It’s a week now since I ran with Claire and it was a wake up call for me. The wake up call was nothing to do with Claire, she was lovely and kind and didn’t put me down once. This was to do with myself and how I felt, how I knew I could and should have done better and how I knew I had to make changes or I would simply plod along and not achieve the goals I have set myself in my running. Last Monday I felt fat, sluggish, slow and I didn’t do myself or Claire justice as I puffed and panted my way up Sharphaw walking the last bit when I should have ran it. I knew I was capable of running it all but last Monday I was simply glad to get to the top, out of breath and wanting to rest when Claire was feeling cold and shot off to keep warm.
I analysed were I went wrong. My preparation was appalling. I ate the wrong foods, pizzas and other fast food, foods that play havoc with my stomach, drank too much beer and had a hard run the day before. Really I should have taken it easier and left something in the tank for Monday rather than going balls out on Sunday. So for my run yesterday with the Sunday gang I made some changes. Fruit and veg were all I ate for 2 days before I ran to ensure my stomach felt good. It worked. It did. I drank a lot less beer only a couple of cans. The rain helped a lot as it meant I couldn’t go out and I got an early night too. I did some exercises on my legs too, some single leg lifts, some things with those exercise bands and some Romanian deadlifts the idea being to improve my hip mobility and strength. The big question for me was would any of this work?
Yesterday was my turn to lead a route. I wanted to do a recce of the Blackstone Edge feel race a 3.7 mile race that starts and finishes at Lydgate just outside Littleborough. The others wanted a longer route so I incorporated a loop of Green Withens reservoir and Dog Hill and I estimated the distance at around 9 miles. We all met at Lydgate and after the usual pre run chat we set off on the climb up to Blackstone Edge trig point high up on the moor above us.
The climb was as tough as we expected. Much of it was across open moorland with no discernible path we opted for what we thought we the best route up. It’s around 1 ½ miles to the trig and I used this as a warm up for the rest of the run. Already I could feel my changes paying off. I felt strong on the climb, something I haven’t felt for a long time. The power in my glutes and thighs had come back and I was enjoying climbing up a big hill again. We made it to the top and were rewarded with stunning views over Calderdale and Greater Manchester. On a good day you can see Liverpool Cathedral such are the far ranging views from here.
After gathering ourselves and taking some photos we set off down the Pennine Way to the M62 and Green Withens reservoir. I felt good on the technical downhill running on and over rocks with ease but struggled as I always do when it got to the Yorkshire stone slabs. I’ve slipped on these many a time and while I’m getting better on them I still lose time running on them. Soon though we had run this section and then it was the run along the bottom around Green Withens and the conduit before the climb to Dog Hill. I’m not a flat runner at all. I much prefer ups and downs and I know I should do more flat work but I can’t resist the lure of the moors and fells. I did my best here but lagged behind the others as I expected I would. I kept going and kept pushing as much as I could and soon we were at the base of the climb to Dog Hill.
Dog Hill is a difficult trig point to get to as you can’t see it from anywhere. The last time I ran this route I went too far and had to cut back across the moor to get to the trig. This time I followed the same path but cut across the moor far earlier and found the path that takes you to the trig. It wasn’t the perfect route but it was a lot better than before and at the trig we were once again rewarded with breath taking views over Calderdale and Greater Manchester the horizon stretching far away in the distance. The next part of the run was across the top of the moor along a trail that is muddy and wet for most of the way. The others didn’t know the route so I led and I pushed the pace as far as I could. What I had underestimated was the distance. I set off as fast as I could determined to prove to myself that the changes I had made were worthwhile.
I pushed and pushed and kept pushing my legs feeling strong as I kept moving this way and that looking for the perfect line. I knew there was a bend coming up that took me around the top of Green Withens but it was a long time coming. I kept pushing wanting the bend to appear quickly but it didn’t. All I had was mile after mile of mud with two faster runners behind me. I looked back at one point and the other two runners were around ½ mile behind us. This was unimportant. This terrain isn’t for everyone and it is the sort of terrain where I come alive and run for my life whereas others struggle much as I do on the flat. Everyone is different and this showed it. I kept pushing even though I could feel my legs beginning to tire. We rounded the bend at last and Green Withens was shimmering below us in the spring sunshine.
