Archive for June, 2016


a mind stained
by memories of the past
of families, friendships, relationships
arguments, breakups, reconciliations
friends here and now, been and gone
some here forever
others never seen again
lovers we have had
some so close you become one
others remain untouched
except in your mind
places you have been
sunsets and sunrises seen
through all four seasons
before merging into one
hills you climbed forever, never ending
bottomless valleys you never reached
books you have read
a million different words in your head
and you only remember one
films seen through aging eyes
of places and people
you will never know but you think you do
waking up in the morning listening to birds
staring at the ceiling all night
waiting for sleep to take over
landscapes been and gone
homes and factories built and demolished
to make way for a new future
running over moors in the dark
getting drunk in the park
the stain of memories
that last forever
until you become
a stain in the earth
and slowly, quietly
begin to fade away…


Sunday 26th June saw the running of the Bradford Millennium Way Relay a team running event consisting of five legs with two runners per leg, taking place each June. The relay starts from and returns to Bingley, taking in Wilsden, Denholme, Oxenhope, Haworth, Oakworth, Steeton, Silsden, Addingham and Ilkley with some stunning scenery en-route. The race attracts teams from Yorkshire and Lancashire. Whilst the event is not as big as the Calderdale Way Relay it is still a very challenging and competitive event.

As far as I know this was the first year that Queensbury Running Club had entered the event and the decision was made to enter three teams, an open team consisting of all males, a mixed team of five males and five females and another open team of which I was the captain and organiser. My open team was initially to be an all-male team but due to injuries and runners withdrawing from the other team for various reasons it became a team of nine males and one female.

Organising a team is a time consuming and stressful experience, especially when it is your first time. Which runners do you pair up? Which legs do you choose them to run? Transport to and from the start and finish points? All of these take time to organise and of course you have to decide which leg you will run and who with. I decided I would run the last leg, Leg 5 which goes from Ilkley to Bingley with a partner who I felt was of a similar pace and ability to me. Unfortunately, my original partner had to pull out and I asked another club the Northowram Pumas if they had anybody who would like to run it with me and one of their runners said he would.

I had done a reckie of the route twice before so I was familiar with the route. A gruelling climb of around 900 feet and 4 miles from Ilkley, round the back of the Cow and Calf rock and up to the top of the moors before descending through farmland, fields, canal paths and Shipley Glen to Bingley Rugby Club on Wagon Lane. The total miles for the route is around 10.7 miles taking in steep, rocky climbs, open moorland and trails.

I came to the run once again not feeling one hundred percent. On the Friday I had done a reckie of Leg 3 with two other runners and the day before I had competed in the Special Olympics Regional Finals at Sheffield getting a bronze in the 200 metres and a silver in the 4 X 100 metres which meant that I qualified for the national finals to be held later on in the year. However, combined with a persistent cold I was feeling drained and tired before I even started the race. My only hope was that my partner who didn’t know the route would have to run at the same pace as me and therefore I would be able to go at a pace I could manage on the day. Or so I thought…

On the day we met at Bingley Rugby Club and I drove our team over to Ilkley and the start of the leg. We arrived in plenty of time and were able to enjoy the sunshine and watch as other teams came in and set off on the leg. We were relaxed and enjoying the anticipation of racing in competition as we waited for our team to come through so we could set off.

As is quite common our team didn’t make the cut off time so with several other teams we set off in a mass start. This however meant that my plan of leading the run at my pace was in tatters as my partner could follow the other runners up and over the moors at his pace with me doing my best to keep up.

And this is what happened. I set off feeling good and going at a decent pace but very soon I was passed by my partner and other runners as we began to climb up the rocky ascents. My mouth was already dry and I all I could think about was the finish and drinking plenty of water and we hadn’t done our first mile yet! This was going to be a long race.

Very soon we found ourselves at the back of the pack. There were other runners behind us but we had a clear gap between them and us. The climbs were as tough as I remembered them, even tougher at the pace we were going at. Already feeling drained and worn out I opted to walk fast up the climbs to conserve energy for the later parts of the race.

Soon we had got onto the top of the moors and then it was a sprint across them to the road and trail section. There had been heavy rain the day before and parts of the moors were deep in water. At one part my partner stopped to decide how best to get across. I wasn’t far behind him and I just went straight into the water and climbed up the other side much to his amusement!

Over the moors we had the mixed Queensbury team in sight and at one point I thought we might even catch them. However, once we got to the road section they pulled away and we soon lost sight of them. This was around six miles and with another four or more miles to go I felt as if I was running on empty. I could feel the salt from my sweat sticking to my face and I was running on autopilot. I was doing my best to keep up the pace my partner was setting but it was taking its toll on me physically and mentally. Sweat was getting into my eyes, my vision was blurred, I had pins and needles in my arms and I was thirsty. Thirstier than I had ever been before.

