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When my brother decided to tell my family he would be attending the University of York, he was met with grins and elbow-nudges. Not only was a brother-sister rivalry brewing, but an inter-family war was about to begin – and he was on the losing side.
My mum and dad both went to Lancaster, and when I told them I would be following in their footsteps – no, I didn’t phrase it like that – they were overjoyed. They had both attended Lancaster in their day, both in Furness College (same as me) and both studying English (same as me). So, when Liam told us York was his university of choice, there were many ‘Oh, well, I guess we’ll just have to disown you now’ jokes. And when he then revealed he’d be studying maths, well, that’s when we started to question whether he’d been abducted by aliens at birth, swapped with someone else’s child at the hospital. I mean, my younger sister isn’t interested in English, either, but at least she’s not gone to the dark side to study – shudder – numbers.
Studying aside, we’re a close family. The Lancaster-York repartee is as close as we get to ‘taking joking too far’, and when Roses is mentioned, of course, Liam isn’t hesitant in reminding me who’s currently on a winning streak (and it ain’t us). Apparently it doesn’t matter who won the actual War of the Roses (ahem, that actually was us), because that’s ancient history. But sport? That matters – and, unfortunately, I don’t have bragging rights.
Last year, Roses was different to previous years. Last year was the first year my brother and I would compete against each other. Yep, that’s right – not only do we attend rival universities, study opposing subjects and have all that other banter… But we both run competitively. Yeah, okay, we’re one of those sporty families – we all run and we all enjoy it. The end. As runners, each of us for our respective universities’ teams, we didn’t actually anticipate ever racing with/against each other until Roses was suddenly looming.
And there I was, sitting on a bus to York with my running club pals around me – all of the boys telling me how much they were looking forward to beating my brother in the Men’s Race – when my phone bleeped. Lo’ and behold, it was Liam. And suddenly, the rivalry became something more.
Our eyes met across the grassy sports field, hours later, and the biggest smiles took over our faces. Up until then, the prospect of visiting each other’s universities in a competitive manner had been no more than a joke between us: a few text messages here and there, the odd Skype call where it would inevitably be brought up, the occasional mention of it when we respectively called our parents. But being on the same field at York, me in my red Lancaster kit, him in his black York kit, it evolved.
Okay, so we weren’t actually racing against each other – there’s a Men’s Race and a Women’s Race. However, at York, they overlapped – we all started together and somehow, Liam and I came in within a minute of each other. It was fun. Well. Actually, was it? I finished and wanted to puke – and whilst I was sitting on the ground, wondering if I was going to pass out or not, surrounded by some of Liam’s lovely – albeit York-supporting – friends, I looked up to see him running towards the finish line.
Now, I’ll put this to you: when you see your brother running towards the finish line wearing rival colours… do you cheer? Well, I did. And then he came and sat next to me and we just deep-breathed for a while. I was introduced to the friends who had watched me nearly pass out on the floor – they were all lovely (for Yorkers) and I look forward to seeing them again this year. And then, as instructed by our totally-hip, totally-modern parents, sent them a snapchat of us to commemorate the moment.
This year will see our second, and final (because it’s my last year at Lancaster), Roses together. Liam comes to Lancaster this year, and hopefully Lancaster will destroy York. It’ll be fun having the home advantage, not having to sit on a bus for a few hours before racing and running a route I’ll actually recognise (though sometimes changes in scenery are nice when you’re running).
Of course, I feel kind of sorry for Liam. Whether he wins or not, I know Lancaster will always have the family support… But in the end, may the best Medley win. And yeah, I plan to.