Tuesday 30 January 2018


I was pottering around the local cemetery immersed in my own thoughts, doing my own thing, a few downhill jogs and short walks interspersed by fast uphill reps while watching the dawn break; an easy, comfortable workout I often do before breakfast, if it's not raining.  Sounds of padding feet, a fair bit faster than mine, disturbed my reverie and a runner materialised from the gloom.  
Dave Watson, Holmfirth Harrier in flight   (Click to enlarge pictures)
"Just my luck", I thought, "I come out for an easy run and who should I meet but probably the fastest runner in Huddersfield, a guy who's lost count of his Parkrun wins, has a 15.02 5K to his name, not to mention a sub 51 minute 10 miles".  He's also very good at talking.  In fact, he rarely stops!
Our route
Slowly and imperceptibly, the pace must have been increasing for I didn't seem to be breathing quite so freely.  He chattered on.  "I've fallen out with Parkruns, they slow me down, I'm much better training on my own".  And I was secretly thinking, I wish he would!
I wasn't surprised..
"Right" I said, "I'm heading home, my stomach says it's breakfast time". He didn't seem to hear this and kept up his endless diatribe as we left the cemetery and jogged through the fields to where I live.  Yards from my door we parted company as he carried on for an extended run over Castle Hill - and all went blissfully quiet. It didn't surprise me when TomTom said it was my fastest short run to date...
That bloody eye
Four hours later, I was laid on an operating table at Huddersfield Royal Infirmary for another cortico-steroid injection to my Rt eye.  It was sore and I felt ill after it so there was no way I was going to subject it to all the wind and rain that lashed Hebden at the weekend.  Even if my wonderful partner had allowed it!
Another glorious sunrise
But away from her, back in Huddersfield, Castle Hill was beckoning through my kitchen window.  "OK TomTom, let's go" I said, and stepped out into a breaking dawn to slosh through muddy fields to greet the sunrise..
They were very muddy fields
I was almost at the top, reaching for my camera to capture the blazing light on the eastern horizon, when I realized I wasn't alone. Approaching rapidly behind me were those phantom footsteps 
of Watson.
My guardian angel?  Watson on Castle Hill
We ran together briefly until he realised my photographic interludes were probably interfering too much with his training.  After a few circuits I jogged home wondering on the way down whether Watson was some sort of guardian angel sent to keep an eye on this old codger in case I might need help sometime.
Whether, in fact, I may be 'entertaining an angel unawares'.
Who knows....

Monday 22 January 2018

Let it snow......

