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Return to the Fells: Embracing Memories of Fell Running

It had been five months since I had last gone to my fells. Five months of travelling around New Zealand, seeing new sights, but always holding a special place in my heart for those hills I grew up in. A long flight had taken me from one side of the world to the other, but now I had returned, and it did not take me long, from stepping off the plane, to go to my fells.

It was my third day back in the UK that I went for a run in the hills. The first day had me travelling from London back to Cumbria, jet lagged and disoriented as I tried desperately not to fall asleep on the train, for fear of waking up at the end of the line in Edinburgh. The next day, a walk with my parents up Loughrigg slightly sated my appetite, but it was not until the third day that I would properly satisfy it. I knew I wanted the first run to be special, a route steeped in precious memories of times spent amongst the mountains. There was only one real option: the Coledale Horseshoe

The day dawned, pristine, warm and clear, a day designed to be preserved in fond memory. The climb up Grisdale pike, the first fell on the route, never gets any easier. It is an unrelenting upwards slog but as simple as it gets in many ways. With no navigation or route finding required, you focus on one thing alone, ascending skywards. I slowed to a fast walk, hands on thighs as the ground steepened, craning my head to look at the summit ahead growing tantalisingly closer. Soon, I was on the short, simple rocky scrabble that leads to the summit. I topped it, and ran over to the summit cairn, beholding the view that lay ahead of me.

Even during the various lockdowns, I had not been away from the fells as long as I had been. While there were mountains on my travels, I felt no connection to them in the way I did to my fells. Here, I looked across in wonder, drinking in the sight resplendent in front of me, all thoughts of time forgotten. As I looked across at each fell, memories blossomed. This group of fells where I did my first solo expedition as a teenager, disappearing into the thick snow of winter to emerge, hours later, cold, wet and happy. There was Causey Pike, the first hill I did with my friend Ross, on the reccie of the Teenager with Altitude race, the same route where I collapsed near the end, having ran out of food many an hour ago, unable to give any more to the fells. There was Grasmoor, the turning point on my slightly disastrous Abrahams Tea Round. There was Outerside, where I had slowly dragged myself, to lay on the warm grass one summer's eve, after a long weekend running in the fells, reluctant to return home. There in the distance was Great Gable, the last significant hill on a clockwise Bob Graham Round, where I supported two friends from Wasdale to the finish in Keswick.

I sat for what seemed like an eternity, unable to look away, emotion filling me. Never have I felt that I knew my place more than that moment. Never did I feel more that I belonged. A tapestry of my mountain triumphs and successes, failures and frustration. All my precious memories, stretching out as far as I could see.

I was home.

Fell running in the Lake District
The view from Grisdale Pike

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