Pendle Way on a Midsummer’s Night

45 miles, 6000 ft of ascent

Weather: 21 degrees falling to 18 degrees overnight with 80% humidity

by Rose George & Liz Casey

This run – a midsummer version of the annual winter Pendle Way in a Day – is purposefully held on the shortest night of the year, but only when that happens on a weekend. The next opportunity to do this will be 24th & 25th June 2028 so put it in your calendars.


The training started earlier in the year getting tough enough to do the distance and spend such a long time on our feet. During training, aside from the eating, drinking and what to wear on the day, Rose acquired some running poles. On occasion we found it hard to find a solution to carrying these when not in use so they were a) comfortable b) easy to access/store while moving c) didn’t rattle around. Rose announced on event day she had found a solution for all the above.

OMG! Was she right…. A quiver…yes a proper quiver…. I think my excitement at this item of her kit made the whole event so much more fun.


I’m not sure whether I spent more time training or googling solutions for carrying running poles. Joke. I definitely spent more time training, for once. Top tip for when you realise you have made a commitment (I still can’t remember why) to run 45 miles overnight: get a coach and a training plan. Both Liz and I had plans drawn up by Run Brave aka Neil Wallace (aka my partner), and amazingly, we both followed them pretty closely. They featured circuit breakers (intervals, then hill climb “circuit breakers” then more intervals), pace management, time on feet and the hardest but probably most useful: the split long run. I did two of these: the first consisted of me running Leg 5 of the Calderdale Way Relay with Martha, on a punishingly hot day, then driving home and making myself run another 6 miles. Of course this was all about increasing mental grit as well as physical endurance. The second had me doing 12 miles in the morning then spending the rest of the day trying not to make myself wimp out of getting out at 8pm and doing another 12 miles. I did it, and really enjoyed it. By the time we got to race day, I had no idea how I was going to stay awake overnight let alone run 45 miles, but I couldn’t have trained much better. Also, I had a quiver. (£14.99 from Decathlon.)

Rose (L) and Katniss (R)


The race started at 8pm on Saturday evening from Barley and headed straight up Pendle Hill. As we ascended Rose pulled her poles from her quiver and snapped them into place like cracking a whip and marched up Pendle Hill. All we needed was a bow and we would have been tributes in an episode of the Hunger Games. OK it didn’t quite happen so smoothly and we did not look anything like Katniss Everdeen and it was more of a “would you mind getting my poles out of my quiver please?” We did not care. The quiver provided fun (it actually worked very well too).


There were about 80 runners milling about at the start outside Barley Village Hall, which I knew well from doing Tour of Pendle. There was an option to do a 30-mile route but I assumed most of these people were doing the 45. I had spent ages thinking about how much food to bring, as I was really worried that in the early hours the last thing my body would be expecting was food, yet I had to fuel properly and consistently. In hindsight, I had a stupid amount of food. I thought this might be the case when I saw that Liz had only a 5L pack, whereas I had a 10L stuffed to the gills, plus a waistpack. I had gels, powerballs, mint cake, sweets, veg sausages, salted boiled potatoes, a pouch of jelly, blister plasters, electrical tape, garden wire (you never know!), a powerbank (which I ended up needing for both watch and phone), two small bottles of flat coke, full kit plus an extra t-shirt. And toilet paper. I’d originally had a long-sleeve but the forecast was that it would feel like 23 degrees at 2am and be 80 percent humidity. Bye bye long-sleeve.

So I was definitely overloaded but on the other hand I saw at least two runners who had only a tiny bumbag to which my and Liz’s reaction was WTAF? That first mile up Pendle was memorable for three things: Liz first deciding that I was a character from the Hunger Games, the astonishingly blue sky patterned with mackerel clouds, and my god the humidity. I couldn’t see for sweat.

One mile down, 44 to go.

We hadn’t recced as there was little point for an overnight race. We were going to navigate by following people who seemed to know where they were going, looking out for fingerposts with witches on them, Liz’s GPX on her watch and my OS maps app on my phone.


As darkness fell the temperature did not seem to follow suit, it was a very warm and humid night. Running overnight was very different to torchlight club runs. The saying ‘still of the night’ was real. All we heard were animal sounds where we disturbed them and randomly a house party in a very remote location. The darkness lasted around 5 hours but it never seemed to get totally dark. We did at one point turn our torches off to view the night sky – I promptly tripped so just gave up on star gazing….


Weirdly the thing I’d been most worried about was the easiest: running through the night when my body would usually have been fast asleep. I think I probably bored Liz by occasionally expressing my amazement that it felt so normal. The heat made wearing a buff uncomfortable, but other than that I really enjoyed the night. Liz kept turning to look at groups of headtorches behind us, and they were a comfort, particularly as later we wouldn’t see a soul for miles. She also got a reputation – with me – for having some sixth sense for fingerposts. “There! There’s a fingerpost!” Though perhaps that was just that she could see better, as I’d forgotten to put my racing contacts in. Her second spidey sense was for frogs. A couple of times she exclaimed and I thought something was wrong, but no it was just another lovely speckled frog on the trail, sitting there and not moving just because some hefty human was coming past. Physically I had been fine up until then (about six hours in), but then my knee started hurting. This happened on the Hebden 22 – extremely painful to go downhill, fine to go uphill – and I figured it was my ITB insertion point. I suppose it’s a fatigue-related weakness. So I had to stop to take drugs, fiddle with my pack and finally realise that what had been digging into my back for six hours was my first aid kit. Then I also had to find a quiet spot on a steep bracken slope to have an emergency toilet stop too. You try doing open defecation (about which I have written a book but that didn’t help much) while on a steep gradient in the dark and trying to leave no trace while not keeping your companion waiting too long. Exciting times at 2am.

We didn’t hang out much with other runners but not because we didn’t want to. Maybe because it was night running? The couple we saw the most was a northern Irish woman and a man called Dave (I know his name because he stopped to take a picture of a bench which had been carved into the name DAVE). They didn’t run uphills or apparently the flat (ultrarunning technique?) so we would shuffle past at a jog, but as soon as we slowed to a walk, whoosh, they would overtake us walking and zoom off. They could walk so fast, it was seriously impressive. We took to calling them the Rocket Walkers (it was the middle of the night, we were knackered, we didn’t have a lot of creativity to hand).


Rose noted the sunrise around 3.30am. I put it down to light pollution – I was wrong! Birds began singing, the flies appeared again, and at last there was a cool breeze. It was strange but nice to run through villages at such an early hour when everyone else seems to be sleeping. We encountered a group of young people going ‘somewhere’ with what looked like a festival tent at about 5am then a young man who looked as though he was on a walk of shame (he probably wasn’t but it’s fun thinking he was).

Not the city of Manchester


Look over there, Liz, the light is coming. No, she said, there must be a city there. I thought, it must be a big city, but also that I could be wrong, it seemed early for dawn, even after I’d learned from the National Maritime Museum that there are three twilights (twilight is between light and dark and not just an evening thing): astronomical, nautical and civilian. This faint red was hazy, and finally I worked out that it was in the east and convinced Liz it was the sunrise. The gentleness with which the light came back was a delight. It was also a treat to take off our sweaty buffs and head-torches in the middle of yet another field. Liberated! We were both tired now, and on climbs – of which there seemed to be LOADS to the point where I would look ahead and say “oh bloody hell not another hill” and Liz would give me a positive thinking talking-to so I would say instead, “another hill! Cool!” –  I gave Liz one of the poles. Even one pole helped significantly. I knew we were tired, because I’d stopped my every-30-minutes “EAT SOMETHING” instructions to Liz and to me.


