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On the subs bench

The running life of course includes periods of not running, whether it’s because of injury, illness, lack of oomph, or just lots of life getting in the way. Our members who are not running are still our cherished members, so we thought it would be nice to get some reports of what people are up to when we don’t see them at club training or races. A questionnaire was sent out with the following questions:

Why are you on the subs bench?

How long have you been out?

What have you been doing, if anything, to keep mentally and physically fit?

What do you miss about running, if anything?


Hilary Lane

Why are you on the subs bench?

Where do I start?  It began with hamstring trouble at the beginning of 2021, then calf strain and other niggles; the year continued with loss of mojo (due to grief and stress) and consequently putting on weight. I started up again in the autumn with renewed positivity (I did the Dales Way in 4 days in September), only to end up with knee trouble through the winter months.

  • What have you been doing, if anything, to keep mentally and physically fit?

As much walking as I can, which is great for my mental well-being, and biking when I’ve had the energy or enthusiasm.  I’ve enjoyed watching and supporting races too.

I now have renewed intentions of getting out on the bike much more regularly and am even going to dabble on the turbo trainer, which I have just set up!

  •  What do you miss about running (if anything)?

I miss everything!  Running is part of me and what has defined me, certainly on a regular basis, for the past 32 years (with fell walking and general fitness/sports all my adult life).

To list a few:    

  • physical and mental well-being
  • routine
  • friends
  • camaraderie/banter
  • coffee shops
  • racing
  • the thrill of reaching the top of a hill and enjoying the views


Joshua Day

  1. I’m currently on the subs bench after bashing my foot in running down a volcano in Tenerife (El Chinyero, specifically). I hit the rock, fell over, tried to stand up and couldn’t walk, then flew home on crutches. 
  2. I’ve been out for four weeks now.
  3. I’ve been doing pressups and planks to try to keep fit. I decided to get the turbo out but dropped it on my foot. I took this as a sign and haven’t tried since. I’ve also deleted Strava to keep me sane.
  4. I miss the fresh air and the wind and the rain. I never thought I’d say this, but I’d do anything to be knee deep in a bog right now. 


Ann Brydson Hall

My bench is wearing thin…
Post viral fatigue/syndrome is something I have suffered from since having flu as a teenager and taking part in a 42-mile hiking competition before fully recovering.
I am on the bench quite often due to this and just creeping out of an episode now. It causes fatigue, aches and depression with a little bit of health anxiety thrown in for good measure.

What I do to keep sane…

I sing. I’m a small group called ‘hot flush’ (three part harmonies), read walk when possible and try to be outside every day.

I miss the fun of the fells with running mates when out of the loop.


Tom Goodhand

2022 started off well for me. Bright and early(ish) I was out for a new year’s day run over Burley and Ilkley Moor.

But mid-way through January my running came to a stuttering halt. Coccyx pain emerged – seemingly from nowhere – and refused to depart. I was hobbling round the house like a man twice my age. Every time I sat down I braced myself. And the same when I stood up. A call with the GP (inevitably) came with the recommendation to back off on the running. I did what I was told.

‘Ah well,’ I thought. I’d been bemoaning my inability to make time for yoga, so I found some specific lower back stretches, practised my breathing and my namastes. ‘I’ll give it a week,’ I figured, ‘see how it goes.’ I gave it a week. It didn’t go.
And then just as thinking maybe – just maybe – I can run again, along came Covid and the great unknown of what will it do to me? Double vaccinated and boostered, I figured I’d ride it out OK. And I’d seen a few folk – not least a few members of NLFR – raving about the latest 30 day yoga challenge from that Adriene. ‘That’ll be what I do during isolation,’ I reckoned to myself. ‘That’s isolation well spent.’
And I did ride it out ok. By day six I’d done my negative tests, I was out. I was free. As soon as that line stayed clear for 30 minutes it was trainers on and out the door. But I’ve learned that just because a lateral flow is negative, it doesn’t mean you’re fully recovered and fighting fit. My back has thanked me for the rest. But the heart rate levels my watch is sharing with me post-run are looking alarming. 
I’ve not yet dared try anything hilly or technical, sticking to the safety and relative flat of the roads of LS6. But I’ve been hankering to be out somewhere greener, somewhere higher, somewhere fell-ier. I’ve been jealously browsing instagrams, seeing people’s runs, their races, their views. The rare February sun. I’m itching to get back out now. 

Oh, and that Adriene thing. I’m 13 days in. Those folk raving about her were right.


