June 12th, running in the rain


I woke around 4:30am and after lying in bed listening to the radio got up around 5:30am. A quick coffee and some fruit and I was off on my run. I drove over to the end of Cross End Lanes near Crimsworth Dean and Lumb waterfalls where there is a little layby at the bottom before it starts rising again up over Walshaw Moor. It’s a nice place to park as it’s remote and rarely used and as safe as you’re going to get as it’s not that well known either. The weather was wet and windy and everywhere was drenched in rainwater.

Another reason for parking here is that the trail that I intended to take is next to where I parked my car. I wore my Salomon Sense Ride 2s as Claire had mentioned them the day before and I hadn’t worn them for a bit so I thought I would give them a go today. Because the trail is rocky it was glistening with the rainwater so I took it steady as I didn’t want to fall and injure myself straight away. I enjoy running in the rain as it means less people around and I feel more of an off road runner. I think it takes more mental effort to run in the rain especially if you go out over the moors as you know you will be exposed to the wind and rain and have nowhere to hide. As well as this there is that feeling of pitting yourself against nature that I don’t get when I go out in the sunshine. The grass and rocks are slippy and there is mud to contend with too. I feel more at one with nature when it rains. Everything changes  and takes on a more atmospheric hue. Some places can become magical when it rains and because there are less people around you can have mile after mile of nature to yourself and really soak up the smells and sounds around you. The world becomes ethereal and you feel as if you have been transported to another planet where you can enjoy nature as it’s purest.

Once you start moving in the rain you soon forget it and I did as I made my way up the trail. At the top there is an old, abandoned farmhouse and I realised that this was the sheep shit farmhouse that Claire had sent me a photo from on Sunday. It clicked into place now the view she had sent me. It wasn’t someone’s house after all but literally an abandoned farmhouse covered in sheep shit! I turned right after sheep shit and carried on up towards Shackleton Knoll a place that is now one of my firm favourites for the stunning views you can see from there. Even today the views were stunning, not for how far you could see but because there was a mist covering the tops and this added to the ethereal feeling that I had. I took some photos and sent Claire one looking down over Hardcastle Crags and Blake Dean. I set off down the other side of Shackleton Knoll being extra careful as I went. I ran down the slope, through Walshaw and took the footpath that takes you down into Hardcastle Crags that is part of the Heptonstall 15 route.

Going down the slope the rain eased off and I wondered if that was the last of it and the sun would come out and I would be roasting in my waterproof. I needn’t had worried. Once I had carefully negotiated the steps down into Hardcastle Crags I got to the bridge and the heavens opened once again. I took some photos of the brook in full flow and carried on over the bridge and up the hill towards Blake Dean. I remembered this hill for a couple of weeks ago when I wasn’t up to running and I had to walk up it. Walking up it made me feel so sad and down as I have always run up this hill and I wondered if I would ever be able to run up it again. I thought just take it steady and soon I was at the top of the hill heading down the other side. I felt good again. The other week was a one off due to the beta blockers. I was back and I could run again. I carried on the familiar trail that leads you to the road to take me to the corner at Blake Dean.

Here I remembered the error I made last time going along the bottom of the clough and finding it difficult. I had looked at Claire’s Strava and saw that there was a path further up that she had taken and decided to take this one. I found the stile and realised that this was the route for the Widdop Fell Race, a race I have done but forgotten about! I ran on this path and it was much easier and safer. The views were as beautiful as always and I knew where I was. Looking down into the clough was far better and easier than running through it. I got to the end of the trail, turned left and headed down to the bridge and back up the other side towards Heptonstall Moor. I held the gate open for a cyclist on the way up, turned left and I was on the Pennine Way heading over Heptonstall Moor. As far as I remember this was the first time I have run this route but I made good progress gradually increasing my pace. Despite the Yorkshire stone slabs reflecting back the overcast skies my Salomon’s didn’t slip once. I was gaining confidence in them as they gripped really well in the rain and gave me the confidence to push on.

Soon I saw the trees and farmhouse that I see when I come down from Standing Stone Hill and I knew I wasn’t far from the end of the trail. Then I saw a cow standing in my way. I had a choice. Either carry on and risk spooking the cow and getting hurt or take the other path up to the farmhouse and slightly out of my way. I took the latter option as I have been chased by cows before and I have seen a cow running across a field at full speed and I knew I wouldn’t stand a chance if I spooked it and it went for me. I kept upping the pace despite it being a slight uphill and soon I had negotiated the cow and was back on the trail. I knew I had missed the chance of getting a time on a segment but at least I was still in one piece! I carried on the trail and crossed over down to Slack Top. I remembered my run from the other week again as here I had struggled and I had to walk downhill into Slack Top and this had made me feel despondent and wondering if I would ever run again. Today I ran down it with no problems and carried on into Slack Top. I resisted the temptation to go down into the clough and up Lumb Road and carried on towards Hardcastle Crags.

