The view in this photograph has not changed in nearly 53 years.
I used to swim in this bay, with my Dad, every morning of our breaks and holidays, before 8 a.m. come rain or shine. One morning we had to swim on the other side of the jetty as the sea was rough, it was raining hard and the small bay was sheltered. The raindrops were like icy needles, and getting into the sea, a welcome relief…we swam, laughing and splashing in the cold waves, the rain running down our faces mingling with the salt on our skin; then out, racing for the towels, shoved out of the rain under the rocks, and my dad, heedless of the rain and the chill, rubbing me so hard with a towel ( yellow with coloured fishes all over it), to dry me, until I glowed , then racing for the car, towels under our wet cossies and heading back up the hill to my Mum and Nan, and a hearty breakfast.
What has this to do with running… well, on Friday I ran. A run with a difference; I ran back, through time and back through memories, to those moments; and having run, ran on again, to where the run began. I am lucky, very lucky. I have fulfilled a dream; a dream where I run by the ocean, along a beach, shingled and sandy, the white foam breaking gently in a bubbled softness over the shore. I have read posts on here, and looked longingly at photographs of runs like this and wished I could do that!
We have sold the tin-tent; (our camper van, for those who are, luckily, unfamiliar with my rambles) and have bought a very modest little holiday home overlooking Cardigan Bay at Criccieth. And on Friday… I got to run…for the first time… by the sea…and it was wonderful.
Setting out early Friday, the excitement welling up inside me was almost unbearable. I knew the area; the highways and the byways, years spent there as a child, with my family, and later as a teenager, long, long, always hot summers, ( :)) just me and my Nan…and then with my then to-be husband and later with him and our own children…but running a route there, well that is different.
Out into the morning, and a pale sky, dove-grey streaked, stretching empty and limitless to the infinity of the horizon. My feet echoing on the narrow, slightly uneven pavement as I headed down towards the town and the crossing for the shore. Silent sleepers, oblivious and unaware in their white-painted houses, of the importance, for me anyway, of the day. Glancing to the left of me, the view over the couple of fields and grassy mounds between me and a stony beach was breathtaking. I made the small railway crossing in good time. I had no music, no podcast, and just wanted to soak up the sight, the sound, the scent, the very essence of the place. Over the little crossing, past the crossing cottage, (the inhabitant, required, no longer, to manually open the gates at whatever times the train might deem to arrive).
No one in sight as I rounded the corner and set off along the Esplanade…past a new and smart restaurant, located in what had been the Beach Café; ice creams, ginger beer, candy floss, and coffee. The shop end of this originally named establishment, held a veritable treasure trove for every small person; a plethora of buckets, spades, flippers, and beach balls; sand shoes, sunglasses and lilos. Now, made over and modern, the huge glass windows blankly gazing on the tireless sea, over an outside decked sitting area, awaiting the outdoor tables of summer, festooned with strings of lanterns.
Running across the esplanade, past the empty car parking spaces, an early morning dog walker, coming up the ramp from the beach called a good morning, I do not know who was more startled, but his smile was welcome. Running along the front, my breathing was good, my pace even and light, and I suddenly realised, that my thoughts were outweighing my running. I was not even thinking about it. I felt relaxed and happy as I headed towards the Castle and not even the thought of Castle Hill marred that feeling. Along past the shuttered B & Bs, the restaurant overlooking the bay and up past the RNLI station…the original lifeboat long since replaced by a bright, buoyant and bouncy saver of souls… up towards the Castle. Past Cadwalder’s Ice Cream parlour, shuttered and silent, waiting for the spring and summer visitors, clamouring for sweet delights. The hill was steeper than I remember, but that is just my age, up, slowly and steadily with short, light steps, past the most amazing Fish and Chip shop in the world, the Castle bakery, still closed and cold and without the tantalising smell of fresh baked bread, and a brief stop at the gate to the Castle, before turning back down the hill towards the shore.
I always have this temptation when going downhill to fling my arms out and race down willy-nilly, like I did when I was small… far too sensible now… sadly, but fortunately. Gentle measured pace and over the patch of green above the jetty and down onto the beach. No longer a need to get wet crossing the clear water coming from the hill, thick beams placed side by side, mean dry feet, as I headed towards the edge of the sea.
Running on the beach was not quite as I expected… it was much harder, and as the tide was not far out, the shingle was slippery and tricky. I need to ask ju-ju- for tips and aliboo70 , because, as do many of our friends on the forum, they run on beaches and probably have advice for me So not the run I expected; a vision of me, a runner gliding through the edge of the waves, with an easy motion, head held high, running free, with the smooth flowing steps of confidence. More… a slow but steady, (as ever), stumble, trying not to lose my balance, or turn an ankle… an inelegant ballerina, teetering, light-footed across the seascape.
Looking ahead towards the purple cloud-tipped hills across the bay, a chill breeze whipped salt spray into my face and my eyes watered as I ran for the ramp back up to the Esplanade… Still going strong, I felt this was one of my best runs ever, since coming off the IC… my legs felt strong, and despite the wind, my intention of walking back up the hill and home vanished like a sea mist… and yes, I ran up the hill. Cars were now heading towards the town, a post van and a lorry, builders unloading blue Welsh slate from a van, ready to repair a roof… another cheery wave…and up the hill at a good pace now and home.
Turning to catch my breath, my heart was full; memories of my lovely childhood and my parents and my Nan… days of sunshine, swimming, sand, sea and laughter…days which, our daughter and her family will enjoy, and sometimes, wonderfully, will be shared with us. My mind drifted, not surprisingly, to our new small granddaughter, who I hope, if it is her wish, may, one day, run along this same shore, and think of her Grammy, with love.
Apologies to those newbies who do not know me yet, I run and I ramble… it’s what I do…