Archive for the ‘Andy Smith’ Category


It’s the anxiety that kills you
Strangles you alive
Forcing even the bacteria
From the bowels of your stomach
So you have nothing left
Not even a bacteria
To settle the nerves
Raising from the
Depths of your stomach
So you feel nothing
See nothing, hear nothing
Life becomes a blur
As you shake powered
By nervous energy
The foundations of your
House begin to move
Cracks appear in the
Road outside as
Your shaking threatens
Global peace, Trump and Kim
Blame each other for
Launching a nuclear missile
And just when you
Cannot take any more
It stops
Your mind and body
Cannot take anymore
Exhausted by anxiety
They give up the fight
You feel relaxed
So you see what you’ve missed
Texts, calls, emails, bills
Appointments, deadlines
Everybody wants you
Everybody wants something from you


Why I run is a question I’m often asked and a question I ask other runners too. I find it fascinating and intriguing to discover the many and sometimes complex reasons why people run. In today’s increasingly time consuming and fast moving society why anyone would want to run with an already crowded social and work calendar when it is easier to get home, switch on the television and watch others running round a track can be hard to comprehend.

I can only speak for myself why I run but like many others my reasons are various, complex and intertwined. What I get from running mentally and emotionally has changed too as my journey has continued and may even change again.

The best place for me to start is with some background information on my life and my running journey. This is my story of why I run.

Growing up I was never sporty. I played football, rugby, cricket and ran round a field at school but I was always the runt of the class, one of the last to be picked and usually the last to finish. My childhood memories of running are of setting off far too fast and fading quickly before being caught and swallowed by the rest of the kids and finishing at the back as usual. It’s a habit I still have today although I have made changes to curb it and ensure I have enough energy to finish the race!

Through my teens, twenties and thirties I would play 5-a-side with work colleagues but that was it as far as sport and running was concerned. Running was not for me. I did try it a few times but found what should be one of the most natural things for a human to do difficult. Having no co-ordination, no stamina and no patience meant I gave up very easily on running back then.

Into my forties and I stopped playing 5-a-side and the weight piled on. I soon went from around 14st when I turned forty to 19st 10lbs aged 45. I didn’t think anything of it. I was getting older and getting fatter was part of the process. Everybody went through the same thing and I was no different. This was life as I knew it.

But before all the weight piled on I had been diagnosed with depression in April 2001. For months before this I hadn’t been feeling well mentally, emotionally and physically. I was tired and disinterested in many things. The only respite I had was drinking with my mates at the weekends. Long term this didn’t solve anything but you don’t think long term when you get that short term fix of drinking yourself into oblivion so you can forget everything that you perceive as bad about your life. Your problems seemed solved because you can’t remember them. Until you come round the next day to realise that they’re still there, they haven’t gone away and all you can think about is the next weekend and going through the same routine.

So off to the doctors I went and with his usual abrupt manner told me I had depression, I had to ‘man up’ and get a grip and put me on anti-depressants to help lift my mood so I could ‘man up’ and carry on with life as if nothing was wrong.

Except it was. The anti-depressants are in my opinion like state sanctioned alcohol tablets in that they mask the problems causing you to be depressed because they make you drowsy, dull your senses and you are not fully aware of what is going on around you. This is my own opinion and others will have a different experience depending on what tablets they were prescribed and the dosage. I ended up on 40mg of Citalopram a day which made life bearable and forgettable. I tried Prozac for a while but not being able to stop inside because all four walls were closing in on you is not a good experience.

So I went through the new millennium living my life like this. Drugged up to the eyeballs on anti-depressants, the new sweets for a new generation and solving none of my underlying problems. Many of my problems back then centred around money of a lack of it. The ironic thing looking back is that I spent too much many at the weekend in order to try and forget that I had a lack of money. It can be difficult and frustrating for people looking in as they can see your problem and how easy it would be to fix it. For that individual though it is like being the eye at the centre of a storm. Everything is going on around you and you are largely oblivious to it and oblivious to how your problem can be resolved. Occasionally something comes and hits you right between the eyes but by and large you just carry on hoping that the storm will pass and everything will be alright. This for me was especially so when I was on anti-depressants.

