Sunday 22 December 2019

Winter Solstice......

Maybe there's a bit of Druid blood in me for I just had to get out today on the shortest day of the year, the winter solstice.  I struggled a wee bit up Castle Hill (read walked!) but got into some sort of flow again once I reached my old running track on the flatter top. 
My running track  (Click to enlarge pictures)
 I just had to stop and take a photograph, it felt so good to be back again, running on top of my little world, even in cloud and a nithering wind.  I could hear music playing and drums beating and I felt they were playing just for me, a welcoming back from that dark world I'd been living in for the past few months. 
Approaching the tower
 A little thrill was rippling through me as I approached Victoria Tower.  The folk group, Thieving Magpie, were going through their exuberant paces on the grass in time to the music of half a dozen darkly dressed instrumentalists. 
Thieving Magpie performing
There was shouting and clacking of sticks as they went about their merry dance. It'a shame the sun didn't join in the celebration. peeping over the horizon to light up the fun and proclaim that we were hopefully going to see a lot more of it in 2020
I jogged home through muddy fields, shouting 'hello you lot' to the horses I mentioned in yesterday's post.
This animal was happy,
very happy.

Saturday 21 December 2019

I'n not done yet.....

I went for a run today, or rather I jogged across waterlogged fields, along a lane that resembled a muddy river before saying hello to a posse of mainly skewbald horses on the steep part of Castle Hill.  
Oh, and it was raining.  
 It was my first run for 88 days and in spite of inclement weather it felt so good to don my studs in the early morning and to feel wind and rain on my face again.  After the big C and drastic treatment, it had seemed doubtful whether I'd ever run again.
Friendly horses on Castle Hill  (Click to enlarge picture)
 I'd set my mind on December 21st because at each Solstice a Folk Group, Thieving Magpie, dance on Castle Hill to greet the sun on the longest or shortest day.  But they weren't there today, I assume because Winter Solstice this year occurs on the 22nd!  
I'll probably go again tomorrow.
Besides all the rain we've had some mixed weather in the Dales.
We've had mist, making it feel quite atmospheric,
a blanket of snow 
and occasionally a beautiful sunrise,
but unfortunately I've felt too knackered to enjoy it.  
Perhaps that will change over Christmas and New Year when Old Runningfox will attempt to acquaint himself with local trails again.

Sunday 20 October 2019


Running is currently out of the question, which is hard to take.  It's what I enjoy most, the only thing I'm any good at.  It gives me a time from the world, from Brexit, a time to float along, a free spirit, to forget my age, escape reality, to run for sheer enjoyment with no thought of time nor distance or training schedules. 
 To 'just do it'.
Reduced to walking - temporarily, I hope    (click to enlarge)
An inspirational  C. S. Lewis quote says "You are never too old to set a new goal or dream a new dream" and I wondered just how old he was when he said it?   Well, he died when he was 64 so I don't know whether he'd still say that if he'd lived to 87?
Which just happens to be my age.
I still have dreams, especially after a glass or two of wine,  but at my time of life it's increasingly unlikely they'll  become reality.   Nevertheless, I remain optimistic, always believing that fate, or God, still has something good in store for me, but what it can possibly be will remain a mystery until it happens.  
I like surprises....

Wednesday 11 September 2019

Back to magnificent Menorca......

