When running gives way to mountains

“When you’re not actually running, you’re either talking about your last run, or planning your next one.”

Guilty as charged, I fear. Except today. Because tomorrow I’m not running….

Instead I’m walking the Three Peaks, that is the Yorkshire version: Pen-y-Ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough, some 23 miles and a lot of up-and-down (and this year, probably considerable squelching too).

There’s history and significance here, as ever with me. I first took up running as a means of getting fitter aged 18, before walking the 270-mile Pennine Way (with Pen-y-Ghent en route), followed a year later by Wainwright’s 180-mile Coast-to-Coast walk. Initially running was an adjunct to my main “escape” of mountaineering, but over the years the effects of work, family, age and geography have shifted the balance, to the extent that a “proper” mountain day is now a rather rare adventure.

Even so, in the last month or so I have found myself easing off the running for fear of an injury which might jeopardise the walk, as in “Nikes, Bike & Hike?” (9-05-12). Which is a bit upside-down these days.

 This 3 Peaks has been a long time coming.

I have walked each of them many times, but never together in one day. I even worked many years ago for a firm that took up the sponsorship of the race event when the original partner backed out, and ended up with a small role on the day. I have also done the single-weekend national 3-Peaks of Ben Nevis, Snowdon, and ScaFell Pike for charity.

But never the “Yorkshire Three Peaks”, and they have been calling my name for a while.

Some years ago, Ingleborough gave me one of my best ever mountain days. My son, around 12 at the time, had never been a sporty or outdoor type but somehow had picked up a trace of my love of mountains. We went to Ingleborough but it turned out to be a dreary wet day, classic Pennine “clag”. Despite this he was happy to go up, and being a cautious leader, as we ascended from Chapel-le-Dale I checked at each stage: “You ok, still happy to go on up? Remember there’s the down to come as well!” On the grassy approach; on the limestone pavement; on the duckboards; on the tight-contoured scramble; at the gate below the summit bank. Each time, he pressed on up.

We huddled in the drizzle at the summit cairn, cheered (my party-trick, this) by the reaction of the other walkers to my Trangia and freshly-sizzling bacon butties as they looked at their squashed, cold damp sandwiches. As we started our descent, I caught a brief flash of bright-green below us; then lower, a definite view of the road and valley through the cloud; more breaks in the clag, and he caught a sense of our height, and as we reached the Hill Inn (just lemonade, of course), the sky lifted to reveal Ingleborough in sunshine, towering over us in all its grey-green imperious beauty.

I asked if he’d have set off so happily in the morning, if he had been able to see what lay ahead?

“No way!!!” he said. I think that day, he was as amazed at himself, as he was at the view.

Later we climbed Pen-y-Ghent together and Whernside, and afterwards ScaFell Pike. And that was the end of his mountains. Done that, got the t-shirt.

So tonight, after my mad-mad-busy-busy day in London, after this crowded train gets me home, after I’ve got out of my suit, after I’ve driven up to the Dales and met up with the others…. I will look up at Ingleborough before I bunk down.

I’ll smile. It’s been a long time coming, this Yorkshire Three Peaks.

So tomorrow, I’m not going for a run. To be honest, I’m a bit scared…… but then, if I wasn’t, it wouldn’t matter so much.

Can’t wait.


About johntleeds

In amongst the perpetual juggling of work, family and things on my mind, this is MY time, MY escape. Any this is what my mind comes up with when it has time to wonder, as I wander on the trails... twitter @johntleeds
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