A year ago, I was with my friends at my friend Louise’s funeral. I’ve written about Lou a lot: here is one link. She died too soon, but she died with grace and dignity, while achieving an immense amount in her last few months of life.


I think it was at her wake in a lovely bar in Edinburgh that someone suggested we get a team together to raise money a year later for one of her chosen charities, the Skeletal Cancer Action Trust. My friends seem to think it was me.

Elliot: It was definitely you. It was when you were at your most evangelical about running.
Me: You mean I’m less evangelical now?
Elliot: Oh. No.
Me: It’s just that with you, it worked so you don’t notice it any more.
Elliot: Oh. Yes.

Al, Lou’s husband, thought it was a great idea, even though he is an obsessive cyclist and hated running (as did his knackered knee). Over the last year, we have gathered 30 people to run together as TEAMLou. Some of them knew Louise, some of them didn’t. Probably hardly any had heard of SCAT, a small charity run out of the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital where Louise had excellent treatment for her bone cancer. But that didn’t matter. It didn’t matter that seemingly everyone is running for charity these days, to the point that some people refuse to give money to races. That’s OK. But anyway TEAMLou kept growing and growing. People who knew Lou, people who knew of Lou, people who read about Lou, people who loved Lou, people who loved Al. A marvellous bunch of kind people who were prepared to run or to learn to run to raise money for Louise. What a lot of mensches. The wonderful designer Mikey designed us a vest.


We set up a fundraising site. There were some drop-outs along the way, from injury or other reasons. But by last weekend, we had 30 people running: 26 or so in Edinburgh, four in Cornwall doing a solidarity run. Most of the Edinburgh runners were doing the half; one did the marathon; and five ran the marathon relay (with David Amers accompanying Anna on her relay leg). Al had had increasing problems with his knee and I suspect dosed himself on painkillers before running, but he still did his relay leg with distinction.

The night before, Elliot came round to Al’s beautiful flat (so beautiful that it always makes me want to get home and clean up) and we compared our race numbers. Nat looked at his number, which was 330. Mine was 33,500 or something. She said, “why is your number so small? And why does it say ‘marathon’ and not ‘half marathon’?” Elliot’s face went white. I mean, he’s northern so he’s pale, but this was translucent. He had signed up for the marathon by mistake. But when he did that, he put in his predicted half-marathon time of 2:05, so he’d been given an elite number. If Nat hadn’t noticed, he’d have found himself standing next to a bunch of Kenyans, with a predicted finish time only two minutes slower than the world marathon record.

I’m still laughing, several days later, though there are questions to be asked about race organizers who blithely accepted an unknown runner presenting with a world marathon record time without doing any investigation. But Elliot was in a panic. He’d done the Paris marathon but hadn’t had much time to train since and certainly wasn’t ready for a marathon. I think I’d have probably tried to do it, but luckily Al had signed up for the half before his knee failed him and he’d switched to the marathon, so he gave Elliot his bib – with a more reasonable 33,000-ish number – and we assumed that a race management team that didn’t notice a mysterious brand-new elite athlete from Macclesfield would not be especially bothered about two Als running in separate events.

I hadn’t got nervous about the race, and managed to get some sleep for a change. But in the morning my guts told me that I was actually more anxious than I thought. I ate toast and marmalade, drank a disgusting beetroot shot, and left the house at 6:45 to walk up to Regent Road where the TEAMLou half-marathoners were meeting for a group photo. I’d met some of them before, but most were names in emails. Mike, in the red cap, had emailed me to ask if I’d like to run with him. I wrote back to say that I wanted to try to run fast so maybe it wasn’t a good idea, before I remembered that Mike was a seriously fast fell and ultra runner, the kind of man who runs up Ben Nevis, and gets to the top and down again. I sent a very embarrassed apology and accepted his offer with profound gratitude. I’d never had a pacer before, and Mike had never been a pacer, but he wanted to try. Also, he had a calf strain that had been a problem for a month so didn’t want to go full-pelt. He reasoned that the next best thing he could do would be to get someone else to a PB, and that that was me. He’d emailed me a pacer band for a 1:45 time.