I was now looking for the gate that led us back to the Pennine Way but again I had underestimated the distance and I had to carry on pushing as much as I could. This is where running with others helps. If I had been on my own I would have slowed down and maybe even walked but because I was leading I knew I couldn’t give up and that I had to keep going no matter how much my legs ached. Eventually we reached the gate and waited for the others to catch up.
My legs were tired now and I knew the climb back up to Blackstone Edge would be a big test of my fitness. The two faster runners were soon in front of me and I was in the middle of the group. I concentrated on doing my own thing and to my surprise I ran all the way to the trig! I was really pleased about this as it proved I was finally finding the form I was in last year and the changes I had made were paying off. The next part of the run is tricky because the terrain is very technical and one wrong slip can result in a broken ankle. It’s only short but involves lots of jumping on and over stones as you make your way to the Aiggin Stone and the Roman road.
Here things went wrong. We headed down the Roman road and then went back on the conduit. We ran along the conduit for around ½ mile until I got bored and dived off the path onto the moors. I found a path and followed it as far as I could before it petered out and we were left in the middle of the moor wondering where to go. I got my phone out and had a look on OS maps and we decided to take path round the back of a farm that led back to a track. The path soon disappeared and we were walking through reeds and bogs before we finally got a gate and found ourselves back on the Roman road! We had gone at least a mile out of our way to get back to where we should have been in the first place! At least now I know where we went wrong and I race day I won’t be making the same mistake I hope!
We ran back down to Lydgate and our cars as fast as we could. My legs were dead by now but I love that feeling of pushing and pushing until you reach your limits and think you can’t go any further and then find you can. As soon as I stopped at my car my legs began to ache and seize up and I knew this was going to a long and painful day. It had been worth it though. I had proven to myself that with some changes I could still run well over the moors, I still had some pace and I could push myself hard and keep on pushing through the pain barrier. I will say now this isn’t about me being better than anyone else but about me doing the best I can and being happy with my performance. I’ll always be at the back in races but as long as I feel I’ve done my best and given my all I’ll be happy. I have some unfinished business with Sharphaw too. I’ll be back there soon to show it what I’m really made of and give it my best.
Home, shower and food and round to the club. Now was the time for a few beers after my run. I had some banter, won at dominoes and headed back home after 3 pints. Claire had sent me a reply to a message that had me worried. She said she had, had an encounter with a dickhead on her run that had ruined it for her and she came across as very upset by it. It turned out that some dickhead had tried to be funny and mimicked their running style in front of some school girls he was supposed to be looking after and leading by example. In addition when Claire put it on a local FB news board she was subjected to nasty comments from various people including women.
My own take on how Claire was treated is this. Firstly when women are out running either alone or together they can feel extremely vulnerable quite quickly and what may seem to you as a bit of humour can be interpreted very differently. People need to stop and think about how their actions will be interpreted before making any comments. In this case Claire and her friend were made to feel insignificant and worthless as if they couldn’t run and needed a man to tell them how to run. Neither of them do. Running styles are very individual and what works for one person might not work for another. Secondly embarrassing two females in public in front of impressionable school girls is unacceptable behaviour in the 21st century and harks back to an era of patriarchy where it was assumed that men knew what was right for women and women should simply sit and listen and do as they were told. I had hoped we had moved on from this but it seems we haven’t and some people still need educating about how to treat people with respect and about equality. Claire and her friend were very upset by this mans actions and this is how female runners are put off running in public by the actions of thoughtless, irresponsible dickheads who don’t think about the consequences of their actions.
Thirdly Claire was called a snowflake and other derogatory terms by others including women for expressing how upset she felt. This isn’t about moaning about not wanting to handle chicken unless it’s packed in plastic this is about abuse of females and attempting to show you have power over females. Why others can’t see this is beyond me but it appears that some people in society are still living in the 19th century and have values that belong in the dustbin. I hope this man thinks about his actions and the consequences they have especially if he has a daughter of his own.
I remember when I started running and I was very self conscious as I was grossly overweight but no one catcalled me. I can only assume because I’m a man and I’m not seen as an easy target so why is it different for women? It shouldn’t be but it unfortunately it is. This needs to change and soon to stop other women having to experience what Claire and her friend did.
The rest of my day was spent reflecting on how life has changed and is changing, how people are coming into my life and making an impact and making me think about myself in ways I never thought I would. It’s all good and positive so very worthwhile. How long these people will be in my life I don’t know. All I can do is enjoy the ride while it lasts and see where it takes me. And I spent a lot of time on the sofa resting my aching limbs!