But the storm doesn’t always pass and things keep hitting you, harder and harder and harder. Life was spiralling out of control even though at the time I couldn’t see it. Money and work problems were causing my stress and anxiety levels to increase and this was having a negative effect on my sleeping which led to increased levels of tiredness and increased depression, stress, and anxiety. Life was in a downward, uncontrollable spiral and there seemed to be no way of stopping it.

The depression, stress and anxiety continued to get worse despite the anti-depressants as my problems mounted up. I was reluctant to ask my doctor for an increase in dosage because I was already on 40mg a day and having problems functioning fully day to day. I was also fearful of becoming addicted to them and then asking for higher and higher dosages to ensure that I got the same hit.

So during the mid 2000’s I found myself dependent on anti-depressants to get through the day, stress and anxiety levels increasing all the time, problems with alcohol, problems with money and in a job I hated. I could see no way out. I didn’t know who to turn to or where to go. This is the loneliest place to be. I decided that the only way to solve everything would be to take my own life. I mean who would miss a loser like me? So I made my first suicide attempt sometime in 2005. I took around 25 Nytol one-a-night sleeping tablets. I remember falling asleep and waking up the next morning drowsy but alive. I phoned in sick to work and was in work the next day as if nothing had happened. I told no-one about this. What could anyone do to help me?

But life carries on regardless. I was alive and I had no choice but to regather my thoughts and get on with life so I did. Things got more and more intense and overwhelming for me though and I was in a desperate cycle of depression, anxiety and stress with no way out. This carried on for years and during the latter part of this period of my life I was somehow surviving on one hours sleep a night and constantly have suicidal thoughts all through the day. This was not good for me or anyone around me and is not the way to live your life. Something needed to change.

And change it did. For many years, I had felt different and slightly out of touch with the rest of society. I didn’t know why, I couldn’t put my finger on anything and no-one around me seemed to know either. And then my best friend Jill suggested I may have Asperger’s Syndrome, a high functioning form of autism. I did some research into Asperger’s and for the first time ever I could identify personality traits in myself with the characteristics of Asperger’s. it was like a light switch coming on in my head. I began to understand myself in a different way and look at society and life in a different way too.

However, this was only the start of a very long and tortuous journey through the minefield of getting a diagnosis which I eventually got in October 2008 after 18 months of battling a system that was seemingly more interested in money than the wellbeing of the patients it was supposed to be serving. I didn’t give in though and I got the diagnosis I felt I needed to move on with my life.

And move on I did. In 2009 I returned to college and got my O and A Levels. This enabled me to study for a degree in sociology at the University of Huddersfield. I began writing and performing poetry which fulfilled a need I had in me to be creative and express myself. But there was still something missing and this is when I discovered running.

I was chronically overweight and unfit due to an unhealthy diet and drinking too much alcohol. I had tried going to the gym but didn’t stick at it. Lifting weights in a room just wasn’t doing it for me and I got bored easily. Then on one of the Queensbury Facebook pages I saw an advertisement for people who wanted to start running to join a new beginners group at Queensbury Running Club. The guy who was running it was someone I had worked with many years before so I decided to give it a go.

That first session was hard but I enjoyed it. It was a nice pace with some walking in-between. I coped with it and didn’t feel it was beyond me. This was around April 2014 and I carried on going all through the summer. And then autumn came, it got colder, wet and windy and I didn’t want to go out running anymore. Without realising it I had become a fair weather runner.

Over the autumn and winter of 2014 I stayed in and didn’t do any running. The weight stayed on and I was still searching for that missing something that would give my life more meaning and plug a hole in it.

March 2015 and I went to London for a professional voice acting recording. I was told I have a very good voice for recording but found it difficult to breath correctly due to weighing so much. I knew I needed to change if I was to make anything of my voice and so I went back to the running club at the first opportunity.