1:45! Eight minute miles! Oh my god.

I said, thank you, and wondered how to replace my blood with laser juice or something. Anyway we lined up for our team photo:


and headed to the start. I was supposed to be in the orange pen, but we ended up standing way way back in the blue one. I think we were so distracted by the godawful weather that we didn’t push our way down to the front where the orange pen was, but I wish we had. The weather was vile. The forecast had been thunderstorms, but on the walk up to the start it had been cool and not raining. Perfect running weather. I decided in May that I’d run races in vests only from now on. No undershirts or extra layers. I slightly regretted that as the goosebumps appeared and the rain started coming sideways, accompanied by freezing gusts of wind. Mike said, that’s Arthur’s Seat over there, and I looked at a bank of dense fog and said, “oh?” It didn’t help that for no apparent reason that start was delayed by 10 minutes. So there were thousands of very cold runners. Some of them kept their waterproofs on, which I bet they regretted later. Plenty were wearing bin-bags. I’d forgotten to bring an old and unloved sweatshirt so I got colder and colder. I just wanted to run to warm up.

Finally at about 8:15 we started. With a shuffle not a bang. The first three miles were very crowded, and the next 10.1 miles were only slightly less crowded. We spent 13.1 miles overtaking and weaving. My pace started at 8:17 miles and hardly varied the whole way round. It was such a treat running with Mike: he had the easy gait of a seriously good runner, and it was encouraging to follow him. He never went off too fast except in the last two miles, when he was trying to get me to speed up. The route went down a hill – such a big descent that it doesn’t qualify for eg. the Boston marathon as an official event – past Holyrood, through Leith and then to Portobello and Musselburgh along the seafront. It’s flat and nice. The rain stopped after a few miles, I warmed up, and although I can’t really remember the sights, I don’t remember being bored. There weren’t many supporters, probably because of the cold, but there were enough. I missed the music and relentless good cheer of London, but I had enough to concentrate on in keeping up with Mike.

I decided to follow my London marathon nutrition and hydration regime, as it had worked, and only began to drink and eat at 6 miles. I’d brought gels, but Mike offered me his, and offered to prepare them for me too. What luxury! No fumbling around with my bum-bag. He asked whether I wanted a gel with or without caffeine. I thought about it. You’re not supposed to try any new food or drink in a race, and I remember Shamiso from my club trying out some gels that another club-runner offered her at the Manchester marathon, and vomiting all the way round. It’s a good cautionary tale, but I wanted the caffeine, so Mike opened a gel and handed it over and I felt like I could get used to having a coach run with me. I need to get rich or extremely fast and hire one. I didn’t vomit up the caffeine gel, and my 10K time was about 49 minutes, which for me is great and which put me on track for a sub 1:50 at least. I think by then Mike realised that I wouldn’t make 1:45 and that my legs were stuck in an 8:17-20 pace. Which I thought was brilliant, considering my marathon pace was a minute slower than that.

We ran past a couple of TEAMLou runners: first Claudia, then Tom. We ran past a woman wearing these extraordinary tights:


And another one wearing these:


And I really wanted to see what the front view was, but I didn’t want to turn around in case I lost my balance, so now I know.

By now we were in Musselburgh and we got to the hardest bit. I’d broken my gel every-three-miles rule because I felt like I was flagging, but in fact I wasn’t which proves yet again that I am terrible at interpreting my pace. Mike made a minimal effort and sprinted ahead to take a series of pictures of his charge, which I hope he doesn’t mind me posting:




And then it was the final four miles. These were the worst, because they consist of a hairpin: all the way up beyond Musselburgh racecourse, then back the same way, so that you are running into a sea of people who have run two miles further than you. It is never not a wee bit demoralizing. Mike kept saying, the turn is coming up, I’m sure the turn is coming up. After two miles of that, I said, you’ve been saying that for two miles, and he said, “mind games!” After the turn did finally come up, he said, right, let’s pick up the pace for the last two miles.


