Thursday, 21 May 2020

Still plodding on......

Since the sad demise of my good friend, Peter Dibb, the world is an emptier place.  He was a big part of my running life for 30 years.  We'd travelled hundreds of miles together to train and race.  He'd visit me each Thursday for a cup of tea and a chat about all things running   After his stroke and a spell in hospital he'd phone regularly with updates on his health and to ask what I was doing.   He  left an awful big hole which can never be filled.
Old Runningfox - plodding on  (Click to enlarge)
Many of our contemporaries we raced, ran and bantered with have also died or fallen by the wayside.  A tiny handful are still active, albeit very slowly.   Surprisingly, I'm one of them. 
It's not hard getting out of bed when mornings are so light, though sunrise is a little too early for me now.
The weather changed remarkably in a fortnight.   One morning I was muffled up running through fields thick with frost.  In yesterday's morning temperature I was happy in shorts and a thin top, and the wee foal I passed was too comfortable to get up.
Horse & foal
May blossom is is at its best just now and its smell can be a little over powering on narrow lanes.   Two houses on Castle Hill Side are surrounded by it together with rampant gorse and wild crab apple blossom.
Castle Hill Side
There are so many things to see, smell and listen to  - and photograph - it's a wonder I manage to do any running at all!
Still plodding on.
 But it's nice to take it easy in my dotage, long may it continue.  Not that I aren't thinking about the after life. 
Ewan MacColl's lovely song 'The Joy of Living' has been buzzing around my head a little too often lately.  It's worth a listen even if you aren't ready to have your ashes scattered just yet...

Monday, 11 May 2020

Peter Dibb (1934 - 2020)

 An appreciation of a great athlete and mentor who went missing on VE day and was subsequently found the following day in a bluebell wood where he'd apparently suffered a fatal fall.
Peter Dibb   R.I.P 
(photo courtesy of the Huddersfield Examiner)
  Peter raced into my life in June '88 when, as a mere amatuer, I was running the Examiner 10 mile road race in Huddersfield.   At numerous points along the way there were shouts of 'Come on Dibby' and it was obvious that whoever Dibby was, he was just behind me. Crossing the Finish line I turned to see a tall figure smiling down at me and offering a cheery 'well done'.  It was Peter Dibb.
An unassuming character, it was some time before I became aware of his cricketting and hockey prowess for he was an all round athlete who excelled in various disciplines. Being of roughly the same age, he became an immediate friend who steered and advised me in various aspects of road racing and track etiquette. He'd been racing since school days whereas at the age of 55 I was just beginning.
He was a member of Longwood Harriers and eventually persuaded me to join too. Down at their track on Leeds Road I'd watch him doing repeat miles, long striding and stylish. Poetry in motion. A joy to watch. He'd usually do 4 repeats, all of them at 6 minutes each, which was pretty nifty for someone approaching 60.
Later , he introduced me to the Northern Veterans Athletic Club. Each Wednesday we'd drive over to Lancashire to train with various members in runs round Hollingworth Lake, Barrowford, Haigh Hall or Pendle Hill. We were in stellar company - Arthur Walsham who'd won multiple World Veteran titles at 25K and a 2hrs 21 min marathon runner, Jack Betney who'd run the Pennine way, Maurice Morrell, an Olympic javelin thrower and a winning 10,000 metre runner, Alan Heaton who'd held the record for the Bob Graham Round and various other top class runners - so we had to be on our toes. Besides being a formidable group to train with they were all wonderful people whom I was greatly privileged to meet.     
Thanks to Peter.
He took me to prestigious venues, Don Valley stadium, Dorothy Hyman stadium at Cudworth, Stanley Park, Blackpool and joined me at Alexander stadium in Manchester where we tingled with excitement walking into dressing rooms that had been graced by famous athletes from around the world. Such places inspired one to run faster, brought out the best in us. There I had my greatest achievements.   
Thanks to Peter
He was exceedingly versatile. At Track and Field meetings he'd often go through the card running all the races with the high jump, discus, javelin or shot putt thrown in for good measure. 
 An incredible character and a true gentleman.   I was lucky to have such an amazing friend and mentor.   He inspired, coaxed and encouraged me to 'become more than I could be'.
Rest in peace Peter. You will never be forgotten.

Thursday, 30 April 2020

A new route......

