The Love Affair.

I wouldn’t call myself a fell runner; I’m not fast enough going down. I also wouldn’t call myself a road runner; I’m yet to feel fast enough on the road. I’d like to think I’m a trail runner, my original bread and butter; but lately I’m really just someone who loves to explore and tries to explore as fast as I can. 

Britain is a wash with networks of trails, public footpath signs and general off road grassy fields. You may not go too fast, it may take some trickery to link them together and more than likely you will end up dirty! But it’s a gateway to another world. Opening out in towns and cities, breaking out into the countryside, ‘over the tops.’ Many of you will have done it and drove past one or two and wondered, where does that go, I wonder what it’s like to run on there. 
I do have a favourite, one that is always there, it’s my local around 2 mile from home. 

429 times.

Thats the amount of times I’ve run the trail Wigfield to Silkstone. Mainly in 2014/2015. Lately we’ve been distant, dormant, but always ready to rise again.

I know that from where I park its 3.8 mile up to Knabbs Lane.

3.5 mile from the trail car park.

Half a mile trail car park to the first bridge on hound hill.

1 mile to the motorway bridge from the car park, 1.25 from my parking spot.

1.5 mile from the car park to Dodworth, but 1.75 again from my spot.

Watch will always split 3 mile under the bridge before you get to Silkstone.

From there it is a three quarter mile drag to Knabbs Lane, Silkstone Common. The last climb lucky if you hit 8:00 minute miles.

The trails are never perfect and will always have their own faults. I know that the ground is rocky and loose in some places; soft and a little sludgey in others, sometimes you get treated to a firm. I know the places that are flytipped regularly, the graffiti on the motorway bridge and how a group spent forever painting it over. And it got re-graffiti’ed a week later. The two dogs that regularly bark as you past them at the kennels. Recently banging my elbow on numerous occasions on some poles a building contractor erected. I know it got dug out and relayed with a stone chipped base to combat the standing water 2.5 mile into my run about a year or so ago; but it’s on that way again. I know the people that like me, use the trail, appreciate the trail, the ones that will say ‘hello’ and the others who will not. 

I’ve run it in rain, snow, thunder, with that lightning, sun, wind, heat, cold and ice. I’ve had headtorches, falls, scratches and bruises. I’ve had mud that I’ve not been able to wash off for weeks, ruined trainers and banged all my toes.

I know the remains of the old quarries, where they lie and to me they aren’t just bricks and stone.

I know it’s an absolute drag after you hit the trail car park, headwind more than likely going up. Climbing to avoid the tunnels is a beast. They really did call it the Silkstone Drag because it used to be a drag pulling the horse drawn carts up there. 

As a kid a point where my brother says, my dad ‘fell off of his bike’ something he still denies to this day. 

The Huskar mining disaster and how children died down the mines not too far from the trail. 

The sunken tunnel for the old track right at the top of your climb, the one that now means there is a route around path, that truly is a killer.

It’s not the most adventurous of trails, and you aren’t breaking out over to the moors, you will do eventually if you carry on through to Oxspring and onto the boringly paved and perfectly laid Penistone section. But it’s a gateway and ignoring the fly tipping, we are still in Barnsley, you become a blazer, a trail blazer. Dragging yourself to the top of the climb, only to steam back down with the wind, if you are lucky, behind you. 

I know this trail, I’m trained on this trail. Like a beautiful girl, you know every mark, detail and hopefully hidden secrets. It can surprise you day to day, but is ever consistent and present. It’s tarnished, its unappreciated, its beautiful and its ever changing. I’ve bonded with the trail and it has been there for me.

It’s a love affair with the trail and I’ve cheated on it, with the near perfect road. I will be back at the trail eventually, I will be eating humble pie. I may wonder off, try out the fells or the road. But really my true enjoyment comes from being a trailblazer and finding an hidden network of public footpaths and making it my own. Whether it’s running through the woods, up the steep ascents or down the descents, fields of cows and sheep, even at times feeling like you’re trespassing. I may not do it at pace, but my running takes me places, I get to explore. It’s a fine choice tarnished, imperfect and adventurous or perfect, easygoing and it will be clean. 

If I ever go missing, if I’m ever not to be seen. You’ll find me around a trail, I’ll be running and I’ll be free. I’ll not be fixed to a path, or running at the side of a road, I’ll probably be creating my own tracks. I’ll be making this my home. 

Ward Green 6 (5.6)

Back to Boxing Day. This is the 4th year I’ve run here. 

I’ve improved at the race year on year. It’s also been a great tester race for following year 10k’s, having bet my Ward Green 6 time the following year in a 10k! So here is to hoping… 

Its a Keith Binney proclaimed flat course, doesn’t measure right anymore and has had different weather every year I’ve done it! From ice, heat and wind. 

