One thing I kept asking myself was “How do you begin to map out the road to recovery?” and I had a pretty good idea… organise a fell race!

Being immobile and in early stages of recovery, the first few weeks on discharge from hospital were very tough I won’t lie. A tonic for the troops came from TV and newspaper coverage of the accident and subsequent interest from the BBC and Granada. Not to mention an offer from an agency to manage articles and appearances! Who would have thought?

It was all very exciting going to the Granada studios and working with the BBC News team on location at White Coppice. Although we were soon tomorrow’s chip paper and under no illusion that Merlyn Snow and Buddy Blue were, in fact, the stars of the show!

We had hoped to raise some funds through the agency doing some scouting out there for us in media land… A grand total of £70 was accrued (minus agent fees), the Times and other newspapers apparently don’t pay for ‘second hand’ stories! Still, my Pops was as proud as punch that we featured in the Times, that’s an achievement in his eyes!

Bowland and Pennine Mountain Rescue Team play a pivotal part in this blog post for two reasons. One, their absolute professionalism and attention to detail in my rescue off the hill and secondly their interest and follow-up support for what I can only describe as the most traumatic experience of my life.

Kev and Graham are regularly in touch and asking about my recovery and progress so that they can feedback to the team. A service that is just simply perfect and continues to shine above and beyond. The team also committed to being at Joe’s Cup (if not called out on duties) so the visual support on our inaugural race would be reassuring alongside being a top-notch rescue and first aid service.

The decision to donate all our profit was a simple one to make to be quite honest. I will commit to organising this race moving forward for as long as I am able as the feedback I have had has been great thus far and today I am proud to let everyone know that we managed to donate a stonking £275 to the team and with ‘Gift Aid’ on top, this is a sizable sum from our inaugural race and media funds.

Donation

Joe’s Cup Hill Race has always been a race in my mind since the Great Hill Fell Race disappeared from the fell calendar almost 4 years ago. The admin side of the race was completed in 2018 for the Fell Running Association and our date was set for the first May Bank Holiday of 2019. A dream soon to be realised… Anyone who knows me will also know I have a deep dislike of tarmac. Uphill tarmac race starts are just the pits, so having trained, dog walked and deer dodged along the goit for many years, I couldn’t understand why this route was never part of the original race.

Anyway, our Google map consolidated with the FRA and United Utilities we were then on our way to reviving a classic, almost 50-year-old fell race and as Great Hill Fell Race became Joe’s Cup Hill Race, so we managed that after many months of hard work from many people.

Joe’s Cup is aptly named after a Wigan Phoenix fell runner who used the well at Drinkwater to quench his thirst on his Sunday morning runs with his fell running mates from neighbouring Chorley and Horwich clubs. The story goes that Joe was always thirsty and often drank out of the well. The cup was hidden so he could have a drink and always have a vessel there to aid him in that.

Runners

Sadly, Joe passed away far too early but aptly, his ashes were scattered on the hill. At the ceremony to scatter ashes Joe’s fell running friends attended. Joe was known to be quite the practical joker, pranking his mates regularly. When the time came to scatter his ashes, a huge gust of wind came out of nowhere and the story goes that the ashes went all over those who attended that day to say goodbye. The story has such a lovely feel, whether it’s accurate or not, it seemed fitting to name the revived race in his honour. If for nothing else every time someone runs past his memorial, they will think of Joe, and what he represented – a love of a sport that is pure, brings people together, tests all physical limits and helps to form friendships for life. Something that this hill has brought into my life.

Some have asked if I will run on the hill again when I am recovered. It will be my first fell run, whenever that happens in the future. Rest assured, despite my consultant advising it will be in 2020, a wager of £20 will be an incentive that this happens sooner than this date. Ray, Jake, Naomi, mum, Pops – if you’re reading this (I hope you are!) don’t worry, I won’t be pushing myself too hard too quickly!

To end, there’s probably no finer way to receive feedback on your race organising efforts than with a race report from Darren Fishwick. A Chorley Athletic fell runner, infamous for his wit and waves of hair. To have a race report from Darren is akin to a feature article in the Times for a fell runner. My Pops may not be as impressed with this as I am but Darren wrote his race report on our inaugural race with humour and praise for our efforts.

An achievement for the team – we made it! Thanks Darren! I would just like to say a personal ‘thanks’ to Mr O, Jake, Naomi (New MRS O), Mad Dog and all of our lovely marshals who turned out to support us and the Mountain Rescue Team. Much love goes out to you all, you are amazing.

In brief, for those of you that are wondering how my recovery is progressing, the crutches are now in the crutch bucket at Chorley hospital! Hurray!

The hinge brace, although not yet returned, is laying redundant in the spare room visibly reminding me of how far I have come in the past 7 weeks. Mobility is slowly returning and I have not used any prescription pain relief for 2 weeks now. The cross trainer is starting to free up the tendons and I am able to cover a mile and rotate on the static bike 50 times twice a day.

Rehab feels slow and sometimes tedious but, much like my running journey to date, I know it will be worth when I reach the end of this road to recovery. Seeing my friends at Joe’s Cup racing and marshalling has spurred me on once again into being patient, taking the time to rebuild lost muscle, strength and conditioning so I can get back to the hill that I love, the hill that I have many memories of… the hill that is great.