"Have you got those figures yet Jack?" bellowed the Ogre "I need them as I'm having a Christmas lunch with the Head of Division today and I don't want to look stupid if he asks me about them"Jack turned back to the window, 'one last look' he thought 'before I plunge into excel spreadsheets for the next two hours', only something caught his eye.....there was a figure dragging itself across the football field the other side of the bypass. The figure looked like he was a runner, but he was kind of translucent, with long heavy running trousers weighing him down and great big boots hobbling him. Jack could hear an awful wailing coming from the man who seemed to be beckoning him to come out to talk to him.
"I need to do a bit more work on the formulas but I should have them ready before noon"
"I want them on my desk by eleven"
Jack grabbed his jacket and ran out of the office 'just for a minute' he thought, 'just to see what this chap wants'. Jack fled down the three flights of stairs, two steps at a time, brushing past a woman carrying a mug of tea, shouting 'Sorry!' already from the stairs below, through the double doors and out on to the road. He sprinted as fast as he could to the flyover and up and over and two thirds of the way down again with one hand on the barrier jumped clean over and dropped the 6 feet or so into the football field.
The figure moved towards him, but Jack was scared and cried out to him before he could get too close. "Who are you?.....What do you want?"
The figure replied "I am the ghost of Ernest Dalzell, winner of the the Burnsall Classic in 12:58 in 1910, I am come to tell you Jack, you will be visited by three spirits today who will lead you to a secret cave, in a secret gully, in a secret valley. If you do what they say and find the secret cave, in it you will discover a magic lamp. And if you make a wish holding this lamp, you will receive the special gift of perfect fell running ability. With that Jack, I'm sure I don't need to tell you, you could go on to be next year's British Champion, just like Morgan Donnelly"
"A secret cave, in a secret gully, in a secret valley, where? How do I find it? Please tell me?"A thunderous noise came from behind Jack and he span around to see what it was. It was just a lorry on the road, but when he looked back, the figure was gone, the football field was empty apart from a confused Jack and a man painting white lines in the mud.
Jack decided to head back to the office, thinking that perhaps he had just imagined what had just happened. He walked up the flyover ramp and as he reached the top, he could see a man jogging from the other side towards him. The man was smiling right at him, he was young, tall and strong, he had dark hair and was dressed in a royal blue top and black running tights.
"Hi Jack" the man shouted cheerily. Jack recognised the man but wasn't sure who he was or what his name was "Er hi there, erm, erm"
"Rob, I'm Rob, Prince Charming of the Kingdom of Bingley, you've probably seen me in Runners Weekly, I advertise a refreshing drink I particularly like. I thought you might want to go for a run Jack and I could tell you what I know about the secret of the special gift of perfect fell running ability"
"Oh yes, wow for sure" and Jack turned round and jogged back along the flyover with Prince Rob Charming.
They ran over the football fields and out past the golf courses beyond and reached the edge of the moors.
As they ran, Prince Rob described to Jack what it was like winning the Skyrunning World Series, how important cycling is to him and how much he loves his young family and the fell running Princess of Bingley, Sharonella. Prince Rob is one the fell running's best up hill runners and as they climbed up on to the moors Prince Rob shared a few tips with Jack about how to get up hill quickly. Jack couldn't believe how lucky he was, but knew that he needed to ask Prince Rob about the magic lamp in the secret cave, in the secret gully, in the secret valley.
They ran for miles and miles, sharing some of Prince Rob's special drink and then they ran for a few miles more. Then Prince Rob slowed up and pointed in the direction of a town in the valley below.
"Now Jack you must go on alone, you must go to the train station in the town down there"
"But Prince Rob can't you come with me I want to ask you about the secret valley."
"There's no time to tell you now Jack, I must go back." he replied.
"Why Prince Rob, is it that your spiritly powers will fade if you leave the domain of the Kingdom of Bingley?"
"Nah, it's 'cos I promised to meet Sharonella at The Eagle and Child and she'll kill me if I'm late, gotta go!" and with that Prince Rob ran off, calling behind him "Go to the train station Jack, the train station"
|Photo by Steve Thomas|
Jack headed down to the town thinking how amazing that was, running with Prince Rob, but annoyed with himself for not asking him about the secret valley earlier but before Jack knew it, he was at the train station.
|Picture by urban75.org|
"Ah yes, Jack isnt it?" said a loud confident voice behind him "I've been waiting for you, what kept you, oh and you haven't seen Watson anywhere have you?A steam train pulled in to the station and Jack and Sherlock Ian climbed aboard. They sat down in a compartment and Sherlock Ian started to point out a few interesting features out of the window.
"Watson?" said Jack, not a little puzzled.
"Yes, stout chap in tweeds, whiskers, never mind he'll turn up, I'm Holmes, Sherlock Ian Holmes of 221b Baker Street, Howarth, you may have heard of me. I'm a legend you know."
