Monday 27 July 2015

Total Fitness? Think I'll stay as I am.......

During a cold, wet, miserable week I somehow managed to get ahead of schedule towards the end of it. Lately, I've been happy to average 3 miles a day - 21 miles per week - but catching up with mileage after a shaky start to the week got a bit out of hand and I'd to tighten the reins when I got to 28 miles. Between rogue showers I really enjoyed my slow plods round the countryside, then later over open moorland, and got a bit carried away.
Don't even think about it, big ears!     (Click to enlarge)
 Midweek runs over Castle Hill are my bread and butter, usually a quick 4 miles, on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. Last week it became extended to a 4 and two 6's with the inclusion of a Wednesday run. All at a steady pace, taking in the panoramic Pennine views, listening to the the yellow hammers and thrushes, talking to the rabbits (!), running the gauntlet of cows with their calves, saying 'Hello' to the horses, photographing wild flowers, praying that various loose dogs were of friendly disposition.......
"Hello horsies...sorry, no Polos today"
 An added attraction on Thursday was watching the antics of  masochistic members of 'Total Fitness' running up the hundred or so steep steps towards Victoria Tower, all the time being shouted at from the top by their sadistic instructor, made to do press-ups when they reached him, then sent down again to repeat the torture. Unless I'm mistaken, there was a bit of swearing going on! Membership of 'Total Fitness' certainly isn't cheap, so it amuses me to what lengths they'll go to get their money's worth. And all before they start work....
'Total Fitness' devotees having fun.  "Come on, quicker, sprint!"
 It felt great, come Saturday, to run for eight miles into the comparative silence of Grassington Moor. Apart from the whispering wind the only other noises were an odd brace of grouse clattering off into the distance and an agitated pewit calling to its late brood of chicks to lie low until we'd passed. With my wonderful partner we'd set off together but separated for a while for me to run a slightly longer and rougher route over Bycliffe Hill, an area I love for its remoteness and solitude.
Space and solitude, lone figure running up Bycliffe Hill.....
 As I neared the top I became aware of something I hadn't seen before, something strange on top of a hummock in the distance. It wasn't until I got closer that my deteriorating eyesight recognized the shape of my wonderful partner, taking pictures of me as I ran towards her across the moor!  From thereon we ran together down the 'long wall' and back into Hebden Ghyll, stopping only to photograph a bank of wild thyme before scuttering home ahead of threatening rain clouds
.....and another running down
.With various members of the congregation on holiday I found myself on Church duty again on Sunday morning where a refreshed and enthusiastic Rev. Janet Clasper was conducting her first Communion service since returning from a three month sabbatical. She 'went on a bit', as they say, so instead of a planned six mile run afterwards, I'd to opt for a quick 4 miles along the riverbank before the heavens opened again and kept me indoors for the rest of the day.
On Sunday's short run by the River Wharfe before the clouds opened
 Things were a bit different for my wonderful partner. After National Parks duty on Barden Fell and cloud capped Simon's Seat she arrived home later in the afternoon in a somewhat soggy state, fortuitiously, just as I'd put the kettle on. 
Now wasn't she the lucky one?

Tuesday 21 July 2015

Runners should never look back.....

