3:36pm. Today for me was all about supporting Claire on the Hebden 22. I’ve done this route many times now so it’s a route and distance I’m familiar with but new for Claire. I got an early night and got up at 4:30am on a misty and damp Friday morning, pretty typical weather for an English summer. The weather didn’t dampen my spirits though. I was looking forward to today running with Claire on my favourite route. Claire messaged me and asked if we could do the Hebden 15 route instead because of the weather. I said yes. The last thing I wanted was to put Claire under any pressure. It was up to her how far we ran today.
I arrived at Claire’s a bit late and we set off to Mytholmroyd Community Centre. The traffic at this time was non-existent so we made good time and soon we were ready to set off after I had a quick change of clothes as the weather was warming up and I didn’t want to be hot and sweaty all the way round. Off we went and it was a good pace from the start, faster than I would normally run but not a problem. On the path to Brearley I pointed out the stone that I think marks the spot where a inspector was murdered by the Coiners. The markings on the stone seemed to tie up with the story, some clippers and other tools, so it made sense to make this assumption. We carried on towards the main road and the first climb.
At the bottom of the first climb Claire stopped to take her waterproof off. I carried on as I knew she would catch me up and she did, eventually. At one point I did wonder if she had changed her mind and decided to run back home! We took it in turns to set the pace on the climb up to Old Town. Neither of us liked the descent down the slippy path but I felt ok going down here, my Altra’s providing grip, stability and support beyond my capabilities. At the bottom Claire carried on and it was my turn to put my waterproof back on, Claire having done so at the top of the descent. I took the opportunity to have a wee and tie my laces and set off down to Nutclough Bridge and catch up with Claire.
Claire was setting a good pace and I was worried that she was going too fast and that I wouldn’t be able to keep up and somewhere I would tire and not be able to carry on at the pace she was setting. I did think about asking her to slow down but didn’t. As I said this was her day and if she set a pace too fast it would be a valuable lesson for the future. Many of the most valuable lessons I have learnt in life have been from making my own mistakes rather than reading a book. For me these lessons tend to stick in the mind for a lot longer.
On we went through Old Town on the original route down into Hardcastle Crags and onto Gibson Mill. On the road to the mill I was on one side and Claire on the other. I’m not overly keen on running behind someone if I can avoid it because if they stop suddenly I might go into them and for some reason I feel cramped when I run like that. A car came up behind us and Claire said to me to move over behind her so he could get past. The problem was we both moved over at the same time to the other side of the road and we was in the same position but on the opposite side of the road to were we started! The driver must have thought we were mad and had a laugh. I thought it was a classic comedic moment as we did it in perfect synchronisation. The driver managed to get past and we carried on to Gibson Mill and the climb up to Slack.
Claire was again setting a fast pace and I was doing my best to keep her in sight. I began to worry that I had done something wrong or said something I shouldn’t have and Claire was running fast to get the run over and done with. At the top of the climb I asked Claire if she was ok and if I had done anything wrong. She said she was and that she was cold and wanted some quiet time to herself. I understood this. Running is great for being on your own in the moment and reflecting and thinking about anything that you might have going on in your life. When I’m like this I’m quiet too and in my own little world. I tend to run faster as well as my mind is focused on where I’m going and not what’s around me. I explained to Claire why I asked her if she was ok and my mind settled we set off to Colden Water.
Claire kept up a good pace and I followed behind her as closely as I could. The paths were wet and slippy and I was fearful of going too fast and falling over and busting my right knee again. I always fall on my right knee. My Altra’s grip so much better than any other shoe I have owned in these conditions and give me much more confidence as a result. I went faster than I would have done in my other shoes and kept Claire in sight. Over Colden Water we made the climb up to Blackshaw Head. It was still raining heavy, the wind was blowing and I was cold. Thoughts of hypothermia entered my mind and I knew that I had to carry on pushing as hard as I could to stave off the cold. My feet were cold but my hands were warm which was a sign that things were fine. If my hands had been cold then I would have started to get worried.
