Brough Law Fell Race

 

This Sunday (25th March) see’s the first race in this years Fell Race Series at Brough Law. It is a great race and a good introduction to Fell Running.

To participate in the series men are to complete 4 races – short, medium & long plus another.
 

Best position to count. Women to do 4 races – two short and two medium. The long races don’t count in the womens series. However, if they feel they have the experience to do them they can enter. Lowest points wins. i.e 1 point for first Saltwell to finish.

 

The full list of races is as follows :
 

Short races
Brough Law 25/3/18
Clough Head 6/5/18
Beacon Hill 12/7/18
Roof of England (DFR) 17/07/18

 
Medium
Anniversary Waltz 21/4/18
Yetholm 3/6/18
Simonside 15/9/18
 
Long
Cross Fell 30/6/18
Borrowdale 4/8/18
Langdale 13/10/18
 

Haworth Hobble aka the Wuthering Hike


 
Naz – “Phil, what shall we do in March?”

Me – “Well I’ve got to get a long one in sometime, it’s in my ‘marathon plan’ for Manchester. What do you reckon?” “I know, let’s do the Hobble, it’s a 32 miler in Bronte country. I did it back in the day and actually came 26th in 5 and a half hours – you impressed?”

Naz – “no, what’s it like? Anything like the White Rose?”

Me – “nothing like the White Rose, it’s relatively flat and most of it’s on runnable track”

Naz – “I’ll enter us as a team, that ok?”

Me – “yep, do it. I’ll see if Longstaff’s up for it too”

Naz – “I’ll sort accommodation, we’ll treat it as a day out in the hills and countryside”

 

One week before the event, Mr Longstaff ruled himself out – sciatica! We managed to kid Paul Walters, an old University friend of mine, an exSaltwell (for 3 months) and now of Derwent Valley Trail Runners into joining us. The plan was to run round together as a team of three!

 

The evening before the event, Naz and myself checked into our accommodation – a clean, simple Guest house situated half way up the picturesque cobbled Haworth high street, 100 yards away from tomorrow’s start line. We spent the evening in the Fleece Inn where we were joined by Paul and I got myself acquainted to the Landlord. I think his name was Timothy Taylor! To irritate Naz, Paul and I ordered the gammon steak (with pineapple AND fried egg Peter) and Naz had the halal scampi – good wholesome pre-race food, NOT! Three pints later we decided to be sensible and take an early night, after all we had to be at registration in seven hours time.

 

Six o’clock the alarm sounds. Time to pack bags, get dressed (Naz insisted on packing his bag in his pants for some unknown reason, probably a cultural thing!) and perform bowel evacuation procedures. Making sure the remnants of my room mates large intestine (from the evening before) had finally escaped (it was a Friday night four flusher), I dared to enter the ensuite to apply my waterproof mascara. I wasn’t going to win this race but I was certainly going to look good! We met Paul at the event HQ at 06:30hrs, registered, then went back to the hotel for our cereal, tea and toast.

 

After the obligatory selfie at the start at 08:00hrs, the mass of runners in front of us started to move slowly up the cobbled street. It appears we had started. Paul looked around for somewhere to have a last minute nervous wee. He couldn’t find anywhere, he’d have to wait until we hit the countryside. The weather wasn’t brilliant. It was wet, that fine rain that soaks you immediately, but on the plus side, it wasn’t windy and was relatively warm. Out of the village and onto the moors, we started to overtake fellow competitors until we reached that position in the race where we would probably remain for the rest of the event, about three quarters through the field.
 
We lost Paul immediately as nature called. The first points of interest were the beautiful Bronte waterfalls and bridge. From the bridge, and signposted in Japanese, we came across Top Withens, an old building in the middle of nowhere. Heathcliff and Cathy weren’t in! The first checkpoint came and went at about the 7 mile point. There, we refuelled with provided broken biscuits from a car boot and refilled our water bottles. To this point it felt that there had been little height gained apart from the climb up Haworth Front street (although we had actually done about 750 feet accent) however that was all about to change. The next bit was in full view ahead of us, we could actually see the path ahead going up and up.
 
Luckily the ground under foot was quite firm being made up of red gravel. In the distance and nearing the top of this particular hill was a green JCB digger. As we got closer it was apparent that it was laying large flag stones at an attempt of improving the path for the vast amount of tourists who visit the area. In my opinion, the huge, even sided, uniform squared ‘natural’ slabs take something away from the character of the place but I suppose they’re a necessity due to the wear and tear from the massive amount of footfall experienced. Moving now as a threesome, (Paul caught us up after another wee stop!), himself, myself and Naz covered the next 5 or 6 miles relatively quickly passing by the sides of reservoirs, running over dams and squelching through mud and melting snow, each keeping the others motivated and in good spirits.
 
Thirteen’ish miles in saw the next landmark or landmarks. We heard them before seeing them. There was an eerie atmospheric pulsating dull noise coming out of the blanket of mist. We could only partly see one giant wind turbine with its blades flying around but was aware of tens of others contributing to the harmonious drone. This short busy road section soon turned back into track, mud, slush and ice cold puddles. Halfway was approaching. I’d informed the lads that, ‘back in the day’ there was always a farm outhouse where hot dogs were served! We weren’t disappointed. The buildings had gone but thankfully had been replaced by a campervan. Hot dogs, meat and/or vegetarian (sausages skewered by the same fork Naz later pointed out!), mustard, ketchup, brown sauce, carrot based veg soup, liquorice tea, proper tea, coffee, sausage rolls, biscuits and Jaffa cakes were all on offer and all for free. Naturally we spent a few minutes here replenishing our reserves and a few minutes more waiting for Paul to find somewhere for his third wee in three hours! Onward and upwards, literally. The next hour or two was a hard, run/walk slog. The checkpoint at Mankinholes, a tiny village at mile 20 was a highlight. It comprised of a couple of trellis tables on the street path outside a pub. Food and drink included sausage rolls, little iced cakes, bone dry jam donuts, water and whiskey, blended, not single malt! What’s that all about?!

 

We set off again at a bimbling pace, probably around 5 miles an hour. The weather was now reasonable, the rain having stopped a while ago but the mist was still shrouding the hills around revealing them for a second or two just to keep us interested! We knew the next hour was going to be hard. The contour lines on the map were starting to get closer together (not that any of us even attempted to get ours out – our maps that is), we just knew they were getting closer together because the track was getting steeper and steeper. The bimble turned into a walk which quickly morphed into a crawl, the pushing your hands onto your knees type of crawl. The path had gone, the terrain was mud, rocks, tufts of grass and up. We were accenting Stoodley Pike which from a distance looked like, when the mist temporarily lifted, the pointy bit of Thunderbird Three.

