Posts Tagged ‘blog’


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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


As I sit here writing this blog, I am reflecting on a very successful Dewsbury 10k and feeling the pain in my legs which is a constant reminder of how much effort I did put into the race.

The Dewsbury 10k is a flat and fast course. This in running terms at least translates into a gentle incline for the first 5k, followed by a gentle decline for the next 5k back towards the start/finish. Although it is flat it doesn’t mean it is easy to run. As I have learnt in my short time running, many of these terms can have a slightly different meaning in running circles and lull the new runner into a false sense of security. Flat and fast, as I now know means the incline cancels out the decline so overall it’s flat and it’s fast on the decline section!

A chilly but still and clear winters day greeted around 1,300 runners and this made it perfect conditions for running and going for a Personal Best (PB) over 10k. As we gathered at the start waiting for the announcer to finish his talk which was threatening to be even longer than the race would take for many, I ran through my race plan, remembering what the other, more experienced runners at my club, Queensbury, had told me.

Steady over the first 5k then go for it. Race against yourself and not other people, don’t try and keep up with someone who you think you should be faster than. You don’t know them or their running background. Listen to your body and save enough for the end and countless others I’ve forgotten. But most importantly I went into the race with a vague plan in my head of what I was going to and when!

So for the first 5k I took it steady, let people pass me and did my own thing. I knew to be in with a chance of getting under the magical hour mark I would need to turn around in under 30 minutes and then go for it and hope I had enough pace and energy to push myself under the hour.

After what seemed an age and the constant thought ‘I’m never doing this again’ whirling around my mind I turned around at the 5k mark in under 30 minutes. This gave me the boost I needed to believe I could achieve my goal and I immediately upped my pace and set off back down the slight decline.

The second 5k was much more enjoyable than the first. I felt good going at pace and was soon passing people who had passed me on the incline. I kept checking my watch to make sure I was going at the pace I needed to. At times I was going too slow so speeded up and at the end of the 5th mile I was well on target to achieve my goal.

The last mile hurt and I had to dig deep to keep up a pace that would see me go under the hour. It would have been easy to ease up and aim to just get under the hour. But that to me, would have made the run meaningless and I’ve seen the agony on other runners faces as they give it everything they have, only to have it snatched away at the last minute, by a second sometimes. And I’ve been in similar situations myself and didn’t want to be in another thinking of what went wrong, where I could have done more, what might have been.

So this time I kept going, kept pushing until the end, went through the pain barrier time and time again because my goal was there in front of me and the only person who could stop me achieving that goal was me.

And I did it. My official chip time came through at 57:40. And all of a sudden the pain in your legs, the long runs in wind and rain, up hill and down dale, the memories of close misses from before are all worth it for that one moment when you have achieved what you set out to do and before you readjust your sights on your next goal in life and set about achieving it.

 


I had a really good run today. Not fast nor a long distance but good just for the sake of running and getting out into the countryside away from civilisation and this world we live in that seemingly never stops and just goes on and on constantly. And this got me thinking about why I run. The inspiration for this line of thought came from a blog I read from Helen Mort who also wrote about why she runs.

There are many, many reasons why different people run and all of them are valid. Some people run to lose weight and get fit, others to race and be seen as a winner and for some it will be the chance to show they are the fastest in a race, over a distance or if they are on Strava over a particular segment.

But for me and I hope for many others it is the sure pleasure running gives you in getting away from the seemingly endless and constant barrage of images, noises, words and much more that bombard so many people every hour of every day. Running for me provides a means of escapism from a world in which the avenues of escape seem to be reducing all the time.

For myself too living with the condition Asperger’s Syndrome a form of autism, running gives me a chance to clear my mind of all the thoughts and ideas that conspire to overwhelm my mind all the time in addition to everything else the world throws at me. Running enables me to start afresh with a clear mind free from clutter.

Today was a very good example of this. I am lucky to live where I do on the doorstep so to speak of the countryside. The opportunities for me to go on a run and get away from it all are endless. The only limit is my imagination for thinking up routes and my body which is getting on a bit now!

So today I set off with a route in mind and for once followed it. along the main road then left down a long road, one half houses the other half fields. At the bottom of this road I turned right down a short road and then right again past a farmhouse and onto some nice single track trail heading down into the woods.

And it’s going down into the woods that my mind begins to clear, thoughts disappear as I concentrate on where I’m going looking out for loose stones, tree stumps and wet mud picking the best path down the trail, running as natural as can be, running for pleasure and no other reason.

For me it’s a very uplifting feeling running along paths made by nature under a canopy of green leaves and brown branches through which a strong sun tries to shine rays of light. This is where I feel at one with the world and with myself. No computers, no television, no radio and certainly no mobile phone. Nothing to distract me from the pleasure of running.