We finished in 13 hr 50 m. We had had some navigation issues and ran out of water 90 minutes before the end. The Pendle Way is marked by a witch on fingerposts obviously. And the race organisers ensure that funds from the run are given back to maintaining the Way. The first four checkpoints provided food and drink: one had fairy lights (very pretty in the dark) and at the checkpoint in Laneshawbridge after Wycoller (operated by Roxanne, joint RO with her husband Jamie) there was a whole bloody bar. Rum and whisky! We didn’t partake. Too busy chugging Coke.


Running out of water was not strictly our fault. It’s very hard to find people to staff checkpoints overnight, which meant that ideally there would have been water and food at Barnoldswick (9 miles from the finish) but there wasn’t. So the last provisions, in the form of a Tupperware box of goodies and bottles of water left on a bench with a sign asking people not to nick them, were in Earby, still 20 miles from the finish. We both filled our flasks in Earby, but we should have taken an extra bottle each. Probably the worst stretch of the route were the few miles of numbingly boring canal coming into Barnoldswick. Liz disliked the canal so much she stopped running in protest. Then it was up and over Weets and down into Barrowford to find a self-clip with the instructions “a cobbled lane and an iron gate.” We could have gone to find a newsagent at that point, things were starting to open, but we just desperately wanted to finish and we had just over three miles to go. I’d hoped we could do 4 miles an hour and finish in a total of about 11 hours. But I’d also thought the route was 42 miles because that’s what the GPX provided by the race organiser said. No. It was 45 and the 11 hour target receded pretty quickly thanks to navigation, night running, and niggles (mine).


I would recommend this run to anyone. It was an amazing and fun experience and given I was in the company of Katniss Everdeen so how could it not be fun? Katniss may well have converted me to the use of poles. Would I do it again? Hmmmmm given the next one is 5 years away we will have to see…. The daytime winter version is on every year.

Never has a glass of orange squash tasted so good


I’m so proud of myself for having done this, even if we did it more slowly than I’d hoped, and I was disconcerted to arrive at Barley to be told that we were the last. Though my disconcertedness had to wait because although Jamie, the RO, was offering us a lovely laser-cut wood coaster bearing of course another witch, we said YEAH BUT CAN WE HAVE SOME WATER RIGHT NOW. I can’t remember being as thirsty as I was for that last 90 minutes. At one point we were going through a field and I wondered if I chewed the grass whether I’d get some liquid. There is nothing as overwhelming as thirst and I am determined I will never experience it again if I can help it. Otherwise, it was a fantastic 13.50 hours, Liz was excellent company, as were the frogs. And the reason we were last is only 12 people did the 45-mile route, and plenty who had signed up for it dropped to the 30 instead which explains why we stopped seeing people behind us after Roxanne’s bar: that was the decision point. There were only 3 women in that 12 and we were two of them. (The other was the Rocket Walker.)

I didn’t eat all my food. I’m definitely not taking as much next time.



I was not at all sleepy during the run and only yawned once. Adrenaline is a wonderful thing. As soon as we set off in the car, I couldn’t keep my eyes open and I’ve felt bone-weary since. So I’ve slept loads. The first night I tried spraying magnesium on my legs but the nettle stings and bramble scratches made that a very bad idea. Don’t do that unless you want to wake your neighbours with your yelps and screeches. The oddest thing is how little hunger I have had. My usual pattern is to do a long run, have no appetite for an hour or so then eat everything. This time has been different: the eating everything part has never materialised. Maybe because we ran through the night and that threw things out of whack, or perhaps because the distance and the time on feet triggered “lac-phe,” a metabolite that is related to exercise and suppresses appetite. Other than that, my chafing subsided, though I found a nasty abrasion from my bra strap that I hadn’t even noticed. When I took my shoes off in Barley car park they were greyish white and looked awful. But they have recovered nicely too. I suppose I’d better start running again.


Like Rose I have felt fatigued and not wanted to eat. I managed to sleep for a couple of hours when I got home on Sunday. On Sunday night the magnesium spray took a real beating as my legs would not stop twitching. On Monday I enjoyed one of those nights where you feel you have not moved at all and slept really well. My trench foot had disappeared and my toes had almost forgiven me. Now in Spain for a few weeks, I am ready to go again, however the heat (current highs of 34 and lows of 23) has a different plan. I must remember to drink water and run very early in the day.

Thanks: Jamie and Roxanne and all the doughty volunteers who stayed up all night to feed and minister to us. And to Neil for cycling over to Barley at 5am so he could drive two very tired people home.

Holme Moss: The Recce

Recce or reccy. From “reconnaissance,” from the French “reconnaitre,” to recognise. Somehow to recognise in English has become to scout or scope out, and a recce or reccy is familiar to any soldier but also to any fell runner because when there are sometimes no paths, and route choice is a free-for-all, a recce of the race route is a prudent thing to do.

Look up “Holme Moss” and you will find probably accounts from either technology geeks who like the telecommunications mast up there, or cyclists who like to climb up to it, or runners who have run the Holme Moss fell race put on by Holmfirth Harriers, and in their descriptions of it will certainly use the word “beast” or “brutal.” Brutal is overused by runners. Once, in my early fell running days, I used it to describe something I’d found hard, and I was politely corrected. Brutal is best saved for something that is brutal. So I thought perhaps this use of brutal to describe Holme Moss was over-egging.

No. It is brutal. And that was just the recce.

Andy, the race organizer, emailed recently to give an update. He had heard, he wrote, that people had been doing recces of the route, but they wouldn’t be cutting back the undergrowth until two weeks before the race, so to attempt a recce was, in his view, “very brave.”

I read Andy’s email, but I still arranged to do a recce of the whole route with my friends Louise and Marion, on Marion’s birthday. Marion dropped out when she realised she may not be home in time for an early dinner reservation, which meant that a) I had a whole chocolate cake that I had baked for her, and no idea what to do with it (it’s bizarre, but I’ve gone off cake), b) Louise and I could car-share. In hindsight, I wish we hadn’t, and I wish we had thought to take two cars and leave one of them part-way along the race route. You’ll understand why.

I’d downloaded the GPX of the route onto the OS maps app, which lets you follow a route and tells you when you are off course (though not loudly enough, it turns out). I’d Google-mapped a place to park, about ¾ a mile from the race start, and shortly before the route turns off-road. The route is lollipop-shaped, so we would do three miles of the stick before doing the lollipop. I knew it would be a long day out, but I thought maybe 5 hours.

Ha. Ha. Ha.

I also knew there were lots of downs and steep ups. I’d run part of the route with FRB a couple of years ago but of course had forgotten it. Unless I run something in exactly the same order, it is no use to my memory: I remember different parts from different sections but never in the right sequence.

We ran across moorland for a bit, then knew we had to descend. But there was no path or trod or anything visible. We checked the GPX: it was definitely here. We ran on a bit in case we’d got it wrong. Nothing. Back to the trees. We looked down at a steep hillside of dense and high bracken and rocks. Right then.

It was not runnable. It was stumble-able and slideable but not runnable. If only I’d known this was the first of many. Over a beck, up the other side and then another hour of desperately trying to find trods, of following ghost trods: slightly darker indentations in the bracken and bushes that sometimes were trods and sometimes were just slightly darker indentations. Forwards, backwards, sideways, check GPX. It’s higher up! It’s lower down! After a while of this, we decided to head in the right-ish direction and get to the next obvious section. There were written instructions to follow but they were sometimes gnomic. The ruined wall was a ruined wall though, and we traced its nubbly rocks, before contouring right. Our destination was Holme Moss car park, and we could see the transmitter there, high up on a hill we had yet to climb. It seemed so far away.

Finally we got there, up to the car park and the road. It is a busy road: I hadn’t realised it was the Woodhead Pass from Yorkshire to Greater Manchester so of course it was busy. The instructions now said to find the drinks station in the upper car park then cross the stile. We got there and saw a stile. That way, said Louise. But the route shows that we go left, I said with conviction. I was emphatic enough that she agreed and we set off a bit further down the road, then crossed before the bend, as that’s what the GPX was showing. There was no obvious path but we’d got used to that by now. And look, after 200 metres, here was our stile. We crossed it to a landscape of no paths in sight, and the road far below us. Onwards, trying to match our line with the GPX, but it was taking us nearer and nearer the road. I was puzzled: why would the route go along the road? But it was definitely going downhill; I knew map contours well enough to see that. Still, it was odd we were heading directly for the.


