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Bob Graham

Driving north, I was confident. I’ve been training hard (I ran a spontaneous marathon last week; boasted about it on social media). This year I am spending a day a month running in the hills, my self-prescribed Minimum Effective Dose to maintain sanity. (Driving north I’m all Radio 4, earnest podcasts, Leonard Cohen and healthy snacks. Hammering home next night it’s 6 hours of 90s Classics, Chumbawumba, Born Slippy, fizzy Haribo and Maccy D milkshakes.) For the past few months I have been running and filming. But this time it was only running. It was to be head down and go – see what I’m made of not looking at the scenery.
It was a sobering day. I learned that I am not as fit as I thought I was, as I need to be, as I used to be. That’s the thing about mountains. They find you out in a way that laps of a park or exercising in a gym cannot do. Bullshit-detection is part of their appeal. After 5 hours of running fast and happy, with 3.5 still to go, I blew up, out of steam. My hamstrings, my knees, my mind all gave up. Chastened, cross, despondent I was forced to cut my losses, dropping down from the fells for the long drive back south to the flatlands. I need somehow to find more hills, more time, more hard work.
But there were good bits: hobbling pitifully back to my car I stuck out my thumb to try to save myself a few boring road miles. This being the Lake District a car soon stopped. Alicja kindly drove out of her way to help me. We chatted about bothies and big hills. Her Instagram bio (@alicja_zasucha) reads “Wild Camping. Climbing. Running. Pottery”. That is someone who has their life’s priorities nicely sorted, I reflected as I headed for the M6 and wished that I could just stay here instead.
Earlier I had, by sheer chance, found an iPhone almost completely submerged in a bog. I mentioned it on social media and a swathe of internet sleuths (aka people who should have been doing proper work in the office) tracked down the grieving owner. We met at a service station and I reunited Debs with her phone. She rewarded me with a jar of homemade jam and a freshly-baked cake which cheered my long drive home to face the realities of much hard work still to go.

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  1. Even though I live near the Andes, I have never yet found anywhere near my house where I could run for five hours fast and happy in the mountains. Two or three yes, but any more than that would require running uphill which is not going to happen. 🙂



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