Rose George

I know exactly when I fell ill, because it was 36 hours after running Auld Lang Syne tethered to eight other NLFR women and Hilary-Santa, while dressed as Dancer the Reindeer. It was glorious fun. Then: a sore throat. Then a headache. Then fatigue. Of course I started lateral flow testing like they were going out of fashion, then did a PCR test. All negative. I felt grotty for a week and did no exercise but felt so grotty I didn’t care. I mean, this was when I got to the Co-op, a quarter of a mile away, and seriously wondered how I was going to walk home. After a week, I felt well enough that I went on a club run around the Chevin, and it felt fabulous to be running again. Two days later: total relapse. And that has been the pattern for six weeks. I feel better, I do something though conservatively, I feel worse. After two weeks my body decided to throw a cough at me too, first dry coughing fits that had me sprinting out of the British Library, plus constant “it’s not Covid, honestly, I’ve tested” apologies. Then a chesty cough that has yet to shift. I have done exercise, I have done runs. This weekend I ran 4 miles along a seriously gusty Welsh coastline, then the next day walked for 5 miles in pouring rain. I know. Idiot. I am now not ill but not well and that is the best way I can describe it. What do I miss? All of it. The thoughtless delight of being well and healthy. The ability to plan to do runs knowing you’ll be OK to do them. The fitness. The social comfort of doing the sport you love with others who love it too.

I’ve kept relatively fit. I did a daily squats and plank challenge in January, even when I was coughing and spluttering, so finished the month having done 3,000 squats and lots of planks. I did Adriene’s 30 day challenge and got addicted to a morning yoga session. I have walked and sometimes run. But I’ve put on half a stone in mostly comfort-chocolate. And I pulled out of Rombalds Stride because I felt rotten again and like I couldn’t stride one mile never mind 22. High Cup Nick is next on my race list: who knows whether I can do it, but I’ll probably try.


Jenny Cooper : Ghost Runner

I suppose you could call me a ghost runner, nothing to do with the Bill Jones book of the same name, (although worth a read) but more to do with my training/club attendance. Despite being a paid-up member of the club for nearly 4 years I can count on one hand how many times I’ve been to training. Most members won’t even know me to be honest.

Why be in a club but not train with them? Good question and one I used to say about members of my previous club who ran for us but not with us. Basically, it’s to do with time for me. I’m lucky enough to work from home a lot so I tend to go out during the day or when the husband gets home from work, we can be done and dusted before 6.30pm.

During lockdown I was running with my mate in her lunch hour, the same route at the same chatty pace with no training taking place just “out for a run”. At no point did we push each other or have any significant hills to tackle. Not great training for a fell runner, especially when most of it was on road. We did a few “away runs” on a weekend but again nothing above conversational pace.

These social runs had a huge positive impact on my mental health during lockdown, but little did I know, they would also prove to be a very solid base physically for when races finally started getting added to the calendar again.

My first race last year was Eccup 10 which I did in a time of 1:25, not blistering I know but when you consider I’d been running at 9:30/9:45 pace for no more than 6 or 7 miles two or three times a week it was certainly a surprise to say the least. What was good about it was it felt comfortable and sustainable. I then ran two half marathons in space of a few weeks, Major Stone in September and Bridlington Half in October. I did both in a time of 1:54, even with different routes and conditions with Brid being the harder of the two. Sod’s law: I was 2nd FV45 at Bridlington but they weren’t doing any prizes except for 1st!

I then entered some off-road races and discovered that my lack of hills/mud would make for some tough races over the winter. I shall not mention my appearance for the club at the British Fell Relays at Tebay as I was well and truly found out on that one and the least said the better. However, this was a wake-up call and since then I have incorporated hills and strength training into my regime along with being back on the spin bike and the pool. I’m hopeful for some stronger off-road performances going into 2022, as well as representing the club at relays.


Martyn Price

I suppose that as we get older we should expect to be sidelined more often, the aches and pains are more frequent and it seems to take much longer to recover from a long or particularly tough run. However I can’t say I’m even slightly philosophical about being on the Subs’ Bench, the truth is I’m pretty grumpy about it. 

It’s my own fault of course, I’m a relatively new member to NLFR and joining the club has given me some proper incentive to get fit, so I’ve been working my legs hard in the gym and  have totally overdone it, managing to really strain my upper hamstring tendons. It feels like I’ve been kicked by a particularly malevolent cart horse and the only way I can sit down with comfort is if it’s in  a pub and soothed by beer.  Seriously though, unfortunately I suffer from an auto-immune condition that manifests itself in a form of inflammatory arthritis, meaning I’m predisposed to things like tendonitis and I should have known better. Most of the time it’s all under control and I manage it without serious medication, but it’s a cruel thing to happen to a fellrunner.  