I soon got back into running, even more so than before. The club had expanded since my last visit and a lot more people had joined but after a couple of weeks it was as if I’d never been away. I was struggling especially with getting my breathing right but I was enjoying it and looked forward to running every Thursday night with the Queensbury Running Club gang.

I started slowly, from memory my first parkrun at Lister Park, Bradford was around 45 minutes and most of that was walking. I went to Shroggs Park, Halifax and I ran 40 minutes. I had knocked 5 minutes off my time but I was still walking part of the course. This was my next aim, to be able to run a full 5k with no stopping for hills or was I felt tired. I was determined that nothing would stop me achieving this target.

This was a major breakthrough for me. Rather than giving in and telling myself I couldn’t do it I told myself I could do it. And I did it. One summers day I laced up my running shoes and ran down one of the local roads. This was a good tactic as it allowed me to warm up without the added pressure of running uphill and get my legs ready for the long journey ahead of them.

I went down the hill and felt good. This is a nice road and at about a mile long is perfect for a warm up. Right and up a small hill before down again. Before I knew it I had run 2 miles non-stop for the first time and I was running into uncharted territory. Would I manage 3 miles or would I collapse in a heap waiting for some dog walker to come by and rescue me?

I needn’t have worried. I carried on and on and on. All of a sudden I was running very slowly uphill but I was still moving and I passed the magical 3 mile mark according to my watch. I was so happy. I had achieved my running dream and run 3 miles without stopping. I felt like a Olympic superstar.

And from that point on running became fun as well as a way of losing weight and getting fit. I started running 3 miles and more on a regular basis and hills that had previously defeated me I conquered. It wasn’t easy and I would never pretend it was but the sense of achievement I felt was like nothing I had experienced before. I proved to myself I could do something, that it was not beyond me and most of all I enjoyed the experience.

And this continued. I entered races which whilst I knew I had no chance of winning I derived pleasure from by pushing myself to my limits and beyond. I found that was capable of far more than I thought I was, I could do things I never believed I could and I discovered a new me, a better me that had more self-belief, more ability and more confidence.

This has gone over into other areas of my life. I now have more confidence in everyday life and I have learnt to be more patient. Running is a good analogy of life. It’s hard work, the results don’t come quickly but if you stick with it and persevere you do see an improvement in your physical, emotional and mental wellbeing.

And now over two years since I started running I’ve been to places I would never have been otherwise, I’ve met people I would never have met and had some of the most amazing experiences all through running. My mental, emotional, and physical health has improved immensely. I’m eating better, sleeping better, and living life to the full and I’ve got running to thank for it.


Yesterday I competed in the Halifax Half Marathon for the first time and it was an experience I will never forget.

Having reckied part of the course the day before albeit in my car, I was under no illusion as to how tough this race was. Pretty much from the off you are climbing from the depths of Dean Clough Mill, Halifax to the heights of Soil Hill and Roper Lane, Queensbury before you descend back into Dean Clough Mill and the finish.

I arrived at the start and plenty of time and was pleasantly surprised to find plenty of car parking available. Some events I have turned up to and parking has been a nightmare so this time having plenty of space to park was nice. I later found out that the reason for there being so much parking available was more due to the notorious reputation the Halifax Half has and the effect this has on putting people off rather than me being early.

At one point before the start it seemed that most of the other competitors were in the queue for the toilet then preparing themselves to run! And then we got the call to assemble at the start and a couple of hundred runners were off to test themselves on the hills of Halifax.

The start heads up towards Shroggs Park before dropping down and heading towards Brackenbed Lane. This was the first of the hard climbs taking you up to Moor End Road and Mount Tabor. It is one of those typical climbs that we seem to have a lot of in Yorkshire where you think you have reached the top only to be confronted with yet more climbing.

And this is the advantage of doing a reckie. I was prepared for this second climb rather than being taken by surprise and I had set off at a steady pace in anticipation of this. I have been caught out by this in the past at races and suffered later on in the race as a consequence, but this time I was ready and climbed Brackenbed Lane in one go which set me up nicely for the rest of the race. I was feeling good and my confidence was going up.