And he sprinted ahead, and I tried to keep up and sometimes I did better than other times. He only had to stop once, and when he did I felt so ashamed, I did speed my legs up a bit. I almost did a negative split but not quite (for non-geek runners, a negative split is when you run the second half faster than the first), but I definitely didn’t slow and when I read Mike’s account of the race, which is here, I realised his tactic was to stop me slowing down rather than get me to speed up. And it worked.

By the time I got to the final half mile I was very tired and visualising this video of Louise walking up a hill with a new prosthetic leg. I don’t usually think that visualising works: I just get my head down and run. But I really think that did. Thanks, Lou. But it meant that at the finish line I wasn’t looking out for anyone, I was fully concentrating on keeping my legs and head going. I seem to remember, after 12.5 miles, thinking, “I’ll just stop here.” But I didn’t.

I got over the line in 1:49:44, and nearly threw up. After I stopped nearly throwing up I was delighted. Really delighted. I’m certain I wouldn’t have got under 1:50 without Mike, though I think I would have beaten my PB of 1:55. But it was really great running with him. Thanks, coach.


I needed a toilet and warm clothes fast, but neither were immediately available. So I got my t-shirt, and found that for once it was a good, technical t-shirt, and with XS sizes (unlike London marathon’s crap cotton huge pillow-case of a finisher’s t-shirt). Mike and I had our picture taken, went for our bags, and promptly lost each other. Nat managed to find me: she’d come to the finish line but not seen me, again (I missed her twice at London, so now we were quits). My friend Norrie also came to the finish line but I didn’t see him either.

After I’d given up trying to spot Mike, Nat bought me a coffee. There were stalls selling porridge and burgers and beer and once again I watched with astonishment as people drank pints. I never feel like drinking alcohol or even eating immediately after a race. I never want anything for a couple of hours and then am suddenly the hungriest I’ve ever been, ever.

Instead I changed my shorts, which had suffered from my usual racing problem, and the fact that I hadn’t had time to get to the toilets at the start. Changing shorts in a dirty portaloo is fun. There were no phone signals by then as so many people were using the networks, so Nat & I gave up finding Norrie or Mike or anyone else and set off back to the after-party at Al’s house, via a packed East Lothian bus. The party was supposed to be a barbecue, and so it was, even with frequent Biblical deluges from the Edinburgh sky. You can’t keep a good after-race party down.

Aside from the fact that this was a TEAMLou event, and special, would I run the Edinburgh half again from a race perspective? Probably. Although after London and Edinburgh I’d like to run a race where I don’t have to spend the whole duration running around, past, and through people. There were seriously slow people all the way round, which is fine, but when there is never any space and there are always slower runners to overtake, it must mean that the pacing and pen system isn’t working as it should. Of course it was my fault for not going ahead to the orange pen but even then I wouldn’t have spent any less time overtaking. It adds distance and time and it’s tiring. London was 26.8 miles because of the weaving; Edinburgh was about 13.28. I know – as Elliot proved – that it depends on honest self-reporting, but I wish it worked better, though that’s only a selfish wish because I’d like a bit more space to move. So it’s up to me to find a flat race with hardly any people running it.

But that’s just me being a race geek. Much, much more importantly, we have now raised more than £8,000 for SCAT, and that’s so wonderful. A huge well done to everyone on TEAMLou, of whom more here:



Al, Lou’s husband, is bottom left, still with a functioning knee (more or less).

Thanks to everyone who offered to run even if they didn’t due to injury, and to our supporters on the day. And thank you to everyone who has donated, no matter how much.

Thank you.

Oh, and the winner of the marathon was David Toniok, with a time of 2:15:33. So Elliot would have won by a country mile.



EMF maps

EMF splits


Where did ten days go?

