Keep On Keeping On (Sheffield 10k)

It’s been some time since our last post and a quiet Summer has suddenly turned into a busy Autumn. First up, we had a great day at the Sheffield 10k, which is turning into something of an annual tradition for me. I wasn’t expecting too much in terms of performance as I’m still trying to pick up the training mileage, particularly with the Yorkshire Marathon looming large in a few weeks.

We had plenty of support on the day with Lazar running his first 10k and Paul putting in another stint accompanied by his daughter Ela making her debut at this distance. The support we received on the course was fantastic too and made the challenge much easier than it should have been. Standing in the incredible downpour that hit the start of the race meant we all set off soaked to the skin, but fortunately the rain eased as we got going and a steady start worked well for me. By Hunter’s Bar I was feeling comfortable and ready to push on. Seeing the grandkids at the top of the course was just what I needed and after the haul up Riverdale I was able to push on finishing a remarkable one second inside my PB at 51:37 for the event…I’ll take it!

It was wonderful to see Ali at the finish and hear that Lazar, Paul and Ela had strong runs. We also bumped into another of our supporters, Babs, an old friend and ex-colleague of Judith. Never underestimate the power of a friendly face and a smile.

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Down The Dip (York 10k)

Summer has been a bit quiet on the running front. Fatigue had set in following the Lakeland Trails Marathon and Derby Half Marathon tackled within a week of each other. Probably not the best bit of planning I’ve ever done, but it was difficult to avoid. Hopefully the forced rest will do me some good.

I did manage to fit in the Run for All York 10k in August, which turned out to be one of the hottest days of the year. It was tough, really tough. Setting off from the impressive racecourse, we headed out through the streets of York in a rather dizzying spin that meant I found it difficult to get my bearings. Most of the time I spent gasping for breath and trying to stay in the shadows to avoid the blistering heat. The run along the river was uplifting, but it was a struggle.

Seemingly out-of-the-blue we were suddenly upon the racecourse again. Such a relief. I had no idea we were that close. A last push down the straight got me home in 53:11 and I was delighted with that, even if I could barely speak. I’m definitely looking forward to the cooler weather of Autumn and a last blast towards our target.

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Going Up (Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge)

We have received fantastic support for our #Sixty4Judy fundraising this year and it has been really heartwarming that family and friends have pitched in with ideas and efforts of their own. Most recently our friends Paul and Bangar, and their daughter Ela, embarked on the arduous Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge. In their own words, here’s how they got on…
Bangar knew what her contribution to the #Sixty4Judy events should be not long after Simon came up with his crazy/wonderful idea. As a walker, not a runner, she decided to tackle the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge. That’s three of the biggest hills Yorkshire can muster with rolling dales between, making for a hard day’s walking and a total of 24 miles to cover. Bangar and our daughter, Ela, finished a 26 mile sponsored walk last Summer, so it seemed like a natural progression. Cottage booked!
In the event, circumstances intervened to disrupt Bangar’s usual thorough preparation, not least of which was breaking her wrist in March, so we set off on Sunday morning, accompanied by Ela, with more enthusiasm than confidence. The previous day we had driven up from Sheffield in heavy rain and the forecast remained unsettled. Pen-y-ghent, peak number one, was hidden in cloud as we approached, but the closer we got to the summit, the clearer the view became.
We had climbed each of the three peaks, individually, a decade earlier with the kids, and have had plenty of time to forget the tricky stretches, so the final scramble to reach the top of Pen-y-ghent was the first reminder of how unappealing a slithery wall of near-vertical slabs can be, particularly when there’s so much empty fresh air behind and below. Still, one hour and twenty minutes from the off, we arrived safely, congratulated each other on our success and headed across to survey the vast distance stretching out to the second peak, Whernside, on the horizon.
The weather brightened further, and the scenery was lovely, but, to be honest, it was just getting in the way. As we approached it at the 10-mile point, the impressive Ribblehead Viaduct seemed a lot smaller than on our last visit, possibly because we were concentrating on the bulk of Whernside looming behind it, against a sky that was starting to look a lot more threatening. We completed the steady haul up this tallest peak undisturbed. Thousands complete the Three Peaks each year, but we had the hill to ourselves until the very top. We were just over seven hours in and starting to think we might even manage to get back in under 12 hours. No, we wouldn’t.
Getting down off Whernside was slowed by needing to take care on slippery rocks. Cloud descended and filled up the valley as we trudged across to the slopes of peak number three, Ingleborough. We climbed through this fog until we were suddenly at the foot of the final, killer section and I recognised it and remembered its steepness and my heart sank. We were all on tired legs. The path went straight up. This was the test.
Ela offered to carry Bangar’s bag. We started climbing, our progress gradually slowing so that we spent more time standing still, recovering, than moving, eventually reaching the awkward, topmost section, with no obviously best route. Bangar resorted to hands and knees to haul herself up, pushed and pulled from above and below, then finally we gained the ridge, on shaky legs, and followed Ela into the cloud over the summit proper.
Ten hours in and four miles to go from the top of Ingleborough. Possibly the longest four miles in Yorkshire. The path down was in the process of being improved, which is to say, it was a mess from all those thousands of pairs of boots. Then the rain that had held off for so long began. It felt manageable, with so little distance still to travel, but we soon had to stop and don coats. The skies obviously took this as a challenge and emptied themselves over us as the lights of Horton finally came into view.
We finished in 12 hours and 44 minutes. For two of us, that is a personal best that will never be beaten, for the obvious reason that we will never do it again. Under that dark sky, in that semi-deserted car park, soaked to the skin and barely able to get our boots off, we realised that we’d pushed our luck and got away with it.
Thank you, Simon, for having your crazy/wonderful idea and giving us a fantastic excuse for a crazy but still wonderful day of unrelenting effort in celebration of Judy and the love that continues to inspire and influence all who recognise it. But, never again, OK? Never again.
We’re running and tackling other challenges all year to raise money for brain tumour research and support. If you would like to donate please visit our ‘Donate’ page on this blog or go direct to https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fundraiser-display/showROSomeoneSpecialPage?pageUrl=JudithHughes2
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Western Stars (Gecko Gathering 10k)

