My father is a prodigious marathon runner who once ran from John O Groats to Land's End. He's run over a hundred marathons around the world.
Unfortunately, he's been unwell lately and he can no longer run, but he's been talking to the press about his life and this story emerged. My sister Marie is currently raising funds for MND research and I shall be joining her next year, as will my son.
Full story here:
Do you believe in ghosts? Well...read this...
by Tony Barry
(as told to Mark Barry)
I ran the coast-to-coast walking/fell route on three occasions, running from west to east, through Lancashire, across Yorkshire, and into Humberside.
There was one incident that’s worth recalling, an incident I still cannot believe happened – but it did.
Throughout the trek, I would run around twenty miles a day and my plan was to book a guest house “on spec” as I finished.
One day, half way across the country, because of bad weather, mammoth fells and rocky terrain, I realised that I had completely miscalculated the distance between villages and found myself stranded in the middle of nowhere.
It was starting to get dark and cold and I was surrounded by forbidding moorland and overhanging crags. Luckily, I kept running as best I could in the remaining dusklight, and found myself in a tiny hamlet at the base of a giant fell.
The place had no more than ten cottages and I knew instinctively that I would be lucky to find a guest house here. As it was now almost completely dark, I found a cottage with lights in the living room window and knocked on the door.
A ruddy-faced old gentleman in a cap and a green pullover came to the door, arms folded. I explained my position: He told me there was no guest house for twenty miles, but – kind of him - he pointed out an old schoolhouse at the end of the Hamlet, which was always unlocked and where hikers and stranded runners like me could stay overnight: I was clearly not the first to make this miscalculation!
I thanked him and ran swiftly to the schoolhouse, an old stone building with two big windows, surrounded by trees and framed by a colossal fell in the background, now illuminated by a full moon.
Opening the gate, I walked up the path to the front door and with a shove, opened the door. It was warmer than I expected. The building was functional, with two floors, connected by a rusting spiral staircase right next to the door.
The room below was empty of furniture and deathly silent – it was basically a long-empty space surrounded by four walls.
I removed my torch from my pack, climbed the rickety staircase and investigated the upstairs space for something I could sleep on, but that floor upstairs was empty too – it had been clearly a long, long time since this place had ever been witness to a child’s education!
All I could see was a chalkboard at the far end, which the faint guidance of my emergency beam revealed to be in serious disrepair.
I went back downstairs, removed my sleeping bag and, exhausted after a twenty five mile day, wrapped myself up, rolled up my sweatshirt as a pillow, and lay staring at the moonlight coming through the windows. I am the type of person who can sleep on a washing line, so it wasn’t long before I was asleep
That’s when it all happened.
At five, still dark outside, I was awoken by a sound from upstairs.
I sat up, wondering what it could be. Strangely, it sounded like the moving of a wooden chair being pulled across a concrete floor.
Then I heard another.
I wondered who was in there with me, wondered if I were dreaming and realised that I wasn’t. I could see little, the moon obscured by night clouds and the morning darkness. I unzipped my sleeping bag and rationally realised that someone had come in after me and had obviously gone to sleep upstairs.
At least that’s what I thought before I heard a wooden desk top being closed with a subtle click.
Not slammed, but closed carefully, with consideration. Then footsteps walking across the floor above me, shuffling, beams creaking.
The hushed, mischievous giggling of children.
Curious, and, in general, no believer in the supernatural, I got up, reached for my torch, and climbed the staircase not quite sure what I was expecting to find.
Of course, when I got there, I was surrounded by darkness and emptiness. There was nothing there and the sounds had stopped.
But just as I began to think I was imagining things, I could feel a presence in the gloom.
Someone was there.
I cannot explain it even now, but there was definitely someone there with me in that upstairs classroom.
And I also cannot explain how I know this, but that someone was looking at me.
Curious no longer, I skipped down the rickety stair case. Put on my running shoes, rolled up my sleeping bag and organised my pack in double quick time.
Left the schoolhouse and put as much distance between that place and me as I could.
That next three miles was the fastest I ran that week!!