It’s early morning, the wind and rain banging of the window has kept me awake. 5.30 and my first alarm goes off. I quickly stop it so as to not wake up my wife, creep down stairs, eat some breakfast and go back to bed. It’s 7.30 when my next alarm goes off and again I’m quickly out of bed, dressed and out the door.
It’s an unusual routine but I like to eat and digest some food before I get started. After shutting the door my body quickly shakes out its lethargy and shifts from shuffle to jog and within a couple of minutes I’m trotting up the first immediate hill to my mate’s house where we have arranged to set off. The rain has stopped but it’s very windy, still dark and cold but my running keeps my warm, it’s hat and gloves season. When I arrive he’s faffing around as per usual, eating his porridge and gathering bits of kit. We planned to get started at 8:00 but I know it’ll be later.
After plenty of faffing we get started, the weather is shit and has been for weeks. This winter seems endless but I still kind of like it. I like watching the seasons pass by. I rarely take photos as I take it for granted that I’ll be doing this again the next weekend.
Through these passing seasons and over the years I’ve immersed myself in the foulest of weather and endlessly roam these local hills. I’ve learnt my way round many of the paths, learnt their ancient names and given some of them my own affectionate nicknames. I let them pass by as I like the fact that another amazing view comes by so frequently.
My wife asked me the previous night if I had any plans for the weekend. This means, “How long are you going running?” We’ll be out for around 3-4 hrs max. Around 20 miles and it’ll be as hilly as possible. If I lived in California I’d surf but here in Calderfornia you fell run. The trails here are world class, they were forged by footfall centuries ago, before printing could record them they were etched on the landscape. Roman roads, trading routes, animal trods and I run to explore both them and myself.
The miles fly by, sometimes we chat, there might be narrative that you are having with yourself, sometimes you curse the bogs sometimes leap them and other times they swallow you up. Here in Calderfornia we have endless route choices and so much to explore. I love to immerse myself in nature and have such intimacy with the environment.
I’ve seen some spectacles. Initially thinking it was some sort of borealis I’ve saw thundersnow erupting over Manchester. Fork lightning cracking over and illuminating the hills. On frozen days I’ve seen fire and ice as the moors are ablaze as they are burnt for clearing, I’ve seen water falling off the hills and up them. I’ve seen the horizon of the moors shimmer and distort in the heat.
I’ve cooled down in mill ponds and I’ve been in snowdrifts that come up to my shoulders, icicles that dwarf me. I see the first lambs and seas of bluebells and smell scents of wild garlic. I hear the first call of curlews and the tweet of the marsh birds.
Sunrises and sunsets that would light your imagination, I’ve seen the solstice sun rise over the millers grave, snowfalls from sets of Narnia. I slurp sweet water that bubbles from the ground of ancient springs and scoff on the bilberries that grow in my hidden havens. I leap billion year old rocks as my feet fly over these ancient trails.
It’s a rich sport that runs on the goodwill of my friends that have joined the local clubs. I run for Todmorden Harriers and we host several races over the year. Every month we visit a different pub on Wednesday evenings and try to organise four different groups: beginners, slow, medium and fast. We also do not to lose anyone. All runners are welcome.
The runs are off-road in daylight hours and on-road (or off-road with headtorch) in the winter months. It’s a real social leveller. I have friends from all walks of life and the networking opportunities are fantastic. The races we host are all supported by club volunteers, giving their time to encourage participation.
The local race scene is incredible. Awesome courses with entry fees of around a fiver. The average price of a commercial half marathon is about £40 and is usually ran for profit. Fell races however generate income for local causes.
You don’t get a t-shirt or a medal as it’s unlikely that you need either. Sometimes some of the money raised may go to the club to ensure that they can fund the cost of their next races but frequently the money generated goes to local causes such as Calder Valley Search and Rescue or other worthy local causes.
I’m organising the Hebden Bridge Fell race on the 7th June. It’s a 10km race straight up to Stoodley Pike and is ideal for anybody who might do a spot of running and wants to give it a go. Todmorden Harriers are a not for profit organisation and all proceeds from the race will be donated to Khalsa Aid www.khalsaaid.org who showed many of us in the valley tremendous kindness during the days that followed the 2015 Boxing Day floods.
Prizes at fell races tend to be pretty standardised – cheap booze and confectionary. The That’s so Hebden Bridge Fell race will be a bit different. Local businesses, makers and artists are generously donating wonderful prizes. More info on the race can be found at https://www.facebook.com/Hebdenbridgefellrace/and http://www.todharriers.co.uk/hebden-bridge-fell-race/