Being down in Cornwall for a Summer break it would have seemed rude not to hit the trails on the glorious South West coast for #Sixty4Judy, so the Gecko Gathering 10k through Trehidy Country Park near Camborne presented an ideal opportunity.

Set in amongst the beautiful woods North of St Ives this was a gorgeous, undulating trail run consisting of two laps, each finishing with a vicious climb. It was a beautiful evening and the drive there and back was breathtaking. Do we make enough noise about the South West Coast Path? I’m not sure we do, as it could rival anywhere in the world for natural beauty.

I guess it does mean that it remains a peaceful stretch, where you can revel in being at one with nature. I’m not sure that’s how I felt during the run, being a little out of my best condition and feeling sluggish after the effort of recent Marathons and Half Marathons. I got round in 55 minutes, which felt good enough and vowed to revisit this area for more running whenever I can.

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The Holy Hour (Leeds 10k)

I arrived in Leeds early on Sunday morning ahead of the annual Run for All Leeds 10k, which I was running for #Sixty4Judy. After battling with a parking app, I made my way up Briggate towards the start. I was already feeling somewhat disoriented before encountering the bedraggled remains of Saturday night. Here, a drag queen slumped on the floor outside the showbar with a couple of hangers-on, over there, a guy propped up against a hoarding and everywhere inbetween the rejected cast of The Walking Dead. Apocalypse Leeds. It was a toss-up as to who was more out of place and time: me in full running kit feeling bewildered or them attempting to come to terms with the stark reality of daylight. We eyed each other with something approaching suspicion and I reflected how far behind me was the ritual of Saturday night on the town.

I’ve been pretty fatigued after the Lakeland Marathon and Derby Half, which is probably a normal reaction when asking the body and mind to do something its not accustomed to. I’d already given myself a talking to about not pushing too hard in this run. I don’t usually listen to myself, but this time would be different. The sun came out and I turned the corner to join the crowds of enthusiastic runners, everyone seemingly running for one good cause or another. The high spirits on show were infectious and I felt much better as we queued for the gun.

