One of the things I love the most about running is the fact that it grounds us to the present moment. As soon as that timer starts, we become one with the road ahead. Our senses become heightened and it can often feel as though our eyes are being prised back open after a long, disdainful slumber. The world suddenly seems that much clearer - it subtly evolves from greyscale to colour as a gently fizzing joy embraces us from within. Our ears are fine-tuned to the whispers of our bodies. All that matters is finding peace within the rhythm of our movement and our mind.
When we run, the outside world just… Fades away. Work, bills, relationships, house repairs, the rising cost of Marmite… It all just abruptly evaporates.
Our feet – one in front of the other – act as a quick-fix miracle cure. We find our drug – our addiction – in the breathless uphill climbs, the crunch of pebble underfoot, and the rise and fall of our chests as we become the miles we cover.
But sometimes, running can surprise us. Sometimes, it’s not the present we find ourselves in as we pound along; it’s the past. And when running gifts us with nostalgia, it can make for quite an emotive experience…
On Wednesday 22nd June 2022, I took part in the Lyme Park 10k Trail Run, organised by Run North West.
Lyme Park was a big part of my childhood. I so fondly recall many school holidays spent there with my Mum and my beloved Grandma and Grandad. Those summer afternoons felt infinite and the memory of them remains eternal in my most precious recollections.
High on the balmy breeze, I’d paddle in the lake, relishing the feel of the icy water between my bare toes.
Grandad and I chased pixies through the woods, shrieking giddily – my childlike imaginations so vivid that I could actually convince myself of their presence.
What a blissful state of mind. ❤️
Side note: I actually wrote a blog entitled ‘Wishes with Dandelions’ for Visit Cheshire a few years ago about my memories of Lyme Park. Here’s the link: https://www.visitcheshire.com/ideas-and-inspiration/blog/read/2019/07/wishes-with-dandelions-memories-of-lyme-park-b1108
When you attend an event and THIS is the race HQ!! Lyme Hall 😍
Aside the fact that I have been looking into wheelchair hire ever since (my calves! The elevation! The BURN!), the Lyme Park 10k Trail Run was a thoroughly thrilling event like nothing I have ever experienced.
The run in itself was, in a word, hellish. It was utterly fabulous, but my God above it was almost impossible!
It was a mere three days since the incredible Marple 10k Trail Run (my fave run EVER! 🥰), and I was still on a high. I was happily planning an extensive future with trail running, thinking I’d found my new forte.
… Never again! Well, I mean, I will do it again, obviously, but I think I might need a good decade to recover! 🤦🏻♀️🤣
I thought the Lisbon Half Marathon had been tough in 30 degree heat, but at least it didn’t have evil, vertical hills to contend with!
In terms of trail running, this course had it all, and then some. In hindsight, I probably shouldn’t have attempted it with my injury, but it felt better after the Marple 10k, so I thought I’d give it a go. I wore my calf compression and miraculously, despite the treacherous terrain, I didn’t feel a thing other than a slight twinge.
If you’ve ever been to Lyme Park, you’ll be familiar with The Cage – an imposing stature that sits royally atop a sharp hill.
… We had to run up said hill. And if you think that’s soul-destroying and potentially breaching human rights, we also then had to run up the steepest hill I have ever seen in my LIFE, leading up to the Lantern Woods.
I have never witnessed so many front runners drop down to a walk. I don’t think the early-evening heat helped, either. (I ended up wearing the contents of my water bottle over my head. It was like Lisbon all over again, only this time thankfully it was water, not orangeade!).
I’m used to hills and my usual daily routes incorporate some pretty intense climbs, but THIS was in another league entirely. I thought my calves were going to explode!
Then there was the matter of cheeky little tree routes suddenly appearing from all angles.
Just to keep us on our toes, we also had to clamber over numerous stiles, duck under branches and skid down slopes made up of loose stone.
I genuinely felt as though I was in a video game or something, constantly leaping in the air and rapidly dodging one way and then another!
There were cows, and deer, and bagpipes, and a violinist (amazing, by the way. The violinist in the woods took my breath away. So beautiful. And the bagpipes made me feel quite regal as I pushed on up the hill to the cage!).
Check out these gorgeous guys! It's not every day you get the privilege of sharing your run with such beautiful animals ❤️
The scenery was absolutely sensational. If I hadn’t been focusing on trying not to break my ankle via the aid of a particularly aggressive tree route, I think I would have slowed right down and savoured every second of the view from the race summit, which overlooked Manchester with a sublime bird’s eye view.
The sun was still casting its smile across the park, despite the late hour. It really was the perfect evening for a run.
I felt a lump in my throat as I tore across the little wooden bridge by the Timber Yard, just meters from the finish line.
My Grandma and I played ‘Pooh Sticks’ so many times on that very bridge. To my right, the lake silently shimmied with nostalgia, creating a mirage of memories in my mind. It was the boost I needed to get me over the finish. That one was for you, Grandma. ❤️
The Lyme Park 10k Trail Run was by far the most challenging course I have ever run, but the test gave me such an almighty buzz.
I finished with a chip time of 51:32, which placed me 11th female out of 498, and 2nd out of 91 in my age category. I couldn’t believe it!
I hobbled through the arch and threw myself onto the cool grass, alongside 100 or so other runners who were all dousing themselves in water and hungrily scoffing flapjacks.
What a race! What a night!
I DID IT!!
The atmosphere at the finish line was buzzing. We all rightly felt so proud of the fact that we had conquered such a challenging course. Endorphins were high, given a helping hand by the stunning sunshine which was still peeking softly through the branches overhead.
Lyme Park will now find itself at the heart of even more memories. It was a night that I – like many – won’t forget.
It was lovely to be able to share the evening with my Mum as well – she’s now been to two of my runs and is proudly sporting the title of ‘Race Mom!’
It meant a lot for us to be able to reminisce together and recreate the sense of serenity that our days out at Lyme evoked all those years ago.
While I adore the feeling of presence that running usually grants me, there was something so moving about racing at this event. It was almost as though I was being blessed with a 3D tour through my childhood.
Cara Jasmine Bradley
Run North West: https://www.runnorthwest.co.uk