 ....but that's just what I've been doing today, to 1990, 25 wonderful years ago. I was 58 at the time and been running for only 4 years. Most would consider themselves too old to start running in their mid fifties but it's the most natural of exercises and no-one, I believe, is ever too old. We were born to run. Unless there is some very serious disability, anyone is capable of doing it. Long ago the human body was designed not just to run, but to out-run other living creatures upon which they were dependent for food, something to think about while driving to the supermarket!
That means all of us......    (Click pictures to enlarge)
 Someone said, "Everyone's body is capable of running, it's the brain that's the problem". And so it is with most aspiring runners. The brain can invent an endless list of reasons for not running - as it did with me. But you've gotta have the courage to say "Watch me" then get out there regularly until it's become a life enriching habit.  Looking back through diaries covering those first 4 years, what happened to me is almost unbelievable. I'd become a force to be reckoned with in road races, fell races and on the Track - at approaching 60 years old!  Here's a monthly run-down of that 4th year 25 years ago with added pictures and quotes from other times to show what can be achieved in later life if the spirit is willing.
Taken while breaking the MV55 course record in the 1988 Pennine Marathon - with a 3.05.47
 Two races in January brought a 2nd MV55 placing in a Yorkshire Veterans 10K Cross Country Championship at York, then a pleasing PB (Personal Best) over a hilly 7 mile road race in Huddersfield. There'd been snow overnight in the latter, so I ran it in studs finishing in 42 minutes.
 Monthly total: 164 miles @ average 8.15 pace
A most treasured medal - for my first MV60 win in the 24 mile Three Peaks of Yorkshire race
 February was a busy month starting with another Championship 10K race at Barnsley that produced a bronze medal and another PB of 38.12. Then a Northern Veterans X-Country Championship at Accrington where again I could only manage 2nd MV55. X-Country races were never my best discipline. To make up for it I ran the 'Huddersfield 6 mile road race in 38.12 to set an MV55 course record.
Monthly total: 184 miles @ average 7.52 pace
My Northern Veterans O/65 10,000m Track record still stands. That MV80 guy wasn't the ex Prime Minister
 A hamstring injury in March reduced me to a jog over the last 10½ miles of the undulating Dentdale Run but still covered the 14½ miles in 99.05. Two weeks later I ran the York ½ marathon in 81.19, a PB that still stands in my record books. In some ways it was a graduation day when I finished ahead of my tutor, a very good runner called Alan Taylor, who'd recognized my potential and first encouraged me to race. Thanks Alan, I owe all my trophies and prizes to you!
Monthly total: 173 miles @ average 7.35 pace
My first MV60 win in the 1993 London Marathon. My second win, 2 years later, was faster
 My only race in April was the Kentmere Horseshoe, a 19.8km fell race with 1006m of ascent, which I'd entered as a Grade A qualifying race for the following year's Three Peaks of Yorkshire, a race I'd set my heart on running. I was 1st MV55 at Kentmere, in 111.23, but beaten by a remarkable MV60, a chap called Bill Fielding who finished 4 minutes ahead of me. I wasn't bothered. I'd got my qualifying time for the 'Peaks'.
Monthly total: 241 miles @ average 7.35 pace
MV70 English Fell Runners Champion medal. I'm proud of that, achieved with very little training
 I was a late entry for the Tadcaster '10' mile race in May so ineligible for prizes, even if my 63.43 had been fast enough. It was a scorching day and the route was between fields of heady oilseed rape that had runners reeling all over the place. I recall the ambulances being very busy.
An Alsation dog gave me a nasty bite across my kneecap 4 days before the 'Trailblazer' 7 mile race 10 days later so I was reluctant to run until a friend said "Just imagine that bloody dog is chasing you and you'll be alright". I don't remember whether I did imagine that, but I easily won the MV55 race in 45.41.   The Meltham Maniac Mile, a downhill race, was run a week later, the day after I'd been on a tough 20 mile training run over Scafell Pike with three of my Northern Veteran friends. I'd got myself all psyched up for it, and chosen a suitable sub 4 minute pace-maker, only to be told there were too many runners for one race, and that I'd have to run in the second one. Spit!!! I went off the boil and could only manage 4.05 which, I suppose, wasn't bad for a 58 year old apprentice!
Monthly total: 232 miles @ average 8.07 pace

Mixing it up - at the World Masters Mountain Running Championships, Switzerland
An only race in June was the Holme Moss fell race - 25.5km over the notorious peat bog that is Black Hill with 1285m ascent - another Grade A qualifier for the Yorkshire Three Peaks race. There was no MV55 category but I finished 2nd MV50 in 2.26.04.
Monthly total: 201 miles @ average 8.31 pace
Top ranked MV80 over three Track distances - and a 2nd in the 200m
July was an empty month racing-wise though I managed 203 miles of hard training including three of my favourite fast/slow sessions - basically jog a mile then run the next one sub 6, and so on until 4 fast miles have been completed in the eight. My diary for the fast ones reads 5.21: 5.27: 5.38: 5.19. I'd finish in 64 minutes so the 'jogs' were around 8 minute pace!  In another fast/slow session my fastest mile - down the road where I'd practiced for the Meltham Maniac - was 4.27.  In two other sessions I ran the Holme Valley Circular (a popular 22 mile hilly circuit) in around 3.08.
Monthly total:203 miles @ average 8.20 pace
On a training run with my grand daughter, Nickie - a triathlete
 Two August races were both 10K disatnce, one on the road, then a 10,000m training race on the track. The Almondbury 10K started with a 500ft climb to Castle Hill that sapped all the strength from our legs, then some thigh shattering steep downhills back to the Finish. I finished in 40.42 and 1st MV55.  The 10,000m training race was a warm-up for a forthcoming Track Championship and I must have been feeling good on the night to clock 37.21 which remains my all time Track PB.
Monthly total: 190 miles @ average 7.41 pace