Onwards and upwards on Moor End Road and towards Mount Tabor a nice village set in the countryside of Calderdale. Four miles soon went by and we headed right on Moor End Road towards the village of Moor End. Going through Moor End we had a bit of respite from all the climbing as we ran downhill towards Mixenden. On this first bit of downhill I decided not to push the pace but relax my body and mind and conserve my energy for the climbing that was yet to come.

We were soon through Mixenden and beginning to find ourselves in our own little races with the other runners. I was running with a lass from the Halifax Harriers and two young lads with charity vests on. At times like this it’s nice to have other runners with you as they keep you going and pull you along and you can maintain your pace easier too.

Through Mixenden the climbing started again. A steep climb on Mill Lane, takes you up to the outskirts of Illingworth and it was on this climb that a man running in sandals passed me! I was surprised at his choice of footwear but each to their own! I decided against racing him as it was obvious he had run in sandals before so I left him to tackle the climb on his own.

Once you have got to the outskirts of Illingworth you assume that you would head to the main road preparing for the last major climb, Soil Hill. However, the organisers of the race had been particularly nasty and instead the route took you left down Lane Head Lane before turning right up Rocks Lane. This route means you are as far down as you can go before you start running up to Soil Hill. Once again I was pleased with myself for having done a reckie of the route the day before. If I hadn’t done the reckie I would have been taken by surprise again and had another heart sinking moment that could have put my hopes of getting a Personal Best (PB) on the course in tatters.

My PB for a half marathon was 2:19:40 set at the Liversedge Half in February. I had run the Huddersfield Half in early June and missed getting a PB by around 40 seconds due mainly to wearing the wrong shoes for the course and stopping at water stations which I don’t normally do. At Halifax I had set myself a time of 2:10:00 to finish and coming off a week of rest after some hard runs I was feeling confident of achieving this.

At the six-mile mark on the main Keighley Road, I was on target to get a new PB in the time I had set myself but I still had the climb up to Soil Hill to contend with which would be the deciding factor in how close I would get to 2:10:00.

Soil Hill has a reputation as being one of the toughest climbs around and it is easy to see why. It starts off reasonable enough before flattening out and then steeply ascending taking in three ninety-degree bends before getting to the top of Ned Hill Road on which Soil Hill is. The first one of these bends is particularly difficult as it is at the steepest and narrowest part and you have to concentrate on just getting up and not worrying about your pace.

I did exactly this and successfully negated the bend and was on the climb up to the second bend. On this short straight I met one of my other Queensbury runners coming down in his van. He had, had a successful day out motorbike racing the day before coming away with a very well deserved third place and was in a good mood. On the way up I gave him a high five and carried on.

Up and up I went cheered on by some supporters from Halifax Harriers who were in their car and giving all the runners a much needed boost. At the top of Soil Hill, I passed the two young runners in their charity vests who to my surprise were now walking. They were younger than me and looked fitter than me but looks can be deceiving… This was the last I saw of them until the finish. The girl from Halifax Harriers was still in front of me so I had a decent marker to aim for and to keep pulling me along.

At the seven-mile mark halfway on Ned Hill my time was 1:15. I was five minutes behind my schedule and knew that the next six miles were going to hurt. There would be no time to relax and enjoy the scenery this was now me against the clock, me pushing myself once again to my limits and seeing how far I could go. This was now me against me.

Ned Hill Road goes into Perseverance Road some more downhill and flat and I began to pick up the pace knowing I had no time to rest. Going faster was the only way I would achieve my goal.

At the bottom of Perseverance Road is the Raggalds Inn and several from the Queensbury Running Club were there to cheer me and the other runners on and take photographs.

After the Raggalds, Roper Lane takes you around the outskirts of Queensbury. The first part is steady climbing before turning left and going downhill. By now I was visibly catching the lass from Halifax Harriers but remembering the advice I had been given by more experienced runners I reminded myself that this was about me and my own personal race and not racing other people.

