Just past 7 a.m. and I’m walking alongside Coniston Water, heading into the village centre in search of a cash point. It’s already warm and heralds another day of holiday-feeling weather (this half term has been fantastic here in Cumbria: ironically, considering the flooding currently elsewhere and the floods over much of this part of the world only 6 months ago, some of the reservoirs are now at low levels, and running routes which are often boggy even throughout the summer are now hard, dry, crumbly mud instead of boggy, wet, squelchy mud). My friend Penny has just started off on the Lakeland Trails marathon – her husband is down in the New Forest so I volunteered to drive her home, as I’m sure her legs won’t feel like driving, and also she has supported me in events often enough.
In fact it’s rather strange not running with her, as since moving to Cumbria she has been one of my main running partners, and at times we have done triathlon training together. This includes one time when we paid for an annual pass each to swim in Talkin Tarn, in order to train for Talkin Tarn triathlon. The weather was cold that year and remained cold right through April and May – the one time we went in the Tarn I put my feet in and quickly retreated, while Penny was actually brave enough to get in and swim a few metres. As it turned out the triathlon became a duathlon that year as the water temperature was so cold (and – bragging rights here – we were both second in our respective age groups).
So today as the runners head off I feel rather strange – normally I’m one of the performers on the running stage, with however many miles of stunning scenery and adventure ahead of me, but today as the runners quickly disappear into the distance the lakeside field where the race starts seems rather quiet. As I walk into Coniston past John Ruskin school I feel a slight tinge of sadness as well: this is the ‘HQ’ for the Lakeland 50/100 ultra trail races, which David has done so often. Never again will I be involved in that event, and take my children to watch him start the L50 at Dalemain. I’m not sad that my marriage is over so much as sad that once we loved each other and now we don’t, and that an entire part of my life has well and truly stepped back into memory. In addition it was staying in the Lake District straight after the last time he did the L50, and picking him and a friend up from somewhere not far outside Kendal, which really marked the very last week of our marriage. It was a strange week, that final family holiday.
I find a cash point and walk back through a field brightly green and sprinkled generously with glowing yellow buttercups. A couple of hours later, with races starting every hour, the start/finish area has a completely different atmosphere. Family members waiting for their own personal runner to return paddle, swim and throw sticks for dogs in the lake; children with fishing nets forage in the lake or use them for fencing practice; babies wriggle their toes in pleasure at the freedom of not having too many clothes on and watch all this activity fascinated (so many new experiences to take in!). There is an almost-party atmosphere: at least a holiday atmosphere – everyone relaxed, the smell of Hog Roast and coffee; music playing; the splashing of dogs and people in the lake. I sit, watch, contemplate and feel content. The four, five or six hours it will take runners to return will pass quickly.
I haven’t been running for a couple of weeks and I’ve missed the outdoors, which I seem to yearn for more than ever at the moment. In compensation I’ve had plenty of work to do (filthy lucre), including travelling around the north-west, and have been making sure that I get my time with the children (David has had them more than me over the past months, and I have missed them – the house has felt too big and too empty). Then last night Two Red Heads and… had our debut performance at Wigton’s John Peel theatre. It was great to sing on a real stage again, with a sound system (not that we used the mics) and spotlights, and one of my dreams of singing Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater in semi-darkness was finally realised. Our 5-item slot seemed to go down really well and we’re looking forward to the next one: having initially said she couldn’t make next month’s Open Mic night, Deborah is now considering coming away early from the other engagement she has on so she can come to sing! We may be expanding to become a trio as well – Catherynn Dunstan, who organises the evenings along with husband Hayden and their two sons, has a lovely voice and was enthusiastic when I suggested she could sing as a trio with us sometime.
I know I still have some potentially difficult times ahead before I reach calmer seas but I also feel that I’m truly on my ‘right path’. I have to hold on to my singing and writing – to follow my dreams – neither of which requires a tight grasp, as they keep coming back to me anyway (in the sense that opportunities to do both keep presenting themselves) – as well as ensuring I have enough income coming in and that I see enough of my children. I need to balance my dreams with the practical.
But meanwhile I’m going to take the laptop back to the car, fetch my camera, sit in the sun with a book… and perhaps paddle in the lake too…