There once was a hill…

…that Jess couldn’t run. More of that later. As you know running has been a bit crappy. I’ve struggled. It’s been hard and I have been mostly miserable about it. So when the alarm went off this morning I was less than impressed. Kath got me a cup of tea and then I very reluctantly went and made some porridge. Eventually I agreed to do a bit go yoga and then we set off and drove to Bolton Abbey for our run. I was worried. Last time I went out I could barely run a quarter of a mile without wanting to curl up and cry.

But today was different. Today running felt like poetry, a bit like slightly clumsy, schoolgirl sort of poetry but poetry nonetheless. Everything fit together as my breathing settled almost immidiately and my legs just moved me gently and steadily forwards. It was hard, really hard but it didn’t matter. I never wanted to stop, I never felt like I needed to stop even when my legs felt like jelly and my lungs were burning. We were running 2 minute/ 1 minute intervals. My Dopey Challenge intervals, my safe intervals.

We set off from the Cavendish Pavilion and wound our way up the first slope and then
down trying to keep pace with a couple of ducks paddling img_1912their way up the wharfe. For company we had a little wren, coal tits, blue tits, great tits and lots we could hear but not see. Somewhere in the background was a cow mooing away. I was still trying to take in the autumn colours, the greens turning into reds and yellows when we were at the Strid. I managed to run right up to the rocky sort of steps before walking – I don’t manage that hill very often but I felt strong, I was aware of the tightness in my thighs as I pushed up the slope. My legs wanted to stop but I didn’t. We made our way back down to the edge of the Wharfe and instead of crossing at the aqueduct we carried on to Barden bridge.

I loved running along at the edge of the river watching a dipper or two and a few ducks going about their business. We crossed the bridge and dropped down onto the river bank on the other side making our way back towards the Strid. I still felt good, I was enjoying every second. I don’t think the running was easier than it has been, I just think I was enjoying being out so it didn’t matter and because it didn’t matter I wasn’t worrying about running, I wasn’t thinking about running. I was just doing it. As we passed the aqueduct I began to feel a sense of foreboding. This next section is hilly, it’s constantly up and down. If I was going to unravel it would be here. And then there is THE HILL. I lost confidence for a second and was suddenly aware of my breathing and my feet falling heavily on the ground.

Then we turned a corner and an absolutely stunning view of the Wharfe spread out in front of me and I forgot that I was concerned about whether I would make it. We took the hills as they fell in our 2 minute runs. I felt good. Up and down and up and down and round the corners surrounded by little birds in the autumnal trees and then we turned to our left and there it was. THE HILL. I have never run up it. On several training runs it has had me in tears. On one Dopey training run I barely made it up the hill walking. Our 2 minute run started just before THE HILL begins with a few metres of gentle slope. I set off. I fixed my gaze on the first tree by the path on my right. That’s the furthest I have ever managed to run. I got there. Shortly after that Kath said ‘How about we walk from here?’ but I barely heard her. My eyes were fixed on the next tree. I might make that. And as I passed that tree I suddenly realised that I was going to run it all. The path levels off for just a few steps before rising for the last push. I took a deep breath, ignored my screaming lungs and jelly legs and pushed. I got to the top, I ran up THE HILL. And I didn’t just stop, I kept going until the 2 minutes were up. As the next running interval started my legs still felt a bit wobbly so I staggered my way down hill but I felt amazing. I ran up my bastard nemesis hill.

img_1914We carried on and instead of cutting across the bridge back to the cafe we carried on towards the priory ruins. The first stretch is along the river and for a brilliant 15 seconds or so we were caught up in a group of goldfinches playing. As we left them behind (or maybe they left us) we headed back up hill. My legs were tired and with every hill I could feel my muscles protesting but we kept going. There are more ups than downs on this section and I didn’t make it to the top of the last big pull. I got more than half way though and after a short little walk I ran to the top. Then we enjoyed the spectacular views across the ruins as we made our way down to the stepping stones and bridge, looped round the back of the church and then headed back down towards the car park across a field. As we left the field and started our slow jog along the car park a heron flew in and landed on a big stone in the river. I waved at him, acknowledging his presence. A heron – a sign of a good run!

So the loop was just under 6.5miles. We ran it in about 1 hour 37 minutes –  so if we want to talk times, this is quite slow, even for me. I have done the same distance with some hills quite a bit faster but the thing is, I don’t care. I had such a lovely time out there today and that’s what running is about. This is why I drag my butt out even when I don’t want to, it’s why I didn’t stop on the canal the other day, it’s why I am getting better at running through tantrums because every now and again I am lucky enough to have a run like the one I had today.

One thought on “There once was a hill…

  1. Oh I’m so glad you got to have a good run! It’s so encouraging when that happens, especially after a period of not being so in love with running. Or maybe it’s precisely because of that- low expectations! Anyway I’m so so happy for you 🙂 x

    Liked by 1 person

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