Knocking the spots off a lie-in

To some people, the idea of a run first thing on a Sunday morning is a nightmare, but if you get it, you get it. It’s not a struggle to get up because you’re out heading for a treat, a bit of ‘me time’ that will set you up for the next few days. 

If you run off-road and reconnect with nature – and with your true nature – then the experience is even more rewarding. It’s a switch off from responsibilities. Running doesn’t clean the car, do the dishes, or mow the lawn, but those jobs will wait. Despite what those who opt for the Sunday lie-in might think, running isn’t hard work. It’s play.

It is possible that I’m biased, but if you were in Sabden this morning, at about 10:30, you would have seen some convincing evidence. We’d almost completed the route when we arrived at a playing field where lanes had been marked out for the 100 metres. When it was suggested that a couple of our guides went head to head in a race, like a bunch of kids, scared of missing out, we all wanted to join in. 

We’d just had a seven-mile warm up – perfect preparation for a race! There weren’t enough lanes, but we all squashed onto the start line, crouched, channelled our inner Usain Bolt and frightened the locals with a mad sprint. Wisely, the real kids who were playing a bit of kickabout footie picked up their ball before we challenged them to a match. 

That’s the kind of thing that happens when you’re having fun, and we’d had a cracking trip around Sabden and its surroundings. We’d done a bit of uphill, we’d done a bit of downhill, we’d run through woods and around reservoirs and had a good old stretch of the legs and a proper workout for the heart and lungs, but through it all, there was that sense of being at play. 

We started easy. A trot through the village and up to The Whins before we turned off and headed along a broad grassed lane following the line of a sparse hedgerow. We crossed Clitheroe Road, nipped up a ginnel, over cobbles and were out on the grass again. So far, so good. Then we started to climb and the legs really had to start working. 

As we gained height, the grasses changed, becoming more suited to sheep than cattle. The paths were dusty and dry. The land had been eroded by runoff and a few scattered hawthorns had been shaped by the wind. But our day was still and soft, calm with low cloud. A group of sheep peered through a gateway and then scattered. Churn Clough reservoir came into view and then disappeared as we plunged into the bracken that covers the sides of Calf Hill. 

The path wandered. We found a hidden valley, steep-sided and rarely walked. Tinder-dry twigs snapped under our feet. A stream trickled deep below. We skipped through, wondering what animals could be lurking under the fronds before this forgotten corner proved to be next to the reservoir and we emerged right at the side of it. We followed its western flank and wondered how long it would be before the water levels got back to normal.

Then we were back onto open fields, gently sloping at first, and then a sharp descent was followed by a long pull uphill. We ran through a flock of sheep, took a footbridge over Sabden Brook and disturbed a hare which showed us how to shift. We ran along a farm track, then scooted around the corner and nipped into Black Hill Wood.

It was cool, shady, steep, tall trees, trailing ivy, ferns. The tracks were dark, the earth black. We ran uphill, then up some more. Black Hill Wood had been well-named. We skirted a quarry, green with moss, and carried on climbing. Once up high, the running was easy, the trails broad, the light better and there was a wonderful chorus of birdsong from the treetops. We could see through the branches that the cloud was lifting. Industrial units in the valley far below were bright, almost glowing in a pale milky sunlight. 

Then the trails vanished.  We picked our own course through the trees, reminding each other to watch out for roots and branches, testing the muddy patches for firmness, avoiding the snaking brambles and offering a helping hand where it was needed. It was just plain fun. 

Too soon we ran out of woodland, but the open countryside was a treat too. Some magical hand had made the gradients ideal. There was enough of a slope for the running to be easy, but not so much that brakes were required. It was a lovely chatty part of the route, where we could take our eyes off the trails and simply relax as we ran back towards Sabden. We ran around the bowling green, spied a Monkey Puzzle tree occupied by several monkeys and crossed Sabden Brook again before arriving at the playing fields for an impromptu LTR track session. 

You know, I have no idea who won that race, but that doesn’t matter because as soon as we’d crossed the line, thoughts turned to the next event – breakfast. We headed over to Tastebuds in Whalley where tables had been reserved and placed our orders. The full English was top class and the coffee kept coming.

We’d enjoyed great company, had a smashing run, a race, a monster breakfast and were ready to get on with the rest of Sunday. Some people had probably only just opened their eyes. All I can say is that they missed out on a whole load of fun and we didn’t.

Kate Woodward