Today though was the first time, I’ve got brain freeze whilst running and the first time I’ve got brain freeze without ingesting something. The wind chill was awful is parts. 

Another one of them local races, so again I opted to run there and back. With it only being 1.5 mile to the race from home, I got a little creative and ran to the race, collected my number, ran home to put my change in my box and ran back to the race, snaking a little to squeeze 5.7 mile out. A little more than the race itself. I arrived back at 10:56, quick hello to Ian Neville; great to see him back at a race again, despite his year absence. 11 o’clock we were underway, short sharp climb before we get to the hound hill descent, I train on many of these roads; they are around the trail. So I run up the grassy bank adjacent to hound hill and also use this as some hill reps, it’s my trooper lane. 

If anything these are my roads, the roads really I’ve grown up and around. Knowing all the little ascents and descents, and the true measure of the absolute beast that is the 4 bus stop climb; that you do twice! I usually run up and over worsbrough if I’m doing that. Running to one of my proclaimed best views in Barnsley at the top. Hiding in the shadows of Locke Park tower. 

Cantering on to see Steve Frith snapping away, he was previously complaining about the sun when I saw him on my pre race knock around. Photographers worst nightmare, bad lighting, I was more concerned about the chilling wind! A woman was also litter picking on the corner, which was the best thing I saw today.

On to the hound hill descent, I’ve cycled, walked and ran up here many a time as a child. It’s a place to let your legs fall and just go with it. Coming up is more of a struggle. I was sitting in 5th at this point, Dan Kestrel, Julie Briscoe and Joe Powell in my sights, a young lad from Rotherham was clipping away at the front, I couldn’t hear any action behind and didn’t check. There was a lad who set off and ended up in 3rd for about 0.25 mile, but I didn’t see him again once I passed him. 

Julie and Joe pulled away on the downhill, I thought I could probably catch them on the climb. Maybe, as Joe was dressed as a car, and I’ve had a few battles with Julie at other races. Now onto the flat, near Arthur Scargills house, 1k from here to Wigfield farm. Mile split clicked; 5:23 first mile, I had hoped for a little faster, but I suppose the short climb to hound hill is deceptive. Previous years, black ice has been present on here. Today it was a tail wind, rocking you through your motions. Seeing a familiar face, rather oddly behind the camera in Bryan and Jane respectively stood beside him. 

Too hilly for Bryan this race? Or maybe it was too flat. Off onto Wigfield Farm, little climb, downhill and hitting the ship pub; Mile 2 Split done in 5:37. That’s it now, tick the bus stops off. 4 of them. One at the bottom, one at the top and two in between. I could still see Julie, Joe and Dan. Joe was slowing, probably because of the car he was carrying! Julie looked stronger on the hill. If the race was another 3.5 mile of hill, I was confident I could’ve caught them. But it wasn’t… the second bus stop ticked off, a slight reminder from the wind, that it’s still there. Half way up now. It’s a drag but I’m just glad I ain’t carrying on up here to the top of worsbrough today. Cracking on, hitting the third bus stop, this one is just a post really, I felt strong and gained some distance on the two in front. And could now see Dan as well. Feeling confident until the last stop before the turn and that was that, headwind, chill and brain freeze. I’ve never had that before in a race or a run for that matter. And I’ve run miles and miles into headwinds. 17:05 called for the first lap, giving me 34:10 if I could run an even. Gavin Beardsall shouting, go on mate, joe is lagging. Me, now thinking, no chance. Now we do it all again. Field a bit thinner and legs a bit less fresh. Splitting the third mile, just on the bend in 7:01, you can tell there was 225ft of ascent in that mile and a headwind. 

We don’t do drinks in Barnsley, so if you’re coming here don’t expect a nice cup of water waiting for you at the half way mark. Get on without it! 

Onto the descent, Martin James, Steve Frith and Mark Havenhand all snapping away now. Julie and Joe had pulled away at this point. Still couldn’t hear any action behind me. The wind taking away my hearing potentially? Down onto the 1k sprint; mile 4 splitting further on this time in 5:44, a little slower but I expected that. Carrying on and no Bryan to be seen. 5 mile split at the ship pub, just the climb left to go, second time around I was only 2 seconds slower at the climb, according to Strava so I’m really quite happy with that. Onto the wind tunnel again, content with 5th place now. I crossed the line in 34:45. A whole 2 minutes faster than last years effort. 

Hopefully 34:45 is the time to beat at a 10k next year now. Time will tell. A bit of blood on my left arm, which is still up for debate, as to how I’ve caught it. As I can’t actually remember.

Strava Link:

Results photo this time: 

Something that did frustrate me today, is it a road race, or a footpath race? 

11 mile on the trail to get home, I didn’t get lost, I chose to run that way. I’ll be out for 7.5 mile later to make it 30 for the day!

Just Keep Running!

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