Monday morning and after a tough week of running my legs are finally starting to feel normal again and I’m enjoying running and walking once more.

It’s not till Tuesday that I go for a run. I’m not feeling up to it but do it to shake the ache from my legs. It’s a nice steady 8 mile run from Queensbury to the outskirts of Halifax town centre, a climb up to Shelf roundabout through Northowram and more climbing to home on the main road. On the way I’m toying with the idea of extending the run to 10 or more miles but in the end I decide to do the sensible thing and keep it at 8.

This turns out to be the right choice as I have an email from the organisers of the Yorkshireman Half that the recce’s are starting this weekend and with the club run on Thursday I will need all the energy I have to get through the week.

The Yorkshireman is a full or half marathon that starts from Haworth and goes over the surrounding moors finishing back at Haworth. It is a tough route and this has been my main goal for my running year. I am feeling in good form and hope that I can continue in this form right up to the race.

Thursday comes along and it is Queensbury Running Club run night. I decide to go on the slower of the off road runs and wear my fell shoes for it. Both of these options turn out to be a mistake. Firstly, some of the faster runners from the group above have opted to run with us this week and this has made the pace a lot faster than usual. In addition to get to our off road parts we are doing a lot of running on road and my Achilles are aching from having to run so fast on road in my fell shoes.

This makes my legs feel very tired very quickly and soon I am struggling to keep up with the faster, more experienced runners. However, this is one of those runs that makes you as I know that the struggle to keep up and maintain a decent pace will make me a stronger runner in the long run. Soon we are off road and I discover some new routes which will come in use for the future when I am out running on my own. Part of the route takes us on some of the Calderdale Way which I haven’t run before and it is quite a challenge to run but enjoyable none the less.

Saturday arrives and although I have had a good night’s sleep I am still feeling nervous about the upcoming recce. This is due to not know who will turn up, what the pace will be and exactly what the route is. I have an idea in my head of what the route is, but as has happened many times before what goes on inside my head and reality can be two very different things!

I arrive in time for the start and with another five runners set off on the recce. The first part, a climb up to Penistone Hill is as expected, a tough, uphill start designed to spread the field out. As we get to Penistone Hill we head up and over it rather than around it as I expected. This was the first surprise of the recce for me and highlights the value of doing a recce even if you are familiar with the surroundings and not assume you know the route and you can just follow everybody.

Heading down towards the carpark we bear left towards the bottom path that takes you to Top Withens and again I begin to again assume I know the route. Once again I assume wrongly as instead of heading right we turn left and down a path I have never run before. At this point I decide to stop assuming and just enjoy the run.

After a short downhill section, we bear right and begin ascending Haworth Old Road. This turns out to be one of those typical Yorkshire climbs where you think you have reached the top only to get there and see yet more uphill! But eventually we get as far as we are going and turn left and back towards Ogden Water on the conduit.

This is the best part of the run as the climb has taken us above Haworth and Oxenhope and on a warm day with the sun shining high there can be few better views than looking over the stunning Yorkshire landscape with the Three Peaks in the distance and marvelling at the sheer beauty that is on our doorstep.

Soon we are off the moors and heading back down towards Oxenhope via the Bronte Way. For some reason I have lost some confidence on the downhills and today proves no exception as the other runners are soon sprinting away from me and I seem to be tiptoeing down the hill and not feeling at my best.

At the bottom we regroup and soon we are running along trail and road through Oxenhope heading towards Haworth. For me these are often the most difficult parts of a race because of all the various turns you take getting back to the finish. I can usually remember the longer stretches and where to turn but these sections are often much shorter and you can easily run past where you are supposed to turn and find yourself miles off course. Again these are the benefits of doing a recce even if it is only to refresh your memory.

Soon we have finished and I have learnt a lot from the recce not least that I actually didn’t have a clue as to where the route went! Now I know enough to try the route on my own and see how I go without the benefit of someone who knows where they’re going!

So the next day I find myself in Haworth again and ready to see what I can remember of the route on my own. I head off towards the car park and immediately take a wrong turn at the top and end up further down the path than I should be. To anyone who knows me this won’t be a shock as I am more than capable of getting lost just going to the shops never mind heading out over the moors!

Soon I am back on track and heading up over Penistone Hill. Here again I take a wrong turn and end up adding distance on to my route which on the day will lose me valuable time. I am hoping to do more recces of the route and by the time race day comes I will be fully prepared for the course and know the best route to take.

Soon I am heading up Haworth Old Road and trying to remember where the turn off is for the conduit. Unsurprisingly I take another wrong turn but after looking up to where I should be I soon realise my mistake and head back to the correct route.

I find the right turn off point and settle into a steady running rhythm alongside the conduit with plenty of sheep for company. My legs feel good and whilst the pace is nothing special I am moving freely and comfortably and I’m happy with my progress.

The run along the conduit goes on for a mile or so and takes you onto the road and here instead of heading over the Calderdale Way route I turn left and head back down towards Oxenhope. This is a steep hill and I relax my body as much as I can in order to maintain control on this fast descent. At the bottom it’s right into Oxenhope and then a short distance later left and the ascent up to Penistone Hill.

This is another long, steady climb and I pace myself accordingly so that I have the energy to get to the top and not burn myself out halfway up. At the top instead of turning right and returning through the carpark I head towards Stanbury and then Haworth via another long, steady hill.

I arrive back at my car tired but happy. I’ve done two tough runs back to back and I know that this will benefit me in the long run as the extra miles and climbing I have done will strengthen me physically and mentally. I am feeling good and with another four weeks to race day I am making steady progress and my aim of running the Yorkshireman Half in under three hours is looking on.

 

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