Damn you Yorkshire, what with your rain and wind and incessant hills. You really tried me. You made me work and sweat and ache. But even a bad run, usually turns out to be a good run, when it's run.
One of the things I enjoy while being away on holiday is to head out from the place we're staying, turn onto the road and start running. Keep going in a straight line until I've nearly had enough and then turn around and head back home. Most times I don't even take my phone with me, so as to have one less thing to carry and also to force myself to use my brain and navigate as I used to in those halcyon pre-Google Map days.
Doing this I've discovered abandoned railways, isolated cottages, met a number of farmers tending their cattle, startled deer and even smiled and waved at a Rabbi, standing in the middle of a thistle infested field in Scotland, I assume contemplating matters of faith.
This time, the journey was pure Yorkshire.
I left in the pouring rain, like really hard, horizontal shower blasts. Luckily you can only get so wet I told myself and, well it did make me feel like I was in nature. The start was a gentle incline. Just enough to limber up, stretch the tendons and calves and begin to get into a stride that I could maintain. I passed a family of four, all wrapped up in wet weather gear. Holiday makers like myself determined to get outside. BTW, it's mid August.
I should have prepared myself as the road began to drop down a narrow lane between old stone walls, full of wildflowers. I should have remembered that what goes down...
The up started just after the junction near to an old Baptist chapel graveyard. No chapel nearby, just weather-worn crosses and memorials to hardy folk of an older time. A couple of houses and then the road was free of buildings again. The gradient increased, I was starting to pant and my Garmin beeped at me to tell me I was hitting the top end of my heart rate zone.
The rain stopped, and the sun began to shine. I was now soaked, but rapidly getting hot and clammy. Yorkshire was reminding me who was boss around here. The hill continued, relentless.
To my left I passed "The Dog and Gun" pub. Whitewashed, solid and an oasis of rest in the landscape. I couldn't get an image of a current TV advert for Yorkshire Tea out of my head and kept chuckling at Sir Patrick Stewart's line "And we're having a pint at the Dog and Trumpet after work" but no stopping for me and anyway the pub was closed till lunch time.
Yorkshire graciously decided to give my aching legs a small reprieve and levelled out for 5 minutes, passing farms with scary signs on closed gates "These dogs bite", and holiday accommodation for lovers of solitude such as myself.
And then the hill, 'that dammed hill', my nemesis. Slowly it rose in front of me. As I dropped my pace and took smaller strides to compensate, it bit back with more increases of gradient. The walls either side closed in. Then the pavement disappeared. And finally it became a highway cutting through the earth, just tarmac and blind spots where cars might not notice a middle aged, sweaty guy working his way along, forcing me to zigzag over to the opposite side every time I entered a danger zone. Looking down from the grassy scrub above, hardy Yorkshire sheep eyed up the intruder huffing and puffing below them.
No cars hit me. I summited next to a ramshackle farmhouse. Out front weeding was an elderly lady. Wrapped up as only old folk do, even in summer. Obligatory headscarf and coat. I smiled and wished her good morning. She looked up, surprised to see anyone out in front. After the usual British niceties of the weather I asked her if the sheep nearby were hers. They were, she told me. And as an ex-sheep keeper myself we then struck up a long conversation about breeds, and shepherding and farming life in general. She was a lovely old soul. Bright eyed and sharp as a tack, but externally weatherbeaten due to that Yorkshire climate.
I turned back. Time to head home. Down the suicide cutting, avoiding traffic in those blind spots. Back past the Dog and Gun, past the silent graveyard. Up again, along the final stretch but this time taking in a new view of a reservoir below and a vista of scattered farm houses, small villages and occasional mill chimneys. The rain didn't return and the wind and sun dried out my aching bones before I arrived back at base.