Wednesday, 2 November 2016

On This Morning's Run....


I've had a pain inside my knee when running for the past few days. M reckons it's coming from the muscle that feeds the knee, and to prove the point last night administered the thumb of death into the soft tissue and then grinned when I shot off the sofa screaming.

Today, mindful of this, I gathered up the mutts and, after dropping L at school, headed off to the open country to run. Ted has decided not to do road runs either as the number of squirrels in the lane-side trees has dropped off annoyingly recently, so he was pleased as punch, so much so that he very enthusiastically sang me the song of his people from the car boot most of the way there.

It was cold. 3 degrees. I dithered about clothing and went for leggings and a long-sleeved top. Half way round I bitterly regretted this and wished I'd opted for a tee shirt instead. I run in a beanie hat and gloves once the weather cools and find this usually negates the need for long sleeves.

The grass was wet and cold, traced through with fine silver lines, evidence of the night time ramblings of badger, bunnies, deer and fox. As we reached the top of the first hill a buzzard flew from the ash stand, floating out silently across the chill air above the Chalk on broad, creamy-brown wings.

Half-way down the hill, a roe buck stood like a sentry staring into the dark heart of the Old Green Lane at something only he could see. Poppy, unable to resist, shot off after him. He remained motionless for a moment longer before springing to life and leaping away.

Ted and I ran more cautiously down the hill - mindful of our knees - and at the bottom where the track swings left into the next field met Pop coming back the other way, deerless and tongue lolling from her efforts to catch up with it. My observation, after living with Poppy for three years, is that Jack Russells have no concept that they are a mere twelve inches off the ground. In their heads they are lions.

The track winds along the base of the field, hugging the hedge which is splashed alternately yellow and green as field maple and hazel burst out of their uniform summer emeralds into the riotous carnival of Autumn. Elder leaves curl upwards here and there along the length of the hedge, pale fingers on thin boughs twisting up in supplication to desiccate in the cooling breath of the dying year and fall crisply to the earth.

The dogs and I run on, negotiating with care the tractor ruts at the edge of the kale field that pull at ankles and threaten injury (or perhaps, with their requirement for vigilance, encourage nimble last-minute leaping). A small, sad, undisturbed pile of soft, dove-grey feathers commemorates the spot where the female Sparrowhawk breakfasted this morning: a pigeon, consumed with efficient economy in the lee of the field.

The track begins to climb slowly now. At present it offers merely a gentle hint of what is to come. My breathing, well-trained, moves up smoothly from three-in, three-out, to a more even in-out-in-out, keeping pace with the land. The thin strip of woodland passing in a joggy blur to our right is all that is left of the huge forest that once spread right across these fields. Until fifty years ago. I've seen the maps that record its heyday and display the terrible aftermath of its destruction. They make for sobering observation and I mourn the loss of the trees every time I come this way.
The wood has been home to badgers for centuries and this morning there are several small, conical pits puncturing the grass along its edge that weren't there yesterday. Little neat piles of disturbed earth lie beside each one, and in the bottom of the pits, ribbons of grassy white roots like single strands of bleached hair. I smile as I run on, imagining the black-and-white bears of the night coming out of their wood into the field to truffle up the roots and earthworms they unearth in their holes. A badger's nose is an implement all by itself.

We leave the sett behind and, turning the corner, see the hill stretching away in front of us. It isn't steep as such but it is relentless; a long, slow, steady incline that goes on and on and on. When you're running, it seems like it will never stop. It isn't all that long ago that I wasn't able to run up its entirety, and I reflect on this as I slow my pace, feel a different muscle group engage (the one I've been working on with all those lunges in the garden) and my breath responds again, shifting gear once more with the gradient as the incline begins to bite and my heart starts working properly: eventually, thunderously.

Poppy, blessed with dynamite in her paws, shoots effortlessly up the hill making it look easy. She disappears into the wood where she has time to put up five or six pheasants before I catch up with her and call her out. Ted, out of kindness and solidarity, tucks in behind me and trots along whispering encouraging words.

When we reach the top my heart is thundering in its cage of ribs. But the sense of achievement as we turn and look back down the hill from where we have come! A rattling heart is a small price to pay. We don't look for long, because the track is at our feet calling us ever on, so we turn, duck through the gap in the blackberry hedge, hop the stile, jump the trunk of the fallen tree and run on down the gravel track, which was once a Roman road but is now the way to a farm.