Oh, shit.

On the OS maps app, the route is shown as a red line. But roads are also red. I had been confidently telling Louise to follow the road, while ignoring the subtle “You are off course”. Off course? We were gibbering wrecks in the Mojave Desert when we should have been in the Sahara. I was mortified. I slapped my head. I grovelled. I took full blame. Louise was charmingly forgiving, accepting some of the blame for not having had the courage of her convictions in the upper car park, for not having said, “OK, we disagree so let’s check it.” The trouble is, I did check it, but I was checking the wrong thing. No way were we going back up the hill through path-less tussocks again. The only option was to walk up the road.

No-one walks on this road. I’ve often scorned people running on roads when there is beautiful countryside right next to them, but I had become one of those runners. I switched my watch off because I didn’t want this to be recorded. I didn’t want to remember it. As we climbed, the road curved round. A cyclist was making his way uphill, fast, but a 4WD slowed behind him, as it should on a blind bend. From behind us, half a dozen loud motorbikes arrived, thuggish in their noise. And we watched in disbelief as they overtook the 4WD on the inside, on a narrow road, on a blind bend. It was astonishingly reckless. Shame on you, idiot bikers.

Back to the upper car park, over the correct stile, and – what a relief – an actual path. Soft and peaty and distinct and clear. We ran along it for 400 metres until I thought, I think this is the wrong direction. It was. We had been so giddy about finding a path, we’d set off on the race route but the wrong way round.

Along the way back, we found a pile of human shit to match the pile that someone had thoughtfully left right by the stile. For god’s sake, humanity: if you must shit in the open – and sometimes you must – bury it.

Once again, we set off with no trod in sight. The route now dropped steeply (again) to a gully, then an equally steep climb up to Tooleyshaw Moor. On the far side of the gully, there was the clear line of a trod leading uphill. And once we had crossed and started to climb, we looked back and saw another very clear trod on the side we’d just descended. Ouf.

I could see the landscape was beautiful. Every so often at first one of us now and then commented on it. It was unpopulated and stunning.

But soon my thoughts turned elsewhere: to whether I would actually be doing the race, whether my fitness would be up to it, whether I would meet the cut-offs, what with having done hardly any racing for 18 months, beyond the Bradford Millennium Way Relay and then my club’s Kettlewell fell race, where my performance had not been optimal (too much walking). What I hadn’t considered was that so little of the route was runnable. Even the descents were too steep and tussocky for speed, and the climbs were walks or all-fours scrambles.

At least the weather was good. It was warm and overcast but muggy. T-shirt weather. We both thought we had plenty of water, but I’d drunk 500 ml by the time we got to the first beck, and filled my flask. My T-shirt was sodden with sweat on my back. Finally we were running, and I let Louise go ahead, as she is quicker than me on anything that is not a descent. I knew we should hit a footpath – a dotted red line on the map – leading toward Westend moss, but this being Holme Moss race, the footpath was as clear and distinct as all the others. This was beginning to feel like the time that FRB and I were defeated by French maps that showed clear footpaths in dense forest but actually it was just dense forest and the map was either aspirational or historical. At one point, I stood in the foliage and yelled at nature. GORDON BENNET!

It made me feel better but nature didn’t give a fig.

I don’t know if we took the “right” descent to Crowden, but we got there. For a while now I’d been thinking of ice-creams, and God was listening because there was a shop at the caravan park, with an ice-cream sign. Another sign read “cash only” and Louise cursed, but I had my emergency fiver inside my tick card wallet (that’s not code, it’s a clear wallet enclosing a card to remove ticks, which we were probably covered with by now).

It had taken us more than three hours to cover 8 miles. We deserved an ice-cream. And by eck it was nice.

Back on it. Up the track, over a footbridge, along to another footbridge. No, wait, we’re not supposed to cross another footbridge. Should we have turned earlier? Of course we should. Back 400 metres or so, and up a trod towards Bareholme Moss and Checkpoint 4. I couldn’t remember what the cut-off times were and it would have depressed me to find out, so I didn’t bother checking. I can’t remember the descent to Crowden Great Brook (I’m reading these names off a map, it’s not like I was capable of saying anything but “that beck down there” at the time), but then we could see people! With an umbrella! In a thunderstorm!

We’d had a moment of putting jackets on earlier, but by the time we’d got them on, the raincloud had lifted and buggered off. This time though the rain was set in, and the first thunder rumbles started. Storms when I’m in the open worry me, but I said nothing. It turns out they worry Louise too but she said nothing either, except to express astonishment that someone should be walking along the Pennine Way holding a metal spike over their head, near the highest point in Yorkshire. Like shouting “hey, here is a lightning conductor!” at the lightning.

Stupid, but useful for us, because we had visible proof that the Pennine Way was right above us. We knew it was, but to see other life-forms apart from sheep and really upset grouse was strangely comforting. We just had to get up there. More bracken. More tussocks. That sounds so benign. But it was pushing things out of the way while trying not to step into deep holes or turn ankles, while hoping that ticks didn’t hitch onto us, then pushing more things out of the way, then sinking into boggy ground, or hoping the sphagnum moss would hold, then more grooves and ridges and dark unseeable land under the greenery, which may be hospitable to your foot but equally may not. Every now and then Louise would sink into the earth because she seemed to constantly put her feet into deep holes. I started to say, “here’s a hole, Louise, have you gone into this one?”

Our friends Caroline, Martin and Liz were also doing a recce but we didn’t know their route. We’d seen two of their cars at the car park and had tried to figure out what that meant, and decided that they were doing the lollipop, then the stick, then would drive back to the car park. Very sensible. Caroline had been calling us: by then it was past 2pm and we’d started at 9.30. They had finished at Holme Moss car park and “sacked off the rest” and I definitely didn’t blame them. By now I wasn’t sure I’d be doing this race. How much fun would it be? Even if more of the route was flagged and cut back, it still wouldn’t be much more easy going. At one point I said, “this is the felliest route I’ve ever done.” And at another point, “I realise that if this is fell-running” – clambering through impenetrable vegetation for miles – “I’m not a fell runner. I’m a moor runner.”

The walkers on the Pennine Way were looking down at us, hopefully in admiration but probably more in bafflement. Caroline & co, we later found out, didn’t bother with this scramble, having had enough, and had run along the beck. But I wanted a clear footpath. I wanted visibility and no holes. And we got it. Not only that, but there were flagstones! I know plenty of off-road runners dislike flagstones. They don’t go well with aggressive fell shoes. But these flagstones were like running on cotton wool.

10 miles in; nearly five hours.

At the top, we’d fuelled with half a sausage roll each. And we both managed to run pretty well considering how long we’d been out. A mile or so later, there was the glorious sight of a glistening white trig. Black Hill, nearly 600 metres above sea level. I was so pleased to see it, I hugged it. I was pleased to see it because it meant we were on the home stretch. Technically, this was true, as we had rounded the lollipop and were coming back to where we had started it. But we could also be out for hours yet.

At this point, we knew that Holmfirth Harriers had asked us not to run on the race route back to Checkpoint 7/1 at Holme Moss car park, because it passed over eroded peat landscape and Natural England was trying to mend it. I honestly don’t know at that point whether we managed to stay off it, because we ended up wrong once again, on the wrong side of the clough, with the transmitter, our holy grail, on the other side and looking like it was a long way away. So, another descent through dense greenery, another crossing of another beck, another climb up another steep side. At the top, a runner passed us, looking fresher than we were. Anyone would look fresher than we were. Back to the stile, then the car park, then the next car park. And as we approached, oh my goodness, is that an ice-cream van?

