Wed training 28th Sept 2011 - the Craiglockharts
wed training

Children’s Hour or Darkness Visible

He that runs in the dark may well stumble

We’re all aware of patterns.  I like the patterns of words upon a page, the twists and turns of geology unfolding beneath my feet, the chiaroscuro of light and shade upon a canvas, a moonlit hill, the Morse code of dots and dashes in a starlit sky, the blue black, grey black, black-black of a remorseless sky.  Others prefer numbers and stats and prefer quotes rather than quotations and so uncharacteristically I’ve not started this write up of last night’s run with a quotation but with a simple proverb.

An unusual day of autumnal heat and humidity saw a dozen or so idiots stalwarts out for a 7 to 8 mile run out over the Craiglockhart Hills and back.  With a plethora of blokes, Becky was the only girl to grace our ranks and ran well despite having just escaped from the desert of dissertation world.

The usual ascent up Blackford Hill was rewarded with the glow of a gorgeous sunset and a panorama of Edinburgh’s twinkling lights.  “Between the dark and the daylight when the light is beginning to lower comes a pause in the day’s occupations that is known as the Children’s Hour” according to Longfellow and we ran as children down into the glen through the dusk for our hour’s run, occupations not just paused but forgotten. 

“The sun’s rim dips, the stars rush out, at one stride comes the dark”, as my old mate Coleridge once said and I’m not sure where it became fully dark but recall where the one stride became uncertain.  “Twilight and evening bell and after that the dark” as Tennyson put it and he was right.  Out of some 20 years of Carnethy night runs this was by far the darkest, despite a beautifully clear sky overhead but “darkness fumbling with our senses with sounds and scents just recompenses” (me this time) and the darkness seemed to add drama to the run.

Chatting with Becky, it was obvious that she didn’t know where she was or where she’d been so for those there but unaware and those not there who care, we ran through Hermitage, out over to and through Braid Park, shimmied through Greenbank and round the periphery of the grounds of what used to be Edinburgh City Hospital before cutting up the back of West Craiglockhart Hill to embrace on the open hillside the very last remnants of daylight before zigzagging through the gorse and trees to the road and striding into the uncertain darkness of the woods below East Craiglockhart Hill. Map

The descent through the trees was particularly dark as ambient light from the road and houses below diminished my night vision and ghosted tree branches in my path.  (A trick of the light and shadows on my glasses I hoped).  Now on the way back, we soon arrived at Hermitage again but someone had overlaid the grey black with black-black and the black-black with (as Milton put it)” no light, but darkness visible”.  Yet underfoot the path was lighter than the preternatural darkness around us and the steady chorus of “bump” as each of us crossed a speed bump was superfluous.  Not so further on alas when the darkness of the woods enveloped us pitching all into absolute blackness.

A party of runners coming the other way blinded us with their head torches.  “The more light a torch gives, the shorter it lasts” as the proverb goes and once beyond the torch bearers—our night vision robbed—it was blacker than ever.  We trotted on half guessing, half hoping, using the paler darkness of the river as a handrail through the dark but as the valley grew deeper and more wooded and enclosed it became darker still and I began to follow the patterns of words in my head for there was little else visible.  I was acting as sweeper – aye ok I was at the back – and was imagining rather than actually seeing the shape of the runner ahead.  “The other shape, (as Milton would have it) if shape it might be called; that shape had none distinguishable in member, joint or limb, or substance called that shadow seemed for each seemed either; black it stood as night”… But a half blind lad quoting a blind lad in the dark wasn’t going to help although Longfellow offered some help, even if it was “only a signal shown (Oz’s brief flicking on and off of his headtorch) and a distant voice (Willie’s) in the darkness … “Only a look and a voice, the darkness again and a silence”.

We regrouped at the bridge and ran out past a group of climbers tackling boulder problems in a battery-powered floodlit area before heading back over the hill to KB.  “Silently one by one, in the infinite meadows of heaven, blossomed the lovely stars, the forget-me-nots of the angels” (Longfellow again) and some of us began to pick out and name the constellations overhead as we ran towards KB and Venus hanging in the night sky.

Over a beer, James (blunt) rubbished Digby’s chances of winning the MV60 SHR Championship and then seemed to have a problem with me starting my race / run write-ups with a quotation or two.  “The hard great Anarch!  Let’s the curtain fall, and the darkness buries all. (Alexander Pope), But no matter.  “Oh, rather give me commentators plain, who with no deep researches vex the brain, who from the dark and doubtful love to run, and hold their glimmering tapers to the sun” as my old mate George Crabbe wrote. So I took James’ advice and omitted any quotations at the start of this write-up although may have used a few here and there to compensate.

Such beer as KB had to offer (almost none) consumed it was time to cycle home.  My front light seemed to work only intermittently but would have to do.  Henry O’s words seemed apt as I headed off into dark … “Turn up the lights; I don’t want to go home in the dark”.  If you can’t start a write-up with a good quotation, it’s always good to end with one.

Nick Macdonald


Home | Go Back
© Carnethy.com 2014