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It’s called a trail race, but run under Fell Runners Association rules, therefore I am counting Ilkley Trail Race as my first fell race.

I signed up a week or so ago and was very much looking forward to the day. A couple of people had recommended I do it. With the big climb in the first half and a 7-mile total distance it is at the easiest end of the fell race scale. And as it is flagged and marshalled there’s no need for maps and compasses. But the terrain, and the views, are by no means diminished.

Jill and Jason drove us to Ilkley, and there we met with a few other Harriers and friends from other running clubs. There was a chilled, friendly atmosphere in the start area and I was very glad of a coffee van – hazelnut latte was just what I needed! My vague plan was to try to stick with Jill and Anne. Generally speaking I am there or thereabouts with them at many races and they are always good company.

 

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I set off up the hill on the first road (which was a killer!) and figured I would settle in as I felt able then catch up to them over the race. I walked up the latter part of the hill as I realised that my marching pace was just as quick as my jogging pace, but used less energy. And then I just trekked on through the woods without thinking too much about anything.

We came out into a field and up a track, and soon we were up on the moors. I gave a little gasp as we strode out on to the plains and smiled as I saw the snake of brightly coloured runners making their way through the land. It was simply stunning. I could hear a bird singing a gorgeous tune and spotted him briefly – I later learned (via Jill and a lady she was talking to) it was a skylark.

 

I walked a few times to try and soak in the view properly and was perfectly happy skipping along. The weather was warm but not overly bright or blazing so it was ideal.

I wore my new Inov8 Bare-Grip 200 fell shoes, which were perfect. I bought them as they are lightweight and flexible and very grippy, and I am so glad I did. I fear for my life a bit going down hills sometimes, especially when there is mud, wet grass or tree roots involved” I worry about going arse-over-tit and smashing my bones! But no need for such worries in my new fell running shoes – they gave me a lot of confidence and I could let go and not worry about where I was placing my feet. Not one stumble despite all the loose rocks and slippy grass made muddy by hundreds of runners! They were even great on the small bits of road as well – I was worried they would feel weird with the big lugs, but I raced down the final hill without concern.

 

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I can now happily say this neon Bambi loves running the moors. I felt like I was running really tall and smooth the whole way. I could feel my legs skipping along beneath me without even the slightest effort. It was truly liberating. It was a great race and will be a must-do on my calendar for next year. It was a real pleasure to be able to take in such spectacular scenery.

Best of all I wasn’t the slightest bit tired at the end. I would have happily done it over again. I didn’t feel achey or hungry or anything – I just wanted to keep going. I  felt alive and invigorated, which is surely the clearest sign of a wonderful run.

Photo thanks to Woodentops and running friends.

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Bluebell Trail is a 10mile race organised by Stainland Lions. It was one of those that I signed up for months in advance because it just sounded so lovely, and didn’t train specifically for because it was a) ages away and b) only 10 miles(!).

The day dawned soon enough, and was actually pretty decent for running. But on arrival (thanks to a lift from the ever-lovely Glover-Longfellow trio) I wasn’t really feeling up for it. I still don’t know why – I just wasn’t in race mode and could quite happily have gone back to bed and stayed curled up all day. There was no real doubt that I would run, of course, and I’m glad I did, but neither my heart  nor my head were really in it at first.

The start of the race heads up into the woods and early on you go through a little gap in a wall, so we had a bit of a wait at the back, but the pack soon spread out again as we ran on.

I turned on my feet, put them in charge and gave the instruction: “find your way”.

I detached my legs from my mind so my muscles could concentrate on what they had to do.

I filed my brain away and let my mind go where it wanted. I sang to myself, did some writing in my head (this blog post mostly), meditated and simply enjoyed the sights, sounds and smells.

I soared up to the tops of the trees and the hills to enjoy the views. I thanked the birds as they cheeped and cheered me on. I leapt about in time with the bluebells and the dandelions.