Two ice-creams in one day? Yes. God, yes. Louise bought two 99s, and we looked over to the west and saw black, black clouds, and kept our jackets on. I’d suggested that we avoid the difficult “stick” part back to the start, the three miles that had taken us an age, but that we walk down the road then on a clear track through the forest. We set off walking. By now it was 4pm. We’d been out nearly seven hours. FRB had been checking in, but I hadn’t told him I’d chosen this route back, which was a shame, because afterwards he reminded me that there is a trod back to the forest, off-road, that isn’t on the map but does exist because we had taken it when we were last here.

The sky turned black, and the downpour began along with loud thunder and visible lightning. There we were, two sodden women eating delicious 99 cones, walking down a busy A road in a significant storm. A sight.

I thought we’d only be on the road for a bit, but it was a much longer bit than I’d estimated. Later we both admitted we’d been scared by the fact that the thunderstorm was directly above us. Probably we were both silently counting, though I don’t know whether that’s a myth, that seconds between lightning and thunder equal the number of miles away the storm is. Soon after we set off, the ice-cream van passed us, chased away by the time of day and the colour of the sky. After about a mile we turned off onto a forest track, and we were both so wet by now we had rainwater in our pants. We tried to run for a bit but by now things hurt and ached and groaned. Oddly, my problematic left knee was fine but now my right one hurt. So without agreeing to, we settled on walking. Even the track took far longer than I’d hoped and in normal times I’d have enjoyed the quiet forest, but this was not normal, I was both dulled and shocked by how long we had been out and how difficult it had been. And I was a bit tired. We had fuelled and drunk plenty, but neither of us had expected to be out for this long. We still had a climb up to the road where the car was, but eventually the track turned into a lane, and at the end of the lane was a tarmac road and there was my car and I couldn’t quite believe it. Dry clothes, tepid tea, more sausage rolls and my mother’s bakewell tarts and we both felt better.

I got home at 8pm, ate a kilo of pasta, foam-rolled, stuck my legs up the wall (an excellent form of recovery), fell asleep 90 minutes later, and slept for eleven hours.  

Louise: thank you for being such great company in adversity. We had done nearly 19 miles instead of 16, and had been out for nearly nine hours, when we had planned for five or six. Yes, Strava, it definitely was “a massive effort.” Will I do the race? It depends whether I can forget the scrambling, wading, cursing, stumbling, faltering, and endless double-backing and remember instead the glorious landscape, the moors, the becks, the deep green of everything, the bilberries, the curlews, the views. To be decided.

Marathon, finally

My friend Gemma looked at me, puzzled. “You’re doing the Yorkshire marathon, again? Why?” I thought for a bit. “Because I’ve got a free place and it’s half an hour up the road.” Also, last year it was so foggy, this year I’m hoping to see the scenery. Also, unless I can run through safari parks in Uganda or raise thousands for Sierra Leone, a road marathon is a road marathon, up to a point. I ran the London marathon but was most delighted by my achievement, not the scenery. Perhaps that’s cynical. But I don’t see anything odd in running Yorkshire again, though I’ve no desire to do London again for a long time. We were talking about marathons because we have a friend who does foreign ones frequently. But they are so expensive. New York: probably £1000, once you’ve paid for flights and a week’s accommodation. I’m paying the petrol up to York and back. I’m so delighted to be in shape to run a marathon – potentially – that I don’t really care where it is.

On Thursday I got a missed-you card from the postie. I dashed down to the post office hoping it was my replacement orthotics and it was. I left the post office with a big grin on my face. FRB and I were planning a long run the next day so they had arrived with perfect timing. And Brooks had extremely generously sent me some replacement Pure Flows, my chosen marathon shoe, so despite Brussels Airlines still being unable to locate my bag, I’m ready. Or at least my equipment is ready.

FRB is training for Loch Ness marathon in a couple of weeks. But after running Ben Nevis last week, he wanted something flat. He turned down my suggested route of Eccup, Harewood and round about: too many hills. His quads and calves would go on strike. Instead, we decided on the Leeds-Liverpool canal, me to do 15 miles and him 15 or more, and after various logistical possibilities – two cars, one left at Kirkstall; or a car left in central Leeds then a train to Bingley – we separately made our way to Bingley and set off north towards Skipton. FRB bombed off, with a plan to do 7.5, turn back, do more on the way back then join me for the last four. I didn’t understand that even before running 15 miles so I just let him go and assumed I’d see him again at some point. The canal was lovely. It had rained heavily all morning, but now the skies cleared and turned blue, and the sun shone. I’d dug out my earphones and intended to listen to some podcasts. I haven’t listened to podcasts or music for ages, and usually I like to run without. But this, I expected, would feel long, and it would feel difficult, so I needed the help. First, Ruth Rogers on Desert Island Discs but I didn’t like her, so she was soon switched off. Then the New Yorker fiction podcast, which I love. I chose this Patricia Highsmith story and it was captivating. But it was still a shock when I looked at my watch, thinking I’d done about five miles, and I’d only done three. What do you do then? You sigh, pull yourself together, and keep going.

There were lots of stops for gels, and fruit, and to adjust things. I saw FRB running back; he checked I was OK, I checked he was OK, then we headed off northwards and southwards. He said, “I ran to the bridge with the stop sign on it.” At least I think he said that. But all the bridges I saw had stop signs on them. I think my Garmin dropped out for a bit, but I had nothing else to rely on to guess my distance – the mile markers saying Liverpool was 115 miles away weren’t much help – so I kept going. I saw beautiful gardens dropping down to the canal, with terraces filled with plants; I saw lovely weeping willows inclining themselves into the water from the bank; and people having an outdoor party behind a huge England flag. I saw many canal boats sailing along, and people inside reading books in narrow cabins. I saw people walking, now the rain had gone: families, and friends, and a group of Asian women in glorious bright salwar kameez, just as I was thinking, “why don’t I see more Asians walking on the canal?”. I ran on, and on, past swans and geese and ducks, all in abundance, past the still, green water and the humans and animals who were enjoying it. At a bridge with a stop sign, past Silsden, my watch said 7.5 miles, so I stopped and ate dried fruit, and a family walked past, coming from the farm behind and heading for the footpath, carrying fishing nets and I didn’t know where I was but it didn’t matter. I set off back, and the day was so beautiful, and the scenery so lovely – green canal, green fields, sheep – I put my earphones away and just listened to the world.

My shoes were great and the orthotics were definitely helping. I could tell I was getting another blister but I think that’s because I was running through puddles and my socks had got wet. A word about my relationship with Brooks here: they have sent me a few pairs of free shoes, but never with any obligation. If I didn’t like them, I’d say so. I’ve abandoned my Brooks Pure Connect, despite having three pairs, for example, because they’re not for me (though I bought those). I love the Pure Grit, though they are slippery in mud. I genuinely think Brooks make great shoes, and the overwhelming reason I think that is that I can put on a pair straight out of the box, run fifteen miles in them and feel like I’ve been running in them for months. They feel like slippers – airy slippers – from the first minute, and that has yet to change. So I’ll trumpet about Brooks shoes because I think they’re a bloody good product. That said, Brooks, I wish you’d design women’s shorts with better pockets, along with nearly every other sportswear/shoes company. My running skirt has three pockets, including one that fits an iPhone, but none of my shorts have anything but small ones that hold a gel, maybe, but not much more.