We came off the Glen and were soon on the side of the canal and not far from the finish. Then my partner saw another pair of runners in front of us and urged me to go faster still to catch them up and pass them. I didn’t think we had a chance of catching and passing them but we somehow did. Coming up to the canal bridge we passed them and continued on with the relentless, mad pace to pull away from them.

Through the woods and back onto the canal path on the other side and I knew the finish was in sight at last. By now all feelings of pain had gone replaced by a numbness that somehow managed to keep me going. All I wanted to do was finish as fast as I could and get some much needed water in me.

And then there was the finish at last. I did a little sprint to celebrate and then as soon as I stopped the pain really set in. My whole body was aching, my head was pounding, I felt dizzy and could hardly stand up. It took several minutes for me to gather my senses and start to feel normal again. Everybody remarked on the amount of salt I had stuck to my face and I could feel it sticking to me in lumps.

But despite feeling drained, tired and destroyed I also felt proud. I had run like I had never run before and pushed my mind and body beyond what I thought they were capable of. It helped having a running partner who was a lot faster than me but also happy to wait for me and keep pushing me that little bit harder all the time.

This is one of those runs that after a decent amount of rest will make me a better runner. I will be stronger and fitter for doing this and I will know that I can push myself harder than I thought I could. Yes, it hurt but it was worth it and I would do the same again.

At the pub afterwards I felt I had gained a new level of respect from my fellow runners as many of them commented on how I had performed beyond their expectations. We finished around three minutes after the mixed team and many of them thought we would come in around twenty minutes or more after them. This for me was the best feeling of the day knowing I had taken my running up several more levels and that other people had noticed it.

 


You have been with me
Twenty seven years or more
The finest cut a man ever made
Sometimes you hide from me
And I search for you slowly
To remind me of the then
And now, today, tomorrow
All my yesterdays
Perfectly put together
Like a fine glass sculpture
Nobody knows what you conceal
Days lost forever
Youth I will never get back
Memories unable to recall
But for the searing knife
Burning through flesh and organs
Moving silently, unseen, untouched
No scars remain
Except the memory of a
Deep, powerful, intense pain
As I watch every second
Drip slowly into me
The torture of water
Only the colour changes
Reminding me of time passing
Fine steel tips deep in my body
Life flows through them
Swelling my veins
Eyes kept open
That cannot see the scars of
Knives and needles
But remember the scars of
Pain and sickness
That never dim with time


I believe you
When I stare in your face
And see a happy smile
Beaming back at me

I believe you
When you tell me you’re
Happy to see me
And kiss me gently

I believe you
When you hug me tightly
Squeezing me warmly
Feeling your skin on mine

I believe you
I believe every word you say to me
Every touch of your person
I take it literally

I believe you
Because I know no other way
And whether you truly mean it or not
I still believe you

 


My eyes do not see you, as you see me
I do not see the emotion and fire behind your gaze
nor the hopes and heartache that your eyes must conceal.
The fears for the future, the anguish of the past, are all lost to me.
I only see your eyes as they are,
two deep blue pools set
in a face full of familiar features,
a nose sloping down mountain like
ears leading to deep tunnels,
teeth like prehistoric monuments,
They are all the same to me.
And when I try to read the stories
that live behind those eyes,
the life they must hold,
how I wish I could read them
like I read the words in my books.
But I cannot know them.
For to know them I must be able to read them,
and that I cannot do.
So all I can do is to sit here and imagine,
imagine what sights those eyes have seen,
the places they have been,
the memories they hold.
But as I do that I wonder,
I wonder if you can read my eyes
and tell me the stories they hold?
Can you read me in ways I cannot read you?
Can you open the pages that my eyes hold behind them?
Can you see the fields, the mountains, the lakes,
the skies that I have seen just by looking at my eyes?
If you can then you are indeed a lucky man
and you are truly gifted.
At least in my eyes.

dust

Posted: June 16, 2016 in Uncategorized

dust hung in the air
memories encapsulated
into a single speck
floating on sunlight
disappearing forever


This Sunday, 12th June saw the first running of the Northowram Burner hosted by the Northowram Pumas. Previously the race was known as the Bolton Brow Burner and had been my very first 10k race in 2015.

