Motivation comes in many forms. As a fairly competitive soul a large part of my training focus is derived from a determination to improve, or at the very least this year, to not regress. But this selfish pursuit is counterbalanced by a deep set wanderlust, a desire to explore on foot and at speed the landscapes around us.
Such exploration has granted a certain sense of ownership. Whilst I can understand and apply a route along the Porter Valley into the Peaks by using an OS map, the features laid out on the grid are not necessarily the defining markers I determine a run by. Instead, through years of exploration I’ve taken ownership of a set of aspects that appeal to my own sensibilities. When I return home and my wife asks me where I’ve been running, ‘Bear Tree’ via ‘Weird Turf Roundabout’ through ‘Pilgrim’s Pass’ on to Oxstones wouldn’t mean very much to anybody else. They don’t appear on any map. But to me through their invention they hold meaning through accumulated experiences. And in turn they as much define me as they do the run.
Of course, we don’t own these landscapes, we share them. But through an individual lens we can engender a personalisation of these communal spaces. You can understand therefore how the search for new routes, fresh lines, different ways of linking up features, almost becomes an endeavour within itself.
Yesterday in the snow, I set out to run a recent route discovery that I’d unlocked by chance. A random trot on the way back from Blackamoor a few weeks ago had led me up the one obvious line on to Houndkirk Hill, and for the first time I noticed the faint trod off the nose of the hill towards God’s Spring. I followed it on a whim, and was disproportionately euphoric when I arrived a short time later on the Houndkirk Bridleway underneath a direct line on to Oxstones. The next day I went back to run it in reverse and commit the faint route to memory, getting to know it back to front as it were. This led to a further connection of an obvious trod, climbing again and circumventing the bridleway even further, looping around to finally re-emerge just above Parson House. It may sound simple, and some reading this will already know the routes I speak of. But I have run these moors for over a decade and it was my first time nailing the whole line, meaning I no longer have to endure the attritional trudge over the Houndkirk Road in order to get from home to Foxhouse.
These are the days I enjoy the most. I dubbed the new line ‘Le Petit Balcon’, a nod to summers spent in the Chamonix Valley and the pleasing aspect over the moor it affords, and in doing so, took ownership.