Apparently Life began for me last Tuesday, which is just as well because I chose to spend my 40th birthday at Disneyland Paris with my family riding rollercoasters, watching Charlotte light up with delight at seeing Mickey, Pluto and Tigger and just generally celebrating with a few days of fun. It was wonderful, I love anything and everything to do with Disney, always have and always will. Yeah I’m a grown man, but I’m also a grown man who spends his spare time running around in lycra and rubber. Which is worse? Having an almost 2-year-old daughter gives me an excuse for a Disney fix though, what’s my excuse for the lycra and rubber?
My last run as a “youngster” was actually a first for me, it was muddy, it was cold and it was bloody hilly. I should have hated it but you know what it was amazingly good fun. I went fell running….yes you read that right. Me – self-confessed hater of mud and hills went so far out of my comfort zone that I discovered a new me that I never knew existed. Since then I’ve found myself looking at fell races, studying maps wanting to grow a beard and generally wanting to buy Kendal mint cake – isn’t that what fell runners do?
So how did this come about? Simple, I received a text on the Thursday from my good mate John “IronFarmer” Carr saying “What you doing Saturday?”. Once I replied saying I had no plans I got one back saying “I’m taking you fell running, pick you up at 5am.” Now let’s give this some context, John has been to Kona, John has finished Celtman, John is doing Norseman and John has done more fell running than I’ve sold books. How do I get myself into these situations? We would also be joined by our mutual mate Jack Billingham, who had recently got into fell running. Jack is built like a whippet and can run up a hill as fast as I can descend one on a bike. So would this be a gentle introduction to the fells on a bleak, cold, wet and misty November morn? Nope, “I’ve planned a nice route over Ingleborough and Wernside.” said the grinning John when he picked us up.
Ingleborough and Whernside form part of the fabled Yorkshire 3 Peaks Race a 23 mile run over the three highest peaks in Yorkshire. Ingleborough stands at 723m ( 2,372 feet ) and Whernside is slightly higher at 728m ( 2,415 feet ). Now remember this was my first time out on the fells.
We were also joined on this adventure by Henry, he was quick, agile and full of energy. He made everyone else look slow as he bounded off through the mist. The three of us stuck as much to the path as possible as we left the car park and started our journey through the marsh to the foot of Ingleborough. Henry showed no such restraint and jumped headfirst into the flooded bog, his happiness plain to see in the wag of his soaking wet tail. Oh yeah Henry was a gorgeous, enthusiastic fell running black labrador.
We kept moving forward at a reasonable pace, until we reached the foot of what looked like a mountain, it was just a wall of scree and slate. With the thick fog I couldn’t see the top of it. The rocky path up was both slippy and steep, I have no sense of balance and I had to concentrate really hard on not falling. Jack and John just went up the cliff face like it was a flat running track. I stopped, caught my breath and watching in awe.
Once we reached the top the visibility was next to nothing, 20 yards at the most. It’s a flat summit and we ran across to the summit marker and posed for photos quickly as it was freezing up there in the fog. I was wearing tights, tri shorts, compression top, cycling jersey, goretex running jacket and a gillet on top, two buffs and thermal gloves and the icy wind cut me in two up there.
If I thought the ascent had been tough it was nothing compared to the descent on muddy wet grass. I had worn my trail running Hokas which are awesome shoes ( more on them in a review blog ) but they had no real grip on the sodden ground and I lost count of the times that I fell or slipped on the ice like wet grass. I was glad of the full camelbak of water cushioning my fall, however I was soon freezing cold because all my clothing was soaked from spending time on the deck. I shook it off and kept running but it would eventually catch up with me. We ran along the plateau towards Ribblehead, I was watching every footstep on the narrow path, John was reading his email on his phone ( he was waiting for his Celtman 2013 entry confirmation ) whilst chatting to me. Jack was racing Henry the dog. We could see nothing, we could hear nothing and we could have been the only people in the world, just running, chatting and taking the piss out of Jack for owning a pair of pink jeans. It was bliss. Pure bliss.
Eventually we made it down and onto a gravel track that we followed until we got to the viaduct at Ribblehead. At this point we were supposed to start the ascent of Whernside but I had started to shiver and couldn’t really feel my thighs and back that had got soaked and muddy when I fell. John sensibly decided that we’d skirt along the bottom of the fell back to the car, I was gutted because I was having so much fun, but realistically it would have been dangerous for me to continue. I really now want to do the full 3 peaks course and distance, I’ve got the bit between my teeth. Also whilst out I agreed to run a leg of The Bob Graham round to support John in the summer, I can’t wait although I need to up my game to keep up with him.
We had run for just shy of three hours, covering 10 miles ( need to download my garmin file to look at the details ) but we averaged 3 miles an hour, which shows you how tough it was. But the time flew by, maybe that was my age, or maybe I’ve discovered a new love?
I got home and Em took one look at me and wouldn’t let me in the house. I stripped off in the garage and washed my clothes under the outdoor tap before they were allowed in the washing machine.
The best thing about the whole experience, well I guess it was the feeling afterwards. I felt amazing, no aches, no pains, my legs felt fresh, my knees weren’t grumbling. All things that happen after a half hour run on tarmac, I’d spent 3 hours on rough hilly terrain and I felt amazing. There has to be something to that?
So yeah I may now be forty but I felt like a kid again out on the fells. I can’t wait to do it again. Thanks John and Jack.
I’m no longer a Fell Running Virgin.