The only trouble on this run was my lungs. I’ve had a cough for four weeks now. It began as a sore throat, then became a dry, tickling cough that kept me awake, and now my lungs are full of phlegm. So the pastoral peace of the canal was often interrupted by me stopping and hacking my lungs up, then spitting like a person who has smoked for forty years. I think it’s getting better, and I know it’s not a good idea to run when there’s trouble in your lungs, but I’m so delighted to be fit again, unless it gets worse, I’m going to run through it and phlegm be damned. FRB caught me up again, looking a bit worried. “Did you go further than you thought?” No, I just took longer to do it. Actually, I probably had gone further because when my watch got to 15 miles, we were still a mile short of where the cars were parked. Still, I did it, though I was too tired to do my habitual “this is the longest I’ve run” jump.

I do have a marathon training plan, but it has long since been abandoned. So now I’m winging it. I’m running when I want to, never two days in a row, and getting in a long run every week. This weekend I’ll be running the Vale of York half, and plan to get there early and add an extra five miles. My tendon was sore after the 15 miles, but we stopped for a drink in the pub – after we’d changed soggy, muddy clothes – and I asked for a glass of ice, put it in a carrier bag and iced my foot for the duration of a lager shandy, and that helped. FRB said that when he first crossed me on the canal, my hips had been noticeably rotating, which isn’t good, and means I need to stabilise my pelvis and get back to my glute exercises. But he said that later my form was much better, and I was clearly focusing on moving my arms properly, which seemed to align me.

I’m writing this while I’m walking on my office treadmill. 3.3 miles so far today. I’m hoping that’s helping. Meanwhile I’m extremely happy to have run so far – the furthest I’ve run since I abandoned marathon training in March – and for my tendon to be coping. Onwards.

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A run

It was nothing special, I suppose. I got up early in the morning, I got in my car, I drove to Harewood House and I ran. But it was special, because it was essential. The day before had been a black day. I am feeling overwhelmed with work and the more overwhelmed I get, the less efficient I become. So the day had turned into a self-loathing black pit. I also felt lousy with a cough and thick head. I went home, shut the door, made green bean and potato curry with my own green beans and my own potatoes, then sat on the sofa with my lovely cat and watched trash TV. I could have gone running, I suppose, but I didn’t have the heart for it. Instead, I laid out my kit for the morning, set one alarm for 6.30 and the other for 6.45. For some reason I had decided to do ten miles. Possibly this was frustration after the weekend, when I’d taken part in the Leeds Country Way relay, a self-navigated race around the whole 60 miles, done in teams of two over six legs.

Both my partner and I probably shouldn’t have run. My cough is getting no better, and she had a hamstring injury that a sports medicine consultation told her meant she should rest for eight weeks with absolutely no running. But there was only one reserve for the three teams so we both turned up to run. I didn’t want to bug L. with continually asking her how her leg was, but I could tell she was in discomfort. It wasn’t her hamstring but her knees. I’m pretty sure it was where the ITB inserts into the knees. She soldiered on but she was clearly in pain. With five miles to go, we stopped running and walked the rest. At one point, she froze on a stile because she didn’t want to bend her leg, at any cost, but couldn’t figure out how to get over the stile without doing it. At another, we were on the top of a steep descent and she stood there, again dreading having to bend her legs. I offered her a piggy-back. She was a brilliant navigator, though she’d recce-ed it only once, and I hadn’t at all, and we only went wrong twice and not by much. Some teams ran miles out of their way.

Then, in a woods somewhere, she suddenly said, Oh, Rose and looked horrified. What? What now? She said, “I’ve left my key in your car.” We’d taken two cars, dropped hers at the finish then driven mine to the start. We were supposed to then drive back in her car to the start to fetch mine. But this was a disaster. We had no money to get a bus. We were so slow that we didn’t think anyone would be even there at the finish to give us a lift. And my phone was rapidly running out of battery. Oh dear.

Luckily, as we walked to the finish, there were a dozen people there. We weren’t even the last team: four more came in behind us (though no-one applauded us, and they all got applause. Hmmm.) A lovely woman from St. Theresa’s was taking her partner back to Stanley, so she gave us a lift. Phew.

Anyway I’d been hoping for a good long run – the leg was 11 miles long – and was a bit frustrated that we hadn’t run more. Not that I’m blaming L.: she was in serious pain. But I just wished I’d had a longer run (even though I was still knackered that night after 6 miles of running and 5 of walking).

All in all, this morning I wanted to run, and quite a long way. My Lumie clock woke me up gently, as did my cat licking my neck as usual. I got up, got dressed, grabbed a banana and some squash, and drove four miles up to Harewood. I haven’t been there for ages and it was so nice to be back, and to be running. There were no humans to be seen for most of the way around. Just me and a lot of noisy sheep. I ran the five mile loop, past the deer park, past the estate offices, up over the tops, down the permissive path through the secret gate in the wall (it’s not secret but I love gates in walls and always think them wonderfully Midnight Garden-ish). I ran up to the gates at the Wike Lane entrance where I’d started, still not sure whether I would run more than five, or do another loop the same way. Then something in my head made me turn round and run back the other way. It wasn’t really a rational thought, but more like a propulsion.

I wasn’t fast. I walked quite a few times. But there were hills that I ran up, and long stretches where I kept going, steadily. It took me longer than I’d expected, but it was lovely.

Brussels Airlines has still lost my bag containing my Brooks Pure Flow and, more importantly, my orthotics. I’ve been running without them. Today I ran in my Ghosts, which are heavier but more cushioned, and I hoped the cushioning would help. IMG_6724But my tendon has begun to niggle, and today was the first day it gave me some shooting pains again. That is not good news. I’ve express-ordered new orthotics and will be billing Brussels Airlines for them (£170!), but I suppose until they arrive I’ll have to be more sensible than running ten miles. Though there is the slight problem of me supposedly running a marathon in just over a month.

Even so, at the end of the run, my gloom lifted, because it always does. Also, the citalopram I’ve been taking for two months is not really working yet, so running is it.


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Ten miles, or why and how I love my running club

Since the Pudsey 10K I’ve kept running. No more than three times a week. But I did break my golden rule of not running two days in a row. Last week I went to club training. It was the beginning of the week’s heatwave. There weren’t many of us there; under 20, and the route was not the best: along the canal, but then a big dose of ugly industrial Holbeck, before going up to Armley Park. I found it hard. Partly that was because most people around my pace left after five miles. I thought, nonetheless, I’m going to try the full seven. Half a mile later, I was deeply regretting that. I ran with a clubmate I don’t know very well, and we chatted, but god it was hard. The scenery was horrible, the rest of the group were all speedy blokes, and the hills never stopped. I arrived back at the club somewhat battered. The next day, it was the Danefield Relay, a three mile team relay around Otley Chevin. I did it last year and loved it. Even so, this would break my Golden Rule. I am trying to push my tendon to see what it will tolerate; I’ve increased distance, changed terrain, run slightly faster. This was the first test of frequency. I ran and I was slow – 31 minutes for 3 miles, though with hills – but it was OK. The route was through fields and woods, and was what fell-runners call “technical,” i.e. lots of rocks and roots, in not very good visibility. The next day I paid for it. My tendon was sore. I couldn’t do a deep squat without the soreness kicking in. So, ice and rest.

On Sunday I was meant to run the Eccup 10. I love this race. It’s on mostly closed roads and lanes around Adel and Eccup, with a tour around Eccup reservoir, which I love. But then I did something a bit daft. I installed a treadmill desk. I’ve been thinking of doing it for ages, and finally did, with the help of a friend, a powerdrill and a Jigsaw. I wrote about it, and how I built it, on my serious blog. Walking while working makes all sorts of sense, particularly to a runner. But installing it a) during the hottest temperatures for years and b) with a still slightly dodgy tendon: maybe not the most sensible idea. I didn’t overdo it: I didn’t walk for more than 90 minutes each of the three days I used it. I couldn’t anyway as my studio was so baking hot, I was melting (I’m walking while writing this, at 2mph, with the assistance of a desktop fan). But my right foot and ankle niggled. It was a different niggle: more towards my Achilles than my post tib tendon. On Saturday, it was enough of a niggle that I iced it and worried. I think I was stupid to walk barefoot for the first day, and soon switched to my running shoes and orthotics. On Saturday, I said to FRB, I don’t think I’d better run. Ten miles is too much of a stretch in distance, my Achilles is niggling, and I won’t run.

