the irony of desolation

Her phone signaled more than a text message, it was the signal that initiated one of the most memorable runs of my life.

While looking down at the text message, Gill said, “Will, you’re football match is cancelled tomorrow. Too much water on the pitch.”

Too much water: an understatement.

Will immediately asked his dad, “Dad, could we go on a bike ride tomorrow?” Rick said, “Yeah, alright, Mike you want to come with?”

“How far are you guys going to go?”
“About 20 miles?”
“Perfect, I was going to do something similar for my long run…”

We finished dinner, grabbed some wine and began plotting our route. Rick and Will decided that it would be better if we drove somewhere. After some deliberation they decided on the destination…

The Yorkshire Dales.

We left the house early in the morning. Will and Rick put their bikes on the bike rack and the three of us made our way to the Bolton Abbey in North Yorkshire.

The 30+ minute drive was worth the wait…

As we got further into the country, I became more and more antsy. I said to myself, “Welcome to Running Land kid.”

We looked up into the sky and knew it was going to be a good morning. There were lots of clouds, but we figured the rain would hold off.

We crossed a bridge and saw a sign “The Valley of Desolation”. And so we followed, quickly realizing the irony.

The first 10 miles went through Appletreewick, Burnsall and a few more of the most quaint, character-filled towns I’ve ever seen.

One of the most amazing character traits about this part of the country are the dry stone walls. I still can’t get over them. Thousands of stones and no mortar. Walls running miles long, built on some of the sketchiest landscape, still standing strong after hundreds of years.

After running over 10 miles through the narrow winding country lanes we began the very slow and very long climb up Embsay Moor.

No pictures were taken.

Nothing was taken.

Nothing except the remission of one futile belief…

After over 20 miles and some 140 minutes of running there was only one reasonable thing left to do…

How can there be only four more weeks of this?

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Categories: bleak and beautiful, Running, story


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11 Comments on “the irony of desolation”

  1. Luch
    November 14, 2010 at 5:04 pm #

    hey mikey

    i am totally enjoying this particular blog and the photos.
    wish i could have been there on the bike with you. As you well know, dad’s aging body can’t take the pounding.

    thank you for passing along these images of so much natural beauty.



  2. Rose
    November 14, 2010 at 5:25 pm #

    my heart is beating fast as i read these words of your experience.
    The scenery is truly beautiful. I can’t wait to return….some day.

  3. Adrian
    November 14, 2010 at 6:19 pm #


    For the record, the city streets of Toronto were the same as always: hard, cold, and stinky.

  4. Eric
    November 14, 2010 at 9:24 pm #

    Absolutely amazing countryside. I’m jealous (not of your running – I could never do that, but would have loved to be on one of the bikes with you). Thanks so much for the amazing pics.

    • November 15, 2010 at 10:01 am #

      Thanks for the love, Eric! Hopefully we can meet up when I come home (December 13th). I think I’m due for a trip to London…

  5. November 15, 2010 at 1:16 am #

    Hi Mikey

    I am so pleased that your Mom & Dad share your postings with us. I can’t wait to be able to sit down with our grandsons and let them watch your videos. It is very inspirational and I know will be something they will learn from. Just the determination and insight you exhibit is such a great lesson for them. Thanks so much for taking the time to post your experiences to share with others.
    We continue to pray for your safety.

    Such beautiful countryside!


    • November 15, 2010 at 10:03 am #

      Very kind words, Elizabeth! I appreciate you taking the time to read and comment.

  6. Mark Pettes
    November 15, 2010 at 8:50 pm #

    Hey Mike

    I saw your dad yesterday and he passed along the link to your blog. I have been up all night reading it!! I didn’t know you were such a photographer and literary genius!! It sounds like you are having a great experience. I would love it if you could take more pictures of those dry stone walls for me. I have been retained to complete a project that requires similar heritage walls to be designed and constructed.

    All the best in your training. Your ‘little brother’ Tyler would love to be there running with you.

    • November 15, 2010 at 9:15 pm #

      Thanks Mark! Maybe I’ll do a blog dedicated just to The Walls. It’s amazing to think how much effort went into building them…

  7. Vince
    November 16, 2010 at 10:22 pm #

    Those pics are amazing… wow.

  8. December 9, 2010 at 11:38 am #

    hi micheal , your showing great emotion on your jouneys through out your whole experience that you hve had to your travels hope i could do this one day

    peace outtt 🙂

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