Running has been a really important part of my life for over 10 years now. It's very much defined who I am and my social circles and relationships have been very much built to incorporate it. Conversation quite often revolves around it and I'm naturally drawn to people with that same interest.
I started off road running, and put a fair bit of effort into improving times and getting pb's in races. Around the same time that I posted my best 10k (38mins) and half marathon (1.25) times, I also got enticed out onto the fells by a group of runners from Newport Running Club. It wasn't hard to entice me. I'd always been a hillwalker and there was an obvious progression to combine the running with days out in the hills.
I was an avid consumer of anything I could find that would educate and inform me as to the history and traditions of the sport of fellrunning. Inevitably, at some point, I came across a book called "Feet in the Clouds" and it planted a seed which grew over the next few years as I pushed back my boundaries in terms of distance, ascent and effort. When I finished the Old County Tops race for the first time and realised I could have continued running, the Bob Graham became a realistic target, albeit a tough one.
I spent the next 2 or 3 years training specifically for the BG. Every run had a purpose, working towards that. Most races were taken at a pace which took into account the fact that I'd want to be out running for several hours the next day as well!
And then, in 2010, I did it. I had a wonderful day on the fells, felt great all day, took it all in and sprinted up to the Moot Hall at 11.20pm on a Saturday night in July to achieve what I'd put my mind to. There's no greater feeling than to work hard at something and be rewarded with success.
It took huge amounts of effort though. Long training days every weekend, a lot of time spent up in the Lakes, and a commitment above anything I'd ever managed before.
People warned me about the post-BG slump. It seems to go one of two ways. Either you push on (to Paddy or Ramsay or something similar perhaps) or you have a void in your life (certainly in your running life) which doesn't quite seem to get filled.
And I guess that's where I've been at since July 2010. Enjoying some running, but never really focused on anything and, consequently, never training THAT hard.
So it's time for some introspection and some decisions on where I'm going with my running, mainly so I can reconcile it within my own mind instead of having a slight feeling of guilt that I'm not pushing on.
And I'm rapidly coming to the conclusion that running (and training so hard and specifically) is not going to have the same status in my life as it once had, possibly ever again. The BG was a real pinnacle for me, in terms of performance. I'm not sure that I could better it or even match it, because it was the benchmark I wasn't quite sure I could ever achieve. Now I know I can, I have little left to prove to myself. I'm moving towards getting my pure enjoyment of the hills back again. Taking my time, Looking around me. Appreciating the subtlety and beauty of the wild glens and majestic slopes of the Highlands.
We went out on Sunday, for a slow trot/walk over the back of Little Wyvis, armed with a map, compass and grid references for 6 features that we wanted to go and find. These ranged from a burn junction, to a flat plateau on top of a spur, to a never-noticed re-entrant on the north slopes of Tom na Caillich. We had a great time. Looking for such features really puts you in touch with the ground you're on. Translating from map to physical ground and back gives you a new perspective on the landscape. The re-entrant I mentioned was a real treat. You can't see it from above, below or even from across to the east on the same slope. We navigated to it and found a beautiful little re-entrant with the last remnants of snow still sitting on it's northern aspect and a tremendous, deep bog at it's lower lip.
I want to spend more time appreciating such beauty and I think that's the direction I'm headed. That's not to say that I won't be running, I most certainly will be. I love the feeling of running well across rough terrain, and I relish the opportunities for long routes in a day which are just not possible when walking.
I think the point I'm making is that running (and training) will be taking its "proper" place in my priorities, which is more to facilitate my enjoyment of the hills rather than being the be all and end all.
I think that's inevitable at different stages in your life as well. Running can't always be the priority, other things become important. Right now, I'm trying to build up a sports massage business that will provide one part of our income for the future. It's something I greatly enjoy and am fascinated by and I'm quite prepared to put a lot of effort into that.
Add into that the fact that we're starting to look at property options for the future and, in particular, how we can provide the sort of accommodation and services which we ourselves would seek, and make a decent income from that as well. Various different options are available, we're open to all of them, but we saw a beautiful property at the weekend out on the west coast which would have great potential. We're also hoping to go and see another place this week, further down towards Fort William, which would be a major renovation project but with huge potential. I'm really excited by this and, particularly if the latter came off, I'd be more than prepared to dedicate a lot of time and effort to it, time that would once have been spent running.
So, all in all, perhaps I'm heading into a new phase in my life, but I'm comfortable with that and truly looking forward to it.
PS: If you haven't picked up on the sports massage business yet, feel free to go and look at;