 

Fast forward (or rather slow forward) down to Hebdon Bridge. I pointed out the towns Co-op to my fellow team members where I had queued for two bottles of Diet Coke with the Ironman they call Mullarkey when we last took part five or six years ago, the very same shop that was submerged under 10 foot of flood water 2 years ago thanks to ‘hurricane’ Desmond. They appeared to be interested but I know they weren’t really.

 

The next small village, Hepsonstall, overlooked Hendon Bridge. A quaint little place with a couple of boozers, a stone house lined narrow cobbled street and a church. Foggy, Compo, Clegg and Nora Batty wouldn’t have looked out of place here! The distance between the town below and the village above was only about a mile but the difference in height was approximately 1000 Harra feet. The last but one or penultimate checkpoint was situated just beyond the village. From there we only had 7 or 8 miles to go!

 

Picture this – on a narrow, metalled road, walking swiftly up a hill, a few metres in front of Naz and a few more ahead of Paul, I hear the grey haired, spectacled, jolly sales director shout, and I quote “Phil, I’ve lost my car keys!” “How” I replied. “They’re not there anymore, my zipped pocket was open and they must have fallen out. I’ll have to go back.” I questioned with complete understanding and compassion in my tone of voice, “So how far are you going to go back then – 22 miles?” Paul realised it wasn’t a viable option to retrace his tracks and we all pressed on in silence with the odd expletive coming from the Tourette’ual mouth of the ‘victim’. He wasn’t Happy!

 

Not long to go now, one more checkpoint to ‘run’ through, then home. Paul by now had come to terms with his dilemma and predicament and had formulated an action plan. High-end German car Assistance were going to be deployed – “they’ll get me home!” Stopping at the final checkpoint Paul asked the marshal if any car keys had been handed in. She was straight on the radio to HQ asking the question. A positive answer came back and Mr Happy returned. He skipped all the way to the finish. The finish was a welcome sight. The rain had started again and it was getting quite cold. Myself and Naz finished just shy of seven and three quarter hours and Paul completed the course a few minutes after us. Hospitality at the end was tremendous. As much veggie pasta and cheese pasties you could eat with buckets of tea and loads of smiles.

 

Did I say it was going to be relatively flat? I’ll take that back. It was enjoyable though, a great day out in the hills and countryside with fantastic friends.

 

Keiths Joss Naylor Report

Whilst supporting an aspiring Bob Graham member he asked me, ‘if you were feeling fit, how long do you think you would take to complete a Bob Graham Round now?’ I mulled over the question for a brief moment, conscious that I didn’t want to lessen our pace as we headed towards High Raise. The manner in which the question was put indicated anything more than 20 hours would be met with disappointment. ‘Well of course, I couldn’t see the point in doing it again unless I could get around faster than I did all those years ago,’ I replied. A cop-out of an answer in anyone’s book. What I was really thinking was, ‘have I still got it?’
 

By the beginning of July I was still wondering ‘have I still got it?’ The answer was quite simple, no. And it was a long time since I had had it! But with some focus, could I get back to a reasonable fitness, that would resemble some kind of movement, that could traverse Lakeland fells without too much trouble?
 

Although I was aware of the Joss Naylor Challenge, I had never been in a prolonged discussion about it and only knew of a couple of people who had made a successful crossing of the 48 miles, 17,000 feet of ascent, that takes you from Pooley Bridge in the east of the Lake District to Wasdale in the west. To be honest I had probably seen it as a bit of a day out for ageing fell runners.
 

Eventually I took the bait, and an email was dispatched seeking support for an attempt of the Joss Naylor Challenge on Saturday 2nd September 2017. Having turned 55 in July, I thought I should at least make an attempt at doing the crossing in under twelve hours, the time allowed for those men aged fifty to fifty-four. Fifteen hours for a fifty-five-year-old seemed a bit generous, but I didn’t think twelve hours appeared to be too difficult either; was I in for a rude awaking!

 

The plan was to train throughout the summer holidays, giving me 6 weeks. I would train for an eleven-hour forty-minute crossing. I had barely run on the fells during the previous twelve months, so I knew I would have to be committed. That lack of Fell running would show up on my first recee of the Joss Naylor Challenge. The first leg from Pooley Bridge to Kirkstone Inn is a relentless up­-hill sixteen mile. My schedule told me I had two hours forty minutes. 

 

When taking on this type of challenge, it is a priority that you get the best support around you if your challenge is to be successful. Just as with my Bob Graham twenty-three years earlier, my wife Tracey was the foundation stone of that support. Keen that the training got off to a good start she booked us into the Inn on the Lake for three days. Soon after arrival she dropped me off at Pooley Bridge. It was 3pm, and I planned to get the last bus back from Kirkstone at 6.10 pm, so Tracey could go and relax in Glennridding; I’d be back in time for dinner. Fortunately, Tracey’s faith in my athletic prowess had diminished over the years. Just as well, because I missed the last bus by over an hour. Tracey was waiting patiently! The challenge was now on and it was clear, this Joss Naylor Challenge is no gentle jaunt for old men and women looking for some last hurray.

 

Pooley Bridge and Ready to Go!
Left to Right: Steve Donaldson, Ian Johnson, Keith, Rob, Chris and Gillian Donaldson

 

Training intensified, regular sorties to the Lakes and when time was tight, the Cheviots, were completed and a family holiday was quickly planned, which could double as a training location.
 
‘I know, why don’t we go to Corsica?’

 

With five days to go I was feeling good, training had gone well and I decided to recee the first section again. I needed to complete this section in time with the schedule. I asked a good friend and very fast  fell runner Phil Pearson to run with me. Later that week, Phil would be confirmed runner up in the English Fell Running Championships for his age group. We worked hard and kept up a relentless pace despite a bit of a head wind, but not fast enough, thirty-six minutes down. I would have to re-assess my capabilities!

 

Feedback from posts on the Joss Naylor Challenge blog said the twelve-hour schedule was equivalent to an 18-hour Bob Graham round. I no longer thought it was possible to get under twelve hours. I re-scheduled my start time from 07.00 hours to 06.00 hours, informed my pacers of my doubts about going under twelve hours, but in the spirit of the challenge we would stick to the eleven-forty schedule.

 

It was important to me, to invite those who supported me on my Bob Graham to assist this time round. Ian (Johnas) Johnson would again act as timekeeper and Man In Charge at the road crossings. Satch would again take obligatory photographs and drive me at 05.30 hours on Saturday 2nd September from Patterdale to the start at Pooley Bridge.

 

The morning mist on Ulswater created a photographer’s dream shot. I stared out into this surreal setting with ‘Brothers in Arms’ by Mark Knophler playing in the background, memories took me back to 1977, when Satch had previously driven me to the start of what was, in reality, the beginning of my affiliation with mountain running. Back then the background music was ‘I am a Rock’ by Simon and Garfunkel and the event was the Boys’ Brigade East Kilbride Hike. While the rest of England was transfixed with celebrating the Queens Silver Jubilee, I would be one of three young lads from Wrekenton, Gateshead to become the first Englishmen to win that event. But that was then, and in a few moments a new challenge was to begin.

