In the last eight months or so, I’ve restarted something I used to really enjoy but got out of the habit of doing – running. I say running. Truth be known, it’s more of a shuffle than anything else. My running style has been called many things – Phoebe from Friends, efficient (meaning I don’t pick my feet up too much). But it gets me round the miles faster than I could have walked them, so it’s running.
It’s something I have dabbled with on and off for so many years now. My first run was the Manchester 10k in a year that started with 19. In that time, I have done a few 10Ks and half marathons, Keswick Half Marathon being my favourite (and I loved its slate coaster medal). Since having Rowan though, I haven’t really committed for long enough to train for a race – until now.
At the end of last year, me and a couple of friends from work entered a 10k, and we didn’t take any half measures. We decided, for mine and Angela’s first race in ages, and Beth’s first ever, that December would be a good month to give it a go. Not only that but, rather than a road run, we would give a trail race a go. And not content with that, we’d do it in the Lake District, in the dark. Hello Grizedale Night Runner. All my previous running had been on the roads, so this was going to be new and exciting.
In the months leading up to it, we trained as best we could. A couple of weeks or so were lost to colds and general illness until the weekend of the run came. After a late lunch in Ambleside, we found ourselves in Grizedale Forest, dressed as snowmen and Mother Christmas so no one could confuse us with the “proper runners”, listening to a brass band playing Christmas carols and waiting for our race to start.
It was a drizzly night, but the atmosphere was brilliant. When the time came, we made our way to the start line, positioning ourselves near the back so we wouldn’t be overtaken by too many people. After what felt like forever, but was actually about five minutes, we were off. There was no time to settle into our stride though. Within a few minutes we were faced with a vertical (I may be exaggerating) climb into the forest and our run soon became a fast, calf destroying walk. I’ve finished last in races before, and it soon became clear that we were in the running to claim this position again.
We soldiered on and as I started to get my wind, I began to appreciate our surroundings a little more. The forest was eerie, yet beautiful – our head torches lit up the droplets of drizzle creating a luminous mist and the trees cast shadows to the sides of the path. Surprisingly, especially given I had watched The Ritual the night before (which is a brilliantly creepy film about four men lost in a forest), I didn’t feel scared – just excited and a little in awe.
After two and a half miles and 500 feet, we reached the high point of the course where it “levelled” out briefly (maybe ten seconds). From here, the route undulated until we reached the downhill to the finish line where we claimed our joint last position. 6.35 miles and around 800 feet of ascent – we’d done it and got the medal to show it!
Once back from the Lake District, we were eager to keep the momentum going. It is definitely easy to keep going out for a run when you have some sort of goal in mind – at least that’s how it works for me. This time, we decided on Lakeland Trails Cartmel 10k in March.
I like running in winter. The cold suits me better than the warm weather as I seem to generate the heat of a small forge when I start running, returning home with a face the colour of Rowan’s Spiderman mask. However, running in winter has its own challenges as I found when it snowed. Turns out, running on pavements covered in snow isn’t so bad – it’s when the snow melts and refreezes as ice that it is a problem. I did however, have an amazing snowy training run with my friend, Sarah. We ventured to the Great Ridge for a run under the full moon – a proper magical night.
In the days before the Cartmel 10k, Storm Gareth made sure the course we were to run was already soaked. By Saturday – the day of the race, we were still being battered by high winds and heavy rain, and I was feeling a little apprehensive about the drive, never mind the 10k at the end of it. But Darth Toothless (great name for a car, I hear you say) stuck to the road then kept us warm as we pinned on our race numbers and waited for our start time.
Standing in the rain on the start line, this time, we couldn’t wait to get going to warm up. The gun went and we were off, running/slipping across a field. We had ran the Grizedale Night Runner together but this time, we were going to run our own races.
The first mile was flat so, aside from the amount of water in the ground, it wasn’t such a shock to the system. But after this, it was a steady 400 foot climb, first on a forest gravel path and then onto the open fell side, to the top of the course. Pretty soon, I was fast walking rather than running and any cold I had felt on the start line was long gone – the forge was up and running.
It was raining, and windy, but I loved it! It was so invigorating being out. It didn’t matter that at times, the path was ankle deep in mud meaning I could barely run, even if my lungs would let me. I found myself laughing my way round the course – it was such good fun! And the marshals out on the course were heroes, standing out in the weather, encouraging us along and making such we were safe.
We passed through a gate into a field of cows. At this point, the mud was a particularly deep slurry. Even the realisation that I was probably up to my ankles in cow poo didn’t dampen my spirits.
The course was great, but the mud made it energy sapping, so when I found myself on a nice downhill stretch of tarmac, the Phoebe style of running came out – arms everywhere as I ran as fast as I could to arrive at what could only be described as small river crossing the path – at least my shoes got a clean.
I finally crossed the line after 6.24 miles and 560 feet of ascent, tired but so happy with a sticky toffee pudding for Rick and technical T shirt in hand. All three of us had a brilliant time and were totally converted to trail runs.
We kept with the tradition of booking another race when we got back. This weekend we will tackle another Lakeland Trails race. Starting in Ambleside, we will be running to the hills again, with Angela and Beth tackling a 14k and I will efficiently shuffle round a 23k. Wish us luck.