Once upon a time, I was not a runner. In fact, if we go back to my school cross country running days (the enforced ones, nothing voluntary) then you would recognise me as a running denier. If the thought of running was a heinous one, then the thought of a muddy run was simply unfathomable.
But, things change…
Not only am I now a runner, and have been for 9 years, I am the type that will run through mud without a care in the world.
Gone are the days of skipping around a puddle of brown sludge. No, the only way is straight through it, should it be in my path. I am a changed man.
It’s only mud, after all. It washes off.
Today on my holistic marathon training plan I was going to do a 4-mile trail run. However, the trail God’s had other ideas.
Trail running often conjures up images of gravely tracks through mountains and alongside rivers. I’m afraid trail running in North Yorkshire is a little different.
My route today is one I have done many times over and at all times of the year. So, given that I know it’s around a 6-mile loop, once has to wonder where the heck I thought I was only going to do 4?
The first mud-tastic obstacle for me was a field. Just a simple field with young green sprouts carpeting the ground. The Public Right of Way cuts right across it. Why do these paths do that? Why never around the edge?
Anyway, it began as soft underfoot and quickly became boggy. My shoes were clogged with mud by the time I reached the top of the field.
Duke managed to run straight into a wire fence in the woods. He came hurtling down the hill and even I didn’t spot the fence between us at first. He hit it face first and the rest of his body concertinaed up behind him as the momentum forced his body to roll over the top. Seemingly undeterred by his stunt-dog antics he just carried on.
Next, it was down through brown bracken along a waterlogged path before cutting across the old quarry. A little light relief on tarmac and gravel.
The best mud really was along the bridle paths after the quarry. It was clear that a few horses had been through recently and churned up the ground rather well. The recent rain making the mud particularly gloopy.
I reasoned that the extra weight on my Salomon trail shoes would be beneficial to my training for the Blackpool Marathon in April – similar to wearing ankle weights.
This route gives me a choice of options upon returning to the road. I can carry on down the road and follow that home, I can go up the road and pick up a trail that results into a thigh-popping hill, or I can use the road for a short distance before picking up another off-road path.
I chose the latter. I’ll always choose the latter as when I am wearing trail shoes I try and avoid tarmac as much as I can. Plus, this route would take me path the lake that’s being dug for the new Ravenswick Hall and I wanted a nosey at the progress.
Lake progress was, well, uninspiring. I’m sure they’re doing something down there but it just looks like a huge hole in the ground with a big puddle of muddy water in it. I think a boathouse is being built too but that wasn’t much to look at yet.
What I always forget about this route is the river. Well, I know the river is there and that the path cross is, but there’s no bridge. For about two-thirds of the year, it’s dry, or almost dry, and passable. The rest of the time it’s very much a river. Today it was that, a fairly fast-flowing river.
But not too deep in some places. So I ran across at a point where I was only up to my knees. Duke thought it was playtime when I followed him in.
Again, old, non-running, me would think it crazy that anyone would do this. Who in their right mind crosses a river, without a bride, in the middle of winter?
That would be me!
Before reaching my last road I had to cross a field that is home to a sizeable flock of sheep. They’ve churned the ground up nicely in there and my recently river-cleaned running shoes were once again filthy. And filthy they remained until the hosepipe sorted them out at home.
Mud is nothing to be scared of, nor is a bit of water. I always feel a greater sense of achievement when I have been on a tough muddy run. It makes you feel that little bit more epic.
Thanks for reading