For 2016 it was a change and of venue and running club for the Burner and I was a little apprehensive about this. Nothing to do with the Pumas who I knew would organise and hold a great 10k, but more to do with how many people would turn up? As well as the 10k there was a 2.5k a fun run and a fair so plenty of people needed to attend to make sure the day was a success. Another reason for my apprehension was that the Pumas are a relatively new club so would runners turn up or go to the more established races of which there are many to choose from?

My fears were allayed as soon as I entered Northowram looking for a place to park and avoiding the kids and parents who were enjoying the 2.5k run. There was plenty of people around and this gave me a warm, happy feeling inside knowing that all the hard work that the Pumas had put into the event had paid off. I know some of the Pumas personally and they are a great club, always friendly and smiling and they have some very good runners too so don’t underestimate them because they are new.

Having managed to avoid knocking anyone over and being called ‘The Kiddy Killer of Queensbury’ by the local press I made my way to Northowram Primary School to register for the race and meet up with my runners from my club Queensbury RC. As I approached the school it became apparent that plenty of people of all ages and abilities had turned out for the day and Northowram was rocking and running to a party atmosphere.

The day itself was quite warm and humid, not always the best conditions to run in but you can only run in what the weather is on the day and cope the best you can. I wasn’t feeling 100% either. I’ve done more running this year than any other and if I’m being honest I shouldn’t have really run the Burner. My right calve was very tight and my left hip was aching and I felt physically drained from a tough off road run the day before, but I wanted to run the Burner and show my support for the Pumas and my friends there. I had decided to use the race as a recovery run and not race anyone or go for glory. Just take it nice and steady and enjoy running. 

At the start I thought someone had turned their TV on too loudly as for a split second I could hear the Zumba woman from the Specsavers advert screaming at me to move. I then realised that someone had actually got her in to warm us all up for the race! I manged to shuffle my feet as I wanted to save what little energy I had for the race and left it to the more energetic runners to pretend to dance like John Travolta and shake parts of their bodies that clearly had not been shaken in a while!

And we were off! For some reason I started at the front but within 30 seconds I had been swamped by a pride of Stainland Lions and was at my customary place near the back of the pack. Today I was happy with this as I have previously said I was nowhere near full fitness so I slowly began my race and settled into a pace I was comfortable with.

The route and area are both familiar to me having run and walked around here for many years and been on a recce of the route, so while it held no surprises I also knew I would be in for a tough run because of the hilly terrain and muddy conditions I would encounter later on. Personally I thought the route was very good and well thought out, with plenty of different and challenging terrain for everyone to enjoy and only Long Lane where you were able to relax and gather your breath before you descended into the muddy woods.

At the first trial I started to come alive and enjoy running. Although I do a lot of road and track running I prefer off road to anything else. The feeling of being at one with nature as you fly over grass and rocks is one of the best in the world and never gets boring. For the Burner although around a third of the route was off road and muddy I had decided to wear my fast road shoes as I felt I would be able to make up any time I lost off road on the road and I was confident in my ability to run in them in the conditions.

I knew I had made the right choice on the first bit of trial as I upped my pace and started to pass people who were struggling to get grip. I was enjoying slipping and sliding and looking for the best path through the mud and water avoiding making a fool of myself by falling over in a dramatic heap!

Back onto the road and apart from one small bit of downhill it was steady climbing all the way up to Queensbury. This part of the route which leads onto Green Lane and Deanstones Lane, is more challenging than people might realise as you are climbing for a good mile or more and maintaining a good pace is important to get up to Queensbury and have plenty of energy left. For once I was running at a decent pace to do this rather than going off like a man possessed and dying ungracefully in the middle of the road after half a mile.

So I arrived on Long Lane feeling better than I expected I would. My pace began to pick up a bit and I was enjoying running. Around the bottom of Long Lane and then the descent into the woods. This was the part of the race where I had to be mentally alert as the trail was muddy and strewn with tree roots and rocks. One wrong step and my race could well have been over. I used all my off road experience to get to the bottom, sliding where I could, holding onto trees and being careful where I put my next step.

At the bottom, over the stream and up the muddy embankment. Only a short climb but difficult in my road shoes. Pulling myself up with the help of some tree roots I made it to the top and was off again to the next short descent. This again was thick with mud so rather than risk falling over I slide down on my hands and feet and was soon over the other side climbing up yet another muddy trail! 

I was in my element here running through the mud and water keeping my balance and looking for the best possible path. At the top of the climb you turn left and descend gently on hard trail to the next road section. On the road I picked up my pace a bit more although once again I underestimated the length of this road and thought it was shorter than it was!

