This day shall be known henceforth as the day of the Inaugural Hobbit Run. Our very own Hobbit Hash if you will. It was fun, and I really hope it is just the starting point for many future companionable yomps up the valley in 2016.
I was going to rest up on account of my dodgy hip, but then the sun was shining, and a knicker elastic injury surely isn’t an actual death sentence, just an annoyance, and I still want to play with my TomTom (not a euphemism) so I was quite keen to keep the 9.30 rendezvous with my new potential running buddy for the New Year. I have already found to my delight we share the same hobbit feet and bunion afflictions, and today I discovered even our hip twinges match. Honestly, it’s like we were twins separated at birth! So it was my fellow Smiley and I decided to have a go at buddying up for some runs. We are both what might be termed ‘steady pace’ runners, who prefer not to be rushed out of our natural rhythm, but want to do a bit more. We thought we should give it a go at running out together and see how we got on.
I headed out a bit early, and hung around on the nominated street corner feeling a bit self-conscious, and no doubt annoying passing drivers who politely waited for me to cross at the lights not realising I was just loitering with intent. I was really pleased to see my new hobbit buddy coming into view at exactly the appointed hour, and almost instantly the advantages of having a partner to plod round with started to reveal themselves. She has an entry Garmin, but it has some similar features to my TomTom. She could offer a possible explanation for the harassing vibrations which my watch is prone to giving out. Apparently my watch gets annoyed if I stop moving. Well, I say annoyed, it would be more accurate to say it just possibly triggers an auto pause feature of some sort, and the vibrations go on and off when I stop and then get going again. I think this could well be right, as it did vibrate when we stopped to cross roads and things like that. I suppose it is just my TomTom’s way of saying. ‘it’s not so much that you’re letting me down, you are letting yourself down and letting down all those women before you who fought to be allowed to run at all. How could you? What are you thinking of throwing all that away with your apathetic attitude you sad loser you‘. Something like that anyway.
As an aside, that story about Kathrine Switzer is extraordinary. Having some officious bigot trying to physically manhandle her out of the Boston marathon back in 1967. I mean, that isn’t really even so very long ago, to think that at the time it was considered impossible for a ‘fragile woman’ to survive running that distance does seem remarkable. Granted, I often don’t think I’ll survive running a 5km parkrun, let alone a marathon, but I don’t attribute this to my gender, only to my personal commitment (lack of) to ongoing training and nutrition. It makes me really mad, even all these years later, to think that women were so utterly excluded from the sport within living memory. Those officials had clearly never seen the Smiley Paces membership in action with all its gusto, gifts and glorious variety. They wouldn’t mess with our elite runners and live to tell the tale, oh no, most definitely not.
I am still on the fence as to how I feel about my watch having a go at me when it perceives me to be slacking. It is sort of part of the point of having it, but I don’t like external pressures on me when I run. We have to work on our partnership as in all new relationships I suppose. Give it time, learn to compromise, and try to understand each other’s language. Meantime, here is a picture of Kathrine Switzer being ambushed at the marathon. Shocking isn’t it? I really ought to use that as a motivation to keep on running, it never hurts to prove a point. That, and the fact that running gear seems to have improved exponentially since then, they seem to be all running in fleeced onesies which are no doubt fine at the appropriate time and place (i.e. privacy of your own home in the evening) but not entirely desirable for heading out on a 26.2 mile road yomp. I may not be an expert, but I’ve never seen that option under recommended kit lists in women’s running magazine for example, so I’m fairly confident in this opinion…
So, we had a post christmas hug, a quick comparison of our timing devices and headed on up the hill. Quickly it emerged that we are both happy to do a bit of a walk/run thing and enjoy the view and have a bit of a chat around the way. It was fab. A really gorgeous day to get out, and being together gave us both the confidence to head off a bit further afield. We were quickly on the trails, and off into the woods. We didn’t see too many other runners, but had a bit of a panic when we spotted a fellow Smiley with another runner, gracefully sprinting down hill towards us at exactly the moment we were gawping about admiring the scenery and self-evidently not doing a great deal of actual running! We nearly got away with it, quickly accelerating into a sprint uphill to meet them, but we possibly took off a bit too quickly and desperately, as it was further than we/I thought, we were definitely huffing and puffing when we reached them. It was good though, companionable, and I had that warm glow of satisfaction at feeling I was part of the running community, out and about in the winter sunshine, bumping into other runners from our club as a matter of routine, that sense of belonging is very fine (and rare) indeed!
