Oh what a beautiful morning, oh what a beautiful day…
Well how wonderful does it feel to have a warm sun shining down on your back?
I had pencilled in the monthly 10k at Chirk Castle, get out on the trails, but something inside me was stirring. Something inside me was not going to be satisfied with 10k on relatively flat ground, not when there’s a full month of fell races coming up on my calendar now. The legs need to be prepared. The legs need to know what’s coming. The legs need to get out on the hills and remember what it’s like to be running on the steep stuff, or walking if they have to.
Something else was stirring inside. I’ve moved house now. I’m back in Wales. No more of the insufferably long commute, no more racking up killer mileage in the car, no more dodging the at least 3 people a day that see you coming in the car, make eye contact even, and then pull out infront of you anyway (grrrrrr…). No. I am running and / or cycling back and forth for work. I built my whole training plan for Snowdonia around doing that, although the house sale took that long to actually go through that I am way behind on my plan. The other thing stirring relates to that, relates to that plan; I had fallen (even further) behind on my weekly mileage, and part of me was wanting to make up that lost ground.
I suppose in one sense that would make me motivated. In another sense, it was making the thought of going out onto hilly ground and running half a marathon that day, even though the sun was out, a bit of a scary prospect truth be told. It’s too much. Too far. A quantum leap forwards from the flattish 10k I’d been thinking about for the whole of the month just passed. That made it intimidating. Motivated, I was not.
In truth, I’m struggling with that at the moment. It’s hard getting myself up out of bed. It’s hard fulfilling that commitment to either run or bike to work. It’s hard to add on that longer run at the weekend. Ever since I smashed my knee, there’s really only been 2 runs where I can honestly say I’ve thoroughly enjoyed myself, and truly felt like me. The reasons for that have been largely physical, running has not been coming without its aches and pains, but I’ve been somewhat shackled mentally too, fearful of taking a knock like that again, worried when that bothersome fizzing in my knee has started up again. These things have tainted every run for me, well, all except for 2.
The first of those I blogged about, on January 1st this year, around the banks of Llyn Llydaw. That event put a smile back on my face and for the first time in a long time I could just enjoy a run for what it was. Yes I was tentative on the wet and slippy rocks, yes I was nervous of aggravating injuries of old, but the purity of joy of running in the mountains returned to me that day. Ankle suffered afterwards, but I was a fair distance on a steep slope down to the right.
The second run, I tried to write about, and I simply could not find the words. The second run happened up in the Lake District, and was part of a truly brilliant weekend. I’ll not go into the complexities of how that run came to be, because I’ll end up blogging about that weekend instead of writing about today, so all that I will say is this:
Today’s run has been a long time in the making. Although it cost quite a bit for the privilege (even more because I managed to forget my glasses and left them on the table in the cottage where we stayed) I met and ran with a truly inspirational and surprisingly humble woman who has worn the GB vest and represented her country in the sport of athletics (in an event that’s not screened on the TV and so most folks wouldn’t even know it exists) 5 times. She, Sharon, opened up my eyes, and opened up my mind to the possibility that despite the limitations of my body, I can do more, I can push harder, I can go further, than I’ve been achieving for some time. She gave me the best 3 hours of running up there that I’ve ever had in my life! She even introduced me to the pleasures of using frozen grapefruit instead of ice cubes in your pink G & slim T, and without her, without that 15 miles of magic, it would have taken me an awful long time to be able to run like I’ve been able to run today, so although I did ping her a text of gratitude, I’d like to say publically on here how truly thankful for that weekend I am, even though the Sunday weather cut us short.
So good infact was that run, that afterwards, after 15 miles of running (some walking included), most of it off road, the achilles that had been troubling me for so long before and even during it, felt better than it’s felt in ages the next day, and it carried on feeling better for several days.
A little later than planned then, what with having to get over the intimidation first, and then deciding breakfast beforehand would be a good idea, I headed over to my old stomping ground up on the Clwydian hills. Vague plans in my head about where I wanted to go, rough ideas of how far it would be, options to cut short if required. Parked on the bottom car park at Moel Famau. £2 to park there now. Shorts and T-shirt for the first time this year, and how lovely was that?!
I ran up the track that skirts the lower edges of the forest, on a route I first ran with Dave Parker, a route I’ve enjoyed ever since. The pathway down to the little dip must be very rarely used, it’s so overgrown now that by summer it will be impossible to pass. I may run down there with a machete one day, if I can get away with doing that. Curve round to the right and the running’s easier than I’d thought. Perhaps I’m starting to drop some weight now? I have been struggling up hills. Across the field, and it’s dry, I was not expecting that. February it’s usually sodden down here, it’s even dry right by the stream.
Instead of turning up into the forest, for I know it’s very steep, I stick with the running, stick with the track, when it’s wet along here I don’t really enjoy it, not in the early part of a long run. Don’t mind so much later on, but wet socks early on means more blisters, and I’m not a fan of that. Heading down to Cilcain there’s a bridleway on my left. Not been down there before. Might take me back up towards Moel Famau which I didn’t want to do, but to find out where it goes would be a pleasant thing to do. Steadily it climbs, stony track becomes grass, and the gradient increases. It’s a tough bit of running up here, but I’m managing it fine. Up nearer to the top I find a section I’ve run before. 3 possible routes to go, left up to the summit, right to skirt around and join the ridge part way over to Moel Arthur. Straight on I’ve never run before. Only one way to go then. I come out at the other stile that is nearer to Moel Famau. Through the heather I see a sheep trod, and so set off running along that.
Eventually this rough descent finds smoother grass, then I’m on the mountain bike track that drops down towards Llangynhafal. Run along the edge of the “right to roam” land, and along that path it happened. I met somebody. Somebody I have not seen for a long time. It was nice to meet him again. Thoughts of 10k disappeared. Thoughts of options to cut short vanished. Thoughts of sticking to paths you know evaporated like the water that had filled this ground not all that long ago when I took Molly along this very path but in the opposite direction. Feelings like I could go on forever began to infiltrate my thoughts. There was rhythm in my legs, and movement, and I was feeling strong. Confidence that I could explore a bit and my body would be fine was starting to take over. Some of you might have guessed it – the guy I met – was me!!
Hope Mountain Runner.
He is here, he is back, and he ran with freedom and with power, and with nothing getting in his way. He ran this run this day to its only natural end, the sweet spot where you’ve run and run and given all you’ve got. That end came in such a perfect place it was almost like it was fated in the stars, at the Jubilee tower itself, on the very top of the mother peak of all them Clwydian hills, Moel Famau. Before then, he’d run down through a field when he should be running up, because he saw a path he’d never seen before. Ran a bridleway he’d never seen before without a clue of where it went – it feasibly could have finished anywhere on the way to Denbigh, miles away from where he should have been. He tagged on an extra climb up through the forest at Penycloddau, just to see what he could drain out of his legs, and he let gravity have him on the drops.
Touch the tower. Just over a mile down to the top car park where I knew the Shephard’s Hut would be waiting with a (completely overpriced but lovely) cup of tea and slice of cake that would make the world feel right again. Downhill, a mile, and I could not run another step.
I heard a chap as I started walking down say to his son as they both looked at me “yeah I know its sunny but its not warm enough up here yet for shorts and t-shirt”. I knew that I’d done it, but I didn’t have the energy to say “thank you for your comments but I’ve just run 16 miles across these hills, and I’m plenty warm enough thank you”. Really it just made me smile. HMR loves stuff like that 😊.
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