Saturday, 20 June 2020

Summer solstice..

It wasn't easy climbing out of bed at 3.45am but a cup of strong coffee and a spoonful of positive thinking soon had me lacing up my running shoes.    Two young girls, members of Vegan Runners, got me to the top of Castle Hill in time for the sumrise.
Many folk were there before us, most of whom had driven there judging by the number of cars parked at the summit.
Most were well wrapped up, some complaining of the cold, so an 88 year old figure in running shorts was causing more attention than I liked.  Energised by the sun's magic I made an invigorating run for home.  
Breakfast was a little earlier than usual!

Thursday, 18 June 2020

Days in the hills....

I gather I'm now officially allowed to travel the 45 miles to visit my wonderful partner instead of sneaking over there a la Dominic Cummings.   So I did.  Again!
Out of rain     (Click to enlarge)
Into glorious sunshine
So far, June has been mainly wet so I was lucky to choose a fune weather window to get back into the hills running the country I love with the one I love most.
I suppose we ran about twelve miles in total - which I reckon is quite enough for a couple with over 160 years between us.
Yorkshire Water decreed we couldn't drive to Grimwith so we'd to park a mile away on the main road, which rather extended our trip.
But the day was pleasant and we enjoyed every moment, often stopping to stand and stare.
Then running on , easily, enjoyably...
Stopping to sniff wild thyme...
Admire mountain pansies...
Listen to a wheatear getting cross at us...
Rest and feel the sun on our bodies...
Slow down by the lovely lagoon...
Identify wild orchids...

Feel the joy of running in the sun...
Or dancing across rough country ...
Stopping to drink it all in...
Then the long trail home...
to a garden of scented flowers, friendly bees,
a blackbird singing in the apple tree,
A glass of wine,
and all's well with the world.

Wednesday, 3 June 2020

A walk on the wild side......

After watching a live streaming of my friend Peter Dibb's funeral, attended by only six mourners wearing face masks, it was a great relief whrn my wonderful partner whisked me away to the solace of the Yorkshire Dales.   There I could effect some sort of closure on a traumatic three weeks.  Nature is a great healer.
Bridge over untroubled waters   (Click to enlarge)
Have we got to go up there?
Afraid so

Hebden crag
We're up and walking towards Mossy Mere
Mossy Mere. beloved of greylags, curlews, pewits, redshank,
snipe, skylarks - and me
Relaxing, listening to the bird's wild chorus
Looking across to hills I used to run
When it wont open
In the dried up land of bog cotton and golden plovers
Desolation - solitary sheep, a sea of bog cotton and lonely hills
At the boundary stone twixt Hebden and Grassington Moors
Time to rest amd drink it all in
Another rest - at a shooting butt high on the moor 
Hello, what's this flowering in such a wild place?
Let's have a closer look...
On the way home
Walking down Hebden Beck
Miner's Bridge in Hebden Ghyll
Home and relaxed
That deserves a glass of wine - or two.
The end of a perfect day

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 (1933 - 2020)

 An appreciation of a great athlete and mentor who went missing on VE day and was subsequently found the following day in a wood near Honley where he'd apparently suffered a fatal heart attack. 
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.