Training is finally back on track, and last week heralded my first ‘proper’ block of running since the middle of April. I felt sluggish, I felt bloated, but I nailed my three key sessions, ran every day and did a ton of strength work and mobility exercises so frankly I don’t care. I’m making progress! I’m running again!
So much so, that on Saturday I went out and got lost. On purpose.
I viewed it as a sort of reward, an opportunity to unplug and de-pressurise. I set myself three rules;
1. No GPS
2. No pace targets
3. No plan as to where my feet would take me. In fact, abandon all sense of ‘route’
I had no notion other than to head out for around three hours and try to run trails I had never set foot on before, and in doing so to explore, to mess about, to play, to enjoy.
It was wonderful.
You see, this National Park we live next to here in Sheffield covers a whopping five hundred and fifty five square miles, which is a heck of a lot of ground to cover. I know certain areas of the Peak District like the back of my hand yet there remains so much of it after all this time that I am still yet to walk or run through, to see and to touch. There probably always will be, and that prospect excites me.
So, starting from a fairly typical Fellmonkey location, I ran up Bradwell Edge early on Saturday morning. At the top, rather than chart a familiar route to Brough, Abney or Shatton, I opted for ‘lost’ and went off-piste towards Abney Moor and the gliding club. Within ten minutes I had already bagged a never-before-visited trig (S4190 – well worth a visit for the plaque) and happened upon one Bradwell resident out walking who, it turns out, had had the very same notion having never walked that trail before in his life; To explore. After a brief exchange he only confirmed to me that ours was a good plan, and with a mutual grin we parted ways, neither knowing to where.
I splashed through new streams, climbed unfamiliar hills and discovered new forests I hadn’t even known existed. At all times I had a rough fix on where I was, the challenge I soon realised was actually in finding new ways to link up familiar places. Bradwell, Abney, Hucklow, Bretton, Eyam… we’re hardly remapping the wilds of Bleaklow here so perhaps ‘lost’ is a touch strong. The point is it was new. Different. A challenge. There is so much of this amazing Peak District to be going at that each decision, each route choice, each crossing of paths has limitless possibilities. And if that isn’t a metaphor for life then I don’t know what is.
After two hours of honest exploration and relative adventure I circumvented a well used line across Eyam Moor but still arrived at the foot of Abney Clough. At this point the run switched gears and I reverted to trails I knew well for a last hour of grunt, purposely selecting a few big climbs to really test out my recovering knee. I eventually got back to the van in Bradwell suitably tired but more importantly, inspired. I can’t give you any stats as they don’t exist (see ‘rules’), other than I ran for three hours and six minutes, timed on a 1988 Casio stopwatch.
I can however let you in on the inspiration. Injuries give perspective if you remain open minded. My latest bout had me really worried, but good things have come from it. I am coming out the other side a more knowledgeable runner, with a greater range of movement and some sweet mobility exercises in my arsenal that will hopefully go some way towards guarding against future problems. But more importantly the gratitude I feel in being able step out on to new trails and in to new hills, even on my own doorstep, feels like re-discovering this brilliant process for the first time. And even on a relatively tame run in areas you might know it is still possible to find new places, new routes, to get off the beaten track. So every now and then step away from the plans and the pressures and get back to why you do this. Enjoy the process. Get lost.
But, you know, always stick a map and a spare fiver in your bag too. Just in case…
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