 

At 05.55 hours I informed Ian we would start at 06.10 hours. I felt in total control, so much so it felt a little unnerving. There were no nerves, not even excitement, as I approached the bridge with my pacers Rob Brooks and Chris Kennedy. A shake of the hand and a cuddle from Steve and Gillian Donaldson and then a quiet ‘Go’ from Ian and we were off. 

 

The name of the first summit had a touch of emotion attached to it. The previous September my father Arthur passed away and it suddenly dawned on me how many summits are called Arthur; Ben Arthur, Arthur’s Seat and here I was heading towards Arthur’s Pike. Rob took the first photo as I reached summit number one bang on schedule. Twelve hours was now on the cards. As the mist evaporated from the surface of Ulswater and the sun broke over the distant Pennine Chain, Rob and Chris maintained enough pace that allowed for a temporary pause as we marvelled at the magnificent Corrie that is Hopegill Head. After meeting our first morning walkers at Thunder Knott we were soon heading towards Kirkstone.

 

Morning mist on Ulswater from Arthur’s pike

 

One of the exciting things about fell racing is looking for the best lines, it can be a bit risky, but if it comes off you can gain distance and time on your competitors. Approaching St Raven’s Edge, I felt it was time to take one of those risks. The path from the summit of St Raven’s Edge which follows the wall to Kirkstone Inn makes for slow going. And although I’ve always taken that route, it was now time to find a faster more direct line. ‘Rob, just follow me’ and he duly did. A gap in the wall prior to the summit, allowed for a diagonal line with a bit of contouring, but much easier ground to cover. Sixteen miles completed and only three minutes down on an eleven forty schedule. A sixty second pause to thank pacers and supporters before setting off with my new pacer Ben Abdelnoor.

 

Red Screes was knocked off in 18 minutes but the descending line down to Scandale Pass was slightly off course and the first of a number of tumbles ensued. Ben confirmed what I knew, tired legs!

 

I needed to concentrate and not worry about Ben moving along without his heart rate increasing or perspiration appearing on his brow. He is after all, one of the country’s top fell runners. The climb up to Hart Crag was tough, but Fairfield Summit brought renewed optimism, I was still on schedule and once both piles of cairns had been touched on Seat Sandal, I sent Ben ahead with instructions for the support team waiting at Dunmail Raise.

 

Tracey and my two daughters, Jane and Kate, received Ben’s message, ‘he wants a cup of tea, beans and his hat, he said you would know which hat.’

 

Twenty-four miles covered, half way and still only 3 minutes down on the schedule. Deck chair was ready and as I sat there, Jane’s boyfriend Ben handed me the tea and beans he had patiently being looking after and Johnas and my brother-in- law David worked on my cramped calves.

 

Support is essential for these rounds, but it is also a great way to spend time with friends. Three of those who had gathered at Dunmail Raise were at that event in 1977. Paul Revill, Tommy and Derek Brownlie were the main competitors back then, competing for the 1st East Kilbride Boys’ Brigade. The fierce competition between us, turned into committed friendship and I was delighted that the lads had managed to get visas to travel across the Border to wish me well.

 

I’ve supported many a Bob Graham from Dunmail to Wasdale, so I was familiar with most of next section to Styhead Tarn, with the exception of the route from High Raise to Stake Pass, but due to lack of training time this meant I was doing this section for the first time on the day.

 

I set off up Steel Fell with Iron Man Competitor Graham Stephenson. Despite the steep incline ahead, I was confident I would make good progress, these types of climbs seem to suit me and I was confident we would soon catch up with Jim Thompson and Tim Forster. I was working hard and to be honest, expected to push ahead of Graham. When this didn’t happen, I was hoping Graham was working flat out to stay with me. The reality was, I wasn’t moving that well and only just managed to reach the summit on schedule.
 

Beginning the ascent of Steel Fell


 

The terrain over to Birks Gill before the climb up to High Raise allows for good running, I was picking good lines but knew I wasn’t moving quick enough and the ascent to High Raise was a tough slog. I really wanted a rest and the opportunity came with the need to stop and take a compass bearing and discuss and then choose the right line over to Stake Pass. The downside was adding minutes to those extra ones I’d already acquired since leaving Dunmail. Once at Rossett Pike, I demanded to know from Jim how the schedule was going, emphasising, ‘I don’t want any bull.’ I was well aware that pacers will say anything but the truth to those who are struggling, I’ve done it myself. Jim without any emotion, calmly informed me I was just over twenty minutes down. I needed a second wind and it came on the ascent of Bow Fell. I finally began to feel I was moving out of first gear. Tim, one of those who was in that minibus in 1977, decided to head straight to Great End and join us on the descent to Styhead Tarn.

 

On the climb to Bow Fell we met a bloke doing his Bob Graham Round, he was having a hell of a time. I shook his hand, wished him well, but couldn’t help having a wry smile at what this challenge was doing to him. I hope he got to Keswick in time.

 

Bow Fell was reached one minute faster than the schedule, the pace had picked up. Jim and Graham however, were concerned that I needed to get more food into me and insisted that I sit down and eat a sandwich. I didn’t want to sit down but out of respect I did what I was told, what they didn’t say was for how long! I scoffed half a jam sandwich then I was off. I knew I had to get some time back and couldn’t afford to lose anymore. Jim and Graham weren’t too happy but hey ‘it was my party.’

 

Esk Pike came and went and we were now descending the tricky route to Styhead from Great End. No sign of Tim, he must be at Styhead. ‘Take your time Keith,’ hollowed Jim. If there is a good line on this descent we weren’t on it. I was going as fast as I could while trying to pick a line through the boulder field. Loose rocks were falling everywhere. ‘He’s going to….’ And as I tumbled forward, I stretched out an arm to break my fall, but not fast enough. My body hit the rocks with such a force, I momently felt myself passing out. I was conscious enough to hear Graham continue his sentence….’I knew that was going to happen.’ Once Jim swivelled by body around and the blood began to flow again, I lay there thinking, ‘this is it, challenge over.’ My knee was knacking, it had taken the full brunt of the fall. Jim helped me up and we gingerly made our way down to pick up the path and onto Styhead Tarn, twenty minutes behind schedule, but still on for twelve hours. No sign of Tim.

 

Gillian and Steve greeted us and handed over beans, drink and clean top. The fall was in the past, the banter and laughter was good, and I was easy meat for micky taking. The day was going well. The East Kilbride boys were there too and I took the opportunity to introduce them to the assembled crowd, which included the general public. I particularly made a point, of telling them of the legend that was Paul Revill. Back in 1977, Paul was the star athlete of East Kilbride and revered by all of us from Gateshead. Ten years later we would compete together in the Karrimor International Mountain Marathon.

