Going with the flow

After this run, I bumped into two people I knew in Lottie’s café. They asked where we’d been running. I think they thought I’d say that we’d run up to one of the local landmarks – Rivington Pike, perhaps or Winter Hill – but we hadn’t gone for the obvious destination. I waved my arm in the direction of the valley visible through the picture windows. ‘Over there,’ I said, ‘through those trees, maybe.’ 

When I gave this vague answer, I wasn’t being awkward. It was simply that my mind was filled with images of skylarks bouncing into the sky and sweeps of moorland, hawthorns tucked into clefts in the hillside, iris growing thick and wild. I wasn’t translating all that into a map with landmarks, directions and place names.

Because the route had no obvious goal or target trig point, we were free to enjoy all of it, not just the satisfaction of reaching a summit. And because we weren’t bothered about our pace, or the amount of elevation, or being first to reach the top of a slope, we could stop to say hello to a friendly pony and were able to spot the oystercatcher perched on a rock. We could be there, in the moment, where life is.

Since I’ve been running with LTR my knowledge of the area has grown massively, but it’s diversity still manages to surprise me. On a 10k route, we can be on riverbanks, deep in forests, on farmland, exploring the engineering of our waterworks, on the high tops, in bogs and paddling across brooks. And when the sun shines, and England is dressed in its best early summer finery, lush green, flowers everywhere, butterflies dancing through the rush grasses it’s hard not to want to immerse yourself in it. 

Perhaps we don’t all feel this way. We were on a track by Belmont Brook for a while and despite the area’s proximity to local villages, we didn’t see another soul. That’s how it went for us on this route – a few cyclists passed us at Stones Bank – but there was a feeling of being apart from the rush and riot of the everyday. You notice what is there – tall fir trees, their new cones standing like candles upon their upper branches, and the almost neon bright of their fresh new needles. The lichen on a tumbled rock. The wooden post of a stile worn to a polish by the traffic of so many passing hands. You see it. You hear the sheep and the blackbirds. You feel the difference in the give of the earth, from the firm track to the softest, wettest bit of bog. 

All this variety, all this magic, is nestled between two major roads, and yet you’re not aware of them. When you suddenly come across a minor road, it’s surprising. You cross that and plunge back into the wild world, down a slope, through a patch of thistles and there’s something else to see. There’s a steep bank through the trees to the remains of a footbridge — just its steps and foundations, mind, the timberwork presumably washed downstream – but the brook is merely babbling, and you can safely walk through the water.  If you stop on the opposite bank and look back to the near vertical wall of earth, you can’t help but wonder how those huge, deciduous trees are holding on. 

While you’re discovering all these little known, little visited, little lanes and cut throughs, you’re running. You’re still doing that aerobic stuff, burning the calories, strengthening the heart and the muscles, building the bones, building endurance, but it’s so much easier when you’re not thinking about that. You could be telling a new acquaintance about your family, your love of running, or the things you do when you’re not on the trails. You could even start to think about the café that’s waiting at the end of the route because it’s always fun to refuel.

When we arrived back at the café, we settled outside on the terrace, overlooking the area we’d been running through, and I don’t honestly think anyone was trying to recall the detail or log it as ‘The 10k I did at Dunscar’. It was more like the fun was continuing, well into the post-run relaxation. We ordered food, drinks, listened to the squawking hens, sat around chatting in the warm summer sun. Lottie’s Café had fish finger butties as a lunchtime special, too. For many of us, that was all it took to perfectly round off a magical morning.