I’ve been exercising, but not enough. I’ve been eating cream cakes too much. My appetite still seems to be of marathon capacity, but my training schedule doesn’t match it any more. I’ve been running, but in such a relaxed fashion that I haven’t used my Garmin since I did the Bluebell 10 trail race two weeks ago (and have no idea where it is). I try to vary my runs: some alone, some with Veggie Runners, some with my club. I went to Copenhagen, and went running again with Roger Harris of ISWAN. We met at 7:30 and ran through the city to the water, and ended up here, appropriately, as we were both in Copenhagen to attend a shipping conference:


The next day I got up at 6.30 and headed out of the hotel door towards the Frederiksberg Palace. I ran for a mile and found myself in a cemetery and thought, odd to have a cemetery in the grounds of a palace. But I ran around amongst the gravestones – I like graveyards very much, and this was a beautiful one – before realising I’d run in the wrong direction when I left the hotel. So, back along the busy Falkoner Allee, where as in all of Copenhagen, the biggest danger seems to be being run over by bikes. Copenhagen is bike heaven. I never saw a road without a dedicated cycle lane. And because every driver, cyclist and pedestrian has a dedicated urban space, everyone seems happy to wait. There is no jumping of red lights. Taxi drivers are cyclists too so they don’t want to kill them. It’s wonderful. Anyway I ran back to the hotel and carried on and half a mile later I found this.


And then I saw this:


And I ran down the hill in the park and into some woods and found a gingerbread witch’s cottage, too:


If I hadn’t gone running, I would never have found the cemetery or the palace, or walked seven miles through the city. It’s the best method of exploring I know of.

When I got back, I played squash. I’ve been wanting to for a while. But it was a mistake.

I’m not very good at squash. I played tennis for so long that I still think there is such a thing as a double-handed backhand in squash, too. When my opponent is doing his special back-of-the-court-dies-in-the-corner serve, a double grip on a racket is the last thing required. I used to play squash against my mother when I was a teenager. She would be devastating, and she never had to move from the T-bar. She stood still and angled the ball all over the place, and I had to run like a banshee. I was always exhausted, she wasn’t, and she always won.

Paul, my next-door studio neighbour, wasn’t as good as my mother. He won the first game to love, but then I warmed up, and he had to run too. By the third game, I had an advantage because I was fitter and had more stamina. He played better, but he was tired and not running for shots he was running for in the first two games. He still won all three games, but only by two or so points. It was great fun. But it was still a mistake, because squash is a series of jerking sudden movements. It is stretches and lunges and reaches. And during one of my stretches or lunges or reaches, something stretched too far.

We played squash on Thursday and I didn’t run again until Saturday morning at the Mob Run Parkrun at Roundhay. Mobrun entails two things: each Leeds club tries to bring the most runners, and the race director dresses up like Al Capone. My friend Jason was staying for the weekend, and he gamely came along with his American-tourist SLR slung around his neck. He looked rather alarmed at the Parkrun and said he didn’t much like organized positivity (that’s right, isn’t it, Jason? He reads this). He went off for a walk, and we set off. Up the hill to the mansion, along the top. I felt good, though I’d had the usual “I have no idea how to run” thoughts at the start. I was overtaking people, because as usual, being a woman, I’d started modestly far back in the field. But then my shin started to hurt.

I was wearing my new Brooks Pure Connect. They are more minimal than my other road shoes, so I know I need to get my feet used to them. I’ve tried them out on two runs and had no problems. But, I thought, maybe they were causing my shin soreness. I kept running, down to the cricket pitch, past the pavilion. I had the usual runner’s dilemma running through my head: is this bad enough to stop? Should I run through it? I’ve just finished reading Scott Jurek’s book Eat and Run, which was actually fascinating. “Actually,” because not many running books are, and ultramarathoners can be even more dull about running than the un-ultra kind. But Scott is a vegan ultramarathoner and that is interesting to start with. Also, he gives recipes, though I don’t think I’m ever going to be a person who makes eight-grain vegan pancakes for breakfast, however good they sound. I also don’t think I’m ever going to run more than 160 miles around a one-mile course in 24 hours. That just sounds nuts. But I do admire his ultramarathon running up mountains and over trails. And he does seem to run with injury and serious discomfort most of the time. So perhaps I should too.

But I didn’t. I stopped. And then I dropped out. I don’t think I’ve ever dropped out of a race before. I dropped out because the pain was getting worse, and because I suddenly had an image of my muscle tearing. Nothing less serious than a broken leg is going to stop me running the Edinburgh half marathon this weekend, so I dropped out, and then disconcerted most of my club-mates by standing at the side and cheering them on. Their reactions were identical and lovely:

Are you OK?