Travelling home by public transport I listened to passengers relating tales of woe regarding the snowy conditions and how weekend plans had been severely disrupted.  On running forums too there were stories of people staying indoors or resorting to treadmills rather than risk life and limb in the icy conditions.  I kept my mouth shut for fear of being labelled an idiot, or irresponsible, or something worse.....not daring to tell them my wonderful partner and I had been out running on both days and logged a respectable 12 miles.
Running towards Linton Falls    (Click to enlarge pictures)
Saturday's run was the longest, an enjoyable 7 mile route crunching through fields of snow/ice and back by a frozen riverbank path.  We wore Inov-8 Trailrocs and Hoka Speedgoats that gave us total confidence.  I speak for both of us in saying that any negative thoughts of sliding or falling never entered our heads.
Weir at Linton falls
Hundreds of black headed gulls passed over us, flying in the direction of the sewerage fields, as we traversed the big pasture towards Linton Falls and the big weir.
Heading towards thicker snow
From there on we started to climb, 300ft or so towards the hidden village of Thorpe.  As we climbed the snow got thicker, harder and icier but we took it all in our stride.
Dropping down to Burnsall
The road into Thorpe had not been gritted.  Tractors and cars had compacted snow into dangerous looking ice but we were able to avoid it by keeping to the side.
An eerie bit of world we passed through...
We headed towards Burnsall under a lowering sky with a big yellow patch where hazy sunshine filtered through grey cloud.  It gave the landscape an eerie appearance as light increased, then faded again.
A smoking brazier to keep smokers warm
Burnsall was totally clear of snow.  Outside the Red Lion a brazier was kept burning to keep al fresco customers warm, but no-one was taking advantage of it.  We stayed only long enough to take a photograph.
Leaving Burnsall Bridge
The riverbank path was clear around the Red Lion where many people had walked, briefly taking the air or admiring the view before retiring into the warmth of the bar for various forms of refreshment.
We briefly spotted goosanders, male and female, swimming and diving in the river but on the icy path our concentration centered more on where we were putting our feet rather than on local wildlife.
Sunshine ahead - briefly
As we approached the suspension bridge the sun poked it's nose from behind the clouds to welcome us back to Hebden, and home after 7.12 miles with 605ft of ascent.  If TomTom can be believed.
Alternative to Grimwith on Sunday - High Lane into Grassington
We got up on Sunday intending to drive to Grimwith for a run round the reservoir, but a glance out the window revealed a frozen car that had changed from red to white overnight.  It didn't bode well for Grimwith which sits on the 1,000ft contour.  The approach road and car park would be treacherous that morning in icy conditions .
Dancing on ice
But so, I suppose, was the icy lane up which we set off to run to Grassington Bridge between rimed walls after an early breakfast.  But our trail shoes coped well, even on ungritted side roads through Grassington where we'd to run flat-footed, stamping our studs into the frozen snow/ice to gain maximum grip.
Leaving Grassington Bridge.   Right, let's go...
We crossed the main road at Grassington Bridge, back onto more runnable terrain to join the riverbank path all the way to Hebden. I suspect the temperature of the river affects the state of its banks for snow had melted in places to be replaced with slippery mud.  No problem.
Into the last mile
I should mention that throughout this run we had a sprinkling of snow which, oddly, was pleasantly cooling.  Two years ago, prior to two cataract operations, my spectacles would have been spotted with snow on the outside and steamed up on the inside, thus making running a dicey pastime.  I'm much happier now, running without specs.
Snow speckled runner with Dracula teeth
TomTom said we'd run 4.86 miles, which I'm quite happy to call 5, with a mere 380ft of ascent. As we sat down for lunch snowing increased to almost white-out proportions, but we were back home, snug and warm, a full scuttle of coal at one side of the hearth and a brimming log basket at the other.  
Chores are over.  Relaxation comes easy now,  
and drowsy contentment...
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

Monday 15 January 2018

A good weekend....

Well, it was mainly good - apart from two things that temporarily put a spoiler on things.  Huddersfield Town getting hammered 4 - 1 at home and consequently sent crashing down to 14th place in the Premier League, does not bode well for them to stay in one of the world's most watched footballing divisions.
Setting out on Saturday's run  (Click to enlarge pictures)
The second was more personal, and more serious. While carrying four bottles of wine from the car into the house they slipped out of the box and one of them smashed.  It was a favourite Chilean Merlot that left a dark red pool in the lane, like someone had been murdered.  Fortunately, there were still three bottles left to drown the multitude of sorrows accumulated from both catastrophes. 
Romping up the rough Crag path
Disregarding gloomy thoughts of Huddersfield Town and moments of mourning in the lane, things weren't really all that bad in sleepy Hebden.
Through the mossy stile
  In order to lay the ghost of last Sunday's disaster up the Crag path, when I was shaking like a leaf and aching in every joint after that ignominious fall, we decided to attack that same route again.
Up 400ft in ¾ mile
A series of hill reps during the week had stood me in good stead, enabling me to romp skywards through 400ft of rocks and dead bracken to justify that Fitness Age of 58 TomTom awarded me..
I'm dreading TomTom discovering it's got those digits the wrong way round.
A bit muddy running to Mossy Mere
Feeling good, we continued up onto the moor, past Hedgehog House and Scar Top, along the muddy track to Mossy Mere.  The sun was being shy but it was fine and not too cold.  Good for running, except for our shoes.
Deep water in a flooded gateway slowed us down as we maneuvered our way across, one at a time.
Running up to Cupola Corner
We dropped into Hebden Ghyll, crossed over the beck and took the rising track to Cupola Corner where flocks of sheep are present day representatives of long ago lead miners.
A flock of Swaledales at Cupola Corner
With the wind in our sails we headed up Moor Lane to the remote hamlet of Yarnbury.  A glance back revealed two other runners crossing a trackless waste below us at a fair old lick, certainly faster than us but also, we suspected, a heck of a lot younger than our combined 157 years.
The pool at 1,200ft
We stopped for a short breather at the 1,200ft contour beside a great pool of water that accumulates in a hollow along the track and seldom dries up. 
Lots of wet grass to clean our shoes - but not for long
That was our high point.  From there on it was mostly downhill - through wet fields and muddy lanes.
Passing Garnshaw farm
Parts of Tinker lane in particular had stretches of glutinous mud, over our shoe tops in places, and impossible to avoid. 
One of the drier parts of Tinker Lane