I had set out to do around 8 miles but at this point I had already done nearly that and knew this was going to be a lot longer run than I had envisaged. My clothes were drenched with rain and sweat too and I remembering what Claire had said to me before I set off, not to get hyperthermia, I knew today wasn’t a day for heroics but one for getting round and finishing. I headed for the Hebden path and down into Hardcastle Crags. The descent to Midgehole is a tough one at the best of times and today with the mud it was tougher. I knew my Salomon’s would struggle here and although they did in parts they weren’t as bad as I thought they might be. At the bottom of the descent I got onto the road and headed towards Midgehole. I ran through Midgehole and headed up towards the trail for Crimsworth Dean.

I got on the trial for Crimsworth Dean and I saw more cows and one directly in front of me! This time I had no choice but to go past it. I remembered the advice I had from a farmer to always walk past cows as if you run they think you’re playing. I took a wide line round the cow and walked slowly past it. Once I had got some distance between us I started running again and headed into Crimsworth Dean. As I ran on the trail I could hear the sound of the water below me roaring down the brook with great force. It might have been the rain or the trees or both but the roaring seemed to be amplified and bouncing off the leaves. Sometimes water can have the most gentle touch and you can enter it and feel it wrap itself around you embracing you as a friend would. Other times like today it reminds you how savage and brutal it can be like an army of marauding warriors intent on destroying everything in their path. The water was savage and brutal today reminding everyone to be careful and not enter it or you might not come out alive. This is nature at it’s most raw a savage and brutal beauty that can entrance you and charm you with its power and take your life at the same time.

As you move on along the trial some stonework appears. This is the remains of the culverts that diverted water down to the mills below at Midgehole and Hebden Bridge. It never ceases to amaze me how man has used his ingenuity and skill to try and tame nature and now nature is taken back what man made. It’s another place to be careful as some parts have fallen down and it would be easy to think you are better and more capable than you are and injure yourself. I took it easy and I was rewarded with the water at full flow smashing its way down towards Hebden Bridge like a heavyweight boxer sending their opponent to the floor with one thunderous punch.

I stood mesmerised by this vision and even though I was completely drenched in sweat and rain now I took some photos of nature at its most forceful. It’s a shame the sounds and smells don’t come out on the photos as they complete the picture, the smell of wet trees, leaves and grass, the sounds of the water and birds, all go together to complete a magical scene that I may never see again… I carried on my ran taking the Heptonstall 15 route but in reverse remembering where it is safe to cross the stream and heading towards Lumb Waterfalls. On the trail after the house I could feel my legs beginning to tire. I had done 10 ½ miles by now and still had a mile or so to go. I took it easy and began to think about how I would finish the run. Would I go right and up to the road after the waterfalls or left and back up to sheep shit house and down the trail? As I carried on towards the waterfalls turning right became more and more appealing. I didn’t fancy running down a wet, rocky trail and falling over at the last minute.

I got to the waterfalls and was rewarded with more images of the full power of water. The brook was at full flow baring its watery teeth for all to see and the waterfall coming down from around 150ft above diving down into the water below before resurfacing and joining its friends on its journey down towards Hebden Bridge. I took more photos of this beautiful sight. I have seen the waterfalls at their most serene but today it was pure, unadulterated savage beauty in its purest form. I finished taking the photos and carried on my run. Although I had planned to go right up to the road I decided to go left. I thought which would I regret not doing the most and it would have been going back up to sheep shit house so up to the house I headed. The rest of the run was fine. No slips, no dramas just a nice steady climb up to the house and back down towards my car the Salomon’s performance with aplomb. Once at my car I changed my clothes as I didn’t want to catch a cold and headed home for a warm shower and a hot meal.

The run was exactly what I needed. A run on my own in conditions I love. Hardly any people around and some of the sights and sounds were magical. I thought about all the support I’m getting with my PhD and how this will help me succeed if I change and embrace it and how this may help me with my life story too. The friends I have who have been there for me during this lockdown and how much they mean to me. Mostly though I took in my pleasure in being in some of the most beautiful countryside anywhere on an ethereal day that reminded me who was really in charge, Mother Earth and nature and I was truly grateful for being able to enjoy nature on such a day as this. It’s been a reasonably headache free day too apart from a couple of minor spells it’s been a lot better on the headache scene today.

It’s 8:14pm and time for a final entry. I’m shattered. The tiredness has swept over me and taken control of me. I’m going to go to Tesco’s for some cat food and go to bed when I get home. The days of fighting the tiredness are long gone. I might watch TV or listen to a book in bed. I’ll decide when I get there. It’s been a good day and I need to recover now as there’s so much more I want to do this weekend. As well as  running of course!!

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