“In his autumn before the winter comes man’s last mad surge of youth”
What on Earth am I talking about?
It’s mid November, the sky is monotone, the landscape leached of colour as if nature is restricted to a drab palate with which to paint her surroundings. Heavy rain and strong winds sweep in from the south, the ground is heavy, sodden and summer’s golden rays have long faded. Running on a day like today just doesn’t inspire me, there is little aesthetic pleasure to be had, no urge to linger and drink in the sights and sounds around me. Instead I speed up, not wanting to spend any more time than absolutely necessary in this environment. My gaze is restricted to the few metres immediately ahead of me, head bowed into the wind, squinting against the lashing rain.
But winter running can be a joy. Some days sparkle like bright jewels glittering amongst the oppressive grey.
Clear nights lead to crystal blue days and the first hard frosts bring firmer ground. The crunch of ice crystals replaces the squelch of feet in mud.
On high pressure days the air is still, sounds carry: the tinkling of the icy brook, the dripping as a weak winter sun thaws icicles on gritstone boulders, the frosty remains of the bracken expanding as they slowly warm. The landscape breathes. These are my favourite days, when piercing blue skies seem to overload the senses and the clear air brings the distant horizon into sharp focus. On such days I love to explore the remotest parts of the Peak District, making the most of the few hours of daylight to enjoy the solitude of the harsh environment.
On some winter days a layer of cold air in the valley bottom condenses forming a sea of cloud. When conditions are right the hills above enjoy clear skies and sunshine whilst all below is shrouded in grey. It’s a joyful experience to emerge from the cloud into the sunshine and enjoy the colour and long winter shadows.
Even on cloudy days, there are rewards especially after heavy snow when running becomes a real adventure! Then the landscape softens, sharp edges are smoothed by the snow, paths disappear and what was once familiar takes on a different aspect.
Somehow snow brings on a surge of youth, the urge to “play out”, to explore and experience adventure! The once tame trails of summer become a playground. Nature offers up the challenge of running through deep snow and on ice. The challenge has to be accepted!
So whilst all is wet, windy and grey, running is done simply for training rather than for any other pleasure. But we can hope.
Winter is around the corner and maybe it will bring joy to running on the trails and fells. That’s what I’m talking about!