Then we went to do some allotment work, my mood lifted, and I started saying, I’m going to run, only with a really annoying Forrest Gump impression.

And I did. The next morning, race mode: A bagel with marmalade, as usual. Too much tea, as usual. I wanted the tea to get alert, but I’ve fallen behind with my pelvic floor exercises and knew there was a big risk of peeing my pants. Then again, I had a great and illuminating chat with a few women runners at a party on Friday, which began with one of them saying, “I totally pee my pants all the time!” Her reason, I think, is because she’s super fast. Mine is because my pelvic floor has got as out of condition as the rest of me. Anyway before that there was another slight problem: I’d left my running shoes and orthotics in my office. Oh dear. This was not the best thing to do when FRB gets quite race tense. But to his enormous credit he said, “OK, let’s go,” internalised his anxiety and we called in at the office, and got to race HQ with plenty of time. It took five minutes to pick up my number and then I had no choice but to join the toilet queue, which had about 100 people in it. I thought, oh. It’s going to be a pee and sprint to the start line. It wasn’t, but I only had about five minutes to spare. We gathered and milled, and then we were off. I was so busy trying not to set off too fast that I didn’t even notice Jonny Brownlee waving the flag to start us off. My friend Gemma did though:

GemmaRathbone_2015-Jul-05I set off steadily, at about 9.30 minute/miles, and I kept that going throughout. The first mile, though, was awful, because my bladder lost it. I was embarrassed, and desperately looking for a bush where I could pee without 800 runners watching me, but there was nothing for about a mile, until finally the route went off to the right and to the left was a coppice of trees. What a bloody relief. After that, I was fine, but I lost a couple of minutes. That shouldn’t have mattered: no way was I going to be anywhere near my ten mile PB, which is 1:23. So I stuck my ego in the box and concentrated on running properly: head up, torso straight, slight lean, arms going strongly backwards, shoulders relaxed. I’ve been examining race photos of me, not for vanity, but to check where my feet are going. A splayed right foot means my hip and pelvis need strengthening. I noticed that my pace was similar to a woman who was 50 or 60, so I stuck with her for a few miles. The roads were nice, the temperature, I thought, was perfect: cool, and cloud cover. And I just enjoyed it. There were water stations at miles 3, 5 and 8. I took a gel at the second and third, and I felt fine. I felt good, and strong. I overtook a few of my clubmates, and they all encouraged me, and I stayed steady.

I’d noticed a young lass in front of my Accidental Pacer, who was also going at a really steady pace. I couldn’t catch her for a long time, then with about two miles to go I did. We got chatting. She was running unattached, and said she’d only been running since January. This was the longest distance she’d ever done. She has just moved to Lancashire so I said, there must be some good fell-running clubs there and she said, yes, but clubs are so intimidating. Everyone in them is so fast. I had my usual response: ours is so friendly, everyone is encouraged, no-one is left behind. But I remember when I was unattached – a horrible word – and had entered the Kirkstall 7. I felt completely excluded by all the cliques of club runners in their same colour vests, and they were all talking about PBs and sub this and that. I told myself I would never be like that. But of course I am. Anyway, all that chat got us to the bottom of the last hill. Eccup 10 is a lovely race, but it ends on a hill, which is not lovely. The route has changed this year, in fact, and now there are two climbs at the finish instead of one. But the gels must have been working, because I didn’t walk any of the hills, and I still felt strong with half a mile to go. As we climbed the last hill, the young lass was slowing, and I chivvied her along. Slow steps, stand tall, don’t lean into the hill, it’s easier. And she did. And as we climbed, I heard a faint “ROSE!” then louder and louder, “GO ROSE! WELL DONE ROSE! STRONG FINISH ROSE! GO ROSE GEORGE” and there were a dozen of my team-mates waiting to cheer us in. Some had not run but come along to support anyway, some had finished but come back to support us.
At Danefield Relay, when most teams had finished and gone home, we still had a runner due back. A few of my club-mates went to the finish to cheer her in, because the hill that Danefield finishes on is even worse than Eccup. I thought it was weird that no-one else was about, but assumed they had just gone home. Then, suddenly coming round the corner was not one runner in a purple vest but a dozen. And they were singing. They had all long since finished, but run down the course to escort Bethan up the horrible hill, singing “rolling down the river.” I actually choked. It was a really lovely sight.

KHarriers_2015-Jul-01And so were the Eccup cheerers. So I said to the young lass, whose name was Steph, “See?’ and she said yes, with a look of surprise on her face, and then I said, “come on, sprint finish” and we did, and I beat her.


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From Monaco to the moors

I travel to odd places frequently to research odd things and am known for it. But last week’s travel to an odd place for an odd thing was actually not really my doing. One of my mother’s friends, John, who lives in Australia, is on the board of the World Circus Federation. He has been fascinated with circuses since I’ve known him, as has the rest of his family. I visited them when I was 18 and remember his stepdaughter had a juggler for a boyfriend even back then. When my mother was visiting them in Australia this year, and John said, why don’t you come to the World Circus Festival in Monaco? and my mother said, “er…” and ten minutes later he had booked the hotel, that was that. My mother asked me to go and who would refuse to go to the circus?

I packed my suitcase for all eventualities: warm clothes for a Big Top, glamorous clothes in case we had to drink with Grimaldis (Princess Stephanie is the director of the festival), and of course running kit. We stayed overnight first in Manchester, and though I had no time to run in the morning, I still salute Crowne Plaza for this:


I looked as usual on walk jog run and such for good routes, and as usual they were little use as they have no elevation. Once our plane pilot had decided not to land in the stunning blue Mediterranean, as it seemed like she was going to, and once we had got through the airport, past the machine-gun-carrying French soldiers who were ostentatiously standing around looking threatening, although their rather bonkers berets gave a different impression, and once we had paid €20 for a short bus trip from Nice to Monaco, and once we had left Nice and I saw the height of the cliffs and the narrowness of the roads and the beauty of the dramatic coast, but also the limited flat land to run on: after all that, I thought, I’m not running up these cliffs. We got to our hotel, checked into our room, a lovely spacious one with a view of superyachts in the harbour (that was only the beginning), and settled in.


The circus show wasn’t until the next night, so the following morning at 7.30, I took the map that the hotel receptionist had given me, left the hotel, turned right and just kept going. This is what I was running on:


I ran all the way along, up into Cap d’Ail, down some steep steps into a cove which was the end of the path. It wasn’t cold, but it wasn’t t-shirt weather either, so I paddled, then ran back. Along the way I saw women in fancy kit doing very little exercise with very tiny dogs. I saw some runners, none of whom returned my greeting or smile. I saw a woman – I swear this is true – doing a morning walk in white designer jeans and a fur cape. I laughed and ran on. It was only about 4 miles in the end, not nearly long enough according to my training plan, but I don’t have the discipline to get to the end of a route and turn and run back, so I didn’t. Instead, I went for a chilly swim in the bay near the hotel, in my running kit, then walked past dripping. I ate a mountain of eggs for breakfast, then persuaded my mother to come all the way back on the walk with me. Which she did.

The circus was that evening. It was clearly a huge Monte Carlo event. I’ve never seen so much fur or Botox in one place. Prince Albert and Princess Stephanie were both there; not only is she director of the Festival, but she once ran away with an elephant trainer before marrying an acrobat. I think it’s safe to say she likes circuses. So do I. It was exciting to walk into the big top – le chapiteau, in French – past a brass band of clowns.


Not before I had a balanced and nutritious meal though. Now I know that a toffee apple in French is une pomme d’amour.