We've just had another glorious holiday in one of our favourite corners of the planet, the beautiful island of Menorca, but we almost didn't make it. The week before we were due to fly I'd gone into hospital for a biopsy and the bl--dy doctors wouldn't let me out.  They wanted to cut a hole in my side and stick a cathether through, presumably with a tap on it, to enable me to pass water from my bunged up kidney.  I refused to let them.  A 'bag' was mentioned too.  They could get lost!  I'd look well running or swimming with such impedimenta trailing beside me.    After four sleepless nights, due to constant noise and glaring lights, I was knackered.
"If you don't let me out tomorrow, I'll discharge myself" I told them.
Reluctantly, they allowed me home next morning, four days before our holiday was due to begin.
Our hotel with its feet in the sea    (Click to enlarge pictures)
Check-ins and flights both in and out were OK but we'd the usual long wait for our baggage at Manchester on return.
Sunrise run to the Tower
As on previous occasions we stayed at 'The Xuroy', a wonderfully situated hotel that sits with its feet in the water and gives access to the Cami de Cavalls (the way of horses), a well marked trail that goes all round the island.
The festival begins
After a pre-breakfast run to the Tower and back on our second day we took the bus to Sant Louis to watch the festival of horses.
Clever lady
Tons of sand are spread on the street where the action takes place to make it safer for the rearing horses.
A dangerous game
In the limited space in front of the band-stand, where all the dignitaries sit, crowds of people gather, some of them to tap the wheeling steeds as they rear into the air.
I gave that a miss...
It's a dangerous game and we heard one or two ambulances tearing through the streets.  I wasn't trying to 'prove' myself but still got a knock from one of the horses, but nothing serious.
One of the many cooling swims
We returned to our hotel for lunch before going down to the pool for a gentle swim to cool off from the scorching 86º heat.
Feral cats
We ran to Rafalet Vell in search of wild tortoises but saw nary a one.  What we did see was the group of feral cats which were a little tamer this year than last time we came across them.
Two of the 7 or 8 feral cats
Some kind person feeds them every day and they all look in tip top condition.
Swimming at sunrise, Cala Rafalet
On another day we embarked on a five mile run incorporating a wild swim at Cala Rafalet.
Sunlight on the rocks, Cala Rafalet
It's a rocky inlet of deep water between high cliffs and we got there just as the sun was rising at the entrance between the rocks.  Magic.
We ran back to our hotel via S'Algar where sunbathers were just beginning to emerge.  Our breakfast wasn't untill 8.30
Enjoying a coffee at the bakery.
After breakfast we got into the habit of visiting the bakery at S'Algar, mainly for bread, but also to enjoy a cappuccino before walking the mile back to our hotel.
A sunrise view as we ran North to Son Vidal
All our runs were pre-breakfast so we were treated to some dramatic skies as we ran West or North along the Cami de Cavalls.
No place for road runners..
Wherever we ran, it was rough going and we'd to be extremely careful not to trip up..
...but OK for hardened fell runners
Remarkably, with my failing eyesight, I never had a fall.
Inside the 'Oliver House'
 My wonderful partner visited Mahon alone one day, mainly to look around the 'Oliver House' which was open to the public.
View over the rooftops in Mahon
The Inter Island ferry was in the harbour
So was a three masted sailing ship.
A 'long thing' to sit on -  at Es Grau
We'd a walk round the nature reserve at Es Grau one day but all the natural phenomena seemed to be hiding, or sheltering from the heat.
No tortoise or raptors, but some big fish in the lake and a heron on the lookout for smaller ones.
RIP Happy Hour
 We were rather upset to find that 'Happy Hour' on the terrace, which always began at the beginning of September has been moved to October!  Who the hell goes in October?
Still happy - in spite of no Happy Hour
But we still went down at the appointed hour to enjoy the view and the ambience.
Waiting for a last meal before flying home
Traditionally, on our last day we'd a relaxed lunch at the fine Piccolo Mundo restaurant to round off our holiday.  Hours later we were flying home
It was another wonderful holiday.  Doctors can cut and zap me as much as they want now - so long as they get me running again.
But it could be a while.

Sunday 4 August 2019

A slight trauma.....