Off we set, nice and steady on a short loop around the city before heading out West on the Kirkstall Road. No-one would describe the route as pretty or packed with cultural highlights. Last year the route out took a detour around the back of a petrol station, which broke things up a bit. Clearly that caused too much excitement, so this year it was just 6k straight out and 4k back. Never mind. It was hot. I kept to my ‘nice and steady’ plan up to the turn and was happy to relax and let runners pass by. I found it was really enjoyable and was feeling comfortable as we hit the turn for the run back. It was a pleasant surprise to find something in the tank and so I upped the pace and, remarkably, started to pass runners who’d left me on the way out and were now struggling. I won’t pretend this wasn’t fun. With 1k to go, I was tiring a little, but got home in 52:14 thanks to my second-half spurt, which was two minutes faster than last year. I was cheered and less bewildered as I headed home down Briggate.

“So, here we are, all of us poor bewildered darlings, wandering adrift in a universe too big and too complex for us, clasping and ricochetting off other people too different and too perplexing for us, and seeking to satisfy myriad, shifting, vague needs and desires, both mean and exalted. And sometimes we mesh. Don’t we?

– Attributed to James Flynn, Ph.D. 
― Carl R. Rogers, On Encounter Groups

We’re running all year to raise money for brain tumour research and support. If you would like to donate please visit our ‘Donate’ page on this blog or go direct to https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fundraiser-display/showROSomeoneSpecialPage?pageUrl=JudithHughes2

Thanks for your interest and support.

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Going Up (Round Sheffield Run)

Sometimes it takes a fresh perspective, a different pair of eyes, to appreciate what you have and where you are. Last weekend we ran the Round Sheffield Run for #Sixty4Judy, 11 timed stages over 20 kilometres, taking in some of the city’s best trails and offering amazing views across the hills and down onto the city itself. Tom ran with our friend Dave, and I paired up with Paul. The sun shone as we gathered in Endcliffe Park amidst happy and excited runners and spectators. We didn’t have high expectations, given preparations variously interrupted by illness, injury and fatigue, but spirits were good and we were determined to enjoy this wonderful event.

We set off in a long line of runners and snaked through Bingham Park before heading upwards through Porter Valley. It’s a tough section heading towards Ringinglow, but the reward is a fantastic downhill stage through Limb Valley towards Whirlow. At times it feels like flying. We hit our first problem on the next stage through Ecclesall Woods as Paul tripped on a tree route – not an unusual occurence in this event – and executed a quite remarkable judo roll, which saved him from major injury. Shaken but not stirred we continued with caution by now having lost contact with Tom and Dave up ahead. The slow climb up through Abbeydale was followed by a speedy dash on tarmac only to be interupted by a further spectacular and painful fall, which resulted in Paul spilling blood from arms and leg. It was beginning to look like war.

How Paul continued I don’t know, as he set aside personal safety and bravely kept going. We’d slowed considerably by now and just hoped to finish. A long haul through Graves Park preceded a jog down through Meersbrook Park, which offered spectacular city-wide views to take our minds off the struggle, before a last arduous ascent along Brincliffe Edge took us back towards Endcliffe Park. A combination sprint and stagger got us to the finish line, a warm welcome from family and friends, and a very welcome beer.

Round Sheffield Run is a joyous event, particularly in the sunshine. I had friends visiting that weekend from Lisbon and they remarked on how beautiful the city was…such a green and friendly place. It really lifted my spirits to look out and see the world through their eyes for a moment. We are lucky to be alive.

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Playground Twist (Alwoodley Primary School Fun Run, Leeds)

We were deeply indebted to Alwoodley Primary School in Leeds, and particularly Rachel Fox, for hosting a fun run in June. Judith’s grandaughter, Maya, and her Mum, Samana, were instrumental in coming up with the idea of Maya leading her Year Group in a run at her school to remember her Grandma.

It was lovely for me to be able to see Maya’s school and be introduced to her class as we got ready for an early morning trot. Mrs Fox and Samana said a few words explaining why we were running and it was fantastic that so many parents turned up to join us. The wet weather forced us off the grass and onto five laps of the playground amounting to one kilometre. We all streamed round the playground inspired by the kids enthusiasm and happy faces as they burst back and forth, weaving in-an-out. It was inspiring to see them all and looked like a great way to start their day. All the children received a certificate and #Sixty4Judy sticker created by Tom and Samana.

Sometimes it’s good to be reminded of the simple joy of chasing round the outdoors with a group of happy youngsters. It certainly brightened our day and will be a lovely memory for Maya and Asher. Thanks again to everyone at Alwoodley Primary.