"Oh yes Mr Holmes of course I've heard of you, I've downloaded all your cds."
"What? er never mind, come on we've got a train to catch"
|picture by world wonder photos|
"See that hill with the snow on it Jack, that's Penyghent, that the first of the Three Peaks, I won the Three Peaks Race in 1997 you know, but it's a roadrunner's race. Now the Paps of Jura, that's a real race, I've won that six times you know and an excellent whisky too. Of course I solved the curious case of the missing night, at Jura."
Sherlock Ian pointed out all hills they passed, as the steam train surged along the track, over Ribblehead Viaduct and through the Blea Moor tunnel and on to Dentdale and Langstrathdale. Sherlock Ian had a story of a race or a mystery solved for every hill and village they passed, and the stories were fascinating. But Jack knew he needed to ask Sherlock Ian about the secret valley where he would be able to find the special gift of perfect fell running ability. He was just about to raise the topic when the door was flung open by a large man with red hair dressed in tweeds.
"Ah Sam, sit down, this is Jack, Jack this is Dr Sam Watson, an excellent young runner, a rough down hiller just like me, he'll win the Paps of Jura one day, mark my words."
"I will take the weight of my feet Holmes yes, but we need to make sure Jack gets off the train shortly." said Dr Watson (Sam).
"You're absolutely right Watson, Jack we bid you farewell and good luck with the rest of your journey, in a moment or two you will be leaving the train in perhaps an unconventional manner, are you ready, you’ll need to jump!”
The train started to slow and Jack just had enough time to look once more at Sherlock Ian and Dr Watson (Sam) and say goodbye before they bundled him out the carriage door.
Jack must have jumped six feet off the train, he was jumping straight down on to the fell side and he wasn't sure where he was, or where he had to go next, but a loud, sharp, ear-piercing whistle brought him to his senses.
He span round to see three police officers running towards him. Jack didnt realise it was none other than Jon Wright, Chris Newman and Christine Howard, the fastest fellrunners in the force! Jack smiled at the police officers wondering where they were going to take him now. But they didn’t smile back, they were frowning and waving their truncheons in a very threatening manner and Jack distinctly heard Jon shout “There he is, get him Christine” and Christine reply “I’m on him, call for the dogs Chris”
Jack didn’t hang around for another moment, but turned tail and ran, and ran like he’d never run before. He ran through peat hags and streams and instead of picking his way around the bogs as he normally would, he ran straight through them. He had no time to think how a couple of hours before he had been enjoying a run in the sun with Prince Rob, now the sky was blackening and he was running for his life.
It got colder and the ground got harder, he could see high ground in the distance and it was covered with snow. He hadn’t heard Jon, Chris and Christine running behind him for a while, but didn’t dare look behind.
A few miles later Jack ran under a rocky outcrop and dared to stop for a moment. He peered back from behind the cover of the crag to see Jon, Chris and Christine look confused and decide to give up the chase. He leant back on the crag and closed his eyes with utter relief.
Jack opened his eyes slowly and realised it had begun to snow and as he climbed up on to the crag above he saw the Snow Queen standing in front of him. He thought she looked a bit like 2008 English Fellrunning Champion Natalie White, but knew that nothing was really quite what it seemed today.“Open your eyes Jack” said a lovely voice from above him. Before he opened his eyes Jack thought to himself ‘what wondrous spirit will guide me now, wondrous she must be as her voice is like that of an angel’ the voice then said “Come up here Jack, I am Natalia the Snow Queen and I'd like to take you to my land”
|Pic by Poutfashion|
Natalia the Snow Queen and Jack put on some cross country skis and they slid over the snow covered land towards the mountains effortlessly. Queen Natalia told Jack about her beautiful land and all about the famous poets that had lived there.
Here’s the riddle Queen Natalia set Jack.“Now I’m going to set you a riddle Jack and if you can solve it I’ll take you right to the secret valley, but also the spell that was cast on me a thousand years ago will be broken and I will be free to leave the boundaries of my icy kingdom”
'She wore her yellow sun-bonnet,
She wore her greenest gown;
She turned to the south wind
And curtsied up and down.
She turned to the sunlight
And shook her yellow head,
And whispered to her neighbour:
"Winter is dead."
Who is she?'"Er is it Kate Middleton?" "No!" "Kate Winslet?" "No!" "Is she Judi Dench?" "No Jack!".
Queen Natalia laughed but inside she was sad, as with each stupid answer she realised Jack was a complete idiot and she would be condemned to live in her icy kingdom for another thousand years.
Jack begged Queen Natalia to tell him where the secret cave was, but she said she was bound by the laws of the kingdom and he must solve the riddle before she could tell him. As they approached the edge of the mountains, Queen Natalia said she could go no further with him. Jack understood and said how sorry he was to say goodbye but that he understood the laws of the kingdom must be obeyed.
