Digested read: I went a-yomping round Longshaw with two running buddies. It was very misty, but fantastic to get out on the moors damp as they were. Wet feet all round, and some minor near death experiences. Still, we all made it back safely. Note to self, learn to navigate. Second note to self, make the effort to get out more on them there hills. Always fabulous.
See what I did there? Genius I know. I wouldn’t go so far as to describe myself as a stable genius, that would be the declaration of only the most narcissistic idiot, but I’m happy with being a self-declared genius when the evidence of appropriate punning is so incontrovertible. Misterious instead of mysterious. I am ON FIRE!
So the deal was this. Yesterday morning I rendezvoused with two running buddies, one previously unknown to me, to have a romp round the Longshaw 10k route. There was a small flaw in the plan, well a couple of small flaws to be fair, maybe even several. For starters, firstly, I don’t think any of us had reckoned on such thick mist – you could hardly see your hand in front of your face at times. Secondly, not having done the route for ages it’s amazing how different it all looks in a different season and without hi-viz marshals doing helpful directional pointing at key junctions and thirdly, we were all a bit at crossed purposes. One set on doing the actual route, another on just an ‘in the general vicinity run‘ and another on the let’s go out yomping elsewhere and have an adventure. Finally, we were all a bit ‘no, no, whatever way you think‘ with no-one really being assertive about the route or their plans. In the circumstances it’s a miracle we made it out at all, let alone back, yet out and back we did, and it was grand!
The day dawned. Well, I say dawned, not much sun in sight, just dank and dismal mist. We rendezvoused in the Fox House car park which was pretty deserted first thing. Inevitably I arrived first (I’m invariably early because I’m paranoid about being late). As I sat in the car waiting my compatriots I was feeling a bit less than committed to the prospect of running. Honestly, is there anything more depressing than rain beating down on a car windscreen which you can barely see through because of a near impenetrable fog outside, knowing that sooner or later there will be an expectation you venture out into the cold and gloom and voluntarily engage in physical exertion? Not much I think.
Since I was early. I used the time alone with my thoughts to consider whether or not rather than ploughing on with this ludicrous plan of running a marathon, I should rather be ending my running career on a high, and be announcing my retirement. The thing is dear reader. Something unlikely, unbelievable even and amazing has happened. Smiletastic results for week 1 have inexplicably placed me at the top of the leaderboard for individual performance! I know, who knew? Who saw that coming? No-one is more astonished than I. For clarification, it is the case that all my individual points were for timed runs, and week one of January offered up two parkruns on New Year’s Day, then the saturday following ‘usual’ parkrun – other Smilies took advantage of all of these – but where I snuck in an extra critical 5 points was by marshaling at Graves Junior parkrun, hardly a hardship. I love volunteering there. Because Smiletastic is designed to be inclusive, you get points for marshaling/ volunteering at organised events, thus, on a technicality, it could be argued that my ‘winning’ status has little to do with running and rather more to do with boisterous high-fiving and directional pointing. I concede this point entirely, but then again, it is precisely because of this I am most unlikely ever to equal let alone exceed this sporting triumph, greater athletes than I have quit whilst they were ahead. If I did announce my retirement, I could avoid going out in the wet and cold and spend the morning with dry feet. Worth thinking about. On the other hand, I do have my Dragonfly team-mates to consider, ‘one for all and all for one’, wouldn’t really want to turn my back on them now… Only the day before we had been out in force, we mighty dragonflies, segment bagging again, this time round Millhouses park. It was crazily busy. Like Piccadily circus with runners hurtling round in all directions, with just as much in the way of illumination as the neon lights of the titular location. Me and fell-flying Smiley who’d gone down together nearly ended up gate crashing a Totley AC run. Then when we were er hem debriefing afterwards in the Wagon and HorsesWagon and Horses there was a constant to and fro of I think hi-viz Steel City Striders doing intervals on the road outside. A veritable plague of runners, I wonder how many of them are genuinely hardcore and how many are starting out with the outward confidence of a newly forged New Year’s Resolutions albeit an inward shudder at the cold?
Anyway, enough of my digression from the theme … in the event, I couldn’t announce my retirement, because I don’t have a smart phone, and also you can’t really announce anything unless people are listening, and/or are moderately interested in what you have to say and I’m not sure these particular pre-requisites applied in my case. Maybe it’s like the tree falling in the forest and no-one hearing, does it make a noise dilemma, don’t think that’s been settled yet has it? Maybe it has. If only I could be bothered to google it, I’d be so much better informed. Sigh. Here is a tastefully photographed fallen tree we saw out today at Longshaw (spoiler, you can see I did get out the car), in case you aren’t quite sure what a fallen tree looks like. I’m going to put it out there that I believe this tree did make a noise when it fell, even though I personally was not on hand to hear it do so. Not sure if that supports or counteracts my ‘I’m a genius‘ claim earlier. Oh well. I’m prepared to risk it.
Bottom line. I’d be running. No retirement yet.
The others arrived, and had soon bounced out of their car, and our designated photographer for the day had us organised us into our ‘before’ selfie.