We pushed on through Blackshaw Head and down Jumble Hole Road to the main road via Staups Mill. We had gone through the gate and Claire stopped to change her top. She asked me to avert my eyes which being a gent I did. Then it was the steep, narrow, slippy stones. I hate these with a passion. I’m going well down the hill and then it’s barely a walking pace as I try to avoid going over and injuring myself. I slipped a little on one of them but then I was ok and over the bridge and running past the remains of the mill. Staups Mill had always fascinated me. Who and why would someone build a mill in such a remote part of the valley? The answer is water. The mill was powered by a giant waterwheel and with the stream running down from the hill above there was a plentiful supply of free power for the mill. This was, however to be its undoing as well. On the day of a particularly bad storm the water was too much and came down the hill with such force it destroyed it. The owner decided it would be too costly to repair and all that remains it what you see now. Legend has it that he is buried in the grounds of the mill although I have never been able to find his gravestone.
Claire stopped for a break and I took the opportunity to push on down the hill. I knew it wouldn’t be long before Claire caught me up and at the bottom she did and we ran over the railway bridge together. Then it was the big one, the climb up to Stoodley Pike. We had both agreed before we started the climb to go at our own pace and we would meet at the top. The rain had stopped by now and the weather was brighter and warmer but it was still essential for us both to keep moving at a pace that suited us or our body temperature might drop to an unhealthy level and bring on feelings of coldness which neither of us wanted. I love this climb and relish in the challenge of getting to the top. I expected Claire to be in front of me or not far behind me but to my surprise she was quite a way behind me. I kept looking back to make sure she was moving and ok. Claire might be tough but she’s still my friend and friends look after each other. I made it to the top feeling good and although we had talked about doing the 15 I thought this was a perfect day for doing the 22, not too warm, overcast so no sun to drain your energy, just the right conditions. Claire got to the top and I asked her what she thought of doing the 22 and she said she was thinking the same. I was pleased we were both thinking about doing the 22 as it meant no arguments or anything and we could press on. Claire told me she didn’t like the climb up to Stoodley which is why she was a bit slower than me but I get that. Everyone has a particular route, trial or climb they don’t like and you just slow down wishing it to be over. I asked Claire if she wanted me to take her photo but she said no she was too old. I don’t think she’s too old but we age and we remember how we were and don’t want to be reminded of the changes that have happened to us over the years, how we used to be young and beautiful and now we’re old and living with the effects of aging. I think I understand Claire in that respect. I’ve always been a big, ugly bugger so nothing has changed for me in 50+ years of being on this earth. I hate having my photo taken and always have.
We pressed on over Erringden Moor and down through Broadhead Clough Claire setting a pace I could not keep up with. I settled into my own pace conserving my energy for the next part of the run. I caught up with Claire at end of the trail and we set off up to the Hinchcliffe Arms. This is a tricky part of the route as there are a few twists and turns on it and if you miss one you can end up way off course and having to go back on yourself. I took the lead as Claire didn’t know the way. I pointed out some of the landmarks I use to give me some comfort that I am on the right route. I took it really easy down the wet, slippy hill, the one where I fall 2 years ago and badly damaged my right knee. I went over the stile and saw Claire laughing at me. This made me feel better as runs should be fun too and not all serious hard running. I had asked Claire what her sense of humour was and she said ‘dry’. To me this meant nothing but after looking it up on the internet and piecing it together with this moment I think I have a better idea. Dry humour is, I think, when you laugh at something that happens naturally and the person isn’t doing something on purpose to be funny. I get this and I don’t mind Claire laughing at me. I should imagine it is pretty funny watching me trying to get over a stile and me making sure my feet go where I want them to go!
