Archive for the ‘runner’ Category


 

After reading my friend Rachel Cullan’s excellent blog about running and injuries I thought I’d share my recent experience.

 

On the Trigger Race (I’m still finding new people to tell my story to!) I tore my right calf. Now 150ft up the side of a cliff isn’t the best place to do it especially when you’ve another 5 miles to run so you can withdraw alive and with honour intact.

 

My right calf ached after but nothing I was worried about. It would of course go away and my leg would feel pain free again and I could continue running. Except it didn’t work out like that.

 

I rested until the Thursday after and I went for a short run. Everything was fine until I got round the corner from my house and my right calf went big time. It not only hurt a lot but nearly caused me to stop and pull up completely.

 

I managed to get home and to my amazement I had knocked 4 minutes off my time running up Blake Hill / Howes Lane but I was in pain. Was it worth it? Of course it was!

 

But the next day my calf didn’t feel any better. Or the day after. So now I know it was serious and I would have to go back to my physio to find out what was wrong and how to fix it and get back running.

 

So off I trotted to Rippendon to see Joe the Physio. The verdict was a Grade 1.5 (quickly upgraded by me to a 2) tear in my right calf and between 4 to 6 weeks with no running.

 

But I could go to the gym and do stuff that people in a gym do without getting cold and wet and lost and sweaty and confused and wondering who they are miles from civilisation.

 

So I went on the spin bike. But how to make it interesting? Firstly see if I could last longer than half an hour before I lost all feeling between my legs. I found out I could and that I could go quite fast, 23.5 miles, avg rpm 101 or go for 1 ½ hours before I needed to stop.

 

Similar on the Cross-Trainer and rope pull thing. Instead of thinking this was something I had to endure I decided to make it a challenge even if some days that challenge was just to go to the gym and do it I did it.

 

And it worked. I was not only pushing myself harder each time as the copious amounts of sweat falling off me testified, but I kept the boredom at bay and found myself looking forward to going to the gym and seeing how hard I could push myself.

 

It kept my fitness up, my interest up and most important for me my flexibility. I have never been the most flexible of people but for some reason over the last 6 months I have become more flexible and bendy than I have ever been and I didn’t want to lose this.

 

But still something was missing and after a couple of weeks it twigged. The gym was keeping me physically at a good level but mentally I was going downhill fast.

 

Until this point I never realised what running does for me in controlling my anxiety and anger and stopping me slipping into depression and just being a dick to everyone I come into contact with.

 

Running it appears does a lot more for me mentally and psychologically than I ever realised. Running allowed me to deal with emotions and feelings at a day to day level without letting them simmer away under the surface until they boiled over into a near uncontrollable explosion which resulted in misunderstandings at the best…

 

Running allows me to gather my thoughts and deal with them in a rational and logical way, letting go of the stupid thoughts and focusing on what really matters.

 

But with that outlet taken away from me how would I cope? Not very for the first few weeks until I realised what was happening and what I felt I was becoming. Then I could deal with it however much it drained the life out of me I could deal with it.

 

And then salvation! Joe the Physio told me I could run again! Only for 5 minutes to start with but it was better than nothing.

 

And so today I drove up to Ogden Water and nervously took my first steps back to full running fitness.

 

I only went down to the reservoir from the car park and back but it was a start. And it felt good. In fact it felt bloody good! The fear has gone about what happens if I fall over. Tough shit that’s life. You either get up or you don’t.

 

But the uphill was even better. Only a slight uphill but it might as well not have been there. Power, power and more power resulted in a PR.

 

All my anxiety, anger and other stuff disappeared in 6 ½ minutes of running. That is what running does to me,

 

What happened most of all on the Trigger Race was I gained self-belief and confidence in myself and my abilities. I’m sure my friends will stop me from getting too cocky and maybe one day my new-found self-confidence will result in something I don’t come back from…

 

But in the meantime I’m going to enjoy life and push as much as hard as I can in my running and see where it takes me. Life is for living, live it.

 


Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Went for a run round the block and tried some slow sprints on Old Guy Road. Nothing in the tank and didn’t enjoy it. Hard work today but you have to take the bad days to appreciate the good ones. Still I’ve got my first sprint session out of the way and I’m hoping they’ll get easier and faster in the future.

But every cloud has a silver lining. A friend texts me to say that whilst the run might not be fast my times for miles are quite consistent. This puts a different light on my run and I feel a lot happier about it now. I’ve got a nice little route to train on for speed and I’ve set myself a decent benchmark. This will be hard work but I can do it and get faster.


Monday, 14 November 2016

The day after the final YVAA vets race at Spenborough and I have the usual aches but nothing I haven’t had before. I want to rest but I know I have to get out and run however short it may be. I choose a new route, short just 2.9 miles but hilly with 512ft of climbing. I want to see how hard I can push myself over a short distance as I need to increase my speed.

