Many months ago, I was at one of our Lakeland Trails events chatting with Terry Charles, from Wirral Vikings. Terry ran his first trail running event with us back in 2010 and has been to most of our events since then. His eyes were sparkling with enthusiasm as he told me his idea. Could he and Jacq’s get married on the Ullswater Trail?
I thought to myself that everyone else would say ‘no’. I didn’t hesitate and quickly said ‘yes, brilliant idea’
We met up in the Watermill pub in Ings, near Staveley and over a good pint of real ale, chatted through their wedding plans. Terry and Jacq’s idea was a simple one. Join the first sailing with all their guests, have a Viking wedding ceremony on board, then run the Ullswater Trail as husband and wife along with all their running friends.
Fortunately, earlier that day they’d had a meeting by the lake in Glenridding with Veronica, their celebrant. It had been an awful day, a strong wind blowing from the west and the Ullswater Steamers couldn’t sail. When I started talking about planning for worse case scenarios, a seed had already been sown. It was going to be their big day and we had to make it special regardless, using an old adage I use with events – plan for a hurricane, expect a heat wave.
Living here in the Lake District means living with changeable weather. Any time of year we can experience three or four seasons all in a short space of time, sometimes in just a few hours. This is what makes the place special, yet also so humbling and often challenging. It’s very easy to get caught out and in extreme cases it costs some with their lives. My friend Christian Hoyle once quoted these great words of wisdom and I have never forgotten them :
“You can’t change the weather. But what can you change? Your ATTITUDE to the weather”
It’s a mantra I’ve used over the years, a way to remind myself to keep every option open. It’s not about beating the weather, more about accepting and adapting to what it throws at us, having a back up plan or even change of plans if needed.
The Big Day
Last Sunday was Terry and Jacq’s wedding day and I’d been invited as their guest. It was still dark with a faint early morning light. I walked around the lakeside path with our photographer, James Kirby joining 50 or so other guests huddled together in the cold morning air. For some reason, I thought everyone would be in Viking costume, so I’d gone to some trouble myself with a splendid outfit. I was almost the odd one out, making a beeline to two others in horned Viking helmets. The guests all knew each other, most were members of Wirral Vikings, a trail running club set up by Terry. Indirectly, they all knew me too, as most are regulars at the Lakeland Trails events.
Someone lit a fire on the beach and we all wandered over to join Veronica who would be performing the ceremony. Terry arrived first, dressed in a kilt, and soon Jacq’s appeared in a beautiful white wedding dress. Gusts of wind came at us from the south, white caps racing across the lake. Moody dark clouds hung low over the mountain tops. The ceremony was Nordic, simple and deeply moving involving all of us. A happy, emotional joining of two like minded people.
The best was yet to come. We’d arranged an extra self contained bay for the marquee for their exclusive use. As news arrived that the Steamers couldn’t sail, the Wirral Vikings were in unstoppable, infectious high spirits. The bride and groom danced by the start line in the middle of a circle of their wedding guests, surrounded by the rest of the Lakeland Trails ‘family’ of runners.
On the Ullswater Trail
I joined my sister Sue with the masses at the back of the field, catching a fleeting glimpse of a white dress running into the distance. I walked with Sue in my Viking costume wearing sandals. My toes sore and swollen from last week’s epic challenge run, still unable to wear shoes. At one point, I stopped to have a chat with a marshal, then had to run to catch Sue up.
Remarkably, I found I could run quite comfortably in the sandals. When we got to the highest point on the course, above Silver Bay, I could see a snake of runners along the trail going into the distance. The temptation to run was too strong. ‘Go for it bro, see you at the finish’ shouted Sue.
By the marquee, Jacq’s and Terry were beaming, surrounded, having enjoyed their first run together as husband and wife. I was handed a horn to drink out of, taking a sip. ‘Blimey, what’s this?’ and was told it was mead. Later on, as Pete Lashley sang inside the packed marquee, everyone was dancing. I can still hear the cheers for the happy couple just before the prize giving. I’ve had many high points over the last fourteen years with the Lakeland Trails, although nothing compares with this.
An hour earlier, Terry had seen me scribbling my prize giving speech in one of the village cafes. His big smile and firm hand shake I’ll always remember. ’Thank you’, Terry said, not letting go of my hand. ‘This is the best day of my life’
It brought tears to my eyes.
© Graham Patten
Wednesday 18th October 2017