 

While I finished off the beans, Peter Mullarkey and Paul Richardson set off up Great Gable. Gemma Bradley would take over from her fiancé Jim and set the pace up Gable, we had four hours to get to Greendale Bridge.

 

In the Borrowdale Fell race five weeks earlier, I had gone from Styhead to Great Gable summit in twenty-five minutes ten seconds. Today I had thirty-four minutes. There aren’t many climbs tougher than Gable after a long day on the fells. I could see Peter and Paul ahead and with my signature Panama Hat secured firmly we were off, working as hard as we could to catch them. There were plenty of walkers descending the path, I must have looked a rather obsessed ignorant figure as I stared at each step in front of me. Gemma tried to give me a drink, but I resisted the temptation to interrupt my pace. She persevered, I accepted and she got me to the top in twenty-six minutes, good effort. The only disappointment was that we only caught Peter and Paul a few metres from the summit!

 

Only 20 metres left!!

 

Paul took over navigation, Peter dropped off the pace and would make his own way to the finish line.

 

As we approached the summit of Kirkfell I was reminded to take all of this in. The visibility was superb, the mountains spectacular, the company was good and I was having a great day out. Paul was doing a fantastic job picking some excellent lines off Pillar and Gemma was plying me with food and drink, I was amazed where all the drink was coming from. I was certainly being well looked after. As we approached Steeple, Paul ran off to find a good decent off Haydock and Gemma took the opportunity to rest awhile as she watched me dash across to the rocky outcrop that is Steeple. Gemma was setting an amazing pace, we were knocking minutes off the scheduled times as we passed over each summit. Descending Haydock, we spotted Paul, unable to find the scree route but he had a found good line down and across the wet ground of the Pots of Ashness, before the penultimate summit of Seatallan. After forty odd miles this is a monster of a climb, I pulled on all the reserve I had left, each step seemed like my movement had reverted to slow motion as I ascended this whale backed shaped mountain.

 

I glanced at my watch more than once, trying to work out if I was going to make twelve hours but my brain was going slower than my feet. Gemma offered encouragement and drink every other step. I took the encouragement but declined the drink. That would be my reward when we got to the summit. ‘Keep it going Keith,’ I kept telling myself, this is the last of the hard climbs. As we reached the trig point I gratefully accepted my reward from Gemma. We both looked out towards the Irish Sea and the lowlands of Cumbria, we were at the western edge of the Lake District. It didn’t matter which way you looked the views were magnificent.

 

I turned and glanced across to Middle Fell, the last summit, then looked at the watch. I had 70 minutes to get to Greendale Bridge and a twelve-hour crossing. This was the first time I knew I was going to make the schedule. At Middle Fell I insisted we had a few minutes to soak up the day and take a few photos. As we descend down to Greendale Bridge I could see my support team gathering, ‘I hope Tim is there!’

 

After eleven hours and twenty-eight minutes I was met and congratulated by a shepherd’s hand.
 
What a privilege to have Joss and his wife Mary meet me at the finish.
 
‘Well done lad, that’s a good run you’ve had, you have obviously got a good support team with you.’
 
‘I couldn’t agree with you more Joss. We have indeed had a great day.’
 
And then Tim turned up!

 

Later that day the great day was completed, when we gathered for food, friendship and fellowship in the Santon Bridge Hotel.

 

The Shepherd’s hand


 

As part of my challenge I raised £1,300 for Daft as a Brush, Cancer Patient Care, based in Newcastle which supports patients across the North East and Cumbria.

 

I would like to sincerely thank my wife Tracey, and my daughters Jane and Kate, who make life so easy for me when it comes to running in the mountains. And to the following, in order of appearance; Ian Johnson (Johnas), Stephen Millen (Satch), Rob Brooks, Chris Kennedy, Gillian Donaldson, Steve Donaldson, Phil Pearson, Tommy Brownlie, Derek Brownlie, Paul Revill, Ben Abdelnoor, David Watson, Katherine Watson, Ben Connelly, Jim Thompson, Tim Forster, Graham Stephenson, Peter Mullarkey, Paul Richardson, Gemma Bradley and Jimmy and Debbie Smith. Without your support and commitment on the day and prior, with your own training and preparation, this day would not have happened, I am most grateful to each of you.

 

Part of a great team
Left to Right: Tim Forster, Gemma Bradley, Chris Kennedy, Keith Wood, Peter Mullarkey, Paul Richardson, Jim Thompson

 

Keith Wood

 

Saturday 2nd September 2017
 

Temple Newsham Race Report


I had signed up for this race at the end of 2017 as it sounded like an interesting challenge. I was glad I did as it sold out fairly quickly.
 
The Saturday before the race was exactly the most ideal race preparation. A full day at work followed by a family birthday/get together meant that I had around 5 hours sleep.
 
When my alarm clock went off, it definitely felt like the middle of the night although this was soon sorted with a strong coffee.
 
I had a short walk to Gateshead Stadium metro, where I met Neil Curry, and we were picked by James May at around 7am, shortly followed by picking up Philip Young. The car journey took around 2 hours (Thanks very much to James again for driving there and back, I don’t have a car so I really appreciate any help to races that are further afield)
 
We entered the Temple Newsam Estate, parked up and went to collect our numbers. It was at this point, we couldn’t believe how cold it was. We then bumped into the others (Claire Lloyd, Bill Wilson, Nicola Shaverin, Lisa-Douglas Perry, Phil Robertson, and Rob and Michelle Masson) It was really good to see friendly/familiar faces.
 
We headed back to the car to get ready for the race (I came to the conclusion that even after 5 years of running/racing, I still can’t pin a number on my vest straight!) I felt under prepared as I hadn’t bought my gloves and I just had shorts to run in. We sat back in the car for a while to keep warm. I’m pretty sure Neil Curry was tempted just to stay in the car, meanwhile I was questioning/reminding myself as to why I was doing this.
 
We jogged to the start, got a team photo and soon we were off. I decided to sit comfortably at the back of the field. I had recently ditched my Garmin and decided that I just wanted to enjoy the experience.
 
Within a mile, there was a guy sat on the grass, clutching onto his ankle/being helped, having gone over it
on the downhill. It was at this point I decided I really needed to get round without any injuries (I’ve had my fair share of broken bones, and I’ve been to that many different hospitals/A+E departments around the country that I could probably write a book, and could do with out a review of Leeds General!)
 

I felt really good and strong and before I knew it I was slowly overtaking other runners. I found myself feeling amused at around 4/5 miles in, there was a queue of runners who had stopped, and were wasting (in my opinion) a lot of energy trying to carefully walk/step around the really muddy bits. Whereas I just ran fully straight through the middle and managed to splash them all with mud.
 