While out running the other morning I noticed a new path had been opened up where none existed before.  It appeared to have been an animal trail, fox or badger, but fencing had been removed and made accessible to homo sapiens .  It appeared well worn.
Start of new path     (Click to enlarge)
On a sunny afternoon I set out to investigate for having lived, walked and run around the area for 42 years, I thought I knew every path for miles around.   It began about ¾ mile from home through a pair of ivy covered stumps and followed a leafy hedge into Mellor Wood where I expected it to end. 
A blue haze
But it continued on its merry way through ancient trees where blackbirds and chaffinches sang and a woodpecker was giving itself a headaches hammering at something in the distance.
 Gary, an old friend of mine I've run hundreds of miles with but now living in Kiwi country, regards this wood as one of the most beautiful places on earth, mainly on account of its dense carpet of bluebells in Spring.  They aren't quite at their best yet.
That steep uphill
The path led out into a steep, open field where on sunny evenings my lurcher often had fun chasing a playful hare that would sit up and wait for Meg to catch up before racing her uphill at great speed. The hare always won.
Do not disturb
I could understand why as I huffed and puffed back to Clough Hall where an acquaintance had just kicked off his boots and settled into a pair of hammock type seats.
Fancy a run?
A thundering behind me as I crossed another field was one of the horses I run past in the early mornings.  I think it recognized me and came to say hello.
It stayed two metres away..

Wednesday, 22 April 2020

Once a runner...

When my mobile rang and a voice said I was due for another eye injection in a few days time my heart sank.  I knew the appointment was due, and I needed it, but I really didn't want to go anywhere near a hospital in the present climate.   Reluctantly I said "OK, but I hope the waiting room isn't as crowded as on past visits"   I was assured that appointments were being well spaced out and there'd be plenty of room for patients to stay well apart.
Empty waiting room and chairs well spaced     (Click to enlarge)
    The driver of the small ambulance was completely partitioned off from anyone in the rear.  I was given a face mask and told to sit at the back.    On arrival at the hospital the waiting room was completely empty, not even a receptionist.  In no time at all my name was called and I was led to an ante room for dilating drops before entering the theatre. 
Don't be frightened, I wont harm you..
A cheerful nurse wanted to know if it was still cold outside.  
"Not as cold as it was at 5 o'clock this morning" I replied.   
I think she knew exactly what I meant, that I'm a crazy runner!
A doctor I only know as Ross administered the injection quickly and efficiently and in less than an hour I was back home again, half blind and wearing a mask under my dark glasses.
The sun was up at 5.50
Next day was a rest day, waiting for my eyes to re-focus so that I didn't go stumbling all over the place.   It was followed by a clear night with Venus beaming through my bedroom window, assuring me next morning would be beautiful.  She was right...
I got up, had a strong coffee and set out to greet the sun. 
Gorse at its best and an empty road
Jen, the girl I usually meet, was on her way down.  She's only a walker but according to her Fitbit had covered 7.8 miles a couple of days before.  I told her in just over a week, when I reach the tender age of 88, I might become a walker too.
A view to savour before going home
I continued through flowering gorse to the top of the hill for another great angle on the sunrise.
How can I ever stop running?

Thursday, 9 April 2020

Where no virus lurks...

I've been trying to get out for a dawn run every other day but sunrise is getting a bit too early for me now.  This morning for instance it was peeping over the horizon at 6.20 am which meant I had to be out of bed by 5.30 to have a reviving coffee before setting off to my usual viewpoint.
My favourite time of day - Sunrise   ( click to enlarge)
It was hardly daylight as I set out through fields crunchy with frost and a full moon setting before me to the West.  Birds were beginning to sing.  A string of horses resting by the hedge took no notice as I ran by.  Not even a blink.
Frozen car at Clough Hall
A girl I've seen twice before was on her way down as I plodded up, so goodness knows what time she got up.   A group of three people were sitting on the grass at the top.  Don't ask!
Beacon of hope
 And of course the usual dog walkers had driven up.  I say dog walkers but they stroll round the hill while their two unruly dogs charge all over hunting for rabbits.  And attacking me.  Which is why I took a couple of quick shots of the sunrise, then scarpered!  I was home before 7 o'clock.  It clouded over and I never saw the sun again..
That shirt
I've included this shirt photograph because the printing is very apt in the present climate, and I thought it looked better worn than hung over a chair!
Victoria Tower lit up for the NHS
 Each Thursday night at 8 pm we stand by our doors or windows and clap our appreciation of the amazing NHS staff for all the dedicated work they do.  The latest session was quite deafening for in addition to clapping folk were banging sauce pans and even letting off fireworks.   It was all very emotional.  As an added gesture Victoria Tower on Castle Hill was illuminated in pale blue light and a planet shone way above it..
Even the heavens gave thanks

Sunday, 5 April 2020

The sun always rises.....

