Photos courtesy of Paul Dobson (Dobo@fellrunning.net)
Fell running looks a lot of fun but where I live in Cambridgeshire, it’s as flat as a chapati (Indian flatbread for UKIP supporters who don’t get out much). We’ve got a few very minor hills which might be a few feet above sea level but nothing approaching a fell. I would have to travel to the Peak National Park, just over 2 hours drive away to encounter some real hills and further North to the Lake District and Cumbria to be spoilt for choice (I’m not even sure the Northern tribes allow soft Southerners to run up and down their hills without permission or a permit. Anyway, let’s suppose I’m free to run and the North-South divide is not held against me, I’d love to do it.
I’m currently reading Richard Askwith’s Feet in the Clouds 2004 book on fell running and also bought his recent book, Running Free. It’s enjoyable and I find it motivational. The problem I have with descriptive writing of this kind is the unremitting focus on superlative performance and shock and awe at the level these runners are performing. And, so far, it’s mainly about men – their courage, stamina, strength, devil may care attitude, seeming indifference to risk, unbelievable descent speed, affinity with the rugged terrain blah, blah. They are all legends which we mortals can never join but only adore from afar. That’s the problem with most books on sports activities ( I am presuming this because I don’t generally read them). The focus is on the fastest and the the winners, the dramatic stories, the poignancy and the pathos. It’s not on the also rans, the runners in their 50’s, 60’s, 70’s and older who are still tackling the hills albeit much slower or running less distance or less demanding courses.
Cambridge parkrun (5k) today. I did it in under 24 minutes again but I thought I ran faster than my actual time. Perhaps I had earlier disrespected the Gods and they took their revenge by manipulating the passage of time to ensure I took longer to complete the distance. Two days ago I ran a club members only 5k (with four other clubs competing) and did less well. Over 200 took part and I was hemmed in at the back resulting in a slow start. Additionally, it was an evening race and I am a morning runner by choice, a flock of black crows crossed my path and to top it all, the goddess Aphrodite whispered in my ear “This isn’t your race, Steve” just prior to the start.
After parkrun today, I rested for a couple of hours and then I went for a 13.2 mile run along the river Cam. I haven’t been for a long run for weeks. Instead I’ve been doing lots of short runs and races. I took a chance and ran 13 miles straight off and it went OK. As usual the water nymphs along the banks of the Cam tried to lure me into the water and I had to call on my reserves of willpower to resist their blandishments. They were very alluring and it was probably the fact that I was wearing Lorna’s Garmin that swayed my decision not to jump in (note to self : are Garmins waterproof or only showerproof ?).