My 24 mile Mallerstang Yomp Veteran's Cup record still stands
Shelf Moor fell race (9.10km/457m) opened my September account with 1st MV55 in 53.15. Next came Penistone Show 10K that had a very hilly start from the showground and a very fast finish. There must have been some very fast runners there that day because I didn't win anything! But it's always a very fine show to which race runners have free admittance.
The inaugural Huddersfield Town Centre 10K road race took place on the last day of June when I blasted the MV55 category and, presumably, set an MV55 course record. It still stands - because they never ran it again!
Monthly total: 175 miles @ average 7.47 pace

The oldest runner ever to complete the Langdale ½ marathon - with my wonderful partner
In October came the Northern Veterans 10,000m Track Championship at the Stanley Park track in Blackpool - and my first ever official track race. My plan was to run the first mile at 5 - 5½ minute pace, to break up the field, then settle into my race pace and battle it out at the end with anyone who might still be with me. It worked perfectly for in the event, no-one ever got near me and I ran out overall winner, lapping everyone, in 37.43 to great applause from the Stand. 
Two weeks later in the Northern Veterans 10 mile Championships my 62.19 was only good enough for 4th place behind the winner's (Brian Gane) 58.52.
Monthly total: 152 miles @ average 8.00 pace
How very true! The incredible Catra Corbett to whom 100 miles is a stroll in the park
 November concluded my racing year with a 10K race in Barnsley and a mixed Northern Veterans and Yorkshire Veterans 6 mile race at Leigh in Lancashire. I was well beaten at Barnsley and could only manage 2nd MV55 at Leigh. I'd gone off the boil and Christmas couldn't come soon enough.
Monthly total: 170 miles @ average 7.56 pace.
December's total was 122 miles @ 9.15 pace.
Well, that's just what I've been saying....
 All in all I ran 2,217 miles that year at an average pace of 7mins 55secs per mile - at 58 years old. That fell-running legend, Joss Naylor once said, "Running is just a question of training your mind, of implanting into your mind the will to accomplish the target you have set yourself". And there you have it - training THE MIND - that's what Joss said. His body was a bit of a wreck, no cartilage in one knee, two discs missing in his back, unfit for National service, often running with horrendous blisters, torn flesh, twisted ankles, sometimes sleepless for many nights. It didn't stop him becoming one of the most celebrated fell runners of all time - with an MBE to boot - it was his MIND that made him the great runner he became - after he'd cast his surgical jacket aside.

All good advice to get started
And so it can be with anyone who is willing to put their MIND to it. The MIND can override many physical handicaps - if it is allowed to do so.  Initial aches, pains and stiffness are par for the course until the body becomes adapted to what the MIND is driving it to do. These things pass, or we learn to accept trivial inconveniences when they're far outweighed by all the healthy, life-enhancing benefits running can heap upon us. That's been my experience, and I believe it can be for anyone.
Now that I've said all that, I hope I don't find half the population of Huddersfield prancing around Castle Hill when I run up there in the morning!

Monday 13 July 2015

A bee in my bonnet.....