Onward and upward we went, taking in the sight of a few trees en route lavishly decorated in baubles. Should have taken a photo really, they looked great – ooh actually, I’ve seen a photo of it before on a different website, Friends of Porter Valley – here we go. They attribute the decorations to magic elves. Might be true. They are wild trees, but covered in red shiny Christmas decorations. My running companion thought one in particular was bedecked as an annual tribute to a local runner who died too young and unexpectedly some years ago. I don’t know the details of that, but it seems plausible, and what a wonderful act of commemoration if it is. Really magical, see for yourself:
So we chatted about anything and everything really, but with a large focus on the mutual challenge of getting shoes to fit. I always feel like one of Cinderella’s ugly sisters taking on the glass slipper challenge (and failing) when I’m trying to heave on running shoes in shops. It was strangely comforting and reassuring to find it seems I am not alone in this. It is true what they say about a problem shared being a problem halved, we can have our very own support group. Hurrah!
Buoyed up by fine weather, good company and enthusiasm we went right to the top of the valley, passing by the alpaca place (the goats are looking quite porky), it was quite exposed up there, decidedly nippy. Then there was a short bit along Ringinglow Road (biting wind) before we dodged down on the Jacob’s Ladder footpath, which has been much improved since I last went down it. Seems to have a new surface and the vegetation has been cut back too, much easier to negotiate. We were feeling quite smug at our off road trail skills. However, once we climbed over the style in the wall onto the open field with a steep slope back into the woods we got a bit unstuck, or actually stuck, depending on your perspective. We paused for some pictures, because it was all gorgeous – the obligatory selfie, one of our matching hobbit feet, and a view shot already revealed above, and then started to hesitantly pick our way down hill.
We’d done alright up to this point, but in the field the ground was really saturated and it wasn’t just muddy, it was really slippery. The gradient is steep at this point – it’s a really popular sledging spot when snow falls for good reason – and we weren’t bold in our descent. There was much giggling and sliding. I went for the zigzag option, my companion went for a more direct route, and quickly was on her arse, spectacularly basted in mud and accelerating down hill on her rain jacket. Mud is a great lubricant it seems. I was torn between horror, in case she was injured (heaven portend that I’d have to be the responsible adult in such a scenario), and amusement, because the mud had got everywhere. In the end we both collapsed in laughter, and there was some payback to me because I nearly wet myself with all that hilarity playing havoc with my pelvic floor! Only minutes before we’d been discussing the relative merits of tread on running shoes. She had some bargain ones from decathlon (£20 or something), which had served her well, I’d got my new acquisitions on which were more like £80), hard to be sure, but it is possible she was now paying the price for wearing cheap road shoes, though to be fair, she’d been fine up to that point. I feel I should also point out that bizarrely, at the bottom of the hill we found a discarded banana skin! If it was an attempt to ambush runners and send them flying it seemed hardly necessary, we were skidding around pretty well on our own without any outside interference!
Cheered and energised by shared laughter we were soon back over another fence, and onto the more solid terrain of the Round Sheffield Walk pathways. Back past Forge Dam (sighting the new cafe cover which looks awful in photos but quite in keeping up close). I took the opportunity for a loo break, as all that laughing earlier had left my bladder in a perilous state. My watch took exception to this too, vibrating furiously at me whilst I was in situ. It definitely hates me stopping. I feel better now I know what this is all about, so my relief was two-fold at this point. Nearly home, we took a slight detour at the stepping stones which offer a short cut across the river going in and out of Whitely Woods – they were visible, an improvement on last time I was out on Christmas Eve, but stepping out onto the first of them icy water washed over my foot, and I was nervous about slipping off them if I ventured any further out. Hence we back tracked briefly and then it was just a quick scamper and we were soon back where we started.
I imagine I’ll get bored of posting maps of my routes eventually, but I’m not yet, so here is where we went just so you know. It is one of my favourite runs, so it will be interesting to see if I can pick up the pace a bit by doing it more regularly, and start to extend it too, I want to up my mileage for 2016.
Back home, feeling a bit smug (always a boon) and a bit energised too (always a surprise). I am feeling my hip though, so maybe it wasn’t the most sensible of yomps to embark on, but hey ho, time will tell. My trail shoes are definitely doing OK, thoroughly mud covered and now wet from being washed out, they are stuffed with newspaper in a vain hope that they’ll dry out in time for the next outing. Damp feet for New Year’s Eve seems a real possibility, don’t fancy using road shoes on the trails, it’s pretty erratic under foot out there, you need all the extra tread you can get, just look at my hobbit friend’s mud covered jacket and leggings, and hands and top if you need any evidence, it’s a quagmire out there I tell you, a quagmire!