Next month I’ll have been living in Sheffield for ten years (a brief stay in Dublin aside) and, while as Rony Robinson took pleasure in pointing out recently I could hardly be mistaken for a native (yet!), I’m far from alone in having originally come to study and ended up feeling completely at home here.
I have a sense of the city as being so varied and interesting that for most people it is easy to find a niche – something that keeps them rooted here. My own is in our musical life, and (far more modestly) in the hills and bigger hills of Running Country.
To deal with the hills first (as one has to in Sheffield!): do not underestimate them! As someone whose previous running history involved mostly comfortably flat territory like East Anglia, I just wasn’t prepared for the challenges that awaited me.
What on flatter turf would have been a light five-mile saunter now becomes a daunting challenge that takes up most of a day, invariably involves much cursing and desperate leaning on gates, and ends with legs of jelly and an urgent need to get along to the Devonshire Cat for a cold reviving something.
An 18-mile marathon training run, while never a doddle, becomes an epic quest that requires a tent, a motorbike, and a five-man support team. I ran the entire Amsterdam Marathon in less time than it took me to run 15 miles around south-west Sheffield. I’d like to say that practice has made perfect, but in my case I’m afraid it’s just made extremely reluctant. The thing is, running up Ecclesall Road to Ringinglow, or from Abbeydale to the top of Totley, simply never gets easier. It’s long and arduous and ultimately unbearable – much like this column. However, if you’ve got this far, you might as well keep going. The Norfolk Arms – the end – is hoving into sight.
Needless to say, remembering watching the Tour de France on telly in a Parisian bar (a surreal experience), I’ve never attempted Jenkin Road – my heart goes out and my beer-holding arm goes up to anyone who has – and from the look of it I probably never will.
All of which leaves me not very much space to talk about music, so that will have to wait for next time. A bit like that next marathon.