.....or a hornet in my headband. I had to laugh the other night, otherwise I may have taken the conversation far too seriously. I was accused of being an egoist, albeit indirectly. What the gentleman actually said was, blogging is a form of egoism, and as there was only one blogger in the room when he said it, it was obvious he was alluding to me. I referred him to the heading on my blog page - The Online Diary of an Octogenarian Runner - and told him that is exactly what it is, a diary to record my ageing antics. He countered by asking why I couldn't just use a notebook instead of publishing online?
Roadside flowers in Hebden    (Click pictures to enlarge)
Well, he could be right, I suppose. If truth be known I'm rather proud of my online creation, something quite impossible to replicate in the pages of a notebook. Before any computer arrived on my desk I filled many a notebook with personal accounts of Munro-bagging and mountaineering activities and even stuck in an occasional picture by way of illustration. The scribbled contents were often used as skeletons on which to build magazine and newspaper articles, or stories for our club's 'Bootprint' publication. I still have them, gathering dust on shelves, print and pictures fading sadly, but they're all relics of a past era I rarely think about any more. I'm no longer a mountaineer. I've done all the Scottish Munros and many a classic climb. Nowadays I'm a runner, and cannot bear to think of a day when I'm not.
Bridge over Hebden Beck
In my dotage, blogging and running complement each other ideally and I derive great pleasure from both. To provide material for my blog I'm obliged to keep on running and producing pictures (yes, photography comes into the equation too), pastimes that keep me fit and active physically and mentally. I've never considered it a form of egotism, more an enjoyable way of staying healthy into my twilight years, getting out into places I love, enjoying the outdoor life, birds, flowers and all living creatures - then recording such things as best I can in glorious colour. I'll never willingly step back into the past, scribbling and sellotaping pictures into scrapbooks, daybooks, notebooks or diaries. I might be 83 but I'm no dinosaur.
Looking across the Wharfe valley from Black Crag, Hebden
I'm more than happy for my blog to serve as both diary and scrapbook.  Friends, relatives, other runners, bloggers and fitness minded contemporaries world-wide can read it too - if they want. It saves me the bother of contacting folk individually!  But those who look down their noses at users of social media - regarding such things as blogs, Facebook, Twitter, etc. as beneath their dignity - I reckon are as egotistic as anyone. It's not just us bloggers.......
Nuff said.
Six feet away on Castle Hill, I could hear these rabbits thinking "call yourself a runner?"
So what have I been doing this past week? Struggling, that's what. Humid weather reduced me to a crawl at times and each day I returned home saturated with good, honest sweat. Never mind those 'Total Fitness' guys patting me on the back as they pattered past on Castle Hill, calling me the fittest man in Yorkshire. The local rabbit population grazing by the path didn't even bother to move, knowing full well in their tiny brains I'd no way of getting close enough to harm them. I felt knackered.  Similarly, after an 8 mile run over Bycliffe I was almost staggering as I returned down the long wall into Hebden Ghyll. My new camera provided a wonderful excuse for extended stops to experiment with various settings.
A flower that brings back a lot of memories, as does this song - wild mountain thyme
All in all I achieved a hard fought 23 miles which, including 2,099ft of ascent, amounted to not such a bad week. I'd like to blame my struggles on humidity, rather than advancing years, and can't wait for some fresher weather to prove me right. It had better. After the Sunday morning service our Minister, Rev David Macha, insisted on going for a run with me sometime, "sooner rather than later" and adding "I'm serious". That frightened me a bit!  So much so that in the afternoon I was down by the riverbank doing speedwork, trying to sharpen up with a dozen or so fast repetitions. David is  a class runner and considerably younger than me but he can't ever claim to be as fast as.......Oh God, I'd better shut up or that chap will be onto me about egoism again.

Tuesday 7 July 2015

An ordinary week....

 It all seemed a little boring last week after the previous week's magical turfy trails around St Martin's, long stretches of dazzling shell sand, boundless blue skies, balmy breezes, extraordinary turqoise seascapes, exotic flowers, gulls crying and the company of many other friendly little birds that fed from our hands on the 4 star campsite.
Goldies outside my window on a rainy morning.......(Click on pictures to enlarge)
 Back home in Yorkshire most of the hay has been gathered in, the cuckoo that called across the valley to enhance my morning runs has gone silent, frivolous beasties are back in the Castle Hill fields, elder flowers are ready for making wine, goldfinches have at last discovered my nyger seeds, a neighbour's hens have been killed by rogue dogs and I was twice bitten by an uncontrolled dog on Castle Hill. No damage was done and I managed to chalk up 22 glorious miles. And on updating my Running Diary at the end of June I was delighted to learn I'd reached the amazing figure of 38,000 miles since I began running in April, 1986.
Test run selfie with TZ70 on Grassington Moor.......
But a major catastrophe occurred. After years of excellent service and thousands of pictures, my trusty old Panasonic Lumix DMC-FS16 camera finally gave up the ghost.  It was featherlight and went with me on most of my runs and to all our holiday destinations, including our recent jaunt to the Isles of Scilly. Tucked into it's little holster on my belt, I hardly felt it was there but was always handy when the need arose.
Lapwing over the wall.......

I've replaced it with a much more complicated Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ70 which, among its many functions I'll never understand, boasts a 30x zoom together with relevant image stabilisation. I took it for a seven mile rest run round Grassington Moor on Sunday and, apart from increased weight, was fairly happy with the results. Attracted by the concerned piping of a golden plover, no doubt telling me in birdie language to beggar off, I zoomed in to what was little more than a tiny speck on a hummock in the distance. And here is the result.....
Golden plover, scolding me on Grassington Moor.......

The TZ70 is probably twice the weight of the FS16 it's replaced, most noticeable when it swings from my side round to the front and flaps on my belly, so must find a way of fixing that. A safety pin?
Here in Yorkshire I reckon temperatures rose higher than in the Isles of Scilly last week, much to my delight as a sun worshipper. With hardly a soul around on my 6am off-road runs I'd no qualms about running topless before spreadeagling on the lawn after breakfast.
I suppose that was summer!