I would like to run tonight but I can feel that the muscle is still sore. I don’t want a shin splint and I certainly don’t want to run 13.1 miles with a shin splint, so I am on total run-rest. That means I will miss the Apperley Bridge Canter on Thursday, which is disappointing because it’s a lovely run. It may also however mean that I may actually get to the swimming pool over the road as I’ve been threatening – in that vast space in my head where my good intentions are – to do for weeks.



People have been asking me if I’ve recovered from the marathon. Yes, I have. Last week we had our club Chairman’s Chase race. It’s a very-nearly-10K handicapped race around Leeds. That means hills. I had no particular ambition for it, nor any target. But I ended up flying around the course. I remember feeling as I’d felt in the marathon: strong and fast. Even on the hills. I was expecting to be overtaken any minute, but no-one overtook me until the last mile, and even then it was only two speedy runners, Niamh and someone else. I knew that Paul and Chris had been setting off behind me, and they are both usually slightly faster than me, but they never caught me. Afterwards, Paul came up and said, you were flying, I was trying to catch you but I just couldn’t. I did the very-nearly-10K (it’s about 300 metres off 10K) in 49:07, which is not far from my best ever 10K time of 48:34, done at the Humber Bridge 10K a couple of years ago. I’ll be running the Humber Bridge again this year, with my brother. I was going to try and beat that PB, though I’ve no idea how I managed to get it in the first place, but now I’ve signed up for a steep fell race the day before, so speed ambitions have been sacrificed to mud.

Anyway that was last week. Speedy Rose. Magic legs. And last night at training, 7 days later, it was like I had been invaded by slugs. My legs belonged to slugs. My energy belonged to slugs. From the first mile, I knew something was wrong. I had no force. It was a serious effort just to lift my legs. It was much worse on uphills. I couldn’t understand it. We were running my favourite training route: up through woodland, more woodland, some roads, more woods. I hadn’t eaten anything different. I hadn’t particularly focused on eating carbohydrates, but I’d eaten properly. I’d slept fine. I wasn’t hungover. But from being uncatchable last week, I was suddenly the last of all 20 of us, and I couldn’t go any faster. Paul and Chris, who couldn’t reach me last week, were half a mile ahead. I was mystified. Afterwards, I was so exhausted that I went straight home and had to lie down. And then I remembered.

I gave blood.

I’d been due to give blood a few weeks before the Marathon but read somewhere that that wasn’t sensible. So I’d postponed until now. I got there with the usual expectations of being turned away. The last time was because I was dehydrated and my veins were too small. They had got me into the donating chair – it’s probably called a venepuncturist cot or something – and tried to get a needle in. After several attempts, they tried a paediatric needle, which is smaller. But nothing had worked. So this time, I was very hydrated because I was determined to succeed. I went through the usual questioning: where have you been and is it malarial? The Blood Service is much stricter than other NHS departments. I’d gone to Bangladesh and Nepal in September and checked whether I’d needed malarial prophylaxes, and the NHS website told me I didn’t, because neither Dhaka nor Kathmandu nor western Nepal hill country was considered malarial. But the Blood Service thinks all Bangladesh and all Nepal is risky. I was still allowed to give blood because six months had passed, and because the acupuncture I’d had – another flag – was done by an NHS physio. By the time I got to the chairs in the donating area, I felt like I’d survived an interrogation by my headteacher.

You’ll feel a nip, said the venepuncturist. I liked the fact that she said “nip,” as I’ve never understood why nurses always say “you’ll feel a sharp scratch,” when the insertion of a needle feels nothing like. It didn’t feel like a nip either, but it was painful enough for me to make a noise. She wasn’t particularly apologetic except to say, “the needles we have to use are quite big.” But the insertion point is still sore two days on, so I conclude that the needle is big, but that she was also uncommonly heavy-puncturing.