I am thinking about Roman boots as we peel off right into a field where tall cover crops grow. It is here that Ted got lost in the summer. He emerged half an hour later covered in bits of greenery looking sheepish. Neither of them stop to investigate the crop now - they know we are On A Run and stopping isn't an option. They do, however, pause at the intersection of three fields a little further down, looking right where they know we usually go. Yesterday I took them on into another field and now they aren't Quite Sure which way to go, so they wait for me.

Pop is very quick. She glances over at me and can tell from the way I'm not slackening my pace that we're carrying on. Ted requires a small verbal reassurance before he too is off, heading down the path towards the wood.

We cross over the woodland track, oaks ablaze with Autumn fire, and run on into a second kale field, where a tall woman with long grey hair is drifting through the early morning light following the dewy path. I blink in the sunlight and wonder for a moment if she's a spirit sent for All Soul's Day, but her smile and sturdy Good Morning as we run past, as well as her solid black Lab rootling in the earth by her feet, convince me she's flesh and blood.

Pop and Ted stop for a longer introduction (which I am afraid involves bottoms, in the Way Of Dogs) and then reluctantly leave their new friend whose hackles are bristling in any event at the Dual Terrier Sniff Approach, and career down the path after me. Pain-free in the knee department and now at 4k I figure sufficient warm-up care has been taken to let fly and the three of us race one another to the bottom. Poppy wins and I come a close third.

Steadying the pace I prepare for the almost-final hill, which is a killer. If the ascent wasn't already enough it is also covered in rough grass, broken branches and half-begun rabbit holes. The only thing remotely resembling a path is the Badger Way that wobbles between field and woodland. It is not for the unwary. Once again, my running rhythm shifts, different muscles engage and my breathing alters. I feel, alone in the fields save for the dogs and the Wild Ones, that I am part of the land, sinking into it, and that it is holding me up, carrying me on, helping me when all my bones, muscles, my heart and my lungs are giving loud signals to stop. I make it three quarters of the way up before I give in and walk. Pop glances over, questioning this, and even Ted, already at the top, looks slightly disappointed as he waits for me. Under their gazes I start to run again and so regain a modicum of pride by the time I reach them.

The dogs know the way from here and race on confidently up the earthy track. Pop doesn't bother to glance back to make certain I am following, but Teddy paused briefly, just to be sure. They go on through the wood, over the second Roman road and back along the ancient hedge with its three hundred year old oaks and its hawthorn glittering golden yellow and red in the light.

They are waiting for me at the top of the incline and together we turn left, heading for the Green Lane which is hidden from view and feels like a secret. Ted always likes to run inside the tree-lined tunnel but I prefer the open field edge and so we helter-skelter down the hill racing one another and meet up at the bottom. One more hill to go, which I'm up before I realise I've done it (pausing for another moment's reflection on how that wasn't happening a few weeks ago) and then we're past where the Ivy Bees have their nests in September, past where the Badger Path cuts through the field and disappears into the Green Lane, a few stray silver-grey hairs always caught on the barbs of the wire as an extra clue, ducking beneath the hazel boughs that sweep across the hole in the hedge and flying down the ploughed hill, past the horses behind the hedge who are surprised enough to glance up from their hay piles, bits of hay dropping from their mouths, comically. From here we round the corner of the field where the big oak stands as sentinel, run smoothly now along the field edge and get back to the car in a little under half an hour with another 5k safely under our belts.

My legs are aching, but the dogs have had enough energy left to play their favourite game of chase around the greenhouse this afternoon and to distribute their beds in various surprising places around the house :o)

Hope all are well?

CT. 




39 comments:

  1. Wow CT I'm knackered after reading that.
    Which by the way
    I think
    Is the BEST piece of descriptive writing I've read in forever. *applauds and standing ovates*
    You have inspired me to get off my fat arse n improve my fitness. -at the moment, I'm as fit and as muscly as a dish of cold custard.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Rach, I am blushing :o) SO pleased if it's encouraged you to get fit. You'll feel better for it, I know xx

      Delete
  2. Wonderful. Your boundless energy is contagious. What a commentary too of beautiful wildlife and countryside. Thank you , I feel richer for this post :) B x

    ReplyDelete
  3. Gosh that sounded exhausting, and so much to see. Hope your knee isn't too painful xx

