Tuesday 7 May 2013

Another milestone......

Maybe a week's supply - a few years ago....
The May Day bank holiday marked another milestone in the chequered life of Old Runningfox when, by God's grace, he reached the grand old age of 81. It's 27 years now since the simple act of running transformed my life. I'd survived 30 years of heavy smoking - cigarettes, pipe, cigars - and every drag inhaled as far down as it would go. Wine, women and song were my specialities - along with strong beer and copious amounts of the hard stuff. I'd sink a couple of bottles of whisky around town and still hit the keyhole with my key - first time - after I'd driven home! Friends who called and sampled my home brew quite often never made it back home. A chap painting the exterior of my house foolishly drank a glass during his lunch break and quietly disappeared for the rest of the day leaving his ladder still leaning against the wall. I drank the stuff copiously, like tea, as my belly was proof!
   Then, in my 54th year, along came 'running' and by some miracle - or because 'someone up there loves
Celandines, anemones and blackthorn on the river path...
me' - my lifestyle changed beyond all belief, my lungs cleared of all their multi-coloured gunge (though much reduced in air capacity) and my grossly abused liver must have totally regenerated. From a debauched, overweight and out of shape body came a slimmed down athlete who'd subsequently run thousands of miles, rise to the top of National Rankings - and even feature in World Rankings, if you looked far enough down the list!  It's my belief, and I say this with the deepest conviction, that had I not stepped out of the door that April day in 1986 for my first tentative steps into the world of running I wouldn't have been around yesterday to celebrate my 81st birthday.  At a recent service Rev David Macha asked the question "When did you first realize that God loves you?"  I could tell him - almost to the hour!
Leaving Mossdale on Saturday....
The weather was kind last week, temperatures reaching a warm 61ºF, enabling me to strip down to shorts and vest for most of my meanderings round the countryside and up into the hills. Spring flowers and bright blossoms had brought out bumble bees and butterflies. Farmers ploughed straight furrows across barren fields, and waved as I loped past. Lambs charged around their broad pastures, every now and then springing straight up into the air, or playing 'king of the castle' - as they do when they feel a bit of sun on their woolly backs! At such times it feels really good to be a runner, belonging to it all, part of the great scheme of things. The ground had dried too, enabling me to maintain a mainly steady pace, except where horses had made hock deep holes through woodland rides. In four runs last week I clocked up 26 miles, the last ten being an enjoyable romp into the wilds of Mossdale for the first time this year.
   A cuckoo calling from the wooded bank opposite woke me before 6am on my birthday, a bit too early for me, but a welcome sound
Where the sand martins live....
nevertheless. The sun was already up, its light through the open curtains ensuring I didn't go back to sleep. After breakfast, and a peek at all my presents, I set off along the riverbank for a 10 mile tempo run to Barden Bridge and back. Being May Day, an official holiday, this beautiful area was swarming with walkers - and their dogs - so it wasn't easy maintaining a steady pace along the sometimes narrow paths. A gi-normous parking field in Burnsall was almost full to capacity, costing £5 per car with lesser charges for pedestrians and picnickers. I reckon the owner must have raked in nearly £2,000 that day. The ice-cream man wouldn't do too badly either.
Fisherman - maybe listening to the sandpiper?
A fisherman had a novel way of escaping the crowds - standing in the middle of the river, serenaded by a chittering sandpiper as he cast his line. From their holes in the far bank sand martins skimmed the surface of the water for flies. Wood anemones, lesser celandines, primroses, and bluebells flowered in profusion beside the hedgerows and under the blosson ladened blackthorns. It was a feel-good sort of day when most people I passed were cheerful and returned my greetings - which is not always the case! The miles passed easily and not too fast, given the 60 gates and stiles to negotiate, and I was able to keep a regular pace between times - up hill, down hill and on the flat - which augers well for next Saturday's CRO Challenge which is only two miles farther though a heck of a lot hillier.
   Then, early on Sunday morning,we travel north for our annual camping holiday to the Inner Hebrides - Mull, Ulva and Iona - so this Blog will be closing down until we get back (makes mental note to put pen and notebook in rucksack, otherwise I'll never remember all the things we do).


  1. Happy birthday! I love how you talk about your fitness transformation because, although I'm not a runner, I relate so much to what you say. I am a totally changed person. I also know when I knew that God loved me and when I started loving and enjoying myself. It was in the gym when I found my authentic self and how truly capable I am. I've worked out many of my life issues though fitness during these past 6 1/2 years.

    So have a wonderful year. I hope that 81 brings you lots of running wins and wonderful treks.

    :-) Marion

    1. Thanks Marion for birthday greeting and good wishes. My one little regret is that I didn't find my 'authentic' self, as you call it, much earlier in life. By the way, I've a photograph I'd love you to see, of my eldest son who also spends a lot of time in the gym. If you could email me, I'll send it to you. You'll be amazed!

  2. Happiest of Birthdays to you!

    Fantastic, I really enjoyed reading this post. It was great to get a glimpse into your pre-running life, there are a lot more people out there with similar stories than one might think!

    1. ....and there are even more people out there who could have similar stories if only they'd flip over the page and make the discovery. Thanks for birthday greetings.

  3. So you are 27, I don't know how old I am... I have always run, from the early years of saying to my Mom; Time me I'm running round the house to running the 50m the year I started school in 1976, No I didn't win back then!
    May you have many more running years for us to read about.

    1. You're right CD, 27 years into my born again life.....

  4. Happy birthday!! Blessings and health and many more happy miles for the year ahead!

  5. Happy Birthday Old Runningfox!

    An inspiration to us all and long may it continue :)

  6. I've been trying to send you a message for a few days but internet reception has been dire here. Happy birthday to you - a real legend of the sport and true inspiration.

  7. Happy Birthday Gordon. You have a very similar story to mine although I found running a bit earlier in life. Hope you have a great time in Scotland!