As I didn’t have my Garmin and only Strava running silently on my phone, I didn’t have the pressure of looking down at a watch all the time, this meant I could concentrate more on my surroundings, how I felt and improving my technique. This meant on the Hills, I was able to run all the way up overtaking runners who were walking up them with their heads down (My helium balloon was definitely there throughout the race)
 
At 7/8 miles I caught up with Nicola Shaverin, with my LiRF head on I felt guilty for overtaking, but Nicola insisted that I carry on (Thanks Nicola, hope you recovered ok) Again feeling really good, and with no pain in my Achilles or knee, I decided to push on and managed to overtake Phil, Claire and James on a hill. At 9 miles, I really pushed on hard, and the encouragement/support from other runners around me was brilliant.
 
On the final hill, I ran with 4 or 5 other ladies and again we all encouraged each other to keep going. The final straight was on the grass/flat (unlike the Hadrian’s Half Marathon which had the finish line at the top of an incline) and I managed a strong sprint finish.
 
We swiftly headed off to get changed and set off back home (first though and more importantly stopping at a Wetherspoons in Garforth, for much needed food and drinks although Philip Young was disappointed it didn’t have a carpet, but this was made up with a quick visit to a local microbrewery)
 
The race was really well organised and the marshals were brilliant (lots of shouts for Saltwell and thanks for travelling down from Gateshead) The race was excellent value, at around £16 to enter, with a goody bag, technical race t-shirt and medal.
 
I absolutely loved the whole day from start to finish. I completed the race in approximately 1hr 48 minutes and was 57th in my age category (Senior Female) I’d definitely take part in this race again and complete another trail race sometime soon. The experience made me reflect that joining Saltwell, in January 2013, aged 21, and when I really wasn’t sure if I was good enough, was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

 
Charlotte Proud
 

Saltwell 10k Race Report 2017

ABRAHAM TEWELDE had to pull out all the stops to retain his Ronnie Walker 10k road race title over a testing three-lap course in and around the outskirts of Saltwell Park.
 
The Saltwell Harrier just made it to the start line in time to defend his crown seconds before the near-500 strong field, who had observed a minute’s silence for the former Saltwell stalwart, set off.
 
Having had no time to warm up the Eritrea-born athlete settled in behind Gateshead’s Conrad Franks and by the completion of the first circuit the pair had a nine-second lead over Dan Jenkin (Durham City) with Tom Charlton (Tyne Bridge) and Nick Samuels (Sale) tracking them.
 
The leading positions changed on lap two with Twelede taking up the running and opening up a significant advantage over his main rival as the gaps behind began to widen.
 
Twelve months previously Tewelde, who had been living in Gateshead for just a matter of months, spreadeagled the field to win in 31min 55secs however, this time round the pace was much slower.
 
At one stage on the final circuit Twelede was leading by around 50 metres however, a determined effort by Franks saw the lead diminish considerably and then, with around 800 metres to go and rounding the park lake for the final time Franks hit the front.
 
However, it was only a momentary lead for Twelede battled back to regain control before coming home to win by just three seconds in 32:41.
 
Franks, who finished third in last year’s race, claimed the runner’s-up award after leading Jenkin across the line by 39 seconds.
 
Tyne Bridge Harriers, led by fourth-placed Charlton, won the team prize ahead of a delighted Low Fell trio.
While the men’s contest was a close affair the women’s race saw a comfortable victory for Loughborough-based Sonia Samuels.
 
The recently-crowned North East Counties cross-country champion, was contesting the race for the first time but despite that, she was confident enough to lead throughout.
 
After completing the first circuit Samuels was lying in 13th place overall with another former Wallsend athlete, Danielle Hodgkinson (Birchfield) in second place just ahead of North Sheilds Poly’s Charlotte Penfold.
 
With around 3k to go Samuels had moved up two further places into ninth, a position she would hold all the way to the finish.
 
Hodgkinson, who had dropped out of the NE Counties XC Championships at the midway point due to injury when lying in third place, showed no signs of discomfort on this occasion and crossed the line just 28 seconds behind Commonwealth Games-bound Samuels.
 
Despite slowing slightly on the final circuit Penfold hung on well to claim third place.
 
Samuels, who will be in action once more over 10k in Milan, Italy on New Year’s Eve, said after her victory: “It’s not a course for fast times but having said that I still enjoyed myself.
 
“I wanted a hard run today and while it was tricky at times with so many twists and turns and having to weave through the tailenders I’m quite happy with my time.
 
“I’m having a few days break here in the North East with my family before going to Italy and then it’s off to Kenya for altitude training in preparation for the Commonwealth Games.”
 
Report : Bill McGuirk
Pictures : Stephen Millan
 

Eventual winner Abraham Tewelde (504) gets away smartly at the start of the Saltwell Harriers’ Ronnie Walker 10k Road Race

 

Abraham Tewelde comes home to retain his Ronnie Walker 10k title

 

Sonia Samuels wins the women’s race at the4 first time of action

 

Winner of the women’s race Sonia Samuels (centre) is joined by runner-up Danielle Hodgkinson (left) and third-placed Charlotte Penfold

 

10k Road Race 2017

 
The date for this years Ronnie Walker 10k Road  Race is Saturday 23rd December starting at 11.30am.
 

The race has reached its entry limit. No more entries will be taken.
 
If existing entrants would like to transfer their number to another runner, please send an email to ‘woodk2@btopenworld.com’ stating the name and DoB of existing runner, the name, DoB, club, gender and address of the runner receiving the transfer.

 
List of registered runners as of 19th December

 

 
Map of the Course

 


 

The Big Apple – 7 years in the making


 
The start

 
5am and the alarm goes off, what the hell am I doing is my first thought.  True to form all my gear had been laid out the night before, at this ungodly hour I want to have the minimum of fuss, so a quick toilet break and change and myself and Woody set off for our journey to the start.
 
A few blocks down from our hotel is Times Square, 5am and the lights are still glowing bright.  There’s people milling around even at this hour taking selfies, there’s a man preaching about Jesus the saviour, even he can’t help me now, I think.
 
A quick left turn and we’re heading towards the city library, the meeting point for our lifts to the start. We gather into the wave of runners heading towards the large queues that are forming, beside us are some English blokes, typical all this way and you’re next to an Englishman in New York, there’s very much something Sting-esh about this.  His cockney accent seems more cockney as the time goes by and at this early hour it’s starting to grind on me.
 
After about 15 or so minutes we’re funnelled onto the bus and the cockney bloke seems a distant memory and so begins the 90 minute journey….I wonder if I can sleep.  Nb – I couldn’t sleep.
 