 I remember saying, lanes never used to get into this state in my days of farm service.
Running down to Pickering End

Back in the 1940's, we had horses and carts with narrow, iron shod wheels that weighed a fraction of modern farm machinery and caused but a fraction of the damage.
At Pickering End

We diverted down a grassy track to Pickering End, a holiday cottage with an amazing view across the Wharfe valley.  
No-one was in residence.
Tying the gate shut to a rotten post

From there on it was a fast run back into Hebden Village, to a Keelham pork pie and some welcome fluid back into the system to replace all that soaking my thermal vest and inside of my beanie.
  An enjoyable six miles with a little over 800ft of ascent.
Must get some new glasses - didn't think I was running fast enough to bend that.
Only kidding!

After Saturday night's libations with anaesthetising rocket fuel (aka Chilean Merlot) I was rarin' to go on Sunday morning.  
My wonderful partner was patrolling the moor on Ranger duty for the Yorkshire Dales National Park.   Time for a fast run.  Without going into details I opted for a fairly flat (a mere 370ft of ascent) run into Grassington and back by the river.
Striding out down the river bank.

I could tell I was shifting a bit, the ground flying under my feet, and sure enough TomTom afterwards reported it was the fastest long run it had so far recorded for me having improved my pace by 0.54 min/mile.
Couldn't agree more

The so-called long run was in fact just 4.46 miles, but added to Saturday's total it took me to over ten miles for the weekend.  
I decided such an achievement deserved a glass or two of Bowmore, or Glen Marnoch, or Laphroaig by way of celebration.
Oh, and while I'm here, here's a toast to all my running friends and blog readers.

Thursday 11 January 2018

Hey Antonio, I'm back......

This is for my good friend Antonio who sounded a little concerned about my sad appearance after last week's fall.  Just to prove you can't keep a good man down I was out this morning long before first light running a comfortable 5K that included 15 short hill reps.  A favourite little mid-week workout.  All went well and I returned home feeling good.
Getting younger......  (Click to enlarge)
  TomTom automatically syncs with my Smart phone as soon as it comes within range.  While sipping a glass of chocolate milk to top up protein levels I glanced at my phone and was quite surprised at what it read.
......and faster
After 6 hours sleep, not only had I run the 2nd fastest 5K TomTom had recorded for me but it said my Fitness Age is now an amazing 58!  
So rest assured Antonio, Saturday's ignominious little faux pas is well and truly behind me.  Old Runningfox is fully recovered and back in action.

Monday 8 January 2018

Life gets in the way......

After two excellent mid-week runs, the first of which TomTom said was the fastest short run it had recorded to date, life and a minor injury got in the way of any further running last week.
 Tuesday's 3.08 miles, 280ft of ascent with 15 short hill reps to boot, and back home before sunrise, was pretty nifty, I thought, for an ancient octogenarian.. A blood red sky at breaking dawn was an added bonus but I'd no camera to record it - so here's a picture from the week before.
Crow's nest with a view      (Click to enlarge)
Thursdays run was similar but a little farther with a couple more hill reps and a tiny bit slower.  At my time of life short mid-week runs with bits of intensity thrown in to boost the heart rate are ideal for maintaining fitness to enjoy longer, relaxed runs around our glorious countryside at weekends.  That's the theory....Last weekend things didn't quite go according to plan.  
A sack of logs arriving  (Picture courtesy of Anchor Logs)
A phone call at noon on Saturday heralded the arrival of a large dumpy bag of kiln dried logs.  To his credit the wagon driver maneuvered the bag as close to the log shed as he could but we'd an awful lot of work transferring and stacking. 
Wobbling my way up the crag on Sunday...
At some stage, while trying to drag the bag nearer the shed door, my feet shot from under me and I fell heavily backward, wrenching my Lt shoulder and bashing my Rt elbow. 
I didn't feel like running after that!
...and recovering in the sun at the top
Nor on Sunday when I was maybe still suffering some after-shock.  We walked up the crag but I was terrified of slipping and jarring my shoulder again.  And I'd been forbidden to swallow 600mg of Ibuprofen having already taken that amount before Church in the morning.
I'm not sure when I'll run again.  Outside the window is a white world rimed with frost and the forecast is for fog and 34ºF.
I may have a lie in...