Some of the circus acts were extraordinary. The athletic ability and strength of some performers was dazzling. At one point, a two-man act were 30 feet up hanging only on ribbons, and one of them was holding both their body weights only on his wrist. The trapezists on both nights were amazing.

But I hated to see the animal acts. I hated, hated, hated it. I do not understand why we must watch elephants standing on stools, or lions sitting on a trailer on the back of a motorbike. I don’t understand why this is presented as a form of human achievement. I couldn’t walk out, as we had been invited there as guests of my mother’s friends, but I sat in my seat seething. The use of wild animals has been banned in many countries, though not in mine, and I wish it were. Of course people who support the use of wild animal acts go on about the wonderful bond between the animal trainers and their captives. But they also talked in one newspaper article about the “parc” which the elephants had to roam around in while they waited. I saw that parc. It was a tiny yard near Monaco’s heliport. Disgraceful.

The following night, there was a fancy cocktail party in the hotel lobby, and Prince Albert was meant to attend. I decided to go a do a strength session in the tiny shabby gym instead. I finished just as the party was in full swing, and there was no access to the lifts except through the lobby, so I walked through the hotel entrance in my gym vest and shorts, and every head turned, and the crowd parted for me as if it was the Red Sea.

Ah, Monaco. Absurd tax-dodging toy-town in a beautiful landscape. Despite the ocean and the view, I won’t be hurrying back.


I was glad to come home. And I was glad that the next day I was going to be running for four miles over Yorkshire moorland. It was the perfect antidote to the ugly wealth and Botox brigades of Monte Carlo. I’d been meant to run the Four Villages Half in Helsby, in Cheshire. But after a long trip home from Monte Carlo via Munich, then a three hour drive, I wasn’t going to get in a car for another few hours just to run a half. And it was a good decision, as the half marathon was cancelled because of ice. Instead, I chose to do the Stanbury Splash, a Woodentops race up at Haworth. But the Splash became the Stoop, another Woodentops route (and the same as Auld Lang Syne), because the rivers were too frozen. I was given a lift in a 4×4, so we could park up on the tops. The snow was plentiful and then it started snowing again. So base layer and vest, but I still ran in shorts. I was nervous again, as I’m still not too sure about my fell running technique. Also I’d forgotten my watch, but my expert fell-running boyfriend lent me his, as he knows the route – and any route – backwards. I wish I had his astonishing ability to photographically recall routes even if he’s just driven or run or walked them once. But I don’t.

So, we registered, we got our three mini Soreens (malt loaf is what the race is famous for). I queued for the only toilet (the portaloos hadn’t made it up the icy road). I found my fellow Harriers, we did a team photo:


then, because fell running is not like road running, we all sang happy birthday to someone, and we were off.


I didn’t learn my lesson. I set off too far back, and I got stuck behind walkers, a lot. It was a lovely run, and the moors were beautiful, but I wish I could have run more. Because there was so much snow, it was extremely difficult to know what was on either side of the path, so it was hard to overtake. At one point, a woman in front of me, walking very slowly, was taking her jacket off and adjusting all her kit. If you’re going to do that, and there’s a huge gap in front of you, and a long line behind you, then surely you step aside?

But I’m still learning fell etiquette. What I do know is that I need to have more confidence. The finish was on a hill back up to the car-park, and I overtook two or three people and still felt at ease. I shouldn’t have felt at ease; I should have been busting a gut. So, room for improvement.

The next week, I actually did all the runs I was supposed to, though I sneaked in a cross country at the Northern cross-country championships. It was 5 miles around Pontefract racecourse, a nice flat course on grass, except the Senior Women ran after 5 or so junior races, and the juniors had nicely churned up the course for us. Also, it was fast. I was hungover and not in the best form, having stupidly had curry the night before, so I just stuck to my team-mate Marion. I mean, I really stuck to her. I was on her shoulder. She must have found me very annoying, but I knew she was going to be going at the right pace, and I didn’t have the energy to overtake her and stay in front of her. Sorry, Marion. She tolerated this until the last half mile then kicked and off she went. She finished five places ahead of me. I still managed to overtake someone near the line, so I’m pleased. Not bad with a hangover. Then the next day I got up and ran 14 miles from Bingley to Leeds. Back to the canal.


And on the next day, I rested. Really.

INJURIES/NIGGLES: Sore toes; black toe-nails; slightly aching right ankle

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I have thirteen weeks or so to go before the Manchester marathon. That came as a bit of a shock when Jenny handed me my plan. I’m not worried. I think I’m half-marathon fit (I hope so, as I’m doing one the week after next), but even so, the thought that Marathon Training is back is odd. One of my New Year resolutions is to dance more, but the other is to learn the difference between “could” and “should”. Marathon training has a lot of “shoulds.” But they are shoulds and not coulds because I want to do what I want to do, which is run a marathon in 3:50. I can do it, as long as I train and as long as I don’t get injured. Oddly, for the past few weeks, I’ve noticed that I’m running naturally on my forefoot/midfoot much more. I’ve no idea why. My shoes are quite minimalist, but I am not actively trying to run forefoot. Anyway my feet like it but my calves don’t.

So, last night, after I’d been on deadline all day, I thought: I’ll have a dark city streets run. I haven’t done that for a while. It seems that these days I mostly run in company. But I do like evening winter runs on streets, as long as I get choose the right streets (not Harrogate Road, for example). Pavements are obligatory. At 6pm, as I told myself it was now or never, as the wind was starting to get up, I got my kit on and got myself out of the door. I put my housekey in my jacket pocket, and set off. I had a route planned, up Harrogate Road (the bit with pavements and civilization) to the Alwoodley Lane junction, then right along Wigton Lane, back down Shadwell Lane and back home. A nice 7 mile loop, as my plan required. I enjoyed it. I like running past people who are walking home, and wondering what they’re thinking. I like running past the huge posh houses on Wigton Lane and wondering what on earth possessed them to build something so expensive yet so banal and with quite so many ugly columns. I wonder at whether the families inside these big houses are happy, or whether the husband has seen his mistress at lunch-time, or the wife has got close to her massage therapist or colleague (horrible and presumptuous of me, but Wigton Lane does seem a stay-at-home mother kind of lane). Those imaginings keep me going for a couple of miles, until the end of the lane. Then right-turn past the pub and the convenience shop, and I got to the junction where I knew I had to take Shadwell Lane. So I did.

Now there is a curious thing about Leeds. I grew up 9 miles away in Dewsbury. I have lived here now for nearly six years. But I still don’t think I know it well. I know bits of it. I know bits I live in, and bits I work in and bits I run through. But there are villages and parts of it that, unless I’ve had cause to go there, I know not at all. I ran along Shadwell Lane, thinking, this is great, I get to know Shadwell Lane, which is a road I’ve only taken about once, and that was in a car. I carried on, past fields, and more fields, then some cottages, then a pub, then a bus terminus (as in the bus got there, turned around in a turning circle and then set off again), then to the other end of the village. At this point, after running for two miles down the lane, I thought, I should have reached the ring-road by now. Suddenly my vague running brain thoughts – such as “I didn’t realise there were so many fields so near the city centre” and “it looks very rural round here, or it would if it weren’t pitch dark” and “oh I’d better run on the side of the road with houses on rather than dark fields and footpaths except there’s no pavement on that side” – all came together to the shocking realisation that I was going the wrong way.

I was going in completely the opposite direction.

I know that my geographical and spatial orientation and understanding is very poor. My brain just doesn’t retain it. There are people who can immediately tell me that we are facing a north-east direction, but I am not one of them. (I’ve just bought Tristan Gooley’s book “A Walker’s guide to Outdoor Clues and Signs” to try to improve.) But standing at the far edge of Shadwell Lane, peering at a road sign that said Wetherby in one direction and the A58 to Leeds in another, in darkness, with no-one around, I thought:

1. Why on earth didn’t I bring my phone?
2. Why on earth didn’t I bring any money?

I know why. I’m out of the habit of solo running and just forgot. Stupid, stupid, stupid. I had a few choices: I could run down the A58 to Leeds, but being geographically and navigationally challenged, I couldn’t remember where that would take me.

