For a few years I went for a run on Christmas morning, sometimes alone and on other occasions with company, the venue was always Loughrigg Fell behind Ambleside.
I ran on Loughrigg most evenings after work and it’s reasonable to say I knew the fell like the back of my hand, every twist and turn of the path engrained within my memory so 40 years later I can still do a run in my imagination. But those Christmas Morning runs were always special.
I remember one Christmas morning awaking to a world enveloped in thick mist, the cold wet type that leaves your clothes soaked after a short while and deadens sound so you are in a world of almost total quiet.
We went through the Christmas morning ritual no doubt being enacted in literally millions of homes throughout the land and I got changed into my running kit, I remember eyeing the boxes of chocolates piled under the tree and wondering which Bond film would be shown that afternoon as I ate them.
I hunted out my running shoes from the pile of boots, work boots and other footwear and rubbed embrocation into my legs, I always did this, believing that “it kept the weather out”. Today I’m not so sure it did, but I was young then.
One old lad used to reckon that if a “pack of hunds crossed thy line, they’d hunt tha”! But I’m glad to say it never happened.
Out the front door and up the hill, towards Bob Astle’s house, my running partner this Christmas morning, an exchange of greetings and off we set, running down the hill past the Golden Rule where we had spent the previous evening, the pub empty now but the smell of beer and cigarette smoke escaping through the open windows.
Over the bridge and turn left up the hill to Brow Head Farm, the easy running began to change as the hill increased and soon we were reduced to jogging, which is the way most fell runners tackle the steep bits when not walking. Up the little iron steps at the farm and run along through the trees, through the stile, cross the little beck and onto the fell.
A wet, marshy area takes you onto the climb to the point at which the local school used to use as the top for their PE session fell race. Past it, over the wall and along by Lilly Tarn looking very unpleasant in the murky morning. Suddenly we were above the mist and in bright sunlight, a blue sky above, the fell tops stuck out above the mist bathed in sunshine.
We ran on faster now on the springy grass, it felt good.
Bob as was his wont, on some runs, suddenly deviated from the path and ran up a steep slope of grass to the top of a little crag. I followed, thrown from my rhythm by this little deviation. Arriving at the top I paused to regain my breath. “Look at that!” Bob exclaimed and there beneath us was our shadow cast on the mist, I seem to recall I could only see my shadow and not Bob’s but my head was surrounded by a halo of colours. “What the hell is it I asked?” Bob looked at me. “It’s called a Brocken Spectra,” he replied [aka Brockengespenst, named after a region in the German Harz mountains where the phenomenon is observed frequently. Ed.]. “Whymper saw one on the descent of the Matterhorn, remember the book.” It came back to me then, the story of the first ascent and the subsequent fall, followed by the ghostly apparition that had scared the survivors quite badly.
Within a few moments the Brocken Spectra had gone and I never saw one again, I suppose I must have spent thousands of hours in the hills but it was the only one I have ever seen.
We completed the run, went home and bathed, had lunch and that evening joined the festivities in the Rule.