Because it’s there

richard-and-helen-at-stainlandWhy do we do it?  I know this is a question that a lot of runners ask from time to time but the more important question for me is: Why do we like it?

Today, my wife Helen and I ran the gruelling Stainland Trail which is in the hills around the Yorkshire  town of Halifax.  It is extremely hilly and today it was exceptionally treacherous with deep mud through woodland paths, interspersed with rocks which were as slippery as ice (on account of the mud).  Some of the woodland paths were so steep, the only option was to stride rather than jog up, pushing down on your knees with your hands to compensate for tired legs.  The only respite were steep downhill stretches of Tarmac roads, which meant that the only thing for it was to “freewheel” which given the wet slippery road was to take your life into your hands!

The thing is though, we knew exactly what it was going to be like.  Last year I considered it as probably the toughest race I had done and said to Helen how fortunate we were that conditions were dry.  This year, it was very much not dry and yet we still came back for more and would still do it again next year.  If you have been reading my blog for sometime, you will recall we did the Chevin Chase last Boxing Day which due to the local flooding, was closer to swimming rather than running.  Yet, we want to do it again!

The reason that this question is difficult, is the same reason that George Mallory gave the rather meaningless answer “because it’s there” when asked why he climbed Mount Everest.  What I think he meant and this is the same reason why runners do hard runs, is “because I can”.  You get an immense feeling of satisfaction by doing something that not only challenges yourself, but gives you the feeling of being able to do something exceptional, something only available to the few who have what it takes.  This might sound self-satisfying and in one way it is, but doing this sort of thing does provide encouragement, motivation and inspiration to others and that has to be worthwhile.

“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” ‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭27:17‬ ‭NIVUK‬‬

There’s wine in them there hills!

WineathlonThe running experience today was a little different.  At 11:30 AM the Rodillian Runners set off in a minibus to the charming little villiage of Thurstonland set in the stunning Yorkshire countryside near Holmfirth of Last of the Summer Wine fame.  This is fitting because today we ran the Yorkshire Wineathlon.  You probably don’t need too many guesses as to what a Wineathlon actually is so you probably get the picture; wine stations instead of water!

To avoid any danger of taking things too seriously, we started off in the beer (or wine) tent and it felt liberating in a way, to break the number one rule of running: never drink alcohol before a race.  The one aspect of the event that was deadly serious was the selection of appropriate fancy dress!  Our lot turned out as representatives of wine making countries around the world so we had for example, a French garlic seller, a Roman empress, an Ausie, a German and an Austrian.  The top marks has to go to Jason who turned out in a full American football outfit and you wouldn’t believe how heavy those shoulder pads are.


Our swift runner Jen, broke all the rules and decided to WIN the ladies race but a few others took a different path and stopped at the pub about 1/2 way round the route.  This is definately the way forward for future participation in this event even though for being First Lady, Jen won a bottle of wine.  Since in no possible scenario could I see myself being be first gentleman or anything close, then going to the pub is definately the preferred option.

At one of the wine/water stations someone made the crack that they had turned water into wine.

“and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realise where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, ‘Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.’”

‭‭John‬ ‭2:9-10‬ ‭NIVUK‬‬

The Great North Road

Red ArrowsThis seems to be the year for me to enter iconic running races.  After running the London Marathon earlier this year (which has to go down as one of life’s highlights!), I also entered the Great North Run.  This is because I have been working in Newcastle and it would have been rude not to.

So at 6 AM on Sunday morning, I made my way up the Great North Road (Aka the A1).  Parking up at South Shields Metro Station, not to far away from the finish was a last minute change of plan but it was a good choice because I got parked quickly and was able to get into Newcastle on the Metro in plenty of time.

When you look at the starting area along the usually busy dual carriageway and see runners as far as the eye can see, then you appreciate that the term Great, isn’t misplaced.  In fact, after the start, the first few miles of the event is along both carriageways the central Motorway (yes, you heard me right), which might give you some idea of the scale of the whole event.  The overwhelming sensation is that of noise, boy, the noise, music; cheering; shouting all the way along.  As I ran across the iconic Tyne Bridge, the Read Arrows roared overhead which brought a smile to my face!

People warned me that it wasn’t a good route for a fast time because of the sheer congestion of runners.  To be honest, I didn’t find that; because there was so much space for most of the route, you could find space to run fast if you wanted to.  At the start, they made a very clever move of having a narrow funnel about 100M from the start, meaning that as you set-off the crowd had already thinned out (other mass running events, take note).

Could I say I ran fast?  Well, during my gradual mission to return to full fitness I have in my head a number of step-goals.  Achieving these things was something I used to take for granted but being in the position of having to work to get them back is a reminder to take nothing for granted.  These goals include doing a 24 minute 5K and a sub 50 minute 10K and of course, under 2 hours for a Half Marathon.  I had entertained the idea of running under 2 hours in Newcastle and I tried (carefully) to set a pace to achieve this.  Not knowing what the route was like near the finish, I was pleased to keep up between 1 and 2 minutes ahead of schedule for the first 8 miles.  Then, things got a bid harder but I was encouraged that when I reached the 10 mile marker (with just 3.1 miles to go), I worked out that even if I slowed to 10 minute miles I would still do it.  Even though the last three miles were the slowest, my final time was 1:57:41, a pace of 8:50 per mile so I was chuffed to achieve the goal.

There was a great atmosphere in the finishing area which was a great grass expanse by the sea.  There was plenty of room for all the finishing runners and to top it all, a fantastic display by the Red Arrows.

It was at this final stage that I was glad of my decision to park at the South Shields Metro, there was HUGE queue for the Metro itself so I felt good just getting in the car and driving off.  OK, the traffic getting out of town wasn’t a picnic but I was glad to be free of public transport on that occason!

“‘You have made your way around this hill country long enough; now turn north.”  Duteronomy 2:3 NIV UK