Category Archives: Running

Winter’s Calling

 

Late November, the dark peak.

Winter is home again on these high moors,

mewling in with chill-lash days of sleet and gale.

With fellhard testing days of hail obscured horizons and roaring, bed broaching brooks.

 

The moorlands, in summer sunbaked hard to a dustpuffing footthumping crust, hard as the skin-shredding gritstone;

air filled with skylark song.

Now, now they are become the haunt of ravens.

 

Now, winter drenched they have become again a crazy patchwork,

a patchwork of dampslick gritstone and foot chilling mud.

The sharp bite of ice,

its grip freezing the mud to iron hardness, the dampslick to glass;

that is yet to come.

With climate change it may not come at all this year. 

 

My body, fresh off the bus, shrugs a familiar desultory shiver. On these fells, bare weeks ago, weather warmed it welcomed the gentle kiss of a cooling breeze. This winter day, warmth barely conserved by swathes of fleece and shell, the intrusively questing tendrils of a nithering east wind find any gap; to chill any sliver of bare skin. 

 

But still, these long beloved rolling seas,

of heather speckled with islands of gritstone all beneath a sheltering sky,

 still they call me.

And so, as I have for decades, I respond.

With coldtingle scorched fingers and toes, with wind chapped grin, I run. 

And, for a little while, all is well and all manner of things are well.

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REVIEW: Mountain King Trail Blaze Poles

Folded Mountain King Trail Blaze poles with Clif bar for scale.

Trekking poles, we know they can help whether uphill or down.  We also know they’re often designed by Captain Complex; heavy, bulky and slow to set, or light and beyond flimsy.  All this of course means many of us leave the things in the shop or at home. 

These Trail Blaze poles from Mountain King may just change your mind.  Super light(115-135g), fixed length(110-130cm), anodised alloy body, tungsten carbide tips, folding to about a quarter their open length(pic 1) and quick to rig they’ve got me using poles again.

First off, fixed length; why?  An ideal pole length(we’re talking walking/running here, not skiing) has your shoulders relaxed and forearms around horizontal on level ground.  These poles come in 5cm increments, so getting close to your ideal is easy.  From experience adjustable poles just slow you down as you fiddle and faff.  Fixed length poles quickly become a familiar, useful extension of your arm.  I’m not even going to start on anti-shock systems… suffice to say I’m not a fan.

Right back to these poles.  They come packed in a mesh bag, good for storage and packed transport.  You get a set of spike covers, flimsy but okay as travel protectors until you lose them.  The poles themselves are lightweight alloy, slotting together(a bit of Glide or similar on the insert helps) like a tent pole or avalanche probe.  The simple locking mechanism a piece of 2mm cord up the middle, pull it tight, slip the knot into the catch slot and you’re ready to go(pic 2). 

Hand grip and locking mechanism of Mountain King Trail Blaze poles.

That dangly bit of cord though, really irritated me; smarted too in strong wind.  A bit of knotted elastic and a couple of strips of gaffa sorted it(pic 3). 

Simple modification with gaffa tape and elastic on of Mountain King Trail Blaze poles.

To knock them down is equally quick.  A velcro loop just below the grip should hold the poles folded.  But, one fell off in the bag, the other on a bus somewhere between Sheffield and Fox House.  I’ve replaced them with an off the peg velcro strap.

The wrist loops and grips carry on the light and simple theme, a fixed reach through loop and a mesh covered foam grip.  A minor gripe for me is I have big hands, the padding could do with being 2-3cm longer for comfort.  Perhaps time for a bit of bodging.  The grip though is still refreshingly basic, okay for comfort and functional(pic 4).  On hot days, you might find a thin glove adds some comfort; this is true for any pole.

Hand grip/strap in use on Mountain King Trail Blaze poles.

The supplied baskets are a hard snow/ soft ground size; a bit large for summer.  I found they caught and snagged in rocks and ground plants, both preventing a solid plant and easy lift.  Thankfully poles are a standard size and smaller baskets are easy to find and fit(pic 5).  You could always of course go basketless. 

Supplied large basket and replacement compact basket on Mountain King Trail Blaze poles.

So to sum up, cons first:

  • If like me you have big hands, the grip could be longer.
  • The piece of velcro to hold the poles folded is rubbish; but so easy to replace.
  • The supplied baskets are too big; but again so easy to replace.
  • Like any pole, using them with a big bouldering pad is… comical for your companions.