After what seems an eternity we arrive at the start point, hordes of people filing off buses to join yet another queue, this time an airport style pat down. Show your number, put everything in a clear bag we’re told, there’s the army and many (well) armed police, I’m co-operating, I’m thinking. 
 
Despite the significant police/army presence no one is tense, this is a happy place.  People are smiling and laughing, we look down at our watches, its 7.15am.  My waves starts at 10.15am, ‘argh balls’ I say, ‘only another 3 hours to kill!’.
 
The beginning is well organised, free bagels, tea/coffee, energy bars, even some stress reducing dogs to pet and more toilets than the eye could see, Sarah Garrett would be in heaven.  To be honest I’m pretty chuffed too, off I pop for my second toilet break…
 
Oh, just a note for those future NYC marathon entrees so that you are not unprepared.  I unlike my colleague, Woody, took the sensible option and brought a jumper, you may want to consider this when standing/walking around. However, we were dwarfed in comparison to those people who brought lilos and blankets to have a kip, I did envy them.
 
Skip to another toilet break and it’s time to get into the starting pens (just so you know I’ve worked out that 3 trips to the toilet is the optimum amount).  After a bit of asking around Woody’s allowed to join me in Wave 2 (he initially put down for Wave 1) and after a couple of minutes the elite athletes are lining up, predictably the American National anthem pipes up, they’re properly belting it out hand on chest and everything.  I’m kinda envious of the whole national pride thing but nethertheless I don’t join in. Just as it’s in full flow 3 huge American helicopters fly over in formation, it’s no Red arrows but it’s still impressive.  A few seconds later and from out of nowhere 2 huge cannons are set off, everyone thinks wtf and the first wave is off.
 
Cue another 15 minutes and its Wave 2’s turn, everyone shuffles towards the start, repeat as wave 1, national anthem, 2 cannon and Frank Sinatra’s New York, New York starts bellowing out, we’re finally off!

 

The middle bit aka the marathon
 
The fist mile and a half is over Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, everyone’s jostling to find some space, Woody decides to be unconventional and darts onto the skirt of the bridge, I follow.  We think we’ve found the perfect place, oh no other people have thought the same and it’s not long before we’re once again jostling amongst the masses.
 
A few mile on the freeway (motorway to you and me) and we’re into the first housing estate, its adorned with typical styled American houses, the type you’ve seen in the films. It seems as is the American people have come out in force, hundreds line the streets shouting and waving flags and banners, I note one says ‘ONLY 23miles to go’….ONLY.
 
Another mile or so and we’re funnelled into the path of the other waves we’re now on 4th Avenue, only another 6 or so mile on this road…great.  Like a vanilla ice song, bumper to bumper the avenue was packed (substitute people for bumpers) they’re on either side of the four lane road, two or three deep all shouting and cheering, all wanting high fives, holding up placards with witty comments on, I’m so busy looking around that I cannot remember any but some did make me chuckle.&nbsp

The street is littered with the typical red brick houses with large staircases to the front door. Families are out, sitting on each and every step, hip hop blasting from the boom box, people are dancing and everyone’s cheering.  This is why I wanted to do it I thought.
 
Further down the street there’s a preacher outside a church, the end is nigh, says the huge bed blanket banner.  I hope not mate, I’ve got a race to finish.
 
With each pounding foot we move ever closer to towards half way, this time on the side of the street is someone rapping, it sounds awesome and as if possessed I unwittingly give him a black panther style fist in the air.  The whitest guy in the NY marathon from the most northern city in England giving him a fight the power sign, I think we’re all caught up in the moment, he gives me the thumbs up and shouts go on Saltwell.  We both move on, I just got a shout out from a street rapper, I’m made up, my brothers would be proud, if not a little embarrassed.
 
The next set of miles go by, each as entertaining as the rest. I’m slowly regretting my decision to take a drink from every drinks station (every mile btw), the gatorade has went right through me, I try to put it off, no use, toilet break it is.  It’s at this point I feel sorry for Woody, who is basically standing around waiting for me to pee, he doesn’t complain.  He’s been having too much fun running in and out of people trying to high five them on the side of the road. We set off again.
 
There’s three points during the race that I’ll never forgot, the first of which comes soon after the pee break (the others I’ll get to).
 
We turn into what can only be described as the Jesmond of Brooklyn, there’s posh coffee and cake shops, mini little stores, it looks high class and the posh people look as if they want to watch the poor run, maybe it reminds them of the time they released the hounds on the beggars coming to their door, who knows!  The locals start encroaching on the course but unlike most races no one minds, they’re three or four deep and screaming encouragement.  I can only describe it akin to being on the tour de france people are in front and to the side of you shouting encouragement, patting you on your back and high fiving you.  I don’t mind admitting I choked up a little, this was better than I could have ever imagined and I’d been waiting a long time to run it. The moment went over all too fast.
 
At about the 15 mile mark woody gets a message, Linda and Gemma are at the 16 mile mark. Unbeknown to Woody, albeit I was trying to hold him back more for pace purposes, I was struggling. As usual it was more mental than physical, 16 mile is always a difficult one for me, all those miles down and still double digits to go.  The thought of seeing our support gave me a little lift.
 
The next part of the race is my second memory.  We were fast approaching the 16 mile marker, we were coming off a bridge where there was next to no support (there were no sidewalks – pavements for Phil Askew) and coming down a hill to turn back on ourselves for the next stint when there was a massive wall of cheering people, it was at least 5 or 6 deep.  People were up on boxes or anything they could find to get a better view, I was scanning the crowds left to right to see if I could find our support.  We were passing fast, I’ve missed them I thought.
 
From out of nowhere two beaming faces popped up above the crowds shouting and screaming ‘Darren, Woody, Saltwell’, it was Gemma and Linda. Me and Woody both spotted them, I was particularly happy to see them both, it came at the perfect time for me just as I was struggling. I must have looked like an idiot for the next 2 minutes with my grinning face.
 
I knew that the next part of the race was a virtual 5 mile straight upto the Bronx, as with all the race there was plenty of support either side of the road.  I felt good after seeing the girls and then it happened, the dread for any runner, the twinge. I tried to put it from my mind but I couldn’t. I could sense my slowing down, I turned to Woody and simply said, ‘I’m sorry mate, I think this is me’.
 
He tried his best to encourage and I tried to go a little further but I thought that I needed to maintain at a slower pace and it seemed unfair to Woody who had clearly been running within himself besides me for the previous 19/20 mile, ‘nah mate, you go on’.
 
I walked for a minute or two and set off again.  About a half a mile up the road there was a turning point where you came back on yourself I saw Woody through a gap in the buildings, he’s not too far ahead I thought maybe I can catch up.  That’s the mindset of a runner right there.

No sooner as I got to the point where I had seen Woody that I got cramp.  For whatever reason it always seems to happen around 20/22 mile, I got cramp in my knees both of them.  Let me tell you, it hurts! 