I was soon at the bottom of Roper Lane and on the main road where the final water station was at the nine-mile mark. Here I finally caught and passed the lass from Halifax Harriers as she stopped to take on some water and I took some on the run. This gave me the advantage I needed to not only pass her but maintain momentum as there is a small climb before you head back down once again.

By now I had made up around two or three minutes on the time I lost going up Soil Hill but despite the pain in my thighs and my mind telling me I couldn’t do this I knew deep down I could and I knew I had to maintain this pace and I would achieve my goal.

Left onto Swalesmoor Road and a climb that you don’t notice normally became a hill but still I maintained my pace. Down the other side, pass the ski slope and another incline that isn’t there usually is all of a sudden huge. By now I’m catching two runners in front of me and this gives me added impetus to keep my pace up.

At the bottom of the road I am caught out. I assumed, wrongly that the route would take me over the road and down through the area of Claremont before heading into Halifax town centre. However, at the bottom of the small decline the arrows say right onto Claremont Road. I remember wondering where the route was going? We weren’t far from the end now so where were we going? What surprises did the organises have in store for us?

At the end of Claremont Road, I was soon over the main road. I had been lucky today with crossing roads and had not lost too much time. Some more downhill on the outskirts of Halifax town centre and another runner was in sight. I was catching her fast and knew I would soon pass her. This however was inconsequential to me. I had made up all the time I had lost previously and was now on course to achieve 2:10. This was now about me maintaining my pace and pushing myself not about beating anyone.

At the bottom of this road we turned left and I realised that the organisers had put us on a road that runs parallel to the main road but is far quieter. This is where the pain really began to set in. My thighs were on fire and felt like they would drop off at any time, my breathing was heavy and my mind was telling me to take it easy. I knew from looking at my watch that I would set a new PB whatever but now it was about how much I wanted that 2:10 time.

And then it kicked in. All the memories of the hard miles down over the winter. Doing it the hard way through mud, water, rain and snow with no one there to see it, no one to cheer you on, no one at the end to say well done. The winter months spent up on the moors all came into their own now, the climbs, the feet ice cold from being in water for hours, the mud that was still there after a week. This is what is meant by doing the grind.

And people’s voices flashed through my mind reminding me all that I have achieved, how far I have come, the respect I have earned from everybody not just other runners, reminding me that I can do this, willing me on!!

And I ran through the pain, through the hurt. I was passed by a lass but it didn’t matter. I was only bothered about keeping going and finishing now. Giving up would be easy but I don’t do anything the easy way.

Round the edge of Dean Clough, down and up some dangerous stone steps and onto the road that goes through the middle of Dean Clough and one final small climb before turning right into the car park and the finish at last!

The finish was strange to say the least as the organisers had decided to put a couple of turns in before you crossed the line, which in the middle of a car park seemed very odd!

I crossed and looked at my watch, 2:10:28. I had done it! But prior experience of how fickle the organisers can be with their timings meant I knew I would be tempting fate if I was to announce it straight away.

But I had done it. I had achieved something I would have thought impossible a couple of years ago. But more than that I had fought the voices in my head telling me to slow down, accept something less, telling me I could not do this. The last three miles had been the hardest miles I had run all day. All the climbing had taken everything out of me and then for the second time in a week I had to dig deep and then dig deeper to get what I wanted. I had to go through and beyond my pain threshold, my legs felt as if they would fall apart and I would never walk again, mentally I had to switch everything off that said no and focus on my goal and nothing else.

This run was proof that whatever your level you can achieve something if you’re prepared to put in the hard work, go through the bad runs hoping for a good run when it matters, put yourself through the pain barrier again and again and again, seemingly for no reason, push yourself to your limits only to push them back again the next time. And the only competitor you have is you. It doesn’t matter where you finish, first, last in the middle, it means nothing. All that matters is that you have done your best, you have achieved your goal and you have nothing more to give.

And my official time yesterday? 2:10:34. For once the timing gods were on my side too!


the creepiness of waves
the nothingness of sun
became a stain
in a time, a place
decayed my mind
turned it to dust


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.


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.