Monday 25 April 2016

Blackthorn winter......

      My ageing body must have anticipated the current blackthorn winter and conveniently spread an extra layer of fat around vulnerable parts to ensure I keep warm. A rare visit to my bathroom scales today revealed I'm almost half a stone overweight. So that's why I can't run!  I've been struggling. Last week my dawn runs got shortened to 3 miles each while Sunday's planned run was cancelled altogether resulting in a mere 13 miles for the entire week. I suppose that's better than nothing. Just.
Blackthorn flowering in the field below my study   (Click pictures to enlarge)
 Dunno about the rest of the country but Yorkshire experienced three cracking days midweek when I could stretch out on the lawn soaking up healing ultra violet rays and topping up with Vitamin D. To while away the balmy evenings I found a warm sunny corner to sit topless while topping up with some rather nice Australian Merlot until sundown. Note to self: Must look for some larger glasses....
Frosty mornings - ideal for running
There were keen white frosts as I trotted through pre dawn fields, joined on Thursday morning by a herd of frisky, bawling stirks I suspect had recently been separated from their mums and weren't too happy on their own, so pleased to have a bit of human company.
Some of my running friends
One sunrise a solitary kestrel circled round the tower and I wondered if a pair had built a nest up there, ninety feet above the ground and a thousand feet in the air. What better lookout, albeit a wee bit draughty..... On the same morning a skein of geese bugled across the flaring sky and I've kicked myself for not having a camera ready to capture the scene. It would have made a wonderful video.
Jubilee Tower - kestrel haunts
      We were lucky to complete a pleasant four miles on Saturday morning while the sun still shone and before the temperature started to drop. Even so, the dreaded blackthorn winter was closing its grip causing my wonderful partner to don an extra layer for a windy circuit of the reservoir.
Gathering clouds - well wrapped up on Saturdai's run
      A flock of greylags were feeding in a sheltered bay, oystercatchers criss-crossed noisily over the water while a solitary pied wagtail lived up to his name running along the dam wall, doing what wagtails do.
      The sky clouded over as we headed for home to stoke up the stove and snuggle in its warmth. We snuggled in its warmth all day Sunday too - until it was time to visit friends in Knaresborough who wined, dined and entertained us regally late into the night. I'm told I ate 'quite a lot' and got gently reprimanded for scraping my plate clean. It's a good job I didn't lick it too or I'd never have been invited again!
On Sunday's run - me and my rapidly expanding waistline
Looking back over last weeks restricted activities and over indulgences, it's possible that the so-called blackthorn winter had very little to do with the extra pounds I discovered today.......mmmm

Monday 18 April 2016

Seeing things.....

      My old legs churned out a total of 21 miles last week but, to be honest, in only 16 of them was I actually running. On three mornings, long before sunrise, I ran a 4 mile circuit over and around Castle Hill. Maybe I was hallucinating, or not quite awake, but I'd a funny experience on Friday.
Friday's dawn run - along the ghost path    (Click pictures to enlarge)
As I struggled steeply upwards a few yards from the perimeter path I glanced up and saw a man in a long grey coat walking along in the breaking light. Seconds later he'd completely vanished!
Some of my dawn friends
Sunday was glorious. We awoke to a cloudless sky that pleased my wonderful partner as she was on Yorkshire Dales National Park duty patrolling an area around Mossdale and Capplestone Gate.
I discovered a little lochan.....
        I'd considered going for a short run before lunch, then a bumbly walk in the afternoon. Instead I stuck a Brunch Bar in my bumbag and set off for five hours of walking, running and sunbathing, mainly out of sight, high on Grassington Moor.  
....ran past this shake-hole where rabbits live - with flowers by their door
Deviating from main tracks I discovered little lochans and remains of old buildings I'd never seen before, and didn't know existed.
through wheatear country
What I was really looking for was somewhere sheltered from the arctic wind, somewhere I could strip down to shorts and vest to expose a little more flesh to that healing sunshine. I found a grassy hollow and spent a couple of hours wallowing in ultra violet warmth.  But only my face changed colour, a not very nice shade of red with white rings round both eyes where my sunglasses had rested!
On the way home
      Occasional voices broke my reverie, and a couple went by on horseback, but I was well hidden and unlikely to suffer any human intrusion. Above me the wind rustled through the heather. Curlews were calling in the distance, a startled grouse went kekking across the skyline and a meadow pipit paid me a visit. Maybe I was laid too close to her nest?
past a wee cave - a secret way to sneak under the road
Time to go, but as I stepped from my cosy hollow it was like being plunged into a freezer. I retreated from the icy blast to don tracksters and a jacket before beginning my run for home.
and across the stepping stones bound for home
From 1,500ft it was nearly all downhill, keeping in the shelter of a long wall to drop into the ghyll - where bright wheatears have nearly all returned to their summer homes - and back to the car lined village street. A good day to end a rather good week.
Now then, roll on tomorrow and let me get back to that ghost.....
Lastly, for anyone interested in my 'Examiner' interview, here's the link

Tuesday 12 April 2016

30 years on......

