Since completing the West Highland Way I have had a hankering for a day spent walking the trails rather than running them, and actually spending some time with Alasdair, which rarely happens when head for the trails or hills.
The usual pattern is I run and get all sweaty and knackered, while he has a gentle walk, a coffee and cake stop or two, some time reading and a bit of a snooze in the car. Actually, that does not sound half bad: I wonder which of us is getting the better gig?
If we go hill walking, I do honestly try to rein it in, but somehow lose him and end up hanging about at the top wondering what on earth is taking him so long, and has he had a heart attack. We have now learned to each carry our own food after a number of fractious outings where one or other has been left ravenous without food.
My post WHW Race recovery meant that there was a fighting chance that for once we would be similarly paced.
So, there we were, Alasdair and I, setting out from the Arrochar car park to walk the 11 mile Glen Loin loop. On the drive I had proudly announced that I had left my MP3 player at home. Alasdair responded with;
Alasdair: ‘I brought mine. Did you forget yours?’
Me: ‘No. I meant to leave it. We are walking together: being sociable’
Alasdair: ‘Hmm, I give you fifteen minutes and then you’ll be off.’
Me: ‘No I won’t’
Alasdair: ‘We’ll see’
Well, that displayed a remarkable lack of faith!
We set out. It was sunny with a light breeze, perfect walking weather. The landscape was lush and green and after initial section through woodland the glen opened out with fantastic views as we gently climbed up towards the top end. It was peaceful and quiet other than birdsong and the gentle buzz of grasshoppers and bumble bees. There were amazing dragon flies flitting about, and the foxgloves were in full bloom adding colour along with buttercups and other meadow flowers including fragrant wild thyme: bliss.
We had met and briefly chatted with a couple of runners in the car park, and a couple of other runners passed us doing the route in reverse. It did seem odd not running. I have become so conditioned by my training sessions on the trails, I felt a bit like a dog pulling on its leash, or scampering backwards and forwards. I behaved myself being sure not to pull too far ahead allowing Alasdair to catch up.
Alasdair: ‘Do you want to run? I think you want to run?’
Me: ‘No. It’s fine. Anyway, I’m not wearing a sports bra. Too much bounce’
Alasdair: ‘Too much information.’
It was quite a novelty for both of us. We even conversed, with me trying to keep the running, events, challenges and Tour de France chat to a minimum. At other points we were happy to walk in companionable silence enjoying the peace and quiet around us. Not dissimilar to when I have company whilst running, although the walking conversation was perhaps a tad more eloquent than the short breathy sentences and one word answers that predominate during a run.
I know that a number of my fellow runners have animal issues, which is odd as they are a bit a fixture. A country bumpkin I have none, and will quite happily head through a cow field, or move the odd cow out of the way with a pat on the rump. When we reached the top of the glen there was a very large flock of sheep running round a field bleating away raucously.
Alasdair: Why are they doing that?’
Me: ‘Not sure. Something is bothering them but not sure what: or maybe they are about go on the rampage.’
I actually find sheep rather creepy, and my experience has shown that they are more prone to violence than cows. And they don’t half make a mess of the front of a VW Beatle when you hit one; as my Mum did many years ago on the road to Ullapool. Mum has form with farm animals. Some year later a cow wrote of a VW estate she was driving. To be fair it was dark and the cow was black. Anyway, back to Glen Loin. After the marauding sheep we came upon a group of cattle with calves: far more peaceful, and just a gentle low and nudge to the calf as a mum got fed up with the photo shoot.
Of course walking greatly reduces the falling over factor and I can report no falls although there was a near miss when we stopped for lunch. Leaning back against a fence to take a photo of Alasdair the top wire twanged and broke with me narrowly avoiding somersaulting backwards. The peace and quiet shattered as we whooped with laughter and fell about like a pair of 10 year olds, much to the surprise of some other walkers passing by. Clearly no outing is complete without a tumble or near miss.
Before leaving Alasdair wandered over to the fence:
Alasdair: ‘What’s down there anyway?
Me: ‘No idea’
Alasdair: ‘Hmm, that could have ended badly. Numpty’ as we peered down at a rock strewn sheer drop.
We continued on uneventfully at a leisurely pace and did not even mind the heavy rain for the last half hour. We took an outrageously long time to walk 11 miles, but it was a relaxed and enjoyable day enjoying the company, weather and landscape. Sometimes when I am running I forget to look around me and appreciate the beauty.
It does mind and body good to have a change of pace. I covered the same miles that I would have run, and it was good solid miles on the legs. As I walked I realised that I am as ready as I can be, just 6 weeks after the WHW, for the Devil ‘O the Highlands next weekend. My legs feel strong and rested and my body is crying out to run.