At the bottom you turn sharp left for the last major climb, Whiskers Lane. This climb is a tough one raising steeply up a valley before turning left and continuing to raise across the valley before a steep, short road section brings you out at the top. What increases the difficulty is the loose stones that form the path of Whiskers Lane making it difficult to get and maintain grip. Today though I felt good on here, strong, powerful and moving with decent speed, I enjoyed the run up Whiskers Lane and was soon at the top being applauded for my efforts by some children.

And then the last mile or so and the last bit of climbing to Northowram. My pace had dropped now and I was happy to plod along knowing I had done my best on the day. I was caught by a Puma and although I tried to race her it was in vain as I didn’t have enough left to race anyone or anything, so off she went and carried on at my own pace.

At the finish my team mates from Queensbury were waiting for me and cheered me over the line. I did my now customary sprint finish for them and it was over. My first Northowram Burner had finished and I had a time of 1:12:45 which is my second worse time for a 10k but as much as I could do on the day.

The fun carried on though as the fair was now in full swing with adults emptying their pockets so the kids could have fun. Every runner got a goodie bag with socks, water and fruit in, a lot better than some other clubs have done and afterwards there was pasties on sale, a raffle and a prize giving for the runners who won their category with very good prizes including £50 for the winner.

All in all, the Northowram Burner was a great success. Well organised and marshalled, a tough, varied and challenging route followed by a fair. There was plenty for everyone to do and around 152 runners took part in the 10k which is a very good turnout and made for a competitive but friendly race.

The Northowram Pumas can be very proud of themselves for organising the event and making it the success it was. I’m already looking forward to next year’s event and will use the route as part of my training too from now on.

 


what did I do before
I discovered you
and the joy you bring me
in piecing together
the jigsaw in my mind
so that the world makes sense
and is no longer
a jumbled mess
of thoughts and ideas
floating around
a bottomless pit
but something
I can feel
make sense of
gives meaning to my world
lets me face the future
with renewed confidence
and believe in myself
my abilities, my talents
to be the best I can be
today, tomorrow, forever


It is now Wednesday and I have had time to reflect on the Huddersfield Half Marathon which together with three of my fellow runners from Queensbury Running Club I ran in on the Sunday just gone.

 

The day started warm but overcast and this filled me with confidence as the Huddersfield Half is one of the toughest half marathons in the country and a lack of sunshine would save valuable energy for the climbs that the route is renowned for and prevent the possible onset of dehydration in the later stages of the race.

I was picked and soon all four of us were on our way to Huddersfield YMCA, New Hey Road. Luckily for us there was someone in the car who had a vague idea of where we were going otherwise we could still be driving round Ainley Top now looking for the YMCA!

At the YMCA we were pleasantly surprised to find a low key affair with relatively few runners around which made for a relaxed atmosphere and runners and supporters alike able to move around freely and not worry about bumping and jostling each other. We had also arrived in plenty of time which again added to the relaxed feel of the event and enabled us to pick up our numbers and take photos at our leisure.

Outside the temperature was slowly raising and our fears of a hot run began to come back to haunt us as we took to the sparse starting line. For a large town like Huddersfield this seemed to be a small scale affair but this added to the charm of the event.

And we were off! A nice gentle downhill start through the suburbs surrounding the YMCA. I watched as my fellow Queensbury runners went off at a decent pace into the distance and remembered that this was a half marathon and not a sprint and as a slow starter I would have plenty of time to get into my rhythm and stride and maybe even catch some of the other Queensbury runners up.

Soon we were out of the housing estate and into open countryside. I have never been to this area of Yorkshire but it is beautiful and stunning in equal measure and even as you run through it you have time to have the odd glance and look in awe at the sheer magnificence of Gods Own County.

And to the first steep descent. I love running downhill as fast as I can and seeing how fast I can go before I fall and lose some skin and blood to the unforgiving tarmac. Today I was fortunate not to fall as fast as I was running and I soon made up places on other runners and was sure I could see some of the other Queensbury runners not too far ahead of me.

What goes down must come up! Sure enough I was soon at the bottom of the first steep climb and being mindful that I had not been feeling 100% all week and did not know the area I opted to take the sensible option and walk up the climb as fast as I could. This proved to be a sensible option as this climb meandered its way up the valley and whilst not as steep as the infamous Trooper Lane in Halifax was considerably longer and took just as much, if not more out of you because of its length.

Near the top was the welcome sight of a water station and mindful of the ever hotter conditions I stopped and took a cup of water. Usually I will grab a cup and sip some as I run but knowing that this course was tough, physically and mentally and feeling the sweat starting to run down my forehead into my eyes I decided to take on board as much fluid as I could rather than risk the onset of thirst and dehydration later on in the race.