“It’s not that Jack, you plank! My ITB band is playing up again, I can’t run uphill and you'd never get up there on skis, you're not Ben Bardsley you know! Look if you know the answer to the riddle, you can send me a message via twitter I’m @nataliathesnowqueen. Ciao Jack, good luck” And Queen Natalia gave Jack a wave goodbye.Jack climbed the mountain ahead of him alone, but his mind was on women in green dresses and yellow hats.
At the top of the mountain he looked down into a multitude of valleys, he must have been able to see six valleys spanning out from him like the spokes on a wheel. 'Which one will it be' he thought.
Then a dove landed right next to him and flew down in the direction of the most westerly of the six valleys. Well I may not be able to solve the riddle Queen Natalia set me but I can follow this dove. Jack shouted "Take me to the secret cave oh dove from above!” and with this Jack bounded down the snowy slope of the mountain after the dove.
He passed two men running up the hill as he descended, there were talking to each other in a dialect he didn’t understand, but we have translated it for you “Gavin, will you please keep your sheep out of my land” (sheep farmer runner 1) "Look Johnny they are your fences and you need to maintain them” (sheep farmer runner 2).
Jack said ‘how do’ (as he thought that was the sort of phrase sheep farmers would say to each other) and carried on down the hill after the dove who was starting to get away from him. The dove led him into a side valley which seemed to appear from nowhere, then he flew up the fell side to what looked like avalanche debris, he wasn't sure, Jack climbed up and it turned into a gully and hauled himself up the snow covered rocks to follow the dove to a small area of flat land surrounded by crags. The dove stood and waited for Jack patiently as only a dove can do.
|Picturia of Weybridge|
But then it all suddenly began to fall into place, the three wise men, Prince Rob, Sherlock Ian and Dr Watson (Sam) that had led him there, the angel Natalia the Snow Queen and Johnny and Gavin the shepherds, he had stumbled upon the real nativity and was truly astounded. Jack felt weak and sick and almost like he was going to faint, he could feel his heart beating through his jacket, it all felt very similar to waiting for the starting pistol to go off at the beginning of a cross country race (only worse - if you can possible imagine anything worse).
|A typical cross country race (ugh) - wikipedia|
So Jack had to think for himself, he thought about all the fantastic things that had happened today, from meeting Prince Rob and Sherlock Ian and Dr Watson (Sam), to the police chase, Natalia the Snow Queen, to finding himself here with a dove for company. He can't turn back now! He must go into the cave.
So Jack squeezed himself through the gap in the rock and into the cave, and moved towards the source of the light. The light was so bright that soon he couldn't see anything at all. But he could just make out that the light appeared to be coming from a flat rock a little way in front of him. He edged forward, put out his hand and grabbed the light source, which felt like a jumble of wires and bands. He picked it up and moved it about and as a result, the cave was lit up, revealing it to be almost like a cathedral, the shadows of the man and woman turned out to be fantastically shaped stalagmites coming from the floor for the cave. Jack felt relieved and set about looking for the magic lamp.
And then, in one of the dark recesses of the cave, he found a wooden box on a shelf. On the wooden box was a brass plaque with "The Magic Lamp" inscribed on it. Jack was very excited and opened the box, but as he shone his light into it he could see there was nothing in there. Nothing except a small folded up piece of paper. Jack took out the piece of paper and unfolded it. On it was written just four words......"Carl Bell Wos 'ere"
|The note Jack found|
"Here, here he is" said the receptionist."Jack what are you doing with those figures I'm still waiting for them, and it's nearly noon?" shouted the Ogre.Jack suddenly found himself back in the office. Stumbling over the words to excuse himself to his boss, he couldn't believe he was back here. He sorted out the formulas with eyes that kept blurring with exhaustion, he could still feel the snow in his shoes, it can't have all been a daydream can it. He handed the figures to the ogre, mumbling a 'sorry they're late' and went to his locker to get some money for lunch. When he opened the locker door what should he find inside?......the jumble of wires and bands with the lamp attached......"My headtorch from the cave" Jack exclaimed.
And so we have come to the end of our story, Jack lived happily ever after of course, running to work every day and running home again too and then going out training every evening with his magic 'head' lamp. Prince Rob, Sherlock Ian and Dr Sam went on to have excellent 2012 seasons, as did the police officers who were all picked to represent GB in the Police Olympics in Staylybridge. And Queen Natalia, she is still waiting for someone to solve the riddle, but actually she quite likes training in the snow and ice. And that just leaves the dove, well he can be spotted in a park near you.......
Our story is all done
You know it's all true
There's nothing else to say
But Merry Christmas to you!
A very Merry Christmas from all at Fell Running Briefs.