Its already the end of February, 3 months of very little, if any running, let alone training is playing on my mind. If I start things now, and remain injury free I’ve got a two month head-start on last year. So despite a dismal winter, there are reasons to be optimistic. The racing calendar is on my mind, in just 6 weeks time, the fell racing season proper begins in earnest.
Its now week 2 of training. I’ve been running four times a week, a mix of 10-12 km training runs, short and medium distance weekend races and the odd foray out on the road bike. My main focus as been to simply get out running again. Now I’m looking to start eeking out the average distances and start pushing the speed. Next month will be hill climbing and leg strength.
Today was one of those forgettable days, the weather was not awful, but it wasnt especially good either. A bland sheet of grey lay across the Cumbrian fells today with a haze of light drizzle never too far away. It was gone 3 o’clock before I persuaded myself to head out. A 16km circuit around Potter Fell on the north-west side of Kendal.
With Seren (my Border Collie) feeling sorry for herself as I left the house without her, I kicked off immediately at a moderate to fast pace. I was determined to push myself as hard as I could on my own today. My legs were tired, the ground after another deluge of rain was soft. I pushed on across the undulating fields of the Kent Valley before turning north and heading up the southern flanks of Potter Fell.
I tried to imagine the panting breath of competitors sat on my heels as I clawed my way up the steepening fell side. It was no use, I had to stop; i didnt, i couldnt, i kept going and then stopped. I was exhausted. 30 seconds no more. I resumed running, eyeing the field gate that would mark the end of the climbing for now.
I joined the track that skirts up to Gurnal Dubs from Garnett Bridge and headed down, fast running along the gently descending track and then across open fields towards Garnett Wood. I was soon at the foot of Longsleddale, skirting around Garnett Bridge along the edge of the river through fields of curious sheep.
As the running flattened out, the sense of fatigue in my legs swelled. Knuckling down and running through the signals telling me to stop, I continued along the valley floor. Switching through a small farmstead and a quick but hearty hello from the farmer, I sensed his hardiness in his voice alone which made me feel weak, feeble and tired. Back to the uphill, grinding up the small track back onto the open fell once more.
The fells adjoining Longsleddale couldnt be further from the thronging paths and vistas of the central fells. Here, wild open moorland merges into a eerily silent landscape, a land of tussocks, sedge grasses, heather and waterlogged ground. The path continued, its faint trod disappearing into the gradually rising fellside in front of me. One more gradual rise and the ground gave way, levelling out as the path struck out towards a boundary wall, before joining the main route out of Longsleddale.
I looked at my watch, an hour had passed. An hour of unrelenting running, and rough fell paths. I was tired, I paused on the stile and stared at the scenery, none of it registering, just time enough to notice the light drizzle now falling. I threw on my windshirt, and resumed running.
Some 15 minutes later, I turned for home. Striking across rough open ground up and over the Western flanks of Potter Fell, one last short climb and then it would be downhill all the way. Cutting through a dry-stone wall, I picked up a distinct sheep trod and the pace quickened as I came off the fell top. Racing down to the valley, the distance crumbled under my gravity fuelled pace. Another 10 minutes later and I was running along the River Kent, legs tightening, face grimmacing. I kept going just a little bit longer, home was in sight.
Distance: 16km. Ascent: 550m Time: 1hr 43 mins.