A rather splendid, cheeky Monday
A lot of training plans for runners schedule a rest day on a Monday. They assume you’ve raced at the weekend or put in a long, slow effort on Sunday. On Monday, you’re supposed to take it easy or if you can’t bear to do without your endorphin fix, allow yourself a short recovery jog. You trudge off to work on the day of the week everyone seems to hate and start counting the days until the weekend.
Okay, let’s rip up that rulebook because it’s rubbish, isn’t it? Life’s for living. We don’t all have jobs we hate or training plans we stick to. A surprising number of people like the idea of running on a Monday morning, whether or not they’ve had a busy weekend. If you’re able to be flexible with your hours, If you’re off because its the school holidays, or if no one minds if you sneak out for a run on a Monday, why wouldn’t you?
Even so, it’s hard not to feel a bit guilty.
Others are working, but I’m pulling on my trail shoes, getting ready to do something purely for the fun of it. And by some remarkable chance, this Monday is as glorious a morning as I’ve seen in years. Frost on the car first thing, then pure clear sunshine. I’ve driven north from Bury, crested a hill and seen the valley below filled with cloud. As soon as the sun gains a bit more height, the clouds burn off, dew sparkles, birds burst into song. I can’t help but think that I’ll be tapped on the shoulder, asked what I think I’m doing, and then rudely shoved back into a reality where it’s raining sideways, blowing a gale and I’m supposed to have placed a presentation on the boss’s desk an hour ago.
But the gods are smiling and the tap on the shoulder doesn’t happen, and I’m standing in the middle of picture-book Downham ready to set off, meeting new people and talking about why we love getting out, getting off-road, discovering somewhere new. The fact that it’s a Monday, is the icing on the cake.
At just after 11, we’re off, heading west along the side of Downham Brook and then across fields dotted with a few ewes and lambs. There is a flock of gulls in one field and as we come through the gate in the hedgerow they take to the air, swirling and shrieking before settling in the next field across.
It’s warm – definitely spring. The trees are still bare, but leaves – the vivid colour of limes – are beginning to unfold on the hawthorns. Blackbirds are singing, puddles are drying, and when we run up Wooly Hill, past branches brought down in winter’s storms we pause at the top to take in views that stretch as far as the Yorkshire Dales – Ingleborough and Pen-y-Ghent dwarfed by the distance.
At Springs, two men are painting a corrugated tin barn, taking advantage of the warmth to brush on thick, black bitumastic paint. It’s a smell that evokes memories of hot summers and childhood.
We make our way down gentle slopes, past Hell Hole plantation (which looks rather nice to me) and then follow the course of Ings Beck heading West. This is a joy to run. We’re in sunshine, the ground is easy, water is burbling along at our side, birds are flitting about and bright sunny Celandines dot the slopes.
We’re trotting down a field, nattering away about how blinkin’ marvellous all this is until one person spots the arches of Downham viaduct through the trees of Mill Wood, and then we can hardly believe we almost missed seeing it. It’s enormous. We don’t miss the packhorse bridge at Smithies Brook, however. In fact, we cross it just because we can and then retrace our steps.
We leave the waterways behind and follow muddy tracks past barns and along hedgerows, calling out warnings about low branches and rock underfoot, and when we cross the rail bridge, we watch a family of plump rabbits head down the embankment and cross the shining tracks.
We pass stacks of logs. The smell is sweet and resiny, the sawn ends rough and sticky and then run a short stretch of road down into the village of Chatburn. We turn left, pick our way down a few steps and suddenly we’re running along the side of a stream,where wild garlic is emerging and it’s cool in the shade. There’s a stable where we emerge, and a grey horse under a bright, blue rug.
We know there’s a climb to come, and when we get there, it’s short and sharp. Worsaw hill is limestone, and the path is steep and awkward, but it’s worth it. Above our heads, There’s a buzzard in flight and calling. Behind us, when we stop to grab a breath, are Parlick Hill, Beacon Fell and Longridge, and across a county border, the three peaks again. In front, impressive and looming, is Pendle. Before anyone can get any silly ideas about adding another hill to the route, we skirt around Worsaw and head back towards Downham, and then onto the wonderful Greendale View Kitchen to top up our reserves.
We’ve covered 10k, but who’s counting. What’s important isn’t the time, the elevation or the distance. It’s the scenery, the sounds, the smells and the company. Forget those training plans that tell you to rest up on Mondays. What you need is a workout for the body that restores the soul.
We had one and it was, simply, splendid.