I had my first ever DNF at Rombalds Stride  a couple of weekends back (unless you include a failed Bob Graham attempt ten years ago) and I’m annoyed that I was daft enough to start. I’m working hard to rehab the sore bits and am doing plenty on Zwift and the elliptical trainer. With luck I’ll be back in action soon.I hope to have another go at the Joss Naylor Lakeland Challenge this year, so have a real incentive.

Auld Lang Syne in rhyme

‘‘Twas a few days before Christmas and all through the house not a creature was stirring not even a mouse….

When suddenly on my phone there arose such a clatter (whatsapp)
I sprang from my chair to read what was the matter

And away to my phone and keyed in the pass(code)

The screen gave the list of objects we need

When what to my wondering eyes should appear

But a miniature sleigh complete with Santa, and eight tiny reindeer

Messages of tights, t-shirts, tutu’s and antlers abound

We knew in a moment it must be our kit 

More rapid than eagles our clothes we obtained

Race day was looming and prizes to gain

As we whistled and shouted our new reindeer names

On comet, on Cupid, on donner and blitzen!

As dry leaves before the hurricane fly

When we meet with obstacles we mount to the sky’s

Over fallen trees and through rivers we flew

Santa sprang in her sleigh and to her team gave a whistle 

And away we flew over hillside and moor

We heard people exclaim as we had the finish  in sight

“Eeh they did well them lasses staying together”

With much applause we ended our plight

Got first prize for giving such a sight

All bottles of beer to enjoy one night‘

Happy new year to all, and to all good running…

The ladies of NLFR got first prize for fancy dress and I know I am not page three material so I was very pleased we got page four in The Times.  A great team effort from Meg, Rose, Ruth, Caroline, Emma, Ann, Hilary, Hannah and me (or Santa, Rudolph, Donner, Blitzen, Dancer, Prancer, Comet, Cupid and Vixen).
Next year’s outfit is already in our thoughts….

Liz Casey

Kettlewell Pre-Race Briefing for Runners

We are excited to be welcoming you all to Kettlewell on Thursday.

Please take a few minutes to familiarise yourself with the pre-race briefing before arriving. We’ll all need to adapt out usual routine slightly to ensure the COVID measures are adhered to so these events can continue to be run.

The Lancashireman off-road “marathon”

A race. An actual race. A race with real numbers that you pin to your club vest with actual pins. Real checkpoints. Real marshals. Everything real. Everything vivid. Everything I have not done for six months, since FRB and I did the 30-mile Haworth Hobble in March, in the last weekend before lockdown. For this race, timing was important. A week before it was due to be run, we still hadn’t entered and the entry list – it had only 100 runners – was full. Oh. I wrote to Jamie, a fell-running mate of ours who organizes it, and congratulated him on the race selling out and cursing my lateness at entering. It’s not a passive aggressive message request for places, I wrote, meaning it. Anyway, the dodgy knee that I have had since a month into lockdown would be thankful that I was not going to be running the 28 miles of the Lancashireman off-road “marathon” (they are generous in Lancashire) on very imperfect training.

Jamie wrote back. He had a couple of places and would Neil and I like them?


The reasons against accepting:

  1. The Lancashireman is 28 miles long.
  2. The Lancashireman is 28 miles long.
  3. The Lancashireman is 28 miles long.

I had spent hours on my feet during a week in Scotland, but before that I’d not run beyond 15 miles for months, since the Fellsman was one of the first races to be cancelled. But I have form at running long runs unprepared. I said yes please to Jamie, and started eating everything. I was worried about my knee, as although my physio had decided my knee pain was due to inactive glutes, and finished with “go forth and run,” it was not getting better and sitting and lying both made it hurt. The only time it seemed OK was running, but not steeply downhill. But I accepted the places, hoped my knee would behave, and got quite excited.


I did a training session of mile efforts on the Wednesday, then no more running. I had a seriously crappy week for work/book reasons, and began to think that running for six or so hours across Lancashire countryside was exactly what I needed. We headed to Burnley on Saturday night, had a night at the Premier Inn for £33 (pandemic price), then up at 6.30 to eat our DIY breakfasts: Weetabix in Tupperware and an M&S baguette. Elite fuelling.

I was going to try Mountain Fuel again for this. I’ve used it once before and liked it and thought I needed all the help I could get. So I downed half a packet with my baguette, and filled my soft flasks with the other half. As usual I packed a full picnic: chocolate bars, sweets, flapjacks, Quorn sausages, Mountain Fuel sports jellies. The weather forecast was perfect, predicting single figure temperatures but outbreaks of sunshine. It would be cool on the tops though, and there would be a lot of tops, so I put on a merino long-sleeve with my vest.  