I had thought by drinking at every water station and taking on board food during the race that this time it might not happen.  Unfortunately it did.  This is the one, not regret, but slight disappointment of my marathon, the fact that I couldn’t run it all the way.  I had secretly hoped I could still get under 4 hours and as the pacers slowly went past me, the runner in me still thought I could still get under 4 hours, I reluctantly admitted to myself it was no longer possible.  It was time to get over myself and enjoy the remainder of the race and soak up the atmosphere.
 
The last mile or so came into sight, the finish was in central park and you dipped in for about 3 quarters of a mile then went back on the outside of the park along the road. It was at this point I met some runners from Middlesbrough a.c, ‘alright Saltwell, how you doing, do you want to run in with us?’, ‘im injured’, came the reply, ‘just crack on’, ‘nah, so’s the misses just come in with us’ he said.  After about a minute of running came, ‘so do you know James May?’, I laughed, you can’t go anywhere without someone knowing a hoop!
 
The last mile was basically a procession, my new found Middlesbrough a.c mates kept me on the right path and we all encouraged each other, none of us stopping.  I even had the pleasure of seeing the support crew of Linda and Gemma just before turning onto the final straight shouting and waving, once again me grinning from ear to ear, this time however I didn’t require as much encouragement as the finish was insight, I’d just about done it.
 
Now comes my third memory the final straight.
 
As you can imagine, and a general theme within this report, the final straight was packed to the rafters people from all walks shouting and encouraging, ‘nearly there’. I know I thought I can see and my legs are telling me too!
 
The expected arms loft didn’t quite materialise and, as someone commented, it looked more like I was doing jazz hands and for Claire Lloyd, you now know who I was hugging at the end, it was my new found Middlesbrough mates helping me through the last mile. 

As I finally crossed the line and there was someone waiting with my medal.  This is the point I most came to crying, even now writing this I can feel some emotion coming through remembering that feeling. I had finally done it, after 7 years of trying I had finally realised my dream of running the New York marathon.  I looked down at my medal and let it sink in for a minute or so and then the biggest smile came over my face.
 
I had finished in 4 hours 8 minutes and 19 seconds. 

 

The last bit, usually called the conclusion
 
I think back to the start when I turned to Woody after seeing a guy wearing a gopro and remember saying ‘who’d want to look back at four hours of running’? The answer, I now know, was me.
 
Heading back to the hotel, I had no phone or way of contacting anyone, my thoughts turned to whether or not I could have done better.  Maybe. With marathons cramp is my nemesis, I felt fit and I’d gotten over my mental barrier on mile 16 but what the hell, I do not have a single regret. This was my dream and I thought I’m not wasting time on what could have or might have been. 

On the way back I bumped into Craig who was waiting for me, we messaged the girls and agreed to meet at a point further down the road. The girls were as happy to see us as us were to see them.
 
The walk back to the hotel was a recant of the sights and sounds of the previous 26.2 mile and we couldn’t resist getting a hotdog from a vendor, after all when in New York. The conversation then turned to what to do tonight, ‘What do you think, let’s drink, we’ve all earned it!!!’ was the reply.
 
I think this is supposed to be the point, in my best Jerry Springer style summarisation, I give some meaningful, poignant last words and I’ll try….
 
For me, New York is one of the best places on the Earth.  We all have a perception of American people from films and the News and I can safely say its rubbish.  You couldn’t meet a bunch of more friendly and genuine people anywhere, say for Newcastle (I know my audience). The whole of New York made my dream more special than I could have imagined and I’m also thankful that I had the best company anyone could have hoped for to share it with in Craig, Gemma and Linda.
 
Since I’ve come back I’ve been asked are you doing another marathon and to a person I’ve replied that I think I’ve only got 1 marathon left in me.  After writing this and reliving some of my memories, perhaps that may stretch to two……. 😉

 

Darren Smiley

 

 

 

White Rose Ultra Race Report

After supporting Phil James and Naz on their 60 mile White rose ultra last year I decided I wanted to do one. So after chatting with a few people who have done ultra marathons I decided to join some of my fellow hoops and signed up for the 30 mile White rose ultra.
 
Team Saltwell consisted of Naz and his side kick Phil James, Lois, lisa Stephenson, Rob Masson, Harra the Legend, Scott, John Longstaff, The two Joannes, Barry and paul who are mates of Harra and Phil James and me. The night before the race we decided to register and collect our numbers from the race HQ. So glad we did as we realised the hotel was further away than we thought.
 
The night before was mainly fueling and resting before the big day. Race day started with a 5:30am wake up and leaving the hotel at 6:30am to make our way to race HQ. Standing in a room at the race HQ surrounded hundreds of ultra runners I felt a bit out of my depth but after a few hugs and manly hugs from my team mates, I was ready. It was already decided that the two Joannes would stay with me on the race. Our tatics were to walk the hills and run the down hills and the flat. Team photo done, it was time for the race to start. Off we went straight up a hill. Walking it seemed to be most peoples race tactic too.
 
Phil James’ mate Paul decided to run with me and the two Joannes. After a couple of miles of walking up hills and running down hills I thought to myself, I’m enjoying this. Then It came to the long slog up the highest point of the race where the first water point was. It was windy and cold at this point which showed why we needed the kit. What I can remember of the first 10 miles was hills, more hills and mud. We had a great support crew of young swanny and Steve Anderson on their bikes for 27 miles of this race. We reached the first check point and we welcomed by Alison Slaymaker, quick re fuel and we were off again.
 
15 miles into the race we had to walk up a massive hill that just kept on going and getting steeper. By this point I was getting tired, my legs were hurting and I was sick of going up hills. My good mood had started to go and I was finding it tough. We reached the top of this hill to have to go down a steep muddy path. I knew from supporting at the race last year that we had to go around some pylons and we could see them but everytime we seemed to get close to them there would be a sign to go a different way.
 
We eventualy reached about mile 18 and Alison was there with food for us. At this point I was feeling sick, tired and in pain from all the steep hills and steep down hills. I realy wanted to quit. Ive never felt so down in a race. We plodded on walking up the hills and running when we could. The terrain in some parts was horrible and hard even to walk on. At mile 26.2 Joanne Anderson asked if I had ever done a marathon. My reply was no. Then her reply was you have now. For some reason I got my second wind and I was starting to enjoy it again. Then we realised we only had 3 miles to go. By this time Joanne Wollaston was struggling and in pain. Then at 28 miles she told us to go ahead and leave her in the safe hands of young swanny to support her to the finish.
 
So off we went thinking get in, we have done it, until we turned a corner at mile 29 and there it was another massive hill to climb. I mean, what person puts a massive steep hill that close to a finish of a race? Do they not think we have gone up enough hills? We got to the top and I was struggling to keep up with Paul and Joanne and struggling to not be sick, so I told them to go on without me.
 