After all the hours spent indoors it was a real joy to get out at sunrise into the cool, clear air.  We're officially allowed to go out once each day for exercise but, as an octogenarian, I find every other day is enough.  And that depends on the weather!
Beautiful sunrise, worth getting up early for    (Click to enlarge)
Robins, blackbirds and a pheasant were proclaiming their territorial rights, and I heard a chiff-chaff in the blackthorn.   Approaching the top of Castle hill gorse was in full bloom and although the day hadn't yet warmed up I caught a faint whiff of its vanilla scent.
Gorse in bloom
In spite of it being so early there were people about.  A girl out running gave me a smile and a wide berth.  A family group were chattering away on Castle Hill and I caught a glimpse of the local poacher, but not his dogs.  They must have been hunting.
Victoria Tower and beacon, Castle Hill
A lone gentleman waved as he passed at a safe distance.  Everyone was cheerful for it was one of those mornings that lift the spirits and make it feel good to be alive.  I pray for many more mornings like it until this dreadful virus has disappeared. 

Tuesday, 3 March 2020

A bridge too far......

Snow was nearly blinding us as we set off from Ilkley past fields rapidly turning white.   As we drove farther North it cleared to reveal a flooded landscape with large lakes where none had previously existed, products of Storms Ciara and Dennis.  Storm Jorge hadn't yet arrived but was hurtling towards us and would no doubt raise the water level even higher.
Lakes where none should be    (Click to enlarge)
  The sun came out briefly as we lunched in the quaint little market town of Settle with its Grade 2 listed Shambles, an arched. picturesque block of six shops and houses I'm told were designed by a bridge builder!  That figures!
The Shambles  (picture from Internet)
When I worked in that area I had friends that dwelt in the Shambles and very cosy it was.   With an excellent Fish and Chip shop underneath them, a market square in front and a pub just across the road, I reckon they'd found the ideal place to live!
Tourist information
We motored on through Ingleton, Kirby Lonsdale and Shap until pretty soon we reached our turn-off to Pooley Bridge.   At present it could be simply named Pooley for the Bridge bit was washed away by Storm Desmond in 2015.  A new all steel bridge is scheduled to be completed in Spring of 2020 but a local shopkeeper reckoned 'not before June'.
Parts for the new steel bridge have arrived
Meanwhile pedestrians can cross the River Eamont by a temporary structure where one can watch ongoing work or gaze pensively down Ullswater.  Whichever turns you on!
Looking across Ullswater with snow clouds approaching
We carried on to our destination, a luxury flat midway between Pooley Bridge and Howtown.  The lake had obviously burst its banks for there was debris strewn across the road but thankfully it was still passable.
Breach point with debris on the road
We stopped to take pictures during a brief lull in the weather and were glad we did.  From then on it rained and sleeted, snowed and blew a gale.  Storm Jorge had arrived.
Snow on the tops
We made a quick visit to Pooley Bridge the following morning for a newspaper, milk and biscuits. Higher Lakeland hills were covered in snow and as we left the shop we too were caught in a freezing flurry that numbed us to the bone.
Trees getting their feet wet
We were glad to scutter back into the car and head to somewhere warm.  Not much happened after that.  We attempted The I cryptic crossword but Lohengrin's clues were mostly beyond us.  We prefer Phi whom we've got used to. 
Feeder of seeds and nuts
We were intrigued by a man screwing something to a tree and scattering stuff around just off our driveway.  We waited till he'd gone before going to investigate.   We assumed it was a feeder for red squirrels he'd been fixing up, then throwing a few seeds on the ground to attract these charming little creatures that are known to live in the area.
clean up
What else did we do?  Well, nothing really other than a little clean-up around the property.   On Saturday night I was rather ill, nasty cold, trying to cough my lungs up, unable to speak properly, etc...
"We're going home tomorrow" my wonderful partner declared. 
And we did.
I can't remember much about it, except the horrendous wind, a huge wagon blown onto its side over Shap Fell, Motorway signs advising 50mph but few drivers taking any notice.....
It was good to get home.

Monday, 24 February 2020

Snowdrops and snow...