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Five Gears In Reverse (Derby Half Marathon)

Back where it all began, for Judith at least. Born in Derby in 1957 she was quietly proud of her roots; including her Father’s work in the railway yards, which tragically later cost him his life through Mesothelioma, and her Mother’s teaching of local children. Judith would talk of her youth, particularly in the local countryside, which she loved, and also of visits to the mud-patch which was the Baseball Ground during the Brain Clough years.

It was an obvious choice therefore to include Derby Half Marathon in #Sixty4Judy although my scheduling left a lot to be desired with it coming one week after the Lakeland Trails Marathon. I’d been warned it was a crazy plan, but there was no way round it. I had a lovely evening’s preparation staying with Kate, Judith’s sister, and Richard, successfully warding off offers of wine, but indulging in Chinese takeaway.

The day dawned miraculously with little sign of rain and I headed to the city to gather with my fellow runners outside Derby’s now defunct Assembly Rooms. It was an enthusiastic crowd and I noted the names of the local running clubs, familiar to me from Judith’s tales of Belper, Wirksworth and elsewhere. We set out from Irongate with a quick tour of old Derby before the long run out the city on London Road. All was well and I felt fit and injury free, if a little fatigued.

We left London Road via Shardlow Road, another long stretch, and headed towards Elvaston Country Park for a pleasant stage through the trails before emerging by the River Derwent to turn back to the city. This is pretty much where the wheels came off for me. At 15k I was inside PB pace, but you can’t trick the body. Weeks of hard running caught up with me as we ran alongside the river and I realised it was going to take everything just to get home. The sun was out and a few runners needed help. Fortunately for me, Kate and Richard appeared from nowhere with much needed encouragement. I slowed to snail’s pace and focused on moving forward step-by-painful step. We passed Pride Park and I knew we weren’t far off and slowly, slowly I got there. A tough climb to the finish and I was over the line in 1:53:37. Relief and rest.

It was a boost to see Emily, Sushil, Zevi and Edie at the finish. We enjoyed a coffee before I limped back to the car and home. Sheffield, Granada, Derby… a strange combination, but it would have made sense to Judith.

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There (S)he Goes (Liverpool Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon)

We were delighted to hear that our friend Nigel Jepson had tackled another monumental running challenge this year on behalf of #Sixty4Judy and made a further donation in support of brain tumour research and support, and bereavement services. Here’s Nigel’s report of his race, including the standout sighting of ‘The Holy Trinity’ and my first true love, Alan Ball. Those were the days…

The Liverpool ‘Rock and Roll’ Marathon (Sunday 26 May) pre-event hype promised a lot by way of evocative sights and sounds studding the 26.2-mile course. Almost immediately, despite the rain whipping across the exposed Albert Dock area, you could take in the statues commemorating John, Paul, George and Ringo by the side of the entrance to the Mersey Ferry. Putting thoughts of catching the ferry aside(!), an uphill stretch took us past our first live band – there were to be 26 along the route – and on as far as Goodison Park, home of Everton FC. More welcoming statues greeted us in the forms of Dixie Dean and the famous midfield trio of Ball, Kendall and Harvey. Then, crossing Stanley Park, the magnificent new Anfield Stadium loomed into view. Back into the city-centre saw us running past ‘The Cavern’ and a statue of Cilla. It felt like all these legendary figures were watching over the event and encouraging everyone taking part.

After 23 miles, still banging out 9-minute miles and on track to break 4 hours, ambitions in that direction were however scuppered by the sudden onset of a gale-force wind in our faces along the exposed roadway to the Albert Dock finish area. Then, after 25 miles with only one more left, someone running just in front of me suddenly stopped in their tracks. Trying vainly to swerve round him, I ended up tripping head first over a kerb and requiring medical attention! Eventually on my way again, I was pleased to be able to finish and naturally also very pleased, as per Manchester in April, to be able to contribute again to Simon’s immensely worthy project in tribute to the memory of Judy.

Nigel is apparently fine, despite spilling some blood for the cause. Thanks again, Nigel.