This will help with my training for the Trigger Race too, a tough 21 mile fell race from Marsden to Edale in the middle of January. Strangely I’m not worried about the distance although that may change when I start doing some serious long runs! However I feel that doing some short runs and going as hard as possible on them will increase my endurance and give me an edge. This edge is not to do with beating anyone but toughening me mentally in preparation for my biggest running challenge to date.

After the run I feel good and ache in different places. This is what I wanted. Getting my body used to different demands so that I’m more of an all-round runner and not just an endurance athlete. Running fast on road again will hopefully give me an extra something and improve my trail and fell running too!


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.

 


Last night I took part in the Helen Windsor 10k race, a local road race round Greetland in Halifax. The race is tough on an undulating course and if I’m being honest was one race too much for me coming after setting a Personal Best (PB) at the Halifax Half Marathon only three days earlier.

However, I choose to run the race and turned up feeling good. Not brilliant but good enough to run the course and enjoy it. My thighs where still aching and it was clear to me I hadn’t fully recovered yet, but I decided to run and see how things went. The last thing on my mind was setting another PB, tonight I would be happy just to finish.

This of course all changed as soon as I started mixing with the other runners and the competitive switch in my mind went on and I began to think about setting a 10k PB. Could I set another PB so soon after setting one at the Halifax Half?

I chose to wear my new running shoes initially but as soon as I started to warm up I felt pain in both my Achilles tendons and decided to change them for an older pair I had brought with me that I knew would be more comfortable on the night and allow me to run in with less pain.

As we made our way to the start I could feel my Achilles pulling and reminding me that they thought I shouldn’t run. Instead I chose to block out the pain and just do my best on the night. I’ve got used to running in pain and now accept that being a runner means I will be carrying some sort of injury whenever I run.

The course itself is deceptively hilly and a lot more demanding than it appears. You start by doing a small loop before heading back up the main road and beginning the long climb to the high point before descending back to the finish. The climbs are a mixture of long steady inclines with some short, sharp ones thrown in for good measure.

At the start I set off far too fast, a habit I am trying to curb. As soon as I became aware of this I reduced my pace and settled down into a steady rhythm. My Achilles and thighs were aching but nothing I couldn’t cope with and I started to get into a pace I felt comfortable with.

After the small loop I was back onto the main road and the start of the larger loop. I found myself passing people which surprised me considering how I felt, but I decided to keep pushing and see what time I could get. Looking at my watch I was on course for a PB, by how much I didn’t know bit my pace was good and I felt fine.

As the course went on so did the incline. Nice and steady at first and then I could see the short but steep climb to the summit. By now I was beginning to feel the aftereffects of running so much this year and especially the Halifax Half in my legs. I could keep going at this pace but it was hurting, my thighs especially were feeling sore and I realised I was running out of energy. My mind took over and I asked myself how much I wanted this, was it worth putting myself through all this pain just to get PB tonight when I could get a PB at another, easier course some other time? The reply came back that I could do this and it was worth it.

I was already in pain so what would more matter? I was still passing people and I had now crested the summit of the hill although it felt like I was running up hill instead of down and the km markers were getting further and further apart. This was the part of the race where everything seemed to take longer to run, every mile or kilometre seemed to have been stretched as far as it could and this 10k race felt more like a 20k.

I was getting desperate now for the final turn and the knowledge that the finish was just around the corner. I was running on autopilot and concentrating on finishing. I could slow down and still get a PB but that’s not me, not when I’m racing. The desire to push myself to my maximum and see what I am capable of once again took over and so I dug deep yet again and carried on pushing myself.

At last the corner was there and I rounded it knowing that the finish wasn’t far away. Except it wasn’t where I thought it would be. I had further to run than I thought I had so onwards I went doing my best to maintain my pace. This was hard work now and I was finding it tough. All of my body was aching and all I wanted to do was finish and collapse in a heap but right now that wasn’t a choice for me. The only choice I had was to finish as strongly as I could.

And there was the finishing line in front of me at last. I had promised myself I wouldn’t do a sprint finish and the woman who had been on my shoulder for much of the race was now in front of me and I had nothing left. But with the support of the other Queensbury runners who were there and shouting for me I manged a sprint and beat her to the line.

All in all it was a good race. The route is tougher than I expected but so am I. Once again I pushed myself harder than I thought I could and I got my 10k PB in a time of 55:40 knocking 2 minutes off my previous time on a much tougher course. This bodes well for seeing how close I can go to 50 minutes with plenty of rest and a flatter, faster course. I’m on the lookout for a race like this already.


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!


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.

 


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.