I set off again knowing I had lost valuable time at the water station and began to climb again when a man came out of nowhere and gave me a bottle of Lucozade, muttered something and run back to his car! I looked at the bottle, checked it had not been tampered with, although why anyone would want to stop me running when I would be just happy to finish is beyond me. But this thought did flash through my mind and having satisfied myself I could drink this Lucozade I carried on.

At the next water station because of my Lucozade I was able to carry on straight past it and make up some time. This allowed me to put some space between myself and the heavy breathing woman behind me which gave my ears some much needed respite! And so began the descent towards the M62 before the climb towards Scammonden Dam.

I had seen the climb as I descended and had already made up my mind to walk up it rather than run as I didn’t know the route and was unsure what lay ahead of me. At the bottom of the climb I slowed to a decent walking pace and took on some much needed fluids. The heavy breathing woman who I had left behind had now caught me up and she was much stronger on the hills on the day than I was. So rather than risk wasting much needed energy racing her for no purpose I watched her slowly go into the distance and leave me behind as I made my way up the climb.

I finished my ascent and there was Scammonden Dam bathing in glorious summer sunshine. I was filled with renewed energy and began to up my pace and pull away from the pack of runners who has caught me up and were now my competitors. This was fun until it happened. My feet began to ache. Not just one of but both and all over. It felt as if I had blisters all over my feet and the bones in my feet had collapsed. This was a new pain for me and something I had not prepared for. How can you?

But I pushed on in the hope that the pain would subside but it got steadily worse. Turning right towards Golcar I saw a sign for Scapegoat Hill and my new found enthusiasm evaporated as the realisation of climbing another hill this time with painful feet hit home. I carried on and was soon rewarded with yet another stunning view of the Yorkshire countryside resplendent in glorious sunshine as the road flattened out and I was able to relax slightly and enjoy running for what it is and forget that I was racing.

This didn’t last long as a lady came up on my shoulder and for a mile or so we kept pace with each other going as fast as we could, following each twist and turn in the road, each undulation, me not daring to look behind me in case I lost those valuable seconds that can make the difference between winning and losing.

The road began to drop steeply into Golcar and I speeded up despite the pain in my feet and toes getting worse. I was passing people who had passed me now and enjoying running down through the streets of Golcar. Some people were even clapping and cheering us on our way and offering jelly babies to boost our flagging energy levels, which was a lovely touch and made our effort feel appreciated and respected.

And then I got to the bottom of the final climb. I already knew that the finish was uphill but for a first timer running the race nothing could prepare you for it. I grossly underestimated how long it was and at first I was running up it, in pain and at a slow pace but I was running. Parts of the hill were shaded by trees giving us all a welcome respite from the midday sun.

The climbing continued up and up and up. It seemed relentless, going on forever. I looked at my watch and there wasn’t far to go yet I was still climbing, feeling as if I was as far away from the end of the race as I was at the beginning. I was in agony with my feet now and the thought of just stopping there and then briefly crossed my mind. But I knew it would be a shame to stop now, so near to the finish and I remembered some encouraging words a friend of mine had said to me and this spurred me on despite the pain I was enduring with my feet.

I was walking now and everybody had stopped racing each other and were saying words of encouragement and support to each other instead. As a group of runners we had come together and all we wanted to do was conquer this hill and finish this race. Beating someone to the finish line didn’t matter anymore. All we wanted to beat was this hill and the inner demons telling us we couldn’t do it and we should stop.

And we had done it. We had got to the top of this seemingly never ending climb to be greeted by a cheery old man sat on a bench telling us the finish and relief was only round the corner through a small underpass.

I went through the underpass and was greeted by the sight of some downhill at last! My legs had nothing left in them but I put a spurt on as best as I could and soon the marshals were in sight directing us to the finish.

I rounded a corner and two of my fellow runners were there waiting for me, offering words of encouragement to go as fast as I could. I duly obliged and used up the last ounce of strength in me to give everyone a grandstand finish.

And then it was over. I crossed the finish line in an official time of 2:21:06, 40 seconds off my PB for a half marathon. On a course considerably tougher than my previous half marathon I was proud of this. The Huddersfield Half is a tough race but it is one that gives you an immense sense of satisfaction and achievement and makes you a tougher runner mentally and physically. I highly recommend this race to anyone who wants to challenge themselves as a runner and a person and just prove to themselves what they are really capable of.


darkness goes
replaced by light
trails dry out
grass beckons me
as water flees
sun light energises
body and mind
as I look up
to my inspiration
and begin my
ascent to nirvana