It was all incredibly joyful. Almost as soon as I started I felt much better, and the further I ran the better I felt (as is usually the case). The route and terrain was quite varied – forest, towpath, road, cobbles, field, muddy track and even river bed! Happily, I felt that I was running really rather well. Having told my body what it needed to do and allowed my mind to go where it pleased I was able to switch off where necessary and switch on where necessary. I felt that my form was good and that I adapted to the different terrain without too much hard work.

Even the massive hill of Trooper Lane didn’t faze me. I knew about it before signing up and it hadn’t put me off. I don’t mind hills. I don’t train on them enough, but I do what I can whenever I meet them. When I see a big hill in races (that is, when I can’t see the top of it) I walk. Or rather, I march. I’ve never been a slow walker, so when it comes to hills I am better off marching up than huffing and puffing and trying to keep to a run, which will inevitably become a jog-shuffle anyway.

So I smiled when I saw the Trooper Lane sign at the bottom, changed gear and kept my head up. I overtook several people marching up there, and stopped to enjoy some spectacular views over Halifax. And at the top, after a cup of water, I was able to get straight back into running. You can see what all the Trooper Lane fuss is about on this blog I came across: The Hell of the Worth.

It wasn’t quite all downhill after that – we were up and down right until the last mile, and there were many more tricky bits with loose rocks, muddy, narrow paths and so on. The section through the bluebell woods was absolutely stunning – they were everywhere and looked and smelled gorgeous. It was quite magical.

As I came back down on to the canal towpath for the final stretch I was rather warm and incredibly happy – and what better way to cool the legs and celebrate a gorgeous run out than by splashing across a river?! It wasn’t very deep so I wasn’t scared (I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with water) and it was the perfect refreshment after 10-and-a-bit miles. I strolled in to the biggest cheers I have ever heard from my fellow Harriers, who had all finished and were stood on the other side watching. The marshal in the middle of the river told me that I should run and pick my knees right up, so I did as I was told and splashed through. So much fun!

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A final scrabble up the bank and a sprint on the playing field and I was done! We got a goody bag with choccy, water and banana, plus a bar towel with the Bluebell Trail logo.

A fantastic race all round and definitely on my list for next year and beyond. Many thanks to the Lions organisers and marshals, and big thanks to Geoff Matthews for the fantastic photos of me crossing the river. What a happy runner I am!

 

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I’ve been a bit slack with blogging recently. I have been running, although I’m not working to any specific training plan so I’ve just been going as far and as fast as I feel like (which is not very, as it happens). I should be doing some work towards my next half marathon – Chester on May 18th – as it’s only a few weeks away. I’ve got some speedwork and interval sessions in mind, and I’ll be giving it my all for a sub-2:00 on the day, so I best crack on!

For now, just to prove that I am still here and still running (and still loving it), a few photo highlights from the past week or so.

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I love cherry blossoms. I like to wear cherry blossoms in my hair when they arrive. This was after Leeds parkrun on April 19th, the day I wanted to run forever.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Views at Swinsty/Fewston reservoirs where I had a wonderful Bank Holiday Monday run with my good friends Jill and Laura. It was incredibly therapeutic – we had some deep and meaningful conversations, but we also swore and laughed a lot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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This is my friend Stevie (Helen’s boyfriend). He runs regularly but doesn’t race or do parkruns, so I’ve been nagging him to give them a go. I finally got him to come to Leeds parkrun on April 26th, and I think he enjoyed it! It was a bit drizzly but we had good chats.

 

 

 

 

Post-marathon comedown has been doing all sorts of crazy things to my mind. My body has felt fine since the 26.2 miles – not an ache or a pain to be had – but my head has “gone west”. I’m still processing, and trying to get over, the sensory intensity of London Marathon. Fortunately, I know the perfect antidote to all that noise and all those people – a trail run in the sunshine with my friends.

The Hot Cross Run is a 6.2mile trail run in North Yorkshire. Starting at a village pub you get a set of instructions and off you go into the fields. I went with my Kirkstall Harrier friends Laura and Kimberley and we had a very enjoyable day out, complete with bunny ears!