 

Now the pros:

  • They are simple, a huge bonus when tired in remote areas.
  • These poles are light, easy to use and carry.
  • They’re made in Newcastle, and Mountain King offer a quick repair service.
  • They’re strong though, so you wont need that repair service much.  I’m 189cm tall and 88kg, my 120cm poles easily cope with me vaulting on them.
  • Those tungsten carbide tips bite, on gravel or mud or ice.
  • So far, after about a year or so, mine are still in good condition.
  • Range from 110-130cm; weigh from 115-135g.
  • They’re cheap; for good quality poles.
  • They do the job.

 

So, after waffling on, would I recommend these Mountain King Trail Blaze poles?

They are super light, simple, strong and do the job.  So yes, if you want some poles, I do recommend them.

You can buy the poles from Sheffield’s specialist running shop Accelerate, either in person at the shop(kettle will be on…), or by mail order.

The manufacturer’s site is Mountain King.

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Judgement Day or, why I said this film wins or, why did I say I’d judge this comp?

My friends at Accelerate running shop Have been running a video competition as part of their Shake Up. I was rather pleased, and a little unnerved, to be asked to judge the entries.

Here’s the winning entry, from Sheffield based artists Callum and Mikk Murray.

I’ll openly declare here, I know and like Mikk. This film won because of the three entries we received, I feel it best fills the competition brief. The film tells a coherent story, a story about what a part of our running world feels like.

They’ve shown the varied running environment we enjoy, the film tells a story, and it features the shop itself. For those who don’t know the area, Mikk starts off running high on the moors at Burbage North Bridge. This is, remarkably, still in Sheffield and the valley is maintained as one of the city’s parks. The film created journey, from those wild and windy moors through our still thriving industrial city. Callum and Mikk’s film, through this journey, showcases the superb variety of trail running we have in our home city, from fell through country to urban. And it finishes at the shop, where the usual greeting is being passed; a mug of your favourite drink.

The soundtrack, Flow, from Oren Dji fits well without being obtrusive. There’s enough volume to hear it clearly, the mood of the song fits well with the quiet nature of the film. A personal note here, there’s more to (adventure) film soundtracking than rad thumpin, bangin rock, rap and house choons. Be genuinely radical, experiment, explore the worlds of sound out there.

In short, I like the film. It’s one I’d be happy to have made.

Callum and Mikk win a Suunto watch. Well done chaps.
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Escape: an urban runner’s daydream

Escape. A new short running film.

For most of us northern Europeans the city is our natural environment. But, being runners, we can daydream over a morning espresso, maybe a piece of lemon cake too. This is one such daydream.

Despite our deserved reputation for heavy industry the city is woven through with, hemmed around with, ribbons of woodland and river and field. You can run from the horrors of Meadowhall shopping centre almost into the city centre along tree lined canal or river barely touching tarmac, although the remains of that heavy industry surround you most of the way.

To be fair, many cities have such hidden areas, get your shoes on and go explore your local patches. Enjoy your own escape

 

 

 

 

Part of my Running Shorts series. The film was shot in and around my home city of Sheffield; the outdoor city. It’s shot on an iPhone6, sometimes with Olloclip lenses, edited in iMovie. The main soundtrack is Country Boy, composed by Ben Tissot, bensound.com

Running Shorts; a film intro clip

I’m a big fan of Salomon Running’s films, made by The African Attachment. The gorgeous, impressionistic “The Forest” is really what nudged me into finally trying to make small films myself. Being professionals, they have a common introduction sequence. So I decided it might be an idea if I did that too.

Off to Ecclesall Woods I went, iPhone in bag and shot a few clips. This one I’m happy with. Simple, a long trail off into white for later editing in and a slightly silly soundtrack. I was, I freely admit very lucky with the light, a glorious English spring day fresh minted after a night of rain.

One other thing. The intro also has a pun, feeble even by my standards. As I grew up on BBC Radio4 and it’s ilk I not actually going to apologise for that.

Be well all,

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Getting out the door: A morning run

 

A short film made after I’d been woken by my neighbourhood version of the dawn chorus. The local blackbirds and sparrows started up around 0500, some three hours before my alarm was due to wake me.

I yielded to the inevitable, got out of bed, found my running kit, drank coffee, ate cake and went out for a run in the half light. I also picked up my iPhone and did a little filming.

It was a really rather lovely run, a peaceful morning, surrounded by a birch woodland emerging into spring and filled with the sound of birdsong. And this magical place of twisting paths, of squirrels and foxes and birds and bats and the occasional badger is just one minute’s run from my suburban housing estate back door, in the middle of what was the South Yorkshire coalfield, a mucky place of pits, glassworks and shunting yards when I was a boy.

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