Although obviously it was a bit of a worry that this implied there’d be an ‘after’ shot, so we were expected to get out there and run, on the plus side, this recent photo might prove handy for identification persons if any of us were to get lost on them there hills. Off we went.
I am so used to parking in the Longshaw car park, I headed off down the road leading the others through the fog, dodging cars as best we could. (Yes we were facing oncoming traffic, but it was so foggy). Our designated photographer jokingly queried whether I was trying to kill her off as she’d done this route with someone else last week, and they took her a different entrance into the estate avoiding the road. I jokingly brushed it off, inwardly cursing that this perceptive Smiletastic bee had unwittingly seen through my ruse. Oh well. There are still 11 weeks to go, and I have to concede she is a companionable running buddy and queen of the collective selfie so worth hanging onto … for now.
We set off (after our precautionary pees without which no run in my training calendar can be undertaken), and our initial plan was to follow the Longshaw Trust 10k route, which I’ve done loads of times before, albeit only once this year. We started confidently, but very quickly got confused about whether we turned off quite so soon. Maybe it’s because of having to take important phone call on the way round. Threw me. Busy, busy, busy.
scampering past the lake – it was surprisingly ice-covered, it didn’t actually feel too cold once we were out.
Confusingly (for me, but then it doesn’t take much) they have greatly ‘improved’ signage at Longshaw. I mean they really have, but the proliferation of previously lacking signs threw me a bit, as they have a pink signed 5k route and I started to wonder if this was the 5k loop for the 10k. No, none of us had a map, or had thought about the actual route much in advance. Turns out, if there is no marshal doing their directional pointing, then I don’t know where to go, particularly when there are three of us with varying degrees of confidence about the route. It also shows how I abdicate responsibility for navigation at a marked event. Not sensible really. Part of how I managed to come in behind the tail-marker at my first fell race, blithely following signs. Mind you, gotta love a Wingerworth Wobble, I’ll always have a soft spot for that crowd, go wobblers!
One of our number enthusiastically pointed ahead, we could embrace the adventure, we could head off up them there hills. It would take us up high, we could yomp, what’s not to like!
Off we went. Quickly we were out across the road and heading to new horizons, or what might have been new horizons if we could actually see anything very much, which we couldn’t. However, you know what, it was completely brilliant. Despite my initial apprehension it is always fantastic to get out in the peaks. The area around Longshaw is gorgeous, it’s a different kind of atmospheric beauty in the mist, but you get to feel intrepid and hardcore venturing out and clambering over boulders when it’s like that. Actual running was a bit tricky because the terrain was rough, the path unclear and it was really slippy in parts – I was wearing my innov8 parkclaw, which are my go-to trail shoes (size 5 if you’d like to sponsor me nice innov8 people), but actually I was wishing I’d got my Irocks on. Oops, guess that’s blown the free pair of trail shoes from innov8 now, oh well, I daresay it’ll be their loss. (Slight cough moment).
The thing is, you go out, and you get to see amazing things within just a couple of kilometers, if anything, the mistiness just made everything even more dramatic.
We even stumbled across this mahoosive rock formation which I like to think of as Longshaw’s Uluru (though it’s OK to climb this one, whereas you really, really shouldn’t be scampering around on the Australian original) but think it might actually be Mother Cap at Owler Tor. Great opportunity for more exploring, scampering, gratuitous photographing and, inevitably, some very fine photobombing. Had to be done.
Obviously we ran really, really hard in between times, but you can’t take photos when you are pushing yourself that hard, so you’ll just have to take my word for it. It was an amazing spot. Check out these photos around Owler from a late summer photographer James Grant, pretty impressive are they not? Any time is a good time to be out there and up high, you feel like you have the whole world to yourself. Amazing. What the heck, here’s one of his photos, so you get the idea, it’s almost as good as our very own official photographer’s ones I’m sure you’ll agree.
We found ourselves at one point with a choice between plummeting over the edge of the earth, which must therefore be flat after all, or going off-piste.
We went off-piste. Much scampering, a bit of hesitance, some shrieking, a few near misses and a bit of toing and froing. This is what makes off-road fun. One of we three amigos was the official photographer (not me), one was our pathfinder and navigator (not me) and then there was me. I’m not entirely sure what my role was. Is ballast a role as such or just a state of being.
