"Flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle dove is
heard in our land; (Song of Solomon 2:12)"
|Wood anemones flowering at Appletreewick|
Well, that's almost right - so long as we cross out turtle dove and substitute their noisy little cousins, collared doves and ring doves, that join the thrushes, blackbirds, robins, great tits and a raucous cock pheasant outside our bedroom window in the breaking dawn, telling us it's time to get up. I'm not complaining. It's a wonderful symphony of sound that reaches a crescendo after 30 minutes or so, before gradually dying down as they go about their morning chores - whatever they might be. Invariably, I settle down for another hours sleep until the milkman comes rattling his bottles.
Last Monday morning there were other accompanying sounds to make doubly sure we were awake, that of gale force wind roaring through the treetops while our twangling wind chimes danced themselves into a frenzied extravaganza of musical cacophony the like of which we've seldom heard. Thank goodness. The Lord only knows what the neighbours thought? Anyhow, it certainly woke us up and, like the sunny weather, we were bright and more than a little breezy. Shortly after breakfast we donned our running gear and set off up the ghyll, with the wind behind us, for one of our longest runs of the year. Actually, it was only seven miles, but none the less enjoyable for a number of reasons.
|Triplets - and cock pheasant|
We'd hardly run a quarter of a mile before we discovered our first primroses of the year flowering on a warm
east facing bank sheltered from the wind. Nearby, coltsfoot shone like yellow stars in the grassy verges beside the rising track onto the moor. The wind blew stronger and gustier as we climbed higher but it was all in our favour. We parted company at 2½ miles, my wonderful partner branching off to Yarnbury whilst I carried on up Bycliffe Hill, climbing another 500ft to the 'stone man' a tall cairn that affords a fine viewpoint looking southwards over the Wharfe valley. It's always hazy when I reach this point and I've never yet been able to take a decent photograph of the view. Someday, I will.
|Stone man at 1500ft|
|Revelling in the snow down the long wall from Grassington Moor|
My planned descent was by a mile of glorious springy turf down what runners call 'the long wall'. I'd noted from a brief stop by the cairn that there was still some snow lingering beside the wall, but I was totally unprepared for the huge drifts and cornices lower down. Fortunately, although several feet deep in places, the snow was still compacted and safe for running. As such, it gave me a delightful descent and a fitting memento of the hard winter we've experienced this year. I returned home a very happy man, having been serenaded by skylarks and my path illumined by bright flowers and snowy descents. Not many years ago nothing could stop me while
out on a run. I was training and every second was important. I recall my sister looking rather cross on an occasion when I ran past her with just a casual wave. And, years later, her amazement when I actually stopped to talk and pass the time of day with her. I believe the change came about after my 2nd M60 category win in the London marathon after which I decided I'd rest on my laurels, believing I'd reached the limit of my capabilities. Many new runners set their sites on the marathon but, from the very beginning, my sites were firmly focused on a sub 3 hour marathon.
|The marathon shirt I wear with pride.|
In my view, anyone can 'do' a marathon. It's no big deal. I could go out and do a marathon any day of the week. The distance never frightened me. So far as I was concerned the true test was to RUN it, every stride of the way, in a respectable time which, for me, was under three hours. I did it, twice, and after that I metamorphosed into what I am now, a zen runner who runs purely for fitness and pleasure. I may or may not race again. My runs are not seriously regarded as training any more. I run for enjoyment. Now, unlike yesteryear, I frequently stop to chat to farmers, neighbours or fellow runners, to gaze at the luscious landscape, take photographs or, like yesterday, revel in the snow with a childish delight. It suits me and I plan to go on doing it for many more years.