Do You Remember The First Time? (Lakeland Trails Marathon)

I’m pretty sure no-one has ever used the words ‘highly motivated’ when describing me. Certainly back in my school days in Liverpool I was clearly labelled ‘doesn’t apply himself’ and ‘takes nothing seriously’ much to my Mum’s disgust. She had high hopes for her only child and I seemed to see it as my mission to consistently undershoot them by some distance. It was the continuing theme of our relationship and I can still see her ‘giving me daggers’ (a look of cold fury that could halt buses) from behind her sewing machine, which rattled away relentlessly during the evenings she worked on top of her full-time job.

Yet, despite our differences, looking back my Mum was a fantastic role model. She worked hard despite suffering a great deal from a rare genetic illness called Milroy’s Disease, which attacked her lymphatic system. Pain and discomfort didn’t stop her. She wanted the best, but had to make do and mend with me and my Dad. I knew she’d voluntarily joined the Women’s Auxiliary Airforce (WAAF) during the war, riding motorbike dispatch and transporting prisoners of war. She lost her first real love, a Canadian airman, in an accident. She was fiercely determined and nobody’s fool. What I didn’t know, until after her death, was she’d been a real rebel in her youth, causing her parents considerable anxiety, and in that we were much more alike in outlook and attitude than I could ever have imagined. I wish I’d known. We’d have had a better understanding of each other.

I thought about her – Valerie – as we started the Lakeland Trails Marathon on Sunday in heavy clouds and rain. It had been a pretty awful build-up to my first attempt at this distance – for a number of reasons – and it was billed as one of the most difficult Marathons in the UK. It’s the kind of situation where you ask yourself ‘what the hell am I doing?’ It would be easy to say that I was there to try to honour Judith in a small way and to raise some money, and I was. There are selfish reasons too. I’m not engaging much with people and I don’t have to when I’m running – it feels like I’m protecting myself, living in a little bubble. It’s also giving me some meaning and forcing me to move forward bit-by-bit. It’s helping me fight the fatigue and depression that too easily becomes a constant companion in grief. But knowing why I’m running doesn’t always easily translate into self-confidence and it didn’t on Sunday. So as I looked around at the daunting fells, I thought about my Mum and her determination and fight, in the knowledge she’d passed it on to me. As a great friend noted in his good luck text, I’m a stubborn f**k.

Lakeland Trails Marathon takes in a complete circuit of Coniston Water and more. We headed out through the village, from water’s edge, at a steady trot before hitting the undulating forest trails that evenually took us to the idyllic Tarn Hows to the North. We seemed to be heading miles away from Coniston Water in the sure knowledge that we had to come back and round it; a fact made more painful when a marshall informed us that a full circuit of Tarn Hows was needed before we rejoined the trail up into the hills. Significant climbs had already been tackled by the time we left the tarn and pushed further upwards to join the forestry tracks that skirt the upper reaches East of Coniston. Fortunately, I felt okay and was grateful for the cooling rain. We were two hours in and I topped up on carbs as we went. It’s a long drag up, along and above the lake, but we were rewarded by glimpses of the vintage steamer as it chugged along. I was soaked to the skin by now, but it felt reasonably warm as we began a slow descent through woods towards the bottom end of the lake.

Everything was starting to ache as we took a wide circuit and headed up again into a bleak looking Beacon Tarn and miles of boggy trails. The warmth was passing and my feet were wet and cold, as we picked our way through. Any thoughts of maintaining a pace had long passed, but I was gaining on some runners (well, they were slowing) and only a few overtook me. I was taking encouragement wherever it could be found. What a tortuous haul over Beacon Tarn in its stark beauty! I was glad to leave it behind and be told there was only 5k to go. It was a challenging stretch alongside the water as we stumbled through low-hanging branches and over jumbles of treacherous tree roots on shaky legs before at long last the finish came into sight. A short lap of the field and I was into the funnel, scarcely able to believe it was done.

I got round in 5h 22m. The 850 metres elevation and tough terrain was really hard, but I’ll be ready for Derby Half Marathon this weekend. And amazingly I’m a Marathoner. I’d like to thank Ali for her ‘gung-ho’ encouragement and belief over these last few months and my friends and family for their support. If you would like to donate in memory of Judith we’re raising funds for brain tumour research, treatment and support and for The Good Grief Trust. Visit our Donate page or go directly to https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fundraiser-display/showROSomeoneSpecialPage?pageUrl=JudithHughes2

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