My fell running ambitions are seriously hampered by my remaining a namby-pamby southerner. I try to practise hill training in Greenwich Park (hillier than your average urban park) and have even planned an awayday to Box Hill (Surrey) for bit of a climb, but the fact remains that I need more focused training for this race in October.
Last weekend’s running provided just that. A couple of friends and I travelled up to Stockport to meet another university mate (Sheffield University 1981-1984– yes, medieval times – bear in mind this is a blog called Marathon GRAN), whom I hadn’t seen for 20 years.
At university he was a rather pretty, blonde dopehead, but also a seasoned climber, with steel-cable fingers as accustomed to hanging off rocky crags as rolling spliffs. Twenty years on, and a father of three, he’s still a devoted climber, and has joined the fell running community. He’s not bothering with spliff now, like most of us, he’s settled for endorphins and real ale. Safe to say that unlike many of my old university muckers, he has not run to fat. He has in fact run to a musclebound gazelle.
We went for two runs. On Saturday morning he ate a banana, flew out of the front door, then went haring up the hill behind his house at a brisk 5k pace with me, mewling pitifully about warming up properly, in his wake. Fortunately, a few miles in, the pace slackened and I was able to match him on the flat. Downhill, though, was another story.
Fellrunners plummet down hills like, yes, gazelles, or indeed mountain goats. On the Sunday we shot up Kinder Scout, a gritstone plateau a couple of miles beyond his house in the beautiful Derbyshire peaks. I haven’t run up a mountain since my Three Peaks Challenge in 2012 (a boast: I did it in 19hours, in the company of an ex-marine – another mountain goat, who, happily, drove like a maniac). I loved running up this little mountain, and indeed trotting along the plateau admiring the views.
It was the downhill that floored me. Literally.
I know all the theory, about letting gravity help you down, using your core to stabilise you, not overthinking the foot placement. I am still a wuss, though. I prink down mountains at lady jog pace. Its shaming. My friend waited for me, tapping his Innov8 at the base of each descent.
He was very nice about running with a complete pansy, however. And I am supremely grateful to him for having the patience to wait.
So more fell-running practice may be in order. As a Londoner, I learn I may have to throw in my lot with one of my club’s great rivals, Serpentine Running Club, which, rather wonderfully, has its own fell running section. Or maybe I should just organise more northerly university reunions, and open it out to those members of the class of ’84 who might fancy running off their beer bellies.