Did I mention that by now it was 7pm and I had an important meeting with someone (ie actually a work meeting) in Chapel Allerton at 8pm?

I thought: I can ask someone where I am. But there was no-one about. So I did the only thing possible: I set off back in the same direction. This is never fun for a runner, especially when you have carefully planned a loop in your head. Never mind. I ran up to the bus stop, saw that the bus only came to Shadwell and turned back to Leeds, and that it set off in the direction I’d come from. So there was only one thing to do, and that was add a four mile detour to my six mile run, put my head down and just bloody run.

I just bloody ran. My calves were yelling at me. I was warm, then cold. I was extremely thirsty because I’d drunk only one glass of water all day (another resolution: HYDRATE MORE), and I was trying desperately to get home in time to shower and have some food before the 8pm meeting. So as I ran back, this time the right way down Shadwell Lane, my thoughts were:

1. How quickly can I make spaghetti?
2. How quickly can I eat spaghetti?
3. But I’m trying to cut out processed food, is there anything else I can eat apart from spaghetti?
4. Sod that. How quickly can I make spaghetti?

I ran, and I ran, and I ran. I got home at 7.45pm. I ate Weetabix. I didn’t wash. I went to my meeting, an important one, and I yawned all the way through it. Today, my head and my legs are tired, and although there is a should on my plan, it’s turned into a “could,” because tomorrow is the West Yorkshire cross country championships, and my legs will get battered enough.

At least I know where Shadwell is now.


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DISTANCE: 10.55 miles (I meant to do 7)
TIME: Quite a bloody while


It’s back. The love is back. I had to leave to catch a London train at 1pm today, and I also had to run 14 miles. I looked at my awful time from the Gipping 12 miles (gipping meaning vomiting, not a place in the Yorkshire Dales), and thought, it’s going to be tight. So I woke at 7, ate crumpets and drank tea, and intended to set off at 8. It was a bit later than that: a kitten sitting on my chest, warm and purring, was a bit hard to leave. And I was a bit nervous. My last long run had been so bad. But I had been careful to eat better; the sun was shining and the forecast was good, and I planned a loop up to Eccup, along to Roundhay Park, round the lake a bit and back. Reservoir and lakes.

I didn’t want any mud. I’m on a mud-break. So it was roads all the way, except for a short cut through the golf course. There was gawping to be done all along Alwoodley Lane, which is the millionaire’s row of Leeds, although it looks more occupied than Billionaire’s Row in London. No-one was about, but the sun was shining and my energy levels were good. Jenny has advised me to run for as long as I can without eating a gel, so that my body gets used to running while using its fat stores. I had some electrolyte drink, and I made sure to drink more and vomit less.

There was no nausea and no vomiting. It was just a lovely, lovely run. Even the bit down King Lane where there was no pavement and road puddles. No-one splashed me, and I arrived at Five Lanes corner thinking, how lucky I am to live a couple of miles from rolling fields, sheep, and Eccup.


There were a few runners out by now. Eccup is where you start to see them, particularly on a weekend morning. I read this very clever story yesterday, about how to write about the UK like Africa is written about, and so tribes were on my mind. And I realised, as I did the runner’s nod to yet another passing runner, and as I followed a solitary runner 300 metres in front of me, and even though I was pleased when he turned off so I didn’t have to catch him up and then speed up to keep ahead, I realised, runners are my tribe. We understand each other. We wear extraordinary clothes.


We have blackened toe-nails and creaking bones, but we can still run great distances with blackened toe-nails and creaking bones. I love that. But I love that it is not a tribe of snobs. We want other people to start running. It is a generous tribe. I love that when I went to Kathmandu last year and wanted to go running, I googled for a local running group. I contacted Richard, who runs Kathmandu trail runners, and he had read The Big Necessity. He wasn’t around but put me in touch with his flatmate, Billi. I got a taxi over to her side of Kathmandu one morning, and she lent me a bike, and we cycled a mile, over the ringroad, to the edge of the cacophonous city, and then we ran. There were rice paddies and buffalos and old women who did not bat any eyelid when two western women in tight bright clothes ran past. It was brilliant. And it was because Billi saw nothing weird in a runner wanting to run with her, because she understood about needing to run, even in a strange city that was being dug up for road construction. Afterwards she made me the best coffee in Kathmandu, and we stayed in touch, now and then, and if I go back, I would love to run with her again. I have made friends by running, and not just in Kathmandu. I like being in this tribe.

And I like running alone, too. I like listening to the playlists that my running friend and music geek Andrew supplies, and sometimes I like listening to the air and the surroundings. Halfway down Eccup Moor Lane, I suddenly remembered Jenny Landreth, a Twitter friend who writes about swimming for the Guardian (and is in the swimming tribe), had posted her lyrics to the title song of The Bridge, and suddenly I became a runner laughing out loud at nothing, at air. I’ll remember that moment, and I’ll add Eccup Moor Lane, on a sunny Saturday morning, to my mental store of running memories that soothe me when I am stressed. It’s a good one.

Oh, and I ran 14 miles, which is the longest distance I have ever run in my life. The farthest I have run is a half marathon. When I got to 13.2 miles (a half marathon is 13.1), which was on Harrogate Road just past the Sainsbury’s, I did a little jump for joy. I am proud of myself. I don’t say or feel that very often.


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I was so tired yesterday. My legs were tired, my brain was tired. I didn’t even have the energy to watch The Bridge. That is tiredness. I woke up tired too, but I had arranged to run 12 miles with Jayne & Bibi and Bibi’s partner Adam, also known as the awesome Veggie Runners + 1. I did my usual run preparation: eat crumpets and drink green tea, and read the paper. Then I opened the bedroom blinds.


Driving rain. It looked awful and I hadn’t even been outside yet. I didn’t think Jayne or Bibi would want to do it, because I know Jayne doesn’t like running with wet feet, and I’d suggested we do the Leeds Country Way loop that I did last week, plus another four miles around Harewood. I didn’t much want to do it, and would have been happy with a boring road run after yesterday’s slog. But they did want to do it, so we met in a parking place near Harewood, and we began to run.

It was some of the worst weather I’ve ever run in. Perhaps not as bad as the time I ran 9 miles along the tops above Holmfirth and got indentations on my face from the hail, but it wasn’t far off. The first stretch is exposed, and it was bitterly cold. I had come prepared after yesterday: long tights, on the principle that they are easier to chuck in the wash and it took me ten minutes to scrub my legs of mud yesterday. Gloves. A hat. A map and some food and drink in a backpack. I was glad of my hat and gloves, until they got soaked too. But we were soaked immediately. It was either puddles or mud. Adam gave up quite quickly and went back to the car. We carried on. And Bibi forged ahead like a seasoned trail runner, although she’s only recently started doing trail runs. My legs felt like lead again, and it was cold. It was the closest I’ve come to not enjoying a run, although there were miles and miles that I did love, but miles that I didn’t. Jayne was so cold she couldn’t open the gates. She was so cold she thought she might be dangerously cold. Also because she’s much more sensible than me she was thinking about what would happen if one of us had an accident: we hadn’t brought a foil blanket or any dry clothing (daft, and I won’t set out without one again) and we would have been in difficulty. They decided to go back to the car after we got to Harewood after 8 miles. And by the time we had done the 8 mile loop and arrived at Harewood, another four miles seemed an impossibility.

So I flaked and we went back to the cars.

I was so cold it was hard to get my shoes off. I came home and had a hot shower and my cold legs itched like crazy. I managed not to scratch them raw, but only just. And then I sat almost on top of the gas fire for a while. And then the bloody sun came out.