|Castle Hill dominating the horizon on my Thursday run
Last Wednesday was another such day when I took the shortest route to Castle Hill for a bit of 'altitude training' as I call it - because it's 900ft above sea level. By the time I'd dragged my sliding feet through the churned up morass my enthusiasm for hard repetitions had begun to wane a little. Nevertheless, 16 x 200m is what I'd planned so that's what I'd jolly well do, even if it meant dropping down a gear. The first rep running into a biting wind took 48 seconds and the second 46 before levelling off at 45's and finishing with a 42. It was a tired old Runningfox that jogged home after a strenuous eight miles, but feeling quite chuffed with myself for accomplishing what I set out to do.
|Running towards the Cracoe War Memorial
Sunday's ten mile saunter, reccying a wild route round Barden Moor that the Skipton branch of U3A planned to walk four days later, was the hardest thing I've done for quite some time. It was cloudless and sunny with the temperature hovering around freezing when we parked the car in the quaint little hamlet of Thorpe around 10am and set off running southwards up a steep stony lane onto the open moor. After following a wall westwards, climbing all the time, we cut off left up a shallow gully to the top of Rolling Gate Crag.
The great Obelisk of Cracoe War memorial came into view a mile ahead over shining bogs and still a couple of hundred feet above us. It was the eleventh day of the eleventh month and I'd hoped we'd reach it around the eleventh hour. We failed by only a few minutes. Not surprisingly perhaps, no-one from the village of Cracoe, a thousand feet below, had braved the boggy ascent to honour their dead on this remote, rocky outcrop. We were alone among the poppies, the names of the dead and a murmuring wind that made the long silence the more profound.
|Listening to the silence.....
We climbed back over the wall and ran as best we could, dodging hither and thither among slimy pools, jumping from one raised clump to another so as not to sink too far into the mire, following the long wall to Rylstone Cross. In my mounting exhaustion it seemed much further than the mile or so on the map and I breathed a sigh of relief when the Cross eventually came into view silhouetted against the green landscape on a high rocky spur.
Back home it took a long time to clear away the peaty evidence of our activities. Between the top of my trainer socks and the bottom of my running tights a black band had formed round my ankle and all my toenails were stained black. My feet tingled as a result of all the scrubbing in the shower. Socks had totally disintegrated and were no longer wearable. My New Balance trail shoes had changed from their striking black and green colour to a uniform peaty brown - and were reluctant to change back!
|The descent from Rylstone Cross
After all the enforced cleaning duties there was no time to feed the inner man before dashing off to the afternoon service at 3pm. Although I'd had nothing to drink since breakfast my singing voice was remarkably clear and strong for Remembrance Day hymns - which was just as well for our organist seemed intent on pulling out all the stops! A two minute silence after the Roll Call sent my mind floating back to that Obelisk high on the moor, to names engraved on the faded plaque, those initials carved later into weathered stone, the dutifully placed poppies, a little note wrapped in plastic and pushed into a little niche where it wouldn't blow away. But most of all I remembered the sweet and incredible silence of that desolate place, that long, long silence - of eternity.