This statement is only true for hobbit hashers out and about today, if ‘running like the wind‘ means, blustering about in all directions, howling and raging at the world, because that was what it was like today up on the Blasted Heath. Hilarious though, we had quite an adventure!
We rendezvoused this morning at our usual spot, full of optimism as although it was more than a mite blustery, we little knew then what trials lay ahead of us. The sun was shining, the air was crisp, we were definitely up for our weekly yomp onwards.
Heading up the valley, we bumped into a couple of other Smileys – this has happened a few times now, it seems Tuesday mutual romping is the way to go. Even more excitingly, they had Lewis with them – their accompanying dog, who ecstatically recognised us from last time when we all went out together. That was most gratifying. I wish other people would greet me with similar levels of unbridled enthusiasm (apart from the crotch sniffing). I also really, really wish I had that canine gift for recognition. After a solitary yomp, he remembers us, and apparently adores us too! I am terrible for remembering people, particularly if I come on them unexpectedly and out of context. (By the way, spell check just asked me if I meant to say ‘dismembering people’ instead of ‘remembering people’. No I didn’t, you are quite safe with me, quite safe…) I hate not being able to remember things, all that lost knowledge, and yet I can still recall in toe-curling frame by frame detail all the moments of excruciating humiliation I have ever experienced from toddler onwards, it’s so unfair…
If I had my way, everyone would have the same name. I appreciate this sounds unlikely, but trust me, a Further Education teacher friend of mine used to call every one of his mature students ‘chuckles’, which they found to be an endearing nickname, and meant he never had to remember anyone’s name, yet if he saw them years hence his former students would be tickled pink to be recalled with such obvious sincerity and affection. Classic technique. I know, clever! If that idea is vetoed then a compromise would be for people to all agree to wear a large sandwich board at all times, displaying their name, preferred term of address and – harnessing retinal recognition technology perhaps) a diagram illustrating how you know them or are related to them. It would be especially useful at large gatherings of extended friends and family. I don’t know why no-one has yet developed it, I really don’t. It can’t be just me, it really can’t.
Anyway, we did a bit of our usual yomping up the valley, chit chatting en route, and expressing disappointment that the fly tipping is still very much in evidence despite having been reported on two successive weeks. It is most dispiriting. Our fellow Smileys were as usual off in a heartbeat leaving nothing but a fleeting image and elusive memory in their wake. They were like spirits frolicking. Albeit spirits who had to stop now and again for a natter, so we caught up with them a couple of times before they finally vanished into the woods. I don’t want to give too much away, but they seemed to be women with a mission, monkeying around doesn’t quite cover it.
Their cover story was the latest in the Smiletastic Challenges. For week one in February we have to (amongst other things: running lots, going up hills a lot, doing a nominated long run, running in the shape of a heart, running at anti-social hours, doing timed races…. Anyone would think the Smiley Elder Super Geek who came up with the challenge was some sort of power-crazed psychopath controlling us all like pawns on a chess board? Surely not.) Anyway, one of the more obscure aspects of the challenge is to have as many members of the team as possible run down a designated hill in honour of the ‘Year of the Fire Monkey’. The specific instructions are ‘Feb 8th is the Chinese New Year and is the start of the year of the Fire Monkey. When you run downhill you should have your arms hanging loose like a monkey…. So I’ve set up a Strava segment for you to run down… like a monkey on fire.’
This is fair enough, and I concede it is a passably plausible excuse for their choice of running attire. I’m just left with a bit of doubt for the following reasons:
- It is much more likely they just didn’t want to be recognised, and I suppose happened to have monkey masks to hand more easily than say a balaclava. Or maybe they didn’t want to be seen with each other
- I don’t see why it was necessary to don the attire at such a distance from the actual site of the challenge
- The pantomime of ‘we’re off to do the firemonkey challenge’ offered convenient cover for more illicit activities in the wilds of Sheffield
- My final evidence if they were really doing the challenge, they should have set light to themselves running down the hills for true authenticity
See what you think? Three wise monkeys, or co-conspirators?
I digress, we two hobbits yomped onwards. At the top of the valley, we decided on a run extension to get to the heather. Now it can be quite exposed at the tops, but it is also really beautiful. There is always the hazard of bogs and standing water, but I thought (wrongly) that the wind would have dried out some of the more exposed areas. Massive miscalculation on my part.
We got to the road and headed over the wall where something about the topography of the area means you are suddenly incredibly exposed. The wind howled around us so loudly we couldn’t even hear each other shouting. We had our heads down and tried to drive ourselves into the wind, it was hilarious, but seriously challenging. Not much running happened, mostly trying to stay upright, and feeling like our end point of the style ahead kept moving further and further away. Truthfully, I was beginning to regret my bright idea of just a bit further. On the other hand, it felt quite adventurous, it is so beautiful up there, fabulous views and you have a sense of being in the wilds.
It was like some sort of method acting approach to being in a production of King Lear. Up on the hills, the wind screaming round your head, the elements lashing down, like an over-the-top representation of that wild and blasted heath. Actually, the Blasted Heath was I think Macbeth, but the wind and storm is Lear for sure – go Google it, you will feel ever so intellectual and gain enormous kudos if anyone ever asks to view your browsing history! I wonder if the ‘germens’ is an early reference to a Garmin?
Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow!
You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout
Till you have drenched our steeples, drowned the cocks!
You sulphurous and thought-executing fires,
Vaunt-couriers to oak-cleaving thunderbolts,
Singe my white head! And thou, all-shaking thunder,
Strike flat the thick rotundity o’ the world!
Crack nature’s molds, all germens spill at once
That make ingrateful man!
Lear, in King Lear, Act III scene II, Shakespeare – though I hope you knew that!
