7:18pm. I’m sat here in pain, my legs are aching in places I didn’t know I had but I’m happy and that’s what matters. I woke feeling good and headache free. Thinking about my life as a constant battle to be accepted and validated by everyone has released my mind from years and years of anxiety and worry, the storms of swirling thoughts of the past few days gone, replaced by gentle flowing streams taking my thoughts to new places where they can find a home and be happy. It’s a weird feeling waking up with a clear mind and looking forward to the day after months and months of dreading waking up and going to bed some nights wondering if I will wake up.
It doesn’t stop me being nervous but the way I deal with it has changed. I was nervous and apprehensive about running with Claire as she is a faster runner than me. Before I might have focused on this my anxiety increasing because of it and potentially ruining the day before it’s even started. Instead I look at it differently. I know that Claire doesn’t care about times and PR’s and such things and runs because she enjoys running and this is the only thing that matters to her. I thought that Claire wouldn’t have asked me to run with her if she didn’t want me to and the reason she asked me to run with her is because she wants me as a person to run with her and enjoy running with her over the moors and fells that we both know so well and to go to Alcomden Stones which is a very special place for both of us. I looked at the run like this, not about speed and who gets the most PR’s but about enjoying running together and my anxiety decreased. I was still a bit anxious but I’m like this before every run so I’m used to it.
I went down to Tesco’s and got Claire a bottle of wine. I remembered she liked New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and got her one that I hoped she would like. I was worried about being late but on the way over I got a message from Claire saying she would be late as she was waiting for her car to come back. This made me relax and enjoy the drive over to Blake Dean despite my car smelling of Deep Heat. I had applied it liberally to both calves before I set off as they were feeling sore and tender. I arrived at Blake Dean on an overcast but humid and warm day, parked up and went through my warmup. Just as I finished Claire arrived, we had a brief chat and set off up the path towards Walshaw Dean reservoirs. This part was longer and steeper than I remembered although I could feel the past few days running catching up with me. At the first reservoir I opted to run on the Pennine Way instead of the road which looking back was a mistake as the Pennine Way was wet and slippy which made slow going for both of us although we did see some baby frogs playing on the trail which was nice.
We ran alongside the reservoirs me breathing heavily as I tried to catch my breath, Claire silent or at least I couldn’t hear her for my own breathing. We climbed the Pennine Way over the moor to Top Withens. I was moving freely now, my right knee was not stiff anymore and I was enjoying bounding up the stone slabs towards the top of the moor before coming down the other side to Top Withens. We didn’t stop at Top Withens as there was a few people there already and Claire had to get back to take her daughter to her horse.
We took turns in leading the run. Claire led on the way up to the stones and we were both moving well now enjoying the feeling of moving freely and easily over the moors. We got to the stones and had a few minutes there. Both Claire and myself love this place and it’s very special to us. We’ve both been up to the stones before many times but this was our first time together. It was cool and misty so the views where not great, no Crow Hill, Boulsworth Hill or Ingleborough today but it didn’t take anything away from being at the stones again.
Claire took a photo of me and I looked gormless to say the least. I don’t like having my photo taken or taking selfies. I don’t think of myself as attractive or photogenic so I take photos of landscapes and scenery that have beauty in them. We then ran down the trail to Ponden Kirk. This is a trail I have run many times before and one I love running. For Claire it was new so I led and I set off too fast to be honest but relishing the experience as the conditions were pretty much perfect, not too muddy and not too dry. We got to the crossroads at the bottom of the trail and had a quick detour to Ponden Kirk where I told Claire about the legend that if you go through the Kirk you will be married within a year. Claire asked me if I had done this and I said no. For one the descent doesn’t look easy and I’m scared of heights and two I don’t think I’d fit through gap, the Bronte sisters were a lot smaller than me!
We ran back towards the crossroads and headed off over Stanbury Moor towards the Master Stones. Claire had not run this before so I led again as I knew where the path off was although it is easy to miss it. At one point I looked behind me and Claire was a far way off, next time she was right on my back. She had to tie her laces and wasted no time in catching me up! We ran up the side of the stones and back onto the main trail that leads to Top Withins from Stanbury. We crossed over going past the wood above South Dean and down to the Bronte Waterfalls. The waterfalls were packed with tourists so we made our way past them and headed straight up the trial that takes you to Harbour Lodge. We walked up here, my legs were starting to go and it was nice to have a chat and take in the stunning views that this trail has to offer.
We carried on the trail, past the lodge and on the other side heading towards Stairs Lane. Halfway up we stopped and looked around us. We were surrounded by oceans of heather as far as the eye could see. All around us little purple flowers have gathered together to transform the moors into a purple expanse taking over the greens and browns that usually dominate the moors. We both looked all around us at all this purple and Claire got her phone out and took some photos. I was happy here, content. On the moors with one of my good friends surrounded by beautiful, purple heather. No words were needed to explain the feelings we had surrounded by this natural beauty. It moments like this that you understand more about yourself and about others and why they feel a desire to run over moors through mud and bogs, their energy being drained away from them just to experience a moment of knowing and understanding, a moment that words can never do justice to.
We got to the top of the hill and carried on along the conduit towards the lane. It was quiet boggy up here in parts and at one point I decided to be clever and take a different route to Claire which resulted in me ending up in a bog up to my thighs and walking through long grass. I should have followed Claire as Claire knows best.
We got to the lane and began the climb to the top. I was walking now and Claire ran off ahead. My legs were beginning to go on me, my feet and calves were aching and I thought it was best I took it easy here so I could run down the downhill back to Blake Dean. Claire waited for me at the top and we ran down together to Grain Water Bridge were we stopped for something to eat and I spotted what I thought was a triffid but turned out to be a dog poo bag.
We ran on the trail up to Sheep Shit House and I pointed out a new trail that we should try next time. At the house Claire said we had to get a move on as her daughter was asking her where she was and she needed to get back. We walked up to Shackleton Knoll another place that is a favourite for both of us because of the stunning and far reaching views it offers. Back down off the knoll towards Walshaw and I was running again, moving as fast as I could to get Claire back to her car.
At Walshaw I thought we were taking the Heptonstall 15 route down to Hardcastle Crags and through the woods to Blake Dean. Claire said to go a different and quicker route on the road above the crags. It was here that I suffered. All my efforts going up and over to Top Withins and down from Alcomden Stones to the Bronte Waterfalls came back to haunt me. I was beyond my limits and I had absolutely nothing left. My heart was pounding and sweat was pouring off me. I felt like stopping and resting but I knew that wasn’t an option as Claire had to get back so I kept pushing myself as hard as I dared. Claire was making it look easy although I’m sure she was hurting too. I remembered the old adage, ‘it’s the end of the run when you have to push that makes you stronger, and I kept going and kept pushing. Giving up was not an option.
Eventually we got back onto the path that leads back to Blake Dean. I pushed as hard as I could on here fearful that if I went too fast I would trip and fall over. This path that goes above Alcomden Water, seemed to get longer and longer the further I went but I turned a corner and finally the gate was there and with one last little sprint I had finished the run. We both got our breath back and had something to eat and drink before heading home and back to the reality of life.
Despite my pushing myself too hard and beyond my limits it has been a good day. It was nice to get out with Claire and run with someone who appreciates the moors like I do and enjoys running over them. Sometimes it seems that people only went to run to talk but that is not running to me. Running for me goes far deeper, its an emotional at times spiritual experience, especially when you experience the feeling of running effortlessly over the moors and it feels like you could run forever. I experienced some of that today. I also experienced the feeling of wondering if you would be knocking on heavens door anytime soon too. A really good day and I hope Claire enjoyed it too.