"The CT scan showed nothing abnormal to your brain so you can go home now"  Those were the words of an unsmiling, unsympathetic, heartless woman who masqueraded as a doctor at Huddersfield Royal Infirmary to where I'd been rushed in a blaring ambulance, unable to walk without support and unable to sign a consent form with my left hand.
"How will I get home?" I asked.
"Can't someone pick you up?"
"Not really,".  My partner was at  a meeting 30 miles away and her phone was switched off"
"Haven't you enough money for a taxi?" was her next question.
"Well, yes, but I was rather expecting you'd provide transport and a little help".
"Well, we can but not for about four hours" she said, abruptly turning on her heel and leaving me stranded in a wheelchair. 
 I couldn't believe what I was hearing.  Warmth, sympathy and understanding, parts of the Hippocratic Oath, seemingly meant nothing to her.
I fumbled my way along the wall out of the ward, dragged my leg up stairs and across the bridge to the main entrance and phoned a taxi that kindly took me as near to my door as he could get.
I spent a weekend licking my wounds, lovingly cared for by my wonderful partner.
"Perhaps you should try a little walk down to the river" she said on Sunday.
I tried but could only manage a few hundred yards on wobbly legs.
. . . . . .
Back home in Almondbury I forced myself into "I can and I bloody well will" mode.
On a sunny Monday lunchtime I managed a mile walk with a stop off at a favourite fish and chip shop for sustenance.
I did it    (Click to enlarge pictures)
Tuesday found me heading up Castle Hill, determined to make it to the top a mile and 300ft of ascent ahead.  I did, after one or two little rest stops. 
A gentleman flying a drone was persuaded to photograph me in front of the tower.  He was impressed when I explained I couldn't even walk 100 yds 4 days ago.  I wanted the picture to prove I'd actually made it.
Trying a few reps...
On Wednesday I was on a local cricket field attempting short repetitions, but at speed my left leg seemed reluctant to go the same way as me!  After three or four attempts I opted for a steady circuit and called it a day.
Come Saturday evening my wonderful partner enquired  "You wont be getting up for a run round Grimwith in the morning,will you?"   "We'll see" I replied.
Running round Grimwith reservoir, albeit slowly, 4 days after my TIA
Much to her surprise, at 6.30 I was out of bed and rarin' to go!
After running the 4½ mile circuit I was back at the car ahead of her, leaned over the door laughing somewhat hysterically.
Old Runningfox was back in action.
Made it, all the way round
OK, I was 13 minutes slower than usual, and maybe didn't look very stylish, but nine days earlier I was feeling distraught and wondering whether I'd ever run again.
I wont be running as often in future.  I'd even considered changing the name of my blog to 'The online diary of a Geriatric Jogger' but 'jogger' is a dirty word among runners!
Besides, I think I still look like a runner (?).
Keeping going
Some days later, I tootled off on another hilly run accompanied by my wonderful partner.
Passing the mast on High Lane 
  Embarrassed by my slowness I'd chosen a route where hopefully no-one would see us but was surprised to pass quite a few weekend walkers.
Through the gate on Tinker's Lane
There were dark clouds, very little sunshine but intense humidity.  We'd started out over-dressed and had to shed layers half way round.
Delightful running on Tinker's Lane
It had forecast thunderstorms so we were anxious to get home before they struck.  But there were still things that stopped us in our tracks.
Flowering heather
Like a patch of early flowering heather ahead of the 'Glorious Twelfth' that just had to be photographed and smelt.
Hey, wait for me...
It came darker for a time, calling for us to put fastest foot forward and get on our way.
Running under a cloud
At this stage I was struggling to keep up as my wonderful partner tore off ahead, but was content to trundle along at my own speed, just happy to be out running again after the recent trauma.
At the gate by High Garnshaw
Reaching the gate by High Garnshaw farm the air was filled with the bleating of penned sheep, possibly waiting to be stripped of their woolly coats.
Meadowsweet in the ghyll
We pressed on, down the ghyll, past nodding harebells and fragrant meadowsweet to arrive home dry so far as rain was concerned but otherwise soaked in sweaty gear that went straight into the washer to freshen up..
Ready for next week....

Monday 1 July 2019

A favourite place....