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I left the other two to navigate while I bimbled along behind, taking in the sights and stopping for a few pictures. The sun was shining and the views were absolutely stunning. It was the most joyful run I have had for a while. We weren’t concerned about trying to run fast – our only plan was to enjoy ourselves.

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The end came around far too quickly, and we took a slight wrong turn and cut the final corner – genuine mistake! Back at the pub there were hot cross buns and lots of chats in the sun.

If Yorkshire is God’s own county then God is definitely a runner. We were blessed with perfect weather, not to mention the stunning countryside and, of course, great company. I can safely say it did me the world of good – the solar power recharged my batteries and the peace and quiet reset my head.

It was a really fun race and the organisers are also doing a series of evening self-navigate trail runs so I will be signing up for those without a doubt!

 

On Sunday I went out for my long run in a new part of Leeds, and I saw a lot of awesome things. I am house-sitting and cat-watching for my friend in Chapel Allerton, so I got on Mapometer and made up an 18-mile route. I tested the first part on Saturday and liked it, so I decided to go with it the next day and just see what happened.

I went along some busy main roads for a couple of miles up to Eccup Reservoir, which is my ultimate favourite place out of everywhere in Leeds. I love being in or near water, and the reservoir is surrounded by some great forest. I stuck to the main path today and went round the bottom half and back out again. There was quite a wind so it looked more like the sea, especially with the low level revealing the sand.

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After that it was back along a residential road then out to the country lanes. It turned out I knew some of them from the Eccup 10 race last July, but there were lots of new bits too.

The sun was really shining down by now and the views were spectacular. My run became more of a bimble as I stopped to soak it all in and take some photos many times. At mile 9 I passed a pub, but fortunately I had forgotten to take any money out with me, otherwise I would have stopped for a half-way half pint!

My route planning worked well, although I ended up changing it slightly as when I checked my phone as I got closer I couldn’t be sure the road went where it said it would. There were several hills, some of which were horribly steep, so I walked them. And one bit of road had no path and was quite busy with quick cars, but it wasn’t so bad.

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Lots of exciting things to see as I ran, and I saved the music for the busy main roads with proper footpaths so I could stay safe and take in the world more fully.

So, a very joyful run and not bad for a route I made up with pretty much no knowledge of the area.

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about whether I have a “calling” with regards to running. Nearly two years into my running experience I have enjoyed every type of race and every distance, from one mile on an athletics track to a half marathon on a motorsport track and everything in between. I like bumbling along muddy trails, the all-out effort of 5ks, half marathon consistency; any kind of running seems to work for me.

But I have been starting to wonder whether at heart I am a long distance, maybe even a crazy-long distance, runner.

I may not have run a marathon yet, but this time last year, when I was just a few months into running, the idea of an ultra was already appealing (a marathon didn’t appeal – go figure). I love the thought of taking off into the world and being out there for hours on end.

Whenever I drive over the M62 I get a strong urge to pull over and disappear on to the moors. I would run/walk/scramble up a hill, take in the view, then head off down and up again in another direction. That sounds pretty fantastic to me.

And on several long runs and races I’ve abandoned my usual close-watch on my pace and stopped to walk sometimes just because I felt like taking things in a bit more fully, or snapping some pics or chatting with supporters and marshals.

I just want to run, and enjoy the world along the way.

Marathon training seems to be a key driver behind this slow-and-steady-soak-it-up attitude. Building myself up for 26.2 miles has meant a change of pace. Big time.

I have loved making huge leaps forward in my speed and knocking minutes off PBs, and I am now missing that a bit. But I have entered a different mindset and am focusing on strength and endurance. Speed is on the backburner.

Running for distance rather than time is an altogether different beast, and both have their merits. But at the moment I am happy to be the human hunter and chase down the gazelle over miles and days until he gets exhausted.

My legs will carry me as far as I ask them, and I’ve a twisted desire to find out just how far that might be.

PS When I grow up I’d like to be Catra Corbett. She has run 100 miles more than 100 times and wears the most awesome running outfits. She is fit, feisty and fun. Now that’s my kind of runner.

