Gently remove the paper, so as not to disturb the pear design.  Serve warm or cold with cream. 

Alternative: Almond Pear Cake. Substitute a heaped tablespoon of ground almonds instead of flour, and use almond essence instead of the caramel essence.


    1. Thank you! I think the blog had been published a full 30 seconds before your comment came in. It’s heartening to hear, as sending it out into the stratosphere is a bit scary!

      Love, Judy

      Sent from Mail for Windows


  1. Well run, walked, crawled, REMEMBERED!
    You’ve dome better than me – I’ve never run a race since leaving school.


  2. Judy, how thrilling and uplifting to read your short story. You are so full of courage, optimism and enthusiasm. Your writing brought back to me the days when I ran about 5 miles around Peterchurch while training as an amateur jockey. You have put the feelings of a part time runner into your story so beautifully. And there’s more, Joy’s special cake to cook! Well done Judy, you have made my day!


  3. Morning from Dorrigo. I can see you clearly doing that run. Love your blogs. No5 sure if I can get hold of caramel essence but will try one the mountain road is reopened.


    1. Happy cooking! If you find the caramel essence, it’s also good in a marmalade cake….I used it by mistake, thinking it was vanilla, and was not sorry.
      Love, Judy


    2. Happy cooking! If you find the caramel essence, it’s also good in a marmalade cake….I used it by mistake, thinking it was vanilla, and was not sorry.
      Love, Judy


  4. You all have inspired me! I must try a 10K ….but perhaps I’ll try to make Joy’s pear cake first…baby steps;)


  5. Hi Judy, I loved your running story. I had a similar experience a few (well-quite a few) years ago. A friend asked me to join her on the annual 5K event on July 4th in our little suburb of Dayton. Hundreds of people showed up! They SAID it was OK to walk, not run. But my friend and I were dead last. To make it even more humiliating, the local paper published the names of everyone who participated in order of their finish. But I don’t think anyone read that list to the end. But it did motivate me to walk the dog more often.


    1. Oh, so you KNOW what it’s like, don’t you. The nearby village has the Dorstone Dawdle each year, I thought they really meant “dawdle”. Once again, I finished as the lemonade refresher stand with bunting had all but folded up. Apparently “Dawdle” was a typical British euphemism for “hard run”. The traffic circles here are the same as their term for “merry-go-round”. Love, Judy


  6. When I was approaching 40, I told my children that I would admit to being middle aged when they could beat me at table tennis. 40 years on I can still play tennis & table tennis at club standard. Still young – not yet middle aged.


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