My mind is clear and free not overwhelmed by thoughts of what I should and should not be doing, who I should talk to and who I should not, who I should have in life and who I should not and so much more that occupies my mind in this every increasingly complex world I sometimes struggle with.

The Japanese have a phrase for this Shinrin-yoku which translates as forest bathing. This is the practice of wandering the trails of the forest, taking in the natural beauty and feeling at one with nature. This has a calming and relaxing effect on your whole wellbeing and this is why I run and why I ran today through the woods. To find peace with the world and myself until the next time I am overwhelmed and go for another calming and relaxing run through the woods.


Sunday Poem – Louis Mulcahy.


How do you inspire others? How do you get somebody else, maybe someone you don’t even know to do something they never thought they ever do?

To be honest I don’t know. Yet friends of mine are increasingly saying I’m an inspiration to them and others. But why when all I’m doing is trying to improve myself and my life chances?

What got me wondering about the whole inspiration business is some comments I’ve recently received about how I have changed my body and the way I look.

It began this year when I decided to take my running seriously because I have several plans I would like to explore and my fitness may play a part in following them through. So I started going back to my local running club and going out running on my own more.

And instead of just going through the motions I began to push myself to go faster, go further, do more. I changed my diet, dramatically. At first it was difficult as my body adjusted to so many changes all at once but now it feels natural eating and drinking reasonably healthy.

And of course the weight began to drop off and my body began to change, people noticed and the good comments started flowing. And them people started asking me what I was doing and why and I told them. And a couple of people have started running or walking because I inspired them. Some more are thinking about doing it because they have seen the transformation in me in person.

And maybe that’s the key to being an inspiration to others, being someone they can relate to in real life, someone they know, they can see, they can talk to about what made me go out and change my life.

But that’s not to forget that I have people who inspire me as well, people I can relate to in real life. Some of these are people I’ve known a long time, others have just come into my life, but all of them in some way inspire me and as a consequence I inspire others which is I think quite important in life.

Because if you can use the inspiration of others to transform your life and in turn inspire others to transform their lives, then you have done something very worthwhile in life.


If I could speak to you like the

Heather speaks to my bare feet as

I run to reach you, be near you

Avoiding stones the way you avoid me

 

If I could connect with you like an

Eagle connects with the currents of air

High above the cold mountain

Where your emotions lay breathing

 

If I could leap into your arms like a

Salmon returning home to the

Place it was born to die

As I die every day without you

 

If I could see you just one more time

Before I became extinct in your eyes

Flesh dripping into the earth, bones

Crumbling to dust, feeding the worms

 

The answers to my questions would be

Fulfilled the wise old owl told me

And I would know where I stand

Instead of feeling lost in your web of silk


This is a link to an article I have had published in my local paper the Halifax Courier about how taking up writing has changed my life for the better. Hope you enjoy it:

http://www.halifaxcourier.co.uk/news/calderdale/writing-gave-andrew-anew-lease-of-life-1-7200603


John Foggin weekly blog about the wonderful Keith Hutson

The Great Fogginzo's Cobweb

ancoats-c-1870

It’s grim up North. Well, bits of it undoubtedly are. As are bits of everywhere else. All through the 60’s if you watched ‘Coronation Street’ (of which more later) the opening credits reinforced an image of terraced roofs and smoking chimneys, as though Manchester had remained unchanged since this photo of Ancoats was taken in 1875, and would remain unchanged hereafter. Of course, it’s not like that. It’s not like that at all. There’s another lazy trope which goes on the lines that we live in an overcrowded island. But every Sunday night 3 or 4 million people tune in to watch ‘Countryfile’ , which may be like Blue Peter for the terminally nostalgic, but whose opening credits present a Britain from the air which is entirely rural, beautiful, and almost entirely unpopulated. It makes me feel much the same way as any flight  into Leeds/Bradford, or into Manchester….that…

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Another cracking blog from Roy Marshall

Roy Marshall

A friend asked me where my poems come from. It was easy make a list for her. They come from memories, from past or recent experience, from reading, from news stories, radio, media, real life (whatever that is,) dreams etc. They come from the walking into the shallows that before you know it become depths. I’ve got a feeling there are going to be lots of metaphors in this piece..

I thought about what it feels like to be writing a poem. Some poems come about very deliberately. There is planning involved. There is research. An idea or image appeals, and like the director of a film, I’ll steer the poem forwards, shaping it so that it resembles the idea or vision. There are often many lines edited out of the final version.

The poems that I have most enjoyed writing, (and perhaps these are also my best poems) have been…

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