Tuesday 2 April 2013

Arctic Easter....

   I'm told it was the coldest Easter Sunday since records began and the coldest March for sixty six years - just two
After shoveling a way in...
good reasons why this old codger hasn't done a great deal of running of late. Even as I write, snow is still piled a metre high in my garden, though it's beginning to thaw and I can now reach my bird feeders, much to the delight of my little feathered friends. But I'm ashamed to say that running over the past week has amounted to just 14 hard earned miles. On Thursday I donned my Yaktrax and plodded through deep snow onto Castle Hill, climbing over drifts, sinking up to my knees at times, to record just three miles. The road below Castle Hill was blocked (still is) and some local residents were unable to get their cars back home. As protection from the arctic conditions I was wearing three layers, compression top, fleece and windproof jacket (not to mention woolly hat and gloves) which was all very well when I set off but I was beginning to sweat a bit by the time I reached the 900ft contour. As I jogged across the flat summit I was amazed to pass a couple of lads doing press-ups in the snow, one of them dressed in only a T-shirt and shorts. We breed 'em tough in Yorkshire!
Sign on Castle Hill side....
   My usual route off the hill was totally impassable so I climbed a wall and barbed wire fence to wend my way through the fields - searching for a line of least resistance. All of a sudden a pair of March hares exploded from the snow and streaked ahead of me, the first I'd seen in the area since my hunting days, many moons ago. They're best seen in the early evening as they venture out to feed, or early mornings before they sink into their forms to stay mainly hidden throughout the day (which is why I don't see them very much nowadays because most of my running is done mid-day). In March they don't seem to care very much whether they're seen, or not. I love hares and have a strange affinity with these wild creatures that love to run free in wide open spaces. For what it's worth, here is one of my poems about them from a little anthology I once put together. It's called: 

That's the stile...

Couched in morning light, herb replete,
Fur feet kissed clean and dew-anointed,
A wild hare gulps one last warming draught
Of soporific sun

In splendid isolation
Of chosen solitude
He shines momentarily
Like living tourmaline
In a sea of rippled green,
Then settles in his sylvan seat,
Droops his black-tipped ears
And sinks to sweet oblivion.

Safe in his sanctuary
Beyond the death-dark door of sleep
That bars the fly fox
Or ripping stoat
He lopes through clover dreams
Where lilting larks
Pour out their paeons
On poppy fields
Of opiate paradise.

Macho guy wearing shorts in Hebden Ghyll...
   Enough of that. What else did I do? Well, together with my wonderful partner I ventured into yet more snow to churn out another eleven miles and keep the old body ticking over. For six of those miles we trundled round Appletreewick and back along a snowy riverbank where we managed to avoid sliding into the water. Funnily enough, it was sunny and lambs were snoozing in the fields, soaking up a bit of rare warmth. Around them, red-beaked oystercatchers were fraternizing with black-headed gulls, woodpeckers were hammering away at prospective nest sites and wood anemones were bursting into flower beneath the trees. A male goosander sat tight on the opposite bank, I suspect not very far from his crested mate who'd be warming a clutch of cream eggs - referring to their colour, not the Easter variety.
   On another day we donned just about everything bar fur coats to run up the ghyll for fun and games in the
All good fun.....
drifts. A macho man came running down wearing shorts, but he was running faster than we can, and better able to keep warm. It wasn't long before we'd to strap Yaktrax to our trail shoes to prevent us slithering around in the white stuff. We'd planned to run up 'the long wall' to ascertain whether frogs had returned to their breeding ground, but there was no way we could get there through huge drifts. I imagined hundreds of little Kermits frantically trying to reach their pond, leaping skywards up a nine feet barrier of snow, only to come tobogganing back down again on their cold bellies. And I could imagine the looks on their silly faces, and the daft way they talk!

Don't bother to get up...
   We turned homeward through a gateway half blocked with snow into a sheltered lane that had been partitioned off to form a sheep pen, and where dozens of hardy Swaledales browsed contentedly. They seemed happy and well fed for most didn't even bother to get up as we jogged past within inches of them. I could have stood on one to climb over the fence. From thereon drifts covered many of the stiles and gateways which made their negotiating a little more interesting, and lots more fun, though some might think we're getting a bit too old for that sort of thing.  Later, at an Easter Monday fund raising gathering in our village institute, we were relating details of our run to a Methodist minister who thought it commendable that folk of our age could still get out and do such things, though most people would say we're crackers!  His attitude was somewhat different from that of an Anglican minister I'd been talking to, who also happens to be a very good runner: "It's hard work but very good training" was his considered opinion. Now that's what I like to hear.  I might change my religion!


  1. The snow looks so clean and fresh, I wish I could spend my days running in exciting places, but here I sit at the office desk and that I will have to do for another 12-22 years... unless I win the LOTTO!!!

  2. Hats off to you and your partner for running in those conditions - you set a wonderful example!

  3. March was tough for running over here two. Really like that poem - is your anthology still available?

    1. Breandán, the anthology was a self-published limited edition volume for friends and relations - so none left I'm afraid. I'll maybe publish more poems on my Blog if they become relevant. Glad you liked the poem, have you worked out the title?

  4. I love your blog and pictures.
    Congratulations on getting out and running in those conditions.

  5. There´s something about running in these harsher environments that bring out the best in us, and especially you Gordon.

    1. Dunno Martyn, think I run best in warm, sunny conditions - like yours.

    2. Maybe we like it where the grass is greener :)

      You should come over and try running in July and August. You'll appreciate the cold then I'm sure!