Geography has never been my strong point, but I’m pretty sure Hull is in the north east of England, not the Mediterranean. Apparently the sun was confused on Sunday, and took a wrong turn somewhere over the continent to put in an appearance for the East Hull 20mile race, organised by East Hull Harriers.

I was quite apprehensive about the race. It would be the first time I had run 20 miles (my longest run previously was 18 miles three weeks earlier) and I was nervous about crashing and burning and having my first DNF on my running record. Fortunately I had some good friends also doing the race – Rose, Richard and Steve from Kirkstall Harriers and Ben from Hyde Park Harriers – so at least I had company and reassuring words at the start while I was feeling sick.

I woke stupidly early, had a basic brekkie (PB on toast) and got ready. I had laid everything out the night before so all I had to do was write my race mantra for the day. I knew this was going to be a toughie so I took inspiration from Kieran who told me earlier this year to run the first third with my legs, the second with my head and the third with my heart. At least, I think that’s the right way round!

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After a slight detour me, Rose, Ben and Richard got to race HQ and bumped into Steve. The facility was spot-on – no queue to collect numbers, proper toilets and refreshments available. We weren’t quite sure where the start line was, so when the time came we followed the crowd and loitered by the side of the road. After a short while people started to walk on to the road, and, still chatting away, we heard a gun shot and then off we went! It was quite a good way to start a race actually – no time to get nervous!

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The first two miles were on busy main roads and then we peeled off into the country lanes. With the sun shining down and open fields all around it was glorious, and warm. We followed some gorgeous little paths and tracks and it was incredibly beautiful. By mile 3 I was alone and only a few places from last, which was fine, but it did make for a very lonely race.

Having looked at the route map I knew where to expect water stations and they were exactly where they said they would be. But, more importantly, they were manned by some very lovely people and had jelly sweeties too!

I was absolutely loving it for the first half. I was running quicker than I should have been, but I was putting no effort into doing that, so I didn’t worry about it. The fast runners came back past me at about mile 6 so I cheered them on and at mile 9 I had a good old sing-song with myself when Fleetwood Mac came on my iPod. I waved to a man on a GSXR who came flying along the road and was generally loving life.

I had chats with a lady who passed me at about mile 10, but as she pulled away I was on my own again. Then it started to get tougher. I knew I should have made more of an effort to slow down earlier, but I think mostly it was just the on and on and on and the loneliness that got to me. I was passed by the occasional cyclist and horse rider, but I only had myself for entertainment. I turned off the music and chatted with the world for a bit. Then I walked and shouted at my legs. Then I swore and started running again. I found a quid at mile 14.5 (I bought a scratchcard with it the next day but I didn’t win!) and made it on to mile 16 and eventually 17.

By this point I was done in and delirious. I put the choons back on and belted out a slightly breathless version of China In Your Hand to the open fields then willed myself to just push on for another two miles. I stopped and explained to my legs what was happening – “you just need to keep going” I said, “you know what to do so just do it”. The pep-talk worked, and I was soon weaving through a housing estate with less than a mile to the finish.

Back on the main road I passed fellow runners who had already finished and they gave me some very welcome encouragement, and I shuffled over the line in 3:55:54.

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I collected a bottle of water and a commemorative towel and sat down inside with my friends. I then made the most of the excellent facilities and impressive buffet and began my recovery with a cold can of Coke, a massive slice of chocolate swiss roll and a hot shower.

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I did a few half-arsed stretches but I didn’t feel too bad considering I had just run 20 miles! I got changed and we headed back to the car. I did stiffen up a bit when sat on the motorway for over an hour, but it was nothing that a cup of tea and a cream donut didn’t solve when I got home!

East Hull Harriers are to be congratulated on organising a great race – not only for the scenic course and the excellent marshals and helpers, but also for ordering perfect weather! I was sixth from last but I didn’t feel that I was putting anyone out by being slow or that I was not welcome. I will definitely do this one again, whether or not I do another spring marathon.