The race had been allowed to go ahead because it was going to be Covid-secure. That meant only turning up to get your race number 15 minutes before your designated start time, designated start times that set people off in groups of no more than six, only packaged food at checkpoints, and no milling. Everyone was conforming to this when we turned up, ready for our 8.21 start, and with little faffing time, we were set off. We had a plan: 10 minute-miling to start with, and steady steady all the way. That way, Neil thought, we could comfortably finish in six hours and beat our time of last year (just over 6.30). He also thought we could win the mixed pair category, but I tried to put that out of my head. Steady, think of your knee, steady, steady, steady.

Image by Neil Wallace

I thought I knew the route. I’d recced most of it last year, and we’d run it of course, though partly in pouring rain. The weather this year was so far beautiful, with clear sunny skies. Maybe that’s why I realised I couldn’t remember much of the second mile through woodland. This was going to be a theme for the whole route, as it turned out that once again, I knew sections but not necessarily in the right order.

The route mostly follows the Burnley Way, a path that Visit Lancashire describes with odd grammar as “a 40-mile adventure from industrial heritage, along waterways, through fields, parks, old farms, and Forest of Burnley woodlands to the wild South Pennine Moors.” The route “has been recently updated and revised into six easy sections.” Easy? I knew there were more than 4,000 feet of climb over the 28 miles and that the biggest climb of all was at mile 20. At least, deep inside I knew but I was refusing to think about it.

Seven miles in, we reached the part that had caused chaos last year, with runners all over the place trying to find an elusive footbridge. So this year I had studied it online, calculating that we had to turn south a third of a mile after Shore Hey farm. Neil had also worked out when to turn, and this year we mostly got it right. On the hill ahead of us, runners appeared like Scottish warriors in an epic film; they had gone too far and were on their way back. If you don’t accidentally detour at least once on the Lancashireman, you’ve probably done it wrong. Jamie & crew do their best, with the odd chalked LORM and arrow, and the Burnley Way is waymarked now and then with a sunny B, but there are plenty of miles where it isn’t.

By now the runners who had gone the right way and runners who had gone the wrong way were all converging, so that up the hill on the far side of the bridge, the narrow singletrack path of stone steps — known as the Ogglty-Cogglty — became bottlenecked. This is a usual situation in fell running, but not in fell running during a pandemic. I turned and courteously asked the man behind me to back off, and he did. Neil meanwhile had a man behind him so close, it was clear he’d had garlic the day before. Asked to Ogglty-Cogglty off, politely, he didn’t, so it couldn’t be dismissed as thoughtlessness. It’s not like anyone was going anywhere fast: the climb was steep, no-one was running it, and it was packed solid. I really try to dampen my judginess in life these days, else I would spend my life internally fuming at people getting too close, wearing masks wrong, just being wrong. But this was unsettling.

Out of the woods, the sun was warmer than forecast, and I was beginning to feel uncomfortably hot. We reached the first checkpoint, staffed by cheery marshals in green t-shirts. This was my first experience of a Covid-secure checkpoint and as advertised, all food was packaged – biscuits, chocolate bars, crisps – and water was dispensed from jugs. There could have been improvements such as a one-way funnel, but there was plenty of hand sanitizer and it was being done as safely as possible. You can never eliminate risk, just reduce it as best you can. A young woman who was pouring me water looked behind me and said, “well done Mum!”.

I was surprised, I think because I immediately pictured my own mother arriving behind me in a race. She is 80, and fabulous, and has been walking 12 miles a week during the pandemic, but she’s never going to be a fellrunner.

I asked the girl, stupidly, “your mother is running?”

“Yes, that’s her in the red.”

I turned to look. “How old is she?”


I said “oh shit,” and people laughed and I’m still not sure why I said that. There were no age categories in the mixed pair category and anyway, I wasn’t being competitive, remember? Still I kept an eye on her for a while until we drew away from her. Habit.

Soon we stopped to strip down to vest-only. Then onwards, up horrible tarmac, some fake-running for the photographer, who managed to make my short Welsh legs look even shorter.

My brain was busy calculating what was coming next. It was like that animation of a human brain using mechanical wheels and whirring. Finally the whirring stopped and I knew: Widdop reservoir and moorland. More whirring: A couple of miles across the tops of the moors, past Gorple Stones, down to Hurstwood reservoir and that would be halfway.