Monday 1 January 2018

A Happy New Year to runners and readers......

"Just sign this form to say you realise the risks associated with this procedure and are prepared to go ahead with it".  It was the nurse speaking before injecting two different dyes into my arm, a green one and a fluorescein one she said might make me sick.  Then we talked about running while both eyes were examined deeply to determine what the hell is going on at the back of them. An hour later I used a loo in Sainsbury's and stained it a brilliant shade of deep orange.  Fascinated, I was reluctant to flush it away - wondering if the next user might be interested?
Jaws  (Click pictures to enlarge)
On a more cheerful subject my globe trotting son, Alasdair, brought his lovely young lady along for a meal one evening and entertained us with stories of close encounters with exotic birds, mammals and reptiles.
Close encounter with a male Orang-utan in Borneo.  
For the past four months he's been on a natural history tour of Africa, Madagascar, Mauritius and Borneo.  He's home for a few day rest before flying to Bangkok for an exploration of Thailand, then to various parts of India and foothills of the Himalayas. 
Close, but staying at the right end of this snake
My wonderful partner joined me for a final run of 2017 on New Year's Eve.  It was cloudy, cold and blowing a gale as we set off in darkness up the road to Castle Hill.  Turning up the steepest part the wind was fortunately behind us and virtually blew us to the top.
Being chased by the wind round Castle Hill
 It was one of those sneaky winds that allowed no shelter.  Not even on the usual leeward side where we attempted one or two hill reps.  Stinging earache sent us scurrying home prematurely, back to a warm kitchen, hot coffee and breakfast.
Running high - and cold
A light lunch was followed by a short nap, knowing we were going to be awake well into the wee small hours of 2018.  Sticking a CD into the computer I lapsed into semi-dreamland listening to waves lapping far off shores, gulls crying in the Hebridean blue and the haunting sound of a clarsach that made a fitting background to all the wonderful poems Kenneth Stevens was inspired to write on his visits to Iona. Here's one of them....
The Small Giant
The otter is ninety percent water
Ten percent God.
This is a mastery
We have not fathomed in a million years.
I saw one once, off the teeth of western Scotland,
Playing games with the Atlantic-
Three feet of gymnastics
Taking on an ocean.
 Karen Matheson - Gaelic singer extraordinaire
For a breath of Scotland we slotted Capercaillie into the DVD player and relaxed to the dulcet tones of Karen Matheson lilting through a choice selection of her Gaelic repertoire.
A haggis we'd bought from a butcher in Threshfield was the worst we'd ever tasted, a thick, disgusting, glutinous, greasy paste we'd great difficulty in swallowing - no matter how much whisky we marinaded it with.  "It's from Scotland" the butcher had said, by way of recommendation, and we thought "Aye, and they'd be damn glad to get rid of it".  It elevated the accompanying tatties and neeps to the food of the Gods.
Running Bear says he'd like a sip of bubbly...
We cracked open a bottle of fizz to freshen our mouths and drink to the New Year as Big Ben counted up to twelve.
Goodbye 2017, welcome 2018
On the chimes, London once again put on the most incredible firework display that had us spellbound for a whole 11 minutes while crowds of sightseers by the Thames whooped with joy.
Great fire of London
It was going up 2am when we crawled up to bed. Having failed to get the cork back into the bubbly, and finding certain chocolates irresistible (thanks Linda and Terese), we (mainly me) felt compelled to do justice to such celebratory items before retiring.
A Happy New Year to all fellow bloggers and anonymous readers throughout the world. 
Don't be afraid to comment.
May 2018 be the year all your precious dreams are fulfilled.