      After two operations on my Rt eye, the first in December which went horribly wrong and a second delicate one in February under general anaesthetic to glue a new lens into my eye, I can now see reasonably well again. After countless follow up appointments and administering different drops 4 times a day ever since, I'm able to see clearly through that eye though the cataract in my Lt eye is considerably worse. It too will need an operation later this year, again under general anaesthetic, which I'm not looking forward to.
I can see clearly now - through one eye!
(Click pictures to enlarge)
      It never stopped me running but it certainly slowed me down and drastically reduced my mileage. And less activity resulted in an increase in weight, but I'm working on that.  Last week I was starting to feel pretty good again and managed to run all the way up Castle Hill without having to walk short bits to catch my breath.
Setting an MV55 course record in the 1988 Pennine Marathon - 3:05:47
      Come weekend it suddenly dawned on me I'd been running exactly 30 years. It was April 9th 1986 when I took my first steps to becoming an athlete - though the word 'athlete' never entered my head at the time. Dissatisfied with the overweight, flabby hunk staring from the mirror I decided to do a bit of jogging to get back in shape. Fifteen months later I discovered I could 'jog' rather fast when, on a steamy July day, I won the MV55 category of the 1987 Pennine Marathon in 3hrs 30mins. Life was never the same again.  The following year I broke the MV55 course record.
Receiving MV75 winner award from the legendary Kenny Stuart,
2010 Derwentwater 10 mile road race - 1:21:21
      Many Championship wins on roads, track, fells and cross country, a few course records and 38,407 miles later I think I can dispense with the term 'jogger'!  Self training for races wasn't easy but the rewards and podium finishes gave me a wonderful sense of fulfilment that enriched my life in ways I'd never previously dreamt possible.
First win as an MV80 in the 2012 Ilkley Trail Race - 1:27:27
      I love the way the sun rises in different places as the days roll by so make no excuses for yet another another photograph of a dawn run over Castle Hill, taken last Friday. I decided it might be fit for publication so emailed it to our local newspaper, the Huddersfield 'Examiner'.
Another dawn run over Castle Hill - and still enjoying running,
after 30 years and 38,400 miles
      The editor was soon on the phone wanting more information for it wasn't the sort of thing your average 83 year old gets up to and might make a good story. "Is it alright to send a photographer to take more photographs and do a short video?" he asked.  Affirmative.  How could I refuse?  Fame at last, I joked!
Watch out for the article later this week.
It might be a good laugh!

Monday 4 April 2016

A pre-dawn run.......

      Owls were calling from deep in Mellor Wood as I ran through frosted fields towards a red light hundreds of feet above me, the beacon on top of the tower on Castle Hill.  Dawn was still far away as I reached the summit in almost total darkness but for a thin red line across the eastern horizon. There was a dark shadow in the grassy kite flying area so I moved onto the path to avoid it and almost collided with a tripod set up to film the sunrise. The shadow was a photographer sat amongst all his paraphernalia, waiting, expectantly.
Back home at breaking dawn   (Click pictures to enlarge)
After a quick circuit of the hill I ran back down, sliding over mud in the breaking light, branches brushing my face, blackbirds beginning their morning matins and a fierce redness spreading ever further across the morning sky.  Before the sun rose, before neighbours had stirred from their beds, I was home again, feeling good, smug, satisfied - and hungry.  It was my first pre-dawn run for many a week and boy, did I enjoy it..
Along muddy Tinker Lane on Sunday
 With Sunday morning's lack of sunshine to open up early wood anemones around Appletreewick, we set off in the opposite direction in search of wheatears in the ghyll. 
Young ferns growing from the moss on the Miner's Bridge
Past a green haze of hawthorn hedges, where chaffinches, robins and dunnocks will soon be nesting, we crossed the old Miner's Bridge bedecked with young ferns and ran up the stony track into wilder regions. "Look, there on the wall" my wonderful partner whispered excitedly, "that's a wheatear".  Sure enough, before we'd reached Bolton Ghyll, we'd spotted our first of the year.
A stile, so must be on route.....
 We carried on running, up the 'slag heaps' where another wheatear crossed our path, on towards Yarnbury serenaded by curlews, lapwings and skylarks, across fields where hungry sheep thought we might have something interesting for them to eat, and back to the village through sodden fields - the last one boggy enough for a pair of mallard to have taken up residence.
....but off route among the sheep
We arrived home spattered in mud, with filthy shoes and soaking wet feet.  As we stripped and bundled dirty clothes into the washing machine I was jokingly accused of leading my wonderful partner astray, of taking her off-route through places we'd no business to be.  And I was thinking to myself 'but we're fell runners and we'll run wherever we jolly well like!'   Then again, it might be time for a re-think.   We can't run as fast as we used to do!