 We can't rely on the weather forecasts at all.  On Saturday we'd incessant rain which continued throughout the night and into Sunday morning.  There was a day when I wouldn't have bothered how much it poured.  When Munro bagging or marathon training they'd have had to chain me to the wall to keep me in.  Last weekend my favourite rocking chair held me in its clutches.  
Until Sunday lunchtime.  
My all singing/all dancing phone assured us the sluice gates would be closed and we'd have wall to wall sunshine throughout the afternoon.  We were daft enough to believe it.  At lunchtime we got changed and set off on a run to Linton to view the snowdrops.
Blue sky lured us out    (Click to enlarge pictures)
It was nice when we set off but after a few minutes running a glance behind revealed heavy clouds advancing upon us which looked ominously full of snow. 
Sheep and snow clouds
 If a herd of sheep over the wall could speak our language they'd probably have warned us we were right.  But we carried on.
Evasive action in a flooded gateway
Until then we'd been running on a hard track but things were a little different when we stepped through a gateway into a field.  Water and mud were above our shoes at times but we're fell runners so didn't let that bother us.
What we'd come to see - snowdrops under the dripping trees
After a mile of saturated fields we passed through a tunnel into a tree lined lane full of glutinous mud that was impossible to avoid.  To add to our discomfort, water was dripping from the trees, as it was when we reached our destination. 
The snowdrop garden.
A last glance as it began to snow.
Flowers weren't quite at their best and we maybe should have waited another week.  What's more, as we stood admiring them, it began to snow.  My all singing phone had got it wrong again.  
 Or the Met Office did.
The weather turns nasty as we beat a retreat from Linton
We beat a hasty retreat from Linton with snow stinging uncovered flesh, mainly our ears, and I wished I was wearing the woolly hat I'd left on the table.
Just water under the bridge
From hereon it was all road and tracks but the snow was blowing directly into our faces.  My wonderful partner forged ahead whilst I followed in her fleeting footsteps.  Remarkably, as we headed down to Linton Falls, snow stopped abruptly and bits of blue sky began to force the clouds apart.
White water at Linton Falls
We stopped on the bridge, deafened by the roaring torrent that flowed beneath us, and gazed in wonder at the whirling mass as it sped towards the sea.
Whiter water under a clearing sky!
As we ran the last half mile to the car park, the sky cleared and we could feel a little warmth in the sun again.  But it felt lovely to get home and step into a warm kitchen.   As we lie in bed on Sunday night it seemed wonderfully quiet compared to the hammering of rain on our bedroom window the previous night.   We slept in peace, blissfully unaware of what was happening beyond the curtains until, at 7.30 am, we awoke to find...
that slowly, silently and surreptitiously,
snow had arrived.

Monday, 27 January 2020

A little further....

My plan for last Sunday was to run a little further, to get strength back into my legs, but we'd been celebrating Burn's Night so things got a bit out of hand.  A horrible pain in my nether regions caused something of a delay at the start of our six mile jaunt to Appletreewick but after a brief stop we were soon on our way. 
Well wrapped up against a cold wind by Hebden Suspension Bridge. 
(Click to enlarge)
It's nearly six months since we ran this route and I was really looking forward to running the riverbank again. 
River Wharfe near Loup Scar
A dipper bobbed around on a stone at Loup Scar but by the time I got the camera out, it had gone,
Passing the Red Lion at Burnsall Bridge
It was early morning and I can only remember passing four people and none of them had dogs.  Quite an unusual occurrence!
On the bridge at Woodhouse Farm
We pressed on, following the river past the Red Lion in Burnsall  (it was shut, not that I'm ever allowed in such places) and through Daggett's car parking field to Woodhouse Farm.
Running the short road loop
Here, we normally leave the river for a short loop onto the road, hence the name - the Appletreewick lollipop.
Passing the campsite
In half a mile or so we cut back to rejoin the river at the campsite.
Flat, easy running
We'd run three miles and were now at the half way mark and turning for home with a cool wind in our faces.  
Peering into the River Dibb at Woodhouse Farm
There were no hills until the last ¼ mile, it was all delightful running, through Burnsall, over the River Dibb that flows into the Wharfe, past Loup Scar again and on to the Suspension Bridge.
Passing Loup Scar again
After another mile we'd got into our stride.  Breakfast was calling.
A cormorant drying his wings
We'd never seen a cormorant on the river before so were surprised to see one perched on a rock mid stream, wings outstretched.
Full steam ahead
We tried to take a decent picture of him but he flew away. We ran on.
Towards the Suspension Bridge seen in the distance
It's a lovely stretch of river to the Suspension Bridge and we never tire of running this, especially when we have it to ourselves!
Crossing the bridge again 
Pretty soon we reached the Suspension Bridge and out onto the tarmac again. It was steep tarmac and shhhh,, never let it be said, we walked up it....   It was only 150 yards or so.  Pretty soon we were home enjoying porridge and coffee, crumpets and honey.
Well, I was.....