I did have one anxious moment when, simultaneously, both of my running companions took a tumble. That raised the horrific possibility for the briefest of moments that I’d have to be the ‘responsible adult’ whilst my broken, fallen, crumpled and unconscious running buddies lay contorted in a heap together. I did at least have a phone with me, and I know to call mountain rescue, but I don’t think I’d have been too good with instructions. ‘What can you see?’ they might say ‘mist‘ I’d reply. ‘Anything else?’ they’d prompt hopefully ‘ice-covered puddles and rocks‘ I’d add. I was minded of a time (true story) when I worked in an open plan office. A young recruit was driving to a venue she’d not been to before with a colleague, pre sat nav, they were lost on a motorway so rang the office for help with directions. As they had no idea where they were exactly, the person taking the call asked ‘what can you see?’ the reply they got ‘We’re following a volvo and there’s a lorry on the inside lane‘ I have never heard the team of an open plan office guffaw as one so loudly before or since. It was quite a moment. Even better, the caller heard us, and added ‘what are you laughing at?’ I reckon all those swivel chairs had to be professionally cleaned after that…
Anyways, panic over, they were fine, we ran onwards:
I tried to trick my buddies into a dragonflies wings pose, but it didn’t quite work, it’s hard this stealth dragonfly insertion strategy. Surely some credit for effort. The mist started to lift and as we descended the scenery changed again. It was still a bit treacherous underfoot, with some ice patches. I did slide about a bit, but as I explained to the others I’d be fine about my moment of demise being up there, and more than content to be just rolled into a ditch or whatever. The timing would guarantee that my obituary could truthfully state that I was leading the field for the demanding Smiletastic challenge giving a huge implied truth that it was inevitable I’d have won it overall had I but lived, plus, I’m already on record as wanting the Khmer version of achy-breaky heart played at my funeral, or if I don’t have a funeral, at any associated wake. It’s not so much of a niche offering as you might think. Very popular at the Olympic Stadium early morning workouts in Phnom Penh. I know, educational this blog post is it not?
We descended, back onto the road, we didn’t hitch a lift, even though that’s what it looks like we were trying to do. I’m not sure about my hat? It’s a trust 10 one, but maybe a bit much other than for when actually doing the Longshaw 10k do you think? Comfy, and stays put. Very pink though. Why is everything pink?
Across the road, back into the Longshaw estate, where there was a fine waterfall.
Bit of a heave-ho in parts, but I was after miles on the legs rather than speed. I’ve only just got back into running (I use the term loosely) after various niggles and lack of routine) so I have a terror of getting injured. Walking is grand for getting strength back. Apparently, if you run the load on your calves is about 8 – 12 times your body weight, but if you walk it’s just about twice. To be fair, I have no idea if these figures are correct, but they ring true. My calves are the Achilles heel of my running, which is weird, as the achilles is somewhere else entirely. Still, you get my point I’m sure, or wont especially care if you don’t. Bottom line, I want to take it slowly, and build up my distances without breaking anything other than involuntary wind during my training regime. Any runner who claims never to have broken that when running is either a medical curiosity who should be euthanized and dissected for the greater good, or lying. You choose. Anyway, it wasn’t only me walking, though I do concede the hands on hips pose is somewhat petulant…
We ended up looping round and coming in near to the fox house pub. We still hadn’t done the 10k route though, even though we’d been out ages, so after much debate, we agreed we’d add that on.
We had one wrong turn – oops, but got there in the end. It was grand. It is really remarkable how the landscape changes in what is a relatively short route. We had woodland bits, and heather bits, and boggy bits, and heather bits. All good. You can see we were all complete naturals in front of the camera.
I took a pause for dry-stone walling tutorial. There is a team doing amazing work rebuilding these, some of the walls on the estate go back about 400 years apparently, though this one is ‘only ‘ about 150 years old. Looking good. Repairing them is most definitely a labour of love, but imagine the satisfaction of getting those walls back up for maybe another 150 years of service. Quite a legacy.
Also on our ‘to do’ list for the day. Yes we did have one. Was to go up the steps spotted on a previous run, and check out the view from the top. The steps are towards the end of teh 5k lap of the Trust 10k. Embarrassingly I’d not particularly noticed these before – obviously running too fast and too focused on the finish. But they are enticing… steep but with a pretty little tree towards the top.
Up we went. You basically hit the road the other side, but turn around and look back from whence you came, and you get this:
Really stunning. Also good for posing for shots so brace yourself people, here we are doing are very own version of the Barbary Lane steps of San Francisco. Oh and a random non step photo just because I like it. See if you can tell which one it is.
And so after the steps, it was back onto the main path, through the gate and we were soon back at Fox House. Yomping concluded. The original plan had been to have a coffee here afterwards, but time ran out so we will have to save ourselves for next time. This is where we went by the way, about 12km in total I think, just under maybe:
Not strictly speaking a recreation of the Trust 10k, but pretty darned fabulous, and way better for achieving both a spontaneous bit of exploration as well as near enough one 5k loop of the 10k which is all that was required really. Great to be reminded of what is on our doorstep, must make the effort to get out exploring it more all over again.
Oh yes, nearly forgot, here is the mandatory ‘after’ shot. We did it, we ran, we conquered, made it onto Strava as well, everyone’s a winner.
So back on it. I need to embrace those trails. I recognise I will get wet feet, and never again see the natural skin colour around my toes, or for quite a way up my legs too if you take the real extent of peat-stained splash back into account – but I consider this but a small price to pay for such adventures in the mist.
There you go, misterious joys of running demystified. You’re welcome.
See you on the moors. Unless you see me first. Obviously.
Thanks Carol Speight for the photos, and thank you running buddies both. We are all awesome. Evidently!