On we went to the pub, I pointed out the narrow ginnal that many people miss as it takes you round the back of the house and onto the trail to the pub, a tricky and technical trail but one I enjoy running on. After this we come to the Weir a part of the route I’m not keen on. I think it’s the undulations that put me off but today I enjoyed it, running with Claire and listening to the power of the water, roaring down into Mytholmroyd. At the end of the trail is an old, stone bridge and I walked over it very gingerly as I had visions of me slipping and falling in and Claire watching me being swept away by the water. I made it over and then it was what I call the steps of doom, a stone staircase leading all the way to Cragg Vale Road. I went up here as fast as I could as I like to get it over and done with as quickly as possible. At the top I stopped and waited for Claire, she had stopped to take some photos so was a bit behind me. We climbed up Green Bank and towards Round Hill the last high point of the run. We both ran at our own pace here, we could see the rain coming in again and I was getting cold, the wind howling on top of the moor. I wanted both of us to get off the moor and warm again as quickly as possible.
After this point we start dropping down to Scout Woods. The road down is slippy and tricky in parts and Claire said her knees were beginning to ache which is not surprising given it was the longest run she had ever done and the steep climbs and descents put a big strain on your body. I went down here ok and left Claire about halfway down talking to someone who she knows. I probably shouldn’t have done this but I assumed she was just saying hello. I waited for Claire at the bottom and the last tricky part where you have to round the back of a house, through someone’s garden and then behind some other houses to get to Scout Woods. Scout Woods is the last climb and although it was wet and muddy we did it in good time. At the top of the woods we run through some fields and I loved this part pushing on as much as I could. I remember looking at my watch and it was sub 5 hours. I thought this is a good time and a good run. I was enjoying myself.
After the woods we cross over the road and a short, sharp descent to Little Scout Farm and a left turn over the field and back towards Mytholmroyd. We both went warily past some cows, neither of us liking them much and wanting to get past them as quickly as possible. This route is the official race route but one I can never get right in my mind. Once I’m on it I’m ok and so it proved today as it all came back to me and we run well on the trials and then we were back on the trail running alongside the railway line. Claire said something to me and as usual I couldn’t hear her my brain not being able to cope with running and listening at the same time.
We got to the community centre and I started to sprint towards my car as I always do and Claire sped past me. I didn’t have anything left in me but I kept going as hard as I could but I couldn’t get near Claire. She’s too fast for me! My watch said 5 hours 19 minutes, the fastest I have ever run this route so no wonder I was shattered. I was so proud of Claire too. I know she was nervous before the run worrying if she could do it. She needn’t have worried. Claire absolutely smashed it and went through every single barrier she might have thought was there. Her pacing was perfect and she knew where to go hard and where to ease off. We both took turns in leading and at points did our own thing especially if it was cold. I’m so pleased for Claire and so proud of her. I hope she had a glass or two of fizz last night because she deserved it. We both had a great run.
I got changed out of my wet, sweaty gear and got talking to a bloke in the toilets who had done 3 marathons. Back in the car I took some time to get my breath back and compose myself. We had both had moments on the run where we went light headed and on a tough, hard run like today I wasn’t surprised. I had some Lucozade to up my sugar levels and then with HRH texting Claire I set off back. We had a nice chat on the way back and I dropped Claire off and headed home. My right thigh kept cramping up but I kept going rather than pulling in every 5 minutes to walk it off. On the way home I was thinking about running with Claire and how I’ve been saying that I chase her. I don’t. it’s the wrong phrase. Claire pushes me and I hope I push her. I know I feel a better runner already for having someone to run with who pushes me just enough and someone who enjoys running the same way I do. More than that I hope I’ve got a friend for life. Claire is a good, fun, intelligent person and I’m glad I met her.
9:17pm. I’ve been to the club and had a few beers and played dominoes a nice way to end a great day. I’m still beaming inside at the run today. I ran far better than I thought I would and I’m glad that Claire took the opportunity to do the 22 and prove to herself what a good runner she is. I can’t wait to run with Claire again and push ourselves and have fun. I have lost my chakra although I prefer to think it had done all it could for me and it was time for it to move on and for me to get a new one to take me to the next plane.