The North East of England comes in for frequent unjust criticism regarding its aesthetic appeal – so often portrayed as a post-industrial wasteland by those who would get a nosebleed merely contemplating heading further north than Bury St Edmonds. A particular target of repeated derision is Middlesbrough, the town where I live. Now, I’m not pretending that the town doesn’t have its problems, or indeed some places where I wouldn’t feel safe in broad daylight with a police escort, but its not the charred dystopia some would have you believe as I like to think I’ve pointed out previously. Everywhere has its grimmer places – I headed to Wembley Stadium earlier in the year in a bus that seemed intent on circling London like a 747 before finally lowering the landing gear and touching down in the coach park. That elongated tour around the nation’s capital reminded me that The Big Smoke is not all Crown Jewels and Harrod’s hampers – like Middlesbrough, bits of it are rather grim. But what’s the point of this opening diatribe? Well, this past weekend I went for a beautifully scenic run just a few miles south of The Boro, and there wasn’t a cooling tower or a listing former nightclub anywhere to be seen.
Lealholm is a small village near the edge of the North York Moors, and camping there overnight afforded the opportunity for an early morning jaunt in unfamiliar surroundings. Or a bit of ‘run tourism’ as its known. Our chosen campsite was great – picturesque and quiet – and my only criticism related to the fact that the ground was so hard that even Thor and his hammer would have had problems securing his guy ropes. This, combined with the fact it was a bit breezy, meant there was much rustling of a vaguely unsecure awning throughout the night. Which kept me awake a fair bit. So it was with a certain degree of relief that dawn came and it was time to snap on the shorts and head out.
After a pre-run motivational talk with a field of pigs – only they and I were daft enough to be awake this time of a Sunday morning it appeared – I headed out down a country lane.
It was still, sunny and rather idyllic. After a mile or so I appeared to stumble onto the set of Watership Down as I sent a trace* of approximately 4 gazillion rabbits heading for cover merely by being there. A little further on I encountered a horse who gave me a look of indignation he clearly reserved for the times he encountered the lesser-spotted urban idiot outside sociable hours. Further still came the village of Fryup. Thoughts immediately turned to bacon. But such thoughts had to be cast aside as I encountered THE HILL.
I’ve blathered on about hills before, and this one was definitely rivalling Lythe Bank for the Most Ridiculously Steep Hill To Try And Run Up Before Breakfast You Idiot award. So, as my run slowed to a pained mosey I thought ‘stuff this’ and did a u-turn** Angered wheezing turned to euphoric panting as I embraced the downhill like a long lost relative, rocketing back through Fryup and past the haughty horse. By now there were signs of human life, as I gave the wink and the gun to a passing dog walker. Before long I could see the campsite and it was time for a needless sprint to the non-existent finishing line. Without sounding too gushing, it was one of those runs where you feel doubly proud of yourself for hauling you carcass out of bed first thing, and you kind of feel a bit privileged to have been up and about with only Mother Nature for company.
The pigs in the field had gone back to bed – the lazy swines – leaving me to seek out other suidae with whom to have a cool-down chat. In a nearby sty I found this fellow, who was wide awake. I should really have put something in the picture to indicate scale, because this was the biggest pig I’ve ever seen.
Man-to-pig chat over, it was time to hit the showers. Well, the shower. Which was build into a small, converted agricultural building. I showered with several spiders and a snail. At least I wasn’t lonely. Then it was time to make breakfast, directly influenced by my run through the village of Fryup.
This week’s running: Thus far I’ve broken my 1-mile PB in training, shaving 10 seconds off it an edging below 6 minutes (YEAH! WHERE WERE YOU WHEN TAYLORSON SHATTERED THE 6-MINUTE MILE?!). I had a 7 mile run that should have been at marathon pace, but it was a nice day and I was feeling good so I bombed it (self discipline? Where we’re going we don’t need self discipline…) Then I knocked out 5k worth of ‘speedwork’, which translates as a gentle trot interspersed with mental sprints. Good times.
* – Obscure collective nouns for the win!
** – I wanted to be more hip (apologies for the old man rhetoric) and write ‘did a yewie’ but I’ve no idea how to spell it. U-ey? Youey? Uie? Stupid language.