Posts Tagged ‘runner’


I’ve gone past him again on the hill, heard him breathing hard as I went past and then silence as he fell behind me. I push on downhill, nervous in case I fall, concentrating hard so I don’t, watching out for ruts and stones ready to rise up from nowhere and trip me up. I go faster and then faster still. I’m at my limit and then I hear his breathing behind me, feel his breath on my shoulder. No need to turn round, I know he is there.

I go faster, up the stakes, take more risks, the land beneath my feet now a blur, my only thought ‘if you’re going to beat me you’re going to work for it’.

We race like this for two miles, two people unwilling to give in, unwilling to give an inch, unable to slow a fraction in case the other detects it and senses that the moment has come for them to make their move.

Eyes focused intently on where we are going, running as nature intended, no thought put into it now, this is not the time for thinking, this is the time for doing.

A small uphill, I push hard, increase the pace and he is gone. The sound of his breathing recedes in the distance, hot breath replaced by cold air. He is gone, I have won this personal race within a race and now as my legs begin to ache and tire I slow down slightly and look forward to the finish.


Been very busy lately with one thing and another and not done my Trigger Race diary for a bit.

Only done two runs of note. One a 13 ½ mile recce of the Hebden Bridge 15 a good run with plenty of climbing and tricky descents. The other was the Mytholmroyd Fell Race held yesterday a great fell race that really tests you to your limits! When you run in the Calder Valley where Hebden Bridge and Mytholmroyd nestle it really is up and down all the way!

The good news is I’m feeling stronger on the climbs and more confident on the descents. Feel like I’m making progress on these running fronts at last!

The other change I’ve made is to my diet. For a long time now I’ve been running out of energy on runs and in races and haven’t had the confidence to push harder and run for longer. My pace has been suffering and I’ve felt that I was getting slower.

Recently I’ve increased how many vegetables I eat and this has had a massive effect on how I feel physically. I feel stronger, energy levels have increased enormously and I am now pushing harder in my runs and my pace is increasing at last. I’m looking forward to my runs again and pushing myself.

This week just some speed work and hill reps followed by The Stoop Fell Race held at Penistone Country Park, Haworth this Sunday, a short 4 mile race with a nice big hill covered in mud thrown in for fun!

After that I’m planning on doing a long run of between 18/19 miles to see how I am over this distance. Hopefully I won’t be too bad and I won’t be put off running that far again!


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.


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!


last week it was warm and dry
no wind, no rain, no mud
i ran free, i ran with ease
leaping over rocks
flying down embankments
soaring over hills
splashing through streams

today my feet are wet and cold
covered in mud, heavy to move
running is slow as i fight the elements
wind rips the skin away from my face
the cold penetrates my clothes
laughing at my futile attempts
to keep it out

in a week summer has gone
and autumn has arrived

blue replaced with endless greys
clear skies with threatening darkness
dry, hard trails are now
thick with layers of mud
puddles litter the paths
leaves dance in the wind
as the autumnal opera begins


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.

 


It’s been an interesting week for me especially with my running.

I ended last week having run further than I have ever run before, 41.5 miles. This was done deliberately as this past Thursday I had decided to enter the Rydal Round fell race at Ambleside and I believe in overtraining the week or so before a big race, having a rest the week before and then I am ready for the big day.

So the first three days of this week were a living hell for me as I rested my legs so that they would be fresh and strong on the day. Seeing all your running friends posting their runs on Strava makes it harder but I had never done a proper fell race before so I knew I was doing the right thing.

Come Thursday and after a drive of a couple of hours I was at the Ambleside Sports Day and getting ready for the race by getting changed at the boot of my car! Luckily it was cold and wet so I wasn’t hanging around and neither was anybody else which spared embarrassed blushes for everybody.

Then a massive disappointment. The race had been shortened from a 9 mile horseshoe loop to a 4 mile out and back to the first summit Nab Scar. This was due to horrendous weather conditions on the highest summit Fairfield which the marshal had decided too dangerous to race under. No-one could do anything about this as the organisers are responsible for the safety of the runners and no-one wants to put anyone in a dangerous situation if they can avoid it.

So under a sky of mist and rain around 100 mad runners set off to run up to a summit that they couldn’t even see at that point. The first mile was fine. Nice and steady uphill trail, nothing I hadn’t run on before and I was keeping a decent pace with some of the other runners at the back of the pack.

And then we saw the last house and turned right up the fell and the real race began. Immediately I went from running comfortably on trial to scrambling up the side of a cliff! This was rocky, steep and wet, a combination of surfaces I had not run on before and none of my training on the hills where I live had prepared me for this.

This was a brutal and intense introduction to feel running and nobody was messing around. Everybody was doing their utmost to beat everybody else, even more so it seemed than in the road races I had competed in. I felt strong going up and whilst I was never going to be the fastest I was catching and passing people. All my training and rest had paid off. I was moving with ease up the side of the fell and making good, if steady progress.

Then I got to the top and my problems started. What goes up must come down and coming down was far more difficult than going up had been. I was wearing was wearing my fell shoes and still struggling for grip. I seem to find going up a steep climb easier than going down and today was no exception. All the runners I had passed on the way up passed me back on the way down and my progress seemed to slower and slower.

Eventually I reached the bottom and found I couldn’t remember which trail I should take to get me back to the finish. I started going up one and then decided it was the wrong route, turned back and ended up on the main road. Whilst I knew this was also the wrong way I had now been running for nearly an hour and was cold and wet so headed back to the fair and relative comfort.

My next run wasn’t till Saturday after the local parkrun at Shroggs park and it hurt. My legs had not fully recovered from Thursday and I was aching in places I didn’t know I even had! It was obvious to me I had giving it everything and more on Thursday and put my legs in extreme positons that normally I would not even think of attempting. My thighs in particular were burning with pain but I knew a steady run would be the best thing for them to get rid of the stiffness and soreness I was experiencing.

After my run I ended up going to two parties and instead of driving home in my car from the last one ended up leaving it in a field the other side of Halifax! So I woke up today in the knowledge that I would be running to get my car and wondering what shape I would be in. Surprisingly I felt really good. Yes, I still ached but nothing I wouldn’t expect. I soon get into a steady, comfortable rhythm and was at the field within an hour. But I carried on past my car and extended my run from what would have been around 5 miles to nearly 9. Even then I felt I could have run further but decided to stop there and give my legs the rest they need.

This week I have come across two people who have similar reasons to me for running. One of them is a lad from Halifax known as the ‘Pink Running Machine’ and it was interesting learning about his reasons for running and what he gets from it.

The other was a lass I hadn’t heard of but again I could empathise with her as to why she run.

To see these two people out running it would be easy to make a judgement about the ‘Pink Running Machine’ as he runs topless and dyes his hair pink and think of him as an attention seeking poser. I can guarantee you he is not. The lass you wouldn’t notice out running, she would just be another runner you pass on the road yet they both have much in common as to why they run.

Maybe if we get to know someone properly before we make a judgement on them we might find we have much in common with them as to why they do certain thing and that the façade they put on is there to hide years of pain and to seek attention. Next time you see that person whether it is a runner or not get to know them first before making a snap judgement about them and maybe you might find out you have much more in common with them then you first thought.

 


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.