Firstly, I’m going to say that I’m really made up with the response I’ve had from the photos I’ve been handing out to fellow fell runners. Some people have had them framed, which is just amazing.
As some of you may or may not know, I don’t charge for any of my work, nor do I intend to. My logic is that if I capture a good shot of an individual and stick it on my blog the least I can do is give a copy of it to them. Besides, if it was good enough for Bill Smith to give away photos it’s good enough for me to do the same. I’ve got to be honest and say that I was influenced by his generosity and thoughtfulness and still am today. I have no agenda with my photography, I only want to reward people with that captured moment. That click, which hopefully turned into something special for them.
I’ve explained in my “About Me” section (which I do need to update) that I’m lucky because I’m able to combine my three favorite pastimes and put them into one. Music, photography and fell running. They all work together in harmony depending on where I am both mentally and physically. Usually my filming and photography go into orbit when I’m injured. They take a back seat when I’m back running, but always linger there. I’m constantly thinking about my photography, a trait inherited from my parents, as is my love for music, which incidently I try to add to my films to avoid any © issues.
Now then, my fell running: my fell running career ended with a bump after the Ben race in 2014. Lyndsey Brindle’s (lady winner in 2014) warning before the race still haunts me to this day. My announcement to race was contradicted by her with the warning of what could happen if I ran injured. “You may never run again” was the worst part of that warning. I had announced that my back was giving me a problem, a problem I had endured intermittently (undiagnosed mainly) since 2005. I ran & paid the price for that moment of achievement, disregarding Lindsey’s warning. OK I finished the race in what I thought was in one piece, but my body had cloaked a serious underlying defect during the race (which I thought I could get/had got away with), and that kicked in within hours of finishing.
Those hours later I was in agony, days later on an MRI machine, weeks later on an operating table having spine surgery and within hours of that I found myself unable to feel my right foot, unable to hold my weight on my right foot. My right calf was (and still is) disabled as my S1 nerve to it was completely damaged. I thought it would recover in time, but as time went on the information I was getting from my surgeon was that it would never properly recover. I knew I would never be able to run again in the same way, if at all.
(I wrote about it at the time which is in an earlier blog entry).
For twenty months or so my music and photography kept me on the straight and narrow. Well, that and my involvement in fell running by marshalling races. Then earlier this year a few things happened which had me thinking maybe I should have another go at running again. Rob Hope did a speech at Horwich RMI which really inspired me into thinking I needed to get back one way or another (he has been through a lot with health issues). Darren (Silvermachine) Fishwick encouraged me with ideas of taping up my feet to try and eradicate my problem, implying it didn’t matter where I finished, just as long as I got round. Ben Mounsey’s Blog. Newcomers like fell tadpole Calvin Ferguson all full of enthusiasm towards the sport and me witnessing competing fell runners performances, whilst I marshalled or photographed, all contributed towards my urge to get back.
In reality my problem was no longer an injury, it had developed into a disability. I had to somehow work around it. Firstly, Darren’s idea had to be addressed. So I did just that and had a go at Belmont Winter Hill route (now not only disabled but a tad overweight/unfit) and I got all taped up with tape Darren had donated. A good idea, but one which needed a little something else. A crutch, I realised this as I limped round. Below, that day on the burial ground on Noon Hill. I think by this point I had realised a comeback was imminent. A great feeling, somehow I can see that in my face.
I asked around for a crutch. One of my mates at work had broken his back roller skating, when he took his kids to the Wigan roller rink (still can’t believe this one to this day – he’s a fourth dan karate expert, you think he’d know how to break a fall, they had to shut the whole place down that day because of his antics), anyway he recovered and offered me his crutches.
Coniston Gullies 2016 marked my first return to race running. The day before the race I gave the route a shot with my crutch, taking into consideration the slowest time from the year before and just beat it. I went the next day to register and introduced my crutch. I didn’t know what response I would get, but to the credit of the BOFRA decision makers, who acknowledged the fact that it wasn’t an aid in the conventional terms of running, because I was disabled (thanks Paul Crabtree and later for Lee Marshall’s total encouragement), I was able to enter. Andy Holden, who has been a great support, took some brilliant shots of my efforts that day and put them on Twitter. Chris Barnes also put a picture on Twitter, that was taken at Paddy’s Pole and is the third photo down. I really like these photographs.
A few months ago I went down to the Walsh factory, it’s literally a couple of miles from where I live, and asked them to put some studs on my crutch. Without hesitation they obliged, I gave them a tenner for their efforts and they gave the money to charity. The studs came in really handy at this year’s Alva race. That’s the hill on the photo below to the left. That’s one white knuckle ride of a race.
I haven’t looked back since Coniston Gullies – to date completing 8 of my BOFRA races to qualify for what must be the most expensive T shirt in the whole world (especially if you go up to Alva….but it’s worth it). I completed Sierre Zinal in August and I’ve also entered a few FRA races – Paddy’s Pole (thanks Mick Mac for letting me enter and Guru for my Golden Crutch award), Lingmell Dash (thanks Tim, Jim & Lindsey) and Great Whernside (thanks Lynda). Thank you all for everything. I can’t even begin to explain how much the encouragement from the BOFRA lot in general has been in saving a broken fell runner (who was initially working on a dream) and making him into something that he wanted back more than anything. It means the world.
Fell running is an illness. The great thing is, you don’t have to get over it.
The crutch has to go.
Photo © John Thompson
Blog entry updated October 2016 from it’s original entry in August 2016.