Beating the January Blues: Fell Running Style

January can be a pretty depressing month for loads of reasons, and it’s really common for our mental health to take a massive dip. I know I’ve been finding things quite hard since Christmas personally, which I’ve written a little bit about here. So I was thinking about writing a blog post about ways to combat the dreaded January Blues. I came up with a few ideas, including trying to plan an adventure – take a boring day with no plans, and do something different with it. But instead of writing a blog about ideas to cheer yourself up, I thought I’d just give it a go instead. So I planned an adventure.

I won’t bore you here with how great running is for your mental health (see all previous posts) but it’s been an absolute gamechanger for me. In fact if you were to follow me on Strava you can tell I’ve been struggling in the last few weeks by the sudden increase in my mileage! But for adventure-running you need to find a really beautiful setting, with dramatic views and exciting terrain. So I decided to explore a new area of the Peak District: Mam Tor.

Of course all great adventures need an OS map. However the only maps I can read are ones where there’s a little dot representing me, that moves around the route in the correction direction, in real time, and tells me to turn around if I go wrong. I needed to enlist a partner – who could read maps. My most recent effort to convince my long-suffering boyfriend of the joys of fell-running included a life-threatening night race in the rain (have a laugh here), so he wasn’t overly keen. But luckily for me, he is wonderfully supportive of both my mental health and my adventures, and he agreed to come along – as long as the dog came too.

We followed a route called ‘The Shivering Mountain’ (click for map and directions) which didn’t bode well, but as we set off from Castleton in glorious winter sunshine I was pretty excited that this was THE RUN to change Tom’s mind. Milly stopped on the first path to do a poo, which she proceeded to spray all over me with her back legs before tearing off into the distance in glee. As we climbed upwards along grassy paths – and lots of sheep – it became steadily greyer until we reached ‘Windy Knoll’, where it became very, very windy. I was still feeling positive.

As we begun the steep climb up towards the peak of Mam Tor we entered a thick, windy, cold fog. I reassured Tom that the view was meant to be really spectacular at the top. He looked up towards the top – well, the two metres in front of us we could see and replied

“Nat, it’s January, we’re running up a massive hill and I’m wearing shorts. This is as good as it gets”

As I’ve said before, running makes me happier, and much more positive. Therefore, until the very last moment I was absolutely certain the fog would part at the top (in a biblical sort of fashion) revealing a beautiful view of the valley below. Which was definitely well worth the tricky climb getting there.  And would convince Tom fell running was great.

So here’s someone else’s photo of Mam Tor, because we just saw white, and I want you to enjoy it:

Copyright: peakandfellwalking.co.uk

Joking aside, it was pretty brutal at the top with chilly temperatures and a mean wind (I took extra strong hold of Milly in case she blew away). So we lingered for a very brief selfie before running gingerly into the fog to head down towards Back Tor.

The stretch across here was actually lovely running, with soft ground but not slippy, and we warmed up and shared some strawberry liquorice. This is excellent running fuel as it sticks to your teeth, providing slow-release energy. The weather began to improve dramatically as we dropped lower and we finished the run with some beautiful winter sun – and we even found Tom’s sense of humour about half way down.

All great adventures end in a pub. In this particular one I met a man in a top-hat at the bar, so we did a hat swap – I think this could be a good new look for me. Maybe some re-branding of This Vet Runs?

Whilst it was a shame that we couldn’t see a lot from the top, I always find being active in bad weather particularly exhilarating. A few days ago I felt like I couldn’t lift my head from my pillow, let alone get out of bed; today I got up, travelled 50 miles to a new place, climbed over 1,000 feet in various weather conditions and ran all the way back down again. I had an adventure, in an amazing place, with two people I love. This is how I beat my January Blues today. Tomorrow is another challenge.

Mr Top Hat and Me

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