Having survived the winds, we then had to negotiate the electric fence surrounded style. Now, I have had a few run ins at this juncture before, but it is negotiable with care. Well, has been. Today, I’m afraid that not everyone survived the journey to new pastures across the fence in tact. It was a question of strategy I think. I was hovering around on a stone, being indecisive, when my Hobbit buddy just bounded into the mud, perhaps imagining herself to be slightly lighter on her feet than reality suggested, and thinking the speed of transition would help her almost float through the air to the other side. What happened instead, was the bog sucked her foot in to such an extent, that as she continued her bounding her trainer was left behind. Oh dear, on the plus side, it was very entertaining to observe, and the inside of her trainer remained dry. On the downside, although I was sort of amused, I was also acutely aware of that wise old saying ‘she who laughs last…’ as I still had to make the crossing, and I was scared. I also was the self-appointed shoe recoverer, which was harder than you might think. Balancing on small rock and bending down to retrieve it with precision was a great core workout, and staying with my centre of gravity sufficiently secure to ensure that when I finally freed the shoe, (which emerged with an almost guttural squelch) the force of its release didn’t shoot me backwards into the mud, was also pretty tough. I succeeded though, but not before I had taken some photos of shoe in mud, hobbit in mud, that sort of thing. I told myself it was for insurance and safety purposes, though actually, it was to liven up my blog, of course. I like to think my hobbit buddy is smiling in the photo, rather than gritting her teeth. She has only one shoe at this point, and the other full of water too, so I don’t think I really sold her this route as well as I might have done to be completely candid…
So, hobbit buddy was reunited with her shoe, and had to squash her muddy and dripping soaked-sock shrouded foot into it, which was quite a feat of balancing. She took it in good humour, which was just as well, as it was pretty remote, and it was still windy, and to continue the Shakespearean theme (yes there is) we were most definitely ‘stepped in so far that should (we) wade no more, Returning were as tedious as go o’er,’ most annoying.
As we plodded on into the headwind up the hill, my hobbit friend had to take an international business call which was very exciting. I felt important by association, even though my only contribution to international commerce was to act as a wind break. A gale was howling around us throughout, and I don’t know quite what the contact made of it all… it was turning into quite an action packed excursion! Really beautiful, but bitter, not surprising perhaps we had the place to ourself.
So just as we were settling into the views, and feeling smug, and pleased to have got to the half way point. DISASTER! Hobbit buddy twisted on her ankle, and at first I had visions of having to carry her down on my back. I quickly realised that I was getting it all out of proportion, it would work much better to just drag her feet first, with her head bouncing up and down on the tree roots, stones and tarmac as we descended. You just have to stay calm in these situations, and a solution usually emerges and things work out just fine. How you respond in these situations is a really good test of character I think. However, after a brief pause, she appeared to recover OK, and was game to hobble onward. The next water crossing looked ominous, but we were both so wet anyway by this point that it was actually OK, and then Ringinglow Road was in sight, and the Lady Canning’s Plantation. I must Google that, I know nothing about its history. OK, so I just have, very little to nothing, apart from a Wikipedia entry on Lady Canning – I presume it’s her, but no obvious Sheffield connection, very mysterious… a project for another time.
So we finally made it into the plantation. This is only a really short section of the run, but I love it. You go into these managed coniferous (hopefully not carnivorous, but take no chances – I wouldn’t run in them after dark myself). It was nice to be out of the wind, you have it all to yourself, and it’s a lovely running surface with a gentle gradient down hill. They seem to be doing quite a bit of work in there at the moment, creating cycle tracks, but it remains atmospheric, you feel like you’ve moved into a parallel hushed universe of goblins and fairy tales. A lot of the tracks were water logged, but we can dream about a summer run nipping backwards and forwards across squidgy and bouncy, pine scented trails. Only about a six month wait for that. Hopefully time will fly, to facilitate the fast passing of time, we must see to it that we have much fun in the interim.
Hmm, pictures look a bit crap actually don’t they. Bare and almost post-apocalyptic, it is actually lovely, just maybe not easy to capture on film! Emerging just up from Norfolk Arms, we yomped back, down Jacob’s ladder trail, past alpacas and horses and back into the woods. We kept coming across mysterious little piles of flour and arrows on our run today. We had fun imagining what they were for. Was it to lay out a track for others to follow, or to make sure that Hansel and Gretel-like someone could retrace their own? Personally, I was convinced it was a flour-filled magic scarecrow on walk about. Mostly he was in tact, but occasionally snagging himself on a tree branch or projecting bit of a stone wall, his innards bled outwards leaving a trail behind him. It seems the most obvious of explanations once you know. Though granted I didn’t go for the most forensically rigorous analysis beyond capturing these shots in the moment.
We finished our run, and did a little detour to a sort of hidden garden, tucked away off Oakbrook Road. It was lovely, with a mini lake, and a swing. Then onwards past the little row of independent shops, one of which had a dog posing in the window. There are plenty of Famous Sheffield Cats hereabouts, but I’ve not seen a doggy in a window before. A pleasingly surreal end to our morning’s adventures.
So, what with all that wind, and retrieving of shoes, and waiting for the broken ankle to reset, and general gossiping, it wasn’t the swiftest of outings, but it did feel like we’d shared an adventure together. And maybe running slowly isn’t such a terrible thing, it’s definitely better than not running at all. We still got some serious elevation in, and by running slowly we got more time to enjoy each other’s company. Yay! Plus, it’s official, it doesn’t matter how slow you run, it’s in Women’s Running magazine – If you run slow, Who Cares? so it must be true, yes?
Next task, replenish those lost calories… I’m on it.