Last week I'd an appointment with the one doctor in our local practice who's sport orientated,  one who understands how my body works, one to whom I can reveal all.  It was on the insistence of my wonderful partner whose been none too happy about me cancelling an operation for a blocked and swollen kidney, an operation considered 'extremely urgent' by a hospital doctor back in April.  My reasoning that I felt fine and the other kidney is working perfectly OK doesn't seem to wash with anyone. 
Nowt wrong wi' me...      (Click to enlarge pictures)
 Anyway, the outcome was that my doctor will contact the surgeon concerned to ascertain whether he is still willing to do the operation and whether it can be done at our BMI private hospital. 
So, somewhat against my will, I may yet be knocked out and set upon by that guy in a mask with his slashing knife.
Thyme along the Skuff road  
 Next morning I was back in Hebden doing hill reps (only four) with my wonderful partner along the Skuff road before breakfast.  Hedgerows and roadside verges are at their summer best with a profusion of flowers and cushions of wild thyme with lots of busy bees intent on producing honey for Sainsburys. 
House martins hawking around Hebden village
Swallows and swifts are a bit thin in the air this year but house martins have returned to their usual nest sites tucked under the eaves.
Foxgloves by the fish farm in Hebden Ghyll
Foxgloves in the ghyll are in full bloom and a gentleman passing by as I photograhed some of them commented on the 'fox' connection between the flowers and my 'runningfox' vest.
Looks like aliens have landed...
On Saturday morning I set out on a favourite 8 mile run over Grassington Moor and Bycliffe Hill, hoping to get round before it got really hot.  I failed, and I suffered.
The reason I rarely see anyone - it's dangerous!  And I love it.
I love this route, its wildness and loneliness, nature in the raw where I can sit in some remote spot, close my eyes and be transported by muttering winds, a curlew calling, the occasional bleating of a faraway sheep - or a tingling silence.
Taking it easy in the heat
The Met Office had forecast wall to wall sunshine with temperatures in the region of 80º and high humidity.  They were right on the last two but only occasionally did sunshine oblige.
This sheep maybe thought I was crackers.
It was uphill for the first four miles, nigh on a thousand feet past all the trappings associated with past lead mining activities. 
Path beside the flue up to the chimney
Sweat poured from me as I ran beside the flue that took fumes from the old smelt mill to be released through a chimney high on the moor..
Heath bedstraw
Other than a purple haze of heather in autumn there are few flowering plants on the moor, the odd asphodel and venus flytrap, cloudberries, patches of cotton grass and heath bedstraw.
Onwards and upwards to Casino Royale
Past the chimney there was a rough, ankle twisting section before the long stony track leading to what we refer to as Casino Royale - because that's where the opening scene of that film was shot.
Trackless Bycliffe Hill ahead of me
I would shortly be turning onto Bycliffe Hill, the roughest part of the route where I was to learn that even the old sheep trod I used to follow is no longer there.
Being a bit careful through tricky, trackless territory
 I was in rough, tussocky territory I'd never crossed before, but I'd run over this hill so many times previously I knew exactly where I was heading.
Stones in the middle of nowhere
A strange pile of white stones had me wondering why they'd been put there?  Or who'd put them there?  I'd never seen them before.
The big rabbit hole high on the hill
My navigation was spot on and in another few minutes I came upon my first rest spot, a deep shakehole which, ever since I've visited it, has been inhabited by rabbits. A strange place for them to live! 
My marker cairn coming off the moor
I left and ran along the rim of the hill towards the Mossdale track, past peat hags and down through a short rocky section to hit my little marker cairn - spot on.
Brakes off - cruising past the high point at 1,500ft
From here I could throw caution to the wind while winding things up a bit along the level track to the 'stone man' at 1,500ft.
View along the Mossdale track from the stone man
It might be mainly downhill all the way from here but all that running uphill in the heat had sapped my energy and I was slipping into automatic pilot.
Setting off down the long wall
In days gone by I'd do a fast, measured mile down the long wall from the Mossdale track to a sheep pen far below.  It was one of three consecutive sub 6 minute miles on my way back to Hebden,  an enjoyable ingredient of sub three hour marathon training.
In my 60's.
One day a heap of bones like this on the moor will probably be me!
Since I stopped racing I never time myself but reckon that same mile must take almost three times as long as before.  Fitness and fun on my feet are all that matter now.  A Facebook posting the other day said 'Good health is merely the slowest possible rate at which one can die'.
I'll go with that!
I came across this wheatear suddenly and made it jump!
In days gone by in Spring and early summer I'd sometimes see ring ouzels perched on the long wall.  All I saw on this occasion were meadow pipits and wheatears.
Wonderful springy turf near the sheep pens
At one point a curlew got very agitated and I tried to record it.   It wasn't very successful because it could hardly be heard beyond the sound of my heavy breathing!
Rocky crossing of Coalgrove Beck
Some blue sky and beautiful cloud formations appeared towards the north as I leapt across the almost dried up Coalgrove Beck
 but I wasn't going in that direction.
Last sultry mile down Hebden Ghyll
Back in Hebden Ghyll the overcast, sultry conditions were much the same as when I'd set off.   My vest was soaked and I reckoned my temperature was going through the roof.   Reaching home I filled a milk bottle with cold water and poured it over my head.  Three times.
TomTom said I'd run 8.20 miles with 933ft of ascent and I reckoned that called for a rest over the next couple of days.  
At least.