 Far off in front of us was a young woman who I thought we would never catch. Then, as we turned off the road to boggy paths around Widdop reservoir, she slowed, and we passed her easily. I don’t know if the Lancashireman counts as a fell race but if you don’t have fell experience, obviously that will show in the boggy bits. Not that I didn’t fall. I did, but I made sure to fall on a soft bit.

The view from Gorple Stones was beautiful, as it always is. Later, we learned that a runner had fallen here and dislocated his shoulder. He’d been content to run on, until the marshals pointed out that his bone was several centimetres forward from where it should have been.

Hurstwood. I couldn’t have sped up, but I didn’t need to slow down or stop. I felt quite good, and we made sure to run harmoniously for Jamie’s camera.

Along the way we encountered two men running ahead of us. One had a very bloodied head. He had fallen, also after Gorple Stones. He was OK to go on, and said he would wash off in a beck, then didn’t. Finally I offered him a wet wipe, then had to dig around in my pack for it as of course my first aid kit was at the bottom of my copious dry bag of kit. “Sorry lass,” said David, of the bloodied head. “Sorry to hold you back.” Oh, we’re not competitive said Rose (the same Rose who knows exactly by how many minutes they came second eventually in the mixed pair category and calculates that this was probably the same amount of minutes lost helping David but that’s fine).

We ran on together, past the next checkpoint, along the thankless Long Causeway tarmac road, past cloughs and gullies. Before dropping down into the hamlet of Portsmouth, we passed through fields that had a powerful stink. We passed a tractor approaching with a trailer full of more fragrant manure, then reached the path, turned and saw him spraying it exactly where we’d just been. Lucky escape.  

By now something strange was happening. I was running more. My legs would run when my brain didn’t want to. I felt stronger. It was very odd. Maybe it was the Mountain Fuel? It was useful though as the hardest climb was coming up, to Heald Moor and Thievley Pike. At this point, my poor memory was an advantage, because I had forgotten how long and steep the climb was, so I just put my head down and climbed. Behind me, two women were telling two other runners what was coming up. “Horrendous! The worst climb ever! It’s awful!” I wondered at this. It wasn’t horrendous, it definitely wasn’t the worst climb ever, and if it was that awful, why were you doing the race? It was a beautiful day, the sun was shining, the views back to the other side of the valley were lovely. Perhaps that negativity got them up the hill more easily. Whatever works.

Image by Neil Wallace

Me, I was enjoying it. I was running easily and not tiring. My knee was sore but not disabling. And we only had a few miles left. Down into the grandiose Townley Hall, where we ran past a footballer lying on the ground and I thought, I bet a fell-runner would run through whatever injury he has. Past families with ice-cream, and a young girl who looked at me and asked her mother what I was doing. “She’s running!” But I wasn’t at that point, so then I had to.

There was only one short real climb to go, but it was uphill to Todmorden Road before that. Then along above the railway, with runners around us clearly tiring but enduring, as we were. Through the Kilns, where I directed a chatty pair from Accrington. At least, she was chatty. He wasn’t, and had to be chivvied, if chivvying consists of “COME ON MICK.” I’ve never seen a man running with clingfilm wrapped around his leg before, and I won’t forget Mick’s. They were both doing the relay, which you could do in pairs or threes or more. Mick made it to the end, clingfilm and all.

Finally, after we had run away from Burnley to run back to it, we were running down into town, past someone getting their Morrison’s delivery, and a smile from the young woman driving the van, to the canal where of course I wanted to go to the wrong way and almost set off on the route again. The last bit seemed such a long stretch though it was probably only half a mile. Then, eventually, the sound of clapping and cheering and there was Sandygate plaza, and some steps to run up that were nothing as bad as Butt Lane at the end of the Yorkshireman, but also not flat. We got to Jamie at the top and then: where was the finish line? Stop, said Jamie, stop! You’ve finished. This is it. He was it.

28 miles on little training and through niggles and cramp, but it was fun. It was good to be out racing again amongst beautiful scenery and the like-minded. It was good to pin a number on my race vest again, and pull out the rainbow race socks. It was good to stop and eat the two Quorn sausages that I had been carrying for six hours. It was good to be out, away from bad news and more bad news, to run past a man with binoculars and think, what a lovely smile he has, to be greeted with good cheer by everyone, to have my sinuses cleared by fresh cow shit.

Six hours. Actually it was 6.07. That was fine, and 25 minutes quicker than we had done the year before. Better weather this time, but worse training. Though last year I had run the Yorkshireman a week earlier. We placed second mixed pair after a couple from Clayton-le-Moors. We will do better next year, because I will definitely be back to the dark side, if the pandemic allows.

p.s. My knee? It hurts.

It had to be done.

By Rose George

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