Paul Verrico - As always I am proud of my town

Paul Verrico pictured with family and friends taking part in Sunday's half marathon.
Paul Verrico pictured with family and friends taking part in Sunday's half marathon.

All runners have in mind optimum conditions when mulling over how they would want a big race day to turn out.

A light drizzle, 10 degrees and overcast skies are my selfish favourite and are guaranteed to push a PB.

As the chairman of a charity planning a community event linked to a half marathon, I have different preferences. An Indian summer’s day with warm sunshine to entice the optimum crowds, please. The kind of day that my late wife always preferred. A day of blue skies pushing the grey away.

The inaugural Anna Verrico half marathon decided to conform. A beautiful day. A frankly inspiring turn out with the folk of Epworth paying their respects again as the one year anniversary approaches. Young, old, parents, grandparents – all wore pink and reminded our family that they understood our mission. That there remains a need to find ways to combat these kinds of cancers like triple negative breast cancer that indiscriminately pluck otherwise healthy humans from this life with barely a moment to fight. Our charity is about looking after those locally who are facing frankly inconceivable diagnoses.

The fun run had approximately 200 entrants. The main half marathon, over 250. Somewhere in the mix, 11 hardy souls banded together with one proud dad to push one four-year-old girl around the course which her mother had vowed to complete.

You will all have heard the maxim ‘you know who your true friends are’. The last year has taught me the truth of those words. Friends travelled from Newcastle, Buckinghamshire, Leeds and Goxhill to take their turn as part of Lucia’s entourage. It was, frankly, a ridiculous challenge, as I had set a target time of 2 hours 15 minutes. Craziest of all was the man running the first mile, the Scunthorpe United mascot Scunny Bunny who did the distance in the searing heat, in costume. Dropping away after that first mile, he still came home in under 2½ hours. Glyn, we salute you.

We managed to complete the course in 2 hours and 5 minutes. Personal highlights included the GO LUCIA signs in Owston Ferry; the cheering of Team Verrico in West Butterwick; the buggy disappearing away from me when the better (female) runners took the handlebars with Lucia shouting ‘come on daddy, don’t get beaten by the fast girls’ as encouragement; the team chant of L-U-C-I-A as we raced down Hollingsworth Lane towards Market Square; the enormous roar of the crowd as said four-year-old led the team home. That’s not to say that Alessandro was a mere bystander. Aged just two, he insisted on running the whole 1 kilometre of the fun run, shaking his head every time the suggestion was put to him of being carried.

As an event, the charity benefited from the massive generosity of those who massaged, photographed, made and sold cakes and merchandise. We had over 40 people running in our T-shirts and early indications are that more than £5,000 was raised by sponsorship. Those running included many who felt totally under prepared for the conditions on the day, but who persevered regardless, demonstrating Anna’s own spirit of never ever giving up.

I know that there were many blisters and aching legs on Monday morning, but I wanted to take this opportunity to publicly say thank you to those who chose to support us on Sunday. Next year, Alessandro will be three. He tells me ‘daddy push or Ally run’. I interpret that as a requirement to find a second chariot and an additional 12 friends, or we may have a little boy out on his own doing the distance.

As always I am so proud of my town. Thank you Metres to Miles for making it happen. Thank you friends for your warm embrace. Thank you Epworth.