Never mind. My blood started streaming out into the bag, and I kept squeezing the ball, and it kept streaming. I was pleased. I’m normal! My veins aren’t too small! I find giving blood so soothing. I know some people can’t bear the sight of it, and that they are horrified at the thought of watching their blood pour out. But I watched the collection bag being rocked side to side on its rocking device, and I felt calm. That blood had just been pumping around my body quite healthily. It looked strong and rich.

I gave my pint, and went for tea and snacks. Thank goodness for mint Club biscuits. I stayed 10 minutes and then walked about a mile to do some errands. When I got back to my studio, I knelt down to get something from the fridge and suddenly felt extremely weak and dizzy. I know you are not supposed to exercise when you’ve given blood, nor lift anything heavy with the arm you’ve used. So after that I took it easy for the rest of the day. But no-one said I couldn’t exercise at all, nor that giving blood would affect my energy levels for more than the day of donation.

But it does. Powerfully. So after that awful run, I started to research. I knew that the donation – 470mls – was about 13% of my blood supply. I learned that red blood cells should replenish very fast, as millions are created and dying every second. White cells and platelets are also replenished quickly. But red cells aren’t immediately replenished, and the red cells carry haemoglobin, which carries oxygen around the body. When I ran seven miles last night, I discovered on this fascinating Marathon Talk podcast about running and giving blood, I was running with 10% less oxygen capacity, because my haemoglobin and iron levels – haemoglobin contains iron – are still low. It was like training at altitude.

It can take from four to 12 weeks for haemoglobin levels to get back to normal. That’s quite shocking. So I looked into what I can do to help my haemoglobin. If I weren’t vegetarian, I’d be eating liver three times a day. But I am vegetarian, and there is as far as I know no iron-rich vegetarian liver. I’m slightly disadvantaged because plant-based iron isn’t as easily absorbed as meat iron, and women need 14mg of iron a day. Also only 10% of any iron ingested is absorbed by the body.


But there are things I can do. I can eat good iron-based plant sources:
Leafy green vegetables

I can drink orange juice with my food as Vitamin C aids iron absorption. I can cut down on caffeine as that doesn’t help. So that is my diet for the next few weeks. Luckily, that was my diet already, apart from the caffeine-reduction. Luckily, I’m not running the Leeds half-marathon this weekend but cheering from the crowd and I can just about manage that, even though I had to sit down after walking half a mile today.

So, I have learned a few things.
1. I never want to train at altitude if it feels like it did last night.
2. I will continue to give blood when I can but never in the week of an important race.
3. The next time I give blood, I will not run 7 miles the next day, but take it easy.

In conclusion: I don’t want to sound negative about giving blood. I’m not. Only 4% of the UK population are donors and that’s rubbish. I’m reading a book about blood at the moment, and the history of blood donation is astonishing. Please give blood: it’s easy and a wonderful thing to do, and you get as many mint Club biscuits as you can eat, afterwards. But runners should time it right, that’s all.

(As for the images below: they were called Artery and were part of an NHS campaign to increase blood donations before the Olympics. I’m not convinced it would have worked.)

Body Artery


Walk, jog, run

It’s odd, now that I am not thinking constantly about marathon training, to realise how constantly I thought about training. I didn’t run for a few days last week and for now that’s fine. Then again, I think of what I did last week: a 5 mile run on Monday, a hard gym session on Tuesday, a fast 6 miles on Wednesday, Pilates on Thursday. And yet in my head it feels like I haven’t done very much.

And all that was on top of a 23-mile walk around the Three Peaks the previous Saturday too. Which was sodden, windswept, glorious and exhausting. It was the day of the Three Peaks fell race. Even the description of that race makes me feel tired. 23 miles. 5000 feet of ascent. Time limits. No way could I ever do that. (Although I once also said the same thing about a marathon.) Anyway Alan in my club thought it a good idea for us to do a walk instead, so about 20 of us met at our clubhouse at 6am on Saturday morning and set off to Settle. I don’t know Settle very well, except as one end of one of the most beautiful train journeys in the world, the Settle-Carlisle line.