    ReplyDelete
  4. Yes, dogs seem to recoup their energy much more quickly than we do. Enjoyed your description of the journey.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Fantastic piece of writing! :)

    ReplyDelete
  6. Replies
    1. We are blessed with beautiful countryside here, but even so I think that is my favourite place to be, walking or running. It has a magic quality x

      Delete
  7. Hey CT,
    If this wonderful piece isn't a call to running, I don't know what is. I was there with you every step of the way. Fabulous.
    Leanne xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm so glad. Good luck this weekend, my friend x

      Delete
  8. I adored this post. Your writing was spectacular and I enjoyed every second, I was there running with you, even though I can't.
    You see everything as you run and we are big Badger lovers in my home. I loved the old Roman roads the fields but most of all the Gud Dugs ! They love this run especial a young Jack Russel has energy to spare.
    I think Ted knows where to go I think he looks out for you or at you to be sure your are there and know where to go and to keep you safe. After all you are a tall nice tall person who runs on only 2 legs.
    What a wonderful run. Thank You so much for sharing.

    cheers, parsnip

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I was so touched about your comment about Teddy, I think you have read him just about perfect. He is the kindest of dogs.

      Delete
  9. Wow...lovely writing. Very moody and atmospheric. Just hope he lady with the long grey hair doesn't read too many blogs!! x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hopefully she'll take it as a compliment to be considered ethereal!

      Delete
  10. Goodness, that's impressive, and what a beautiful place to be running. I decided earlier today that it was far too cold to be running now, plus I have a bit of a knee thing, but your post has me reconsidering. I guess I would warm up before too long. Tomorrow morning maybe..? I am trying to make myself do it. CJ xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The advantage with running in cold weather is you warm up :o) What's to lose? xx

      Delete
  11. Right from your opening sentence I ran and walked every step with you and the dogs and at the end, felt that I deserved the cup of tea I was drinking. Absolutely your best post yet as far as I'm concerned. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That is a huge complement and I'm very touched, thank you :o)

      Delete
  12. So well written, a blow by blow account of your run and very interesting but now i wil have to take to me bed for a rest!!!

    ReplyDelete
  13. ooops I think I deleted my response. I thoroughly enjoyed the history, the wild life etc, during your run.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Wow you have totally encapsulated how I feel when I run in that post. That is the most wonderful blog post I think I have ever read. You have a magic way with words.

    Have you seen this video? https://vimeo.com/112753768 I think it encapsulates in a different way why we trail run :-) xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, SmallP, that's such a compliment :o) I couldn't find the video, it led me to Gwil's blog which I follow :o) xx

      Delete
  15. Gosh, I AM impressed - all that way and you can still take in the scenery well and record it so magically. Beautiful. My Fitbit has noted me walking anything between 10 amd 20,000 steps (9 miles is the furthest I managed), but running? Pass.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. 9 miles walking is amazing! More than I do :o)

      Delete
  16. I'm out of breath just reading about your run, you are a very good writer as well as a runner so it is a joy to read through your posts..
    Amanda xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Bless you, Amanda, that's a lovely thing to say x

      Delete
  17. A wonderful description of your run and the autumn countryside and wildlife. The landscape history is fascinating, too. I wonder how many people out running observe the countryside around them. I love the photo of the dogs - they look so innocent.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It can be hard to notice if you're concentrating, but I suspect it seeps in on some level one way or another x

      Delete
  18. I love going on this run with you and the dogs.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Lovely account of your run. It's as if I went round with you, but sadly the reality is different, 3 laps of the local park (that's 5km total) and the tram there and back. Look after your knees. Hope it's not due to your new running shoes. What do runners' reviews have to say about them?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hope the knees are OK now. I know a lot of people who've had to give up running due to knee and hip problems caused by repetitive running on roads. When runners get to 65 (I'll soon be 70) many tend to fall by the wayside. Now inspired by your post and ready to lace up and get out. :)

      Delete
    2. Hey Gwil,
      Thank you for the comments. Did a ten mile run off road yesterday and no knee issues :o) I much prefer off road anyway so will stick to that wherever possible and hope the joints thank me for it longer term! Hope you enjoy your run this morning. By the way, I tried to leave you a comment on your blog but it flashed up a message about needing to be a member? CT.

      Delete

Thank you for leaving a comment. I always enjoy reading them and will try my best to reply to every one. CT x