365 days.

I rather wish that I’d realised this at the time, but August 15th should have been a stand out day with a personal mini celebration held as it marked the one year anniversary of my foray into running. On August 15th 2009 I was on holiday and staying with my parents in the UK when I decided to take action upon my husband’s challenge to run a 5k by the end of the year.

Bill had just flown into the country to meet us and was collapsed at the house in international flight recovery mode. Aunty Jenny was also staying with us that weekend after the sudden and untimely death of my long distance running, athletics loving uncle, and she and Mum had taken Sam to Pork Hill for a walk. With Bill showing no signs of wanting to leave the house I took my chance and left him manning the fort with Baby Bea. I grabbed my parent’s dog and decided to run across the moors and up the hill to try to meet up with them in time for ice cream.

As well as boasting a patiently waiting ice cream van Pork Hill affords some glorious views. The weather there atop the hill can be bleak and blustery on the nicest of days, but brave the gusts and if it’s clear you can see all the way to Plymouth Sound. Many layered reminders of past Dartmoor dwellers’ housing and livelihood also remain if you know to look for them. Stone circles mark the remnants of Neolithic huts and evidence of medieval strip mining persists. A short walk can lead you to Windy Cross, a surviving 16th century granite cross that formed part of the Abbot’s Way marking the monks’ route between moorland abbeys. It’s an especially poignant and noteworthy spot for us Downes’. In 1995 Nanna Downes’ ashes were scattered on the moors at the side of the hill and she looks back down on Tavistock. I mention this as Pork Hill does have a bit of a hold on me. Reasons to run collided and Pork Hill was a good place to go.

It was further than I realised. Part of the route was also a little intimidating as I had to divert off the moorland sheep tracks at Pennycomequick and negotiate a big climb on some fairly blind verges along the busy B3357 to Princetown, but I made it, with dog intact. And I got my prize. Molly and I appearing unexpectedly amongst the Dartmoor ponies and sheep surprised an excited Sam, confused Mum and Aunty Jenny, and I got my big helping of Cornish clotted cream cornet. Rum ‘n’ Raisin I think.

That evening I went online and signed up for my first race.

A year later and I’m totally head over heels hooked, and I don’t think I’m doing so badly either. There’s nothing better than to get out on the trails for a long run and pound along amongst the mud and trees until you feel you could just keep on running forever.

Though, it’s not like I haven’t flirted with the sport before. Look! Here I am winning the race at my first sports day back in 1981!

Going for gold

I still remember the medals I won that day. Probably still have them tucked away somewhere in Mum and Dad’s attic along with other forgotten knick knacks. They were little red, white and blue ribbons attached to safety pins. I was ever so proud of them.

And then here’s little eleven year old Kay running her heart out at Merv’s Mini Marathon in 1987. It was a ten mile race from Kit Hill in Cornwall, through Gunnislake, across the river Tamar at the Devon border, and down into Tavistock with plenty of impressive hills along the way. My Dad and brother were somewhere out there on the course too. Probably behind me. *coughs* I’m pretty sure that training for that was not terribly hard core and mainly involved going out with Dad for maybe a couple of short jogs around Tavistock leading up to the race. I have very fond memories of this race, and running it with my Dad.

But aside from those few kodak moments from prehistory, putting one foot in front of the other to see how fast and far I can go started for me a year ago. And what a year it has been :

I’ve impressed myself making strides in improvement, achieved results I never thought I would see, enjoyed race days near and far, ventured out onto some beautiful trails, braved all weather to get out and run, and made some fantastic friends along the way. My husband says I have great legs. Life is good.

Here’s to the next 365 days, and long may I keep running.

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