The Three Peaks walk starts from the village of Horton-in-Ribblesdale, near Ribblehead. One day I’ll look up what a ribble is. By the time we got there, it was already busy. We encountered about 100 Sikhs who were obviously setting off on a walk. To be frank, I had no idea the Three Peaks was seen as such a challenge. I hadn’t really thought through the fact that 23 miles is a long way to walk, especially with three big hills/small mountains to climb. I didn’t know that it was hard enough to be a fundraising challenge. That’s marathon smugness. Or just my own denseness. Also I didn’t even know where or what the Three Peaks were. I’d once driven a van between the three national Peaks – Snowdon, Ben Nevis and another one – and I hadn’t thought much beyond “oh there must be another three peaks.” There are.


The weather was awful. It was cold, and the kind of rain that has the power of rain but the consistency of drizzle. It was interesting to see how runners kitted themselves out as walkers. Alan had come in lightweight lycra, tiny socks and lightweight trail shoes. I had all the walking gear, having joined the Ramblers when I moved to Yorkshire, though I didn’t go often as I got tired of telling my life story to endlessly new people, over several hour walks. That’s a lot of conversation. Also I discovered running instead. But even I didn’t think to bring proper gloves or a hat because I didn’t think it was going to feel like winter. We set off up Pen-y-Ghent and it was wet and miserable. The higher we got, the worse the weather felt. It was slicing into our faces as the wind decided to join forces with the rain. As I climbed up rocks that had streams running down them, soaking the gloves that I’d borrowed from Andrew, who had had the wit to bring a spare pair, I wondered what the hell we were doing and when we could abort. Nobody suggested it though, and afterwards I found that loads of us had been thinking the same thing but nobody wanted to be the first to suggest it. So on we went. My stupid phone died after I took all of two pictures, so these are the only records of the walk: Laura, then me. No filter, no added fog. It really did look like that.



On we went. Every so often we passed some walking Sikhs. Young men, old men, women, some men in turbans, some women in turbans. Some of the turbans were bright orange or blue and lit up the fells. We descended Pen-y-Ghent and set off for Whearnside. And at that point the runners started arriving. They were so fast. I watched them go with mouth open with admiration. Then I started watching their shoes, and decided to get shares in Inov8, because that’s what 80% of them were wearing.

By now the weather was clearing. We reached the Ribblehead Viaduct: Beautiful. Then the pub: lovely. Especially the toilet. Then the couple of miles to Whearnside. The runners would scramble on all fours directly up Whearnside, but we took the gentler – but only in relation to scrambling on all fours – path up. It was somewhat exposed, and the winds were of a force to knock you off your feet. There was quite a lot of gripping. We had no target in mind, but we are all fit, so our pace was quite brisk. Somewhere between Whearnside and Ingleborough – known as Inglebugger to any fell runner who has to run up it after 17 miles or so of fell running already – an enterprising farming family had set up a snack van in their barn, along with a toilet and dry socks and hats for £2. I had an icecream, because I needed sugar and I needed comforting: my boots were beginning to be painful. I’ve had them for years. They are Meindl, hand-made in Bavaria. Or as their slogan says, Hand-made For Actives. I’ve got a heavier pair in France that I love, and have loved for the six years I’ve had them, and they still feel like walking on marshmallows. But this pair I don’t like and never have, but can’t justify getting rid of them. Now I can, because by the time we had scrambled up sheer rock to the top of Inglebugger, every sharp edged rock was making me wince with pain. I could feel my ankles getting bruised, and at the summit, I dared to take my boot off and found a large blister. Thank goodness Laura had brought blister plasters. I didn’t even get a blister in the marathon. I blame wet feet and not having walked 20 miles in the boots before. So the last five miles down was a hobble and really not much fun, although the sun had come out after Whearnside and the fells had been stunning.

We got back in less than twelve hours, which means we qualify for the Pen-y-Ghent cafe walking club. Afterwards I was so tired I didn’t have the energy to speak, and when I got home all I could manage was to put hot water in my mop bucket and put my feet in it. I was more tired than after running the marathon. But it was a great day, blister and bastard boots notwithstanding.