Afer a quick spew in a bush I was off again but the last half mile I was getting pulled along by two ladies who we had kept overtaking for most of the race. It was a case of saying to each other “come on we can do this” with a few swear words. This last half mile we overtook a few other runners and I was thinking where the hell is this finish. Then all of a sudden Phil James appeared and told me I had only 100 metres to go.
 
The two ladies and I managed to find enough speed and energy to look good over the finish line. I thought to myself, yes, Ive done it. I was in so much pain and so tired but could not believe that I had just done my first marathon and ultra marathon in the same day on such a hilly brutal course. Now it was time to get hugs from my team mates.
 
I would like to thank everyone who has trained with me and given me advice and to all the very generous people who have sponsored me to do this event. As I type this I have raised £1000 for the Huntingtons disease association. During this event I met loads of lovely people. Cant wait to do it again next year to beat this year’s time.
 
Phil Askew

Galloway dark skies race report.

So as a bit of background… this one I didn’t train for and I entered 3 days before the race. I had absolutely no goals, no idea what it would be like. I had limited knowledge of night running and really didn’t know what I was entering. The day I entered the forecast for race day was good and I just decided to do it for fun. My mileage had remained high after my marathon in July so I knew I had the distance in my legs I was fairly confident I could do it. 
 
As the week progressed the weather started to look more and more ropey. I prepped by pretending the race wasn’t happening and instead caned 2 days of all you can eat buffets at the Lego Hotel with my kids. At one point I was dipping cake into a pint of melted chocolate I had liberated from a chocolate fountain. This was a particular low point in nutritional strategy and taking carb loading to a whole new level. 
 
The day of the race came and Adrian my running buddy and I set off for Galloway. About 3 hrs away. Race HQ was a lovely cafe in Galloway forest park. We had our kit checked (less required than most other races I have entered) and registered. I then hastily wolfed down a sausage roll as I’d had no lunch .
 
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The race briefing was all about being careful, staying warm, how to call for help, the markers and some warnings of some ‘boggy areas’ and a stream crossing. We were also told the first checkpoint had a very strict cut off and if we didn’t make it we wouldn’t be allowed to continue.
 
We set off at 4.30pm. With 1.5 hrs to sunset. The first two miles were absolutely AWFUL. I was too hot, I got a stitch, I had heartburn from the sausage roll, it was uphill and Ade was beasting it. I am certain this was because he was unsure about the cut off time at the first checkpoint and he was wanting to make the most of the smooth track before things got difficult. I struggled to keep up. We were pelting up hill at what felt like tempo pace and I hated it. We were passing multiple runners and soon there was just us and a hardcore pack ahead of us.
 
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We hit a boggy hill and slowed to a fast walk. This saved me as by now I was feeling like dropping out I was so unhappy. A little negative voice was saying ‘no not today, just stop, you can’t do this’ I tried to get it to shut up but I wasn’t in a good place at all. We trudged uphill on waterlogged grass until we came to a more solid surface and started to run again. The track opened up onto stunning moorland and we trotted over it for a few miles in pretty good spirits.
 
 
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Then the path became less clear and we followed the flag markers over boggy terrain for a mile or so. I ran where I could until a wrong step had me up to my thigh in mud. I climbed out of the pit I had inadvertently stepped in (using some choice language) I decided walking might be more prudent at this stage.
 
 
It was starting to get dark and I was twitchy about the cut off time. Two women passed us at here. They were clearly experienced on the difficult landscape and hopped through it with ease. The path led through a deep violently flowing stream about 2m wide. It was too wide to jump so I just waded through it. Adrian was a little behind me so I waited for him to reach it, to shout a bit of encouragement and give him a hand. We had a steep slope to climb to a tree line, there were gullies in the moor full of rushing water that we had to run and leap over. These would have been death traps in the dark and I could see why they wanted us to get through this section before night fell.
 
We reached the first checkpoint with 10 minutes to spare. And hit a wide forest track. We ran here a couple of fast paced miles to the second checkpoint. We took stock and changed our strategy a bit as we knew we were too fast paced for a 30 mile run. We walked swiftly up a very steep and endless hill then pelted down the other side to the 16 mile checkpoint. We stopped to chat to the marshals and we were told the first 6 miles were such a slog they’d had to extend the cut off or half the field would have been unable to finish.
 
We ploughed on running the flats and the downhills and fast walking the ups until mile 18, I was starting to tire and the familiar long distance ache in my legs was setting in. They felt heavy and I was struggling a bit on the hard trail. Then the path narrowed to a single track and led down a steep hill. It was flooded with calf deep water running down it like a stream. It was too dangerous to run down so we walked down it. It went on forever. My slowing down meant I started to feel very very cold. My feet were numb and the rain was pelting down. The two lady runners caught us again and flew past us.
 
I became a bit hysterical at this point. I found the situation comedic and my bog trudging was peppered with profanities and laughter in equal measures. It kept getting more and more ridiculous. There were great pits full of muddy water you had to walk through and all sorts of obstacles to get round. All in pitch black with a head torch to guide the way.
 
 
We came to a stream we had to wade across. Followed by a series of blown over pine trees that needed climbing over. Then there was a 3m wide steam that was thigh deep with a raging current. And a tree trunk to steady yourself with. A marshal helped us out and we were at the 20 mile checkpoint. I grabbed some sweets and a cup of coke and knocked off two very fast miles. Both to bring my body temperature back up and to try and lose the other runners, we had caught back up with the lady runners here. It is unnerving running with head-torches as someone behind you casts strange shadows and it feels intrusive so I was determined to leave them behind if I could.
 
I could sense Ade struggling and he had a bit of a tummy issue which he managed to sort out while I walked slowly up a steep bank. He caught me up and we carried on. My legs felt great and we got into a nice easy running pace. Mile 23 the sky cleared and we turned off our head torches and just took in all the stars. It was breathtaking. And it kind of felt like we were being cut a bit of slack. It kept our spirits up until we bombed into the 24 mile checkpoint.
 
I was handed a caramel slice and we had a bit of banter with Karl and Hippie the two marshals. The markers were a bit tricky to spot here but we found our way. We ran on. Pretty much bang on 26 miles I tripped and flew along the gravel spectacularly. I managed to keep the chia charge bar I was clutching completely intact and pristine. Quite an accomplishment considering the force I hit the ground with.
 
I regrouped and trotted on. I wasn’t physically that tired but the concentration I needed to watch the path in-front, in a torch-beam, was waning.
 
At mile 27 we knew we were on the home stretch and just ran. We ran fast. There were 3 cattle grids to prance across which were taxing at that stage but we did it. And we sprint finished. I was so pleased we were done! I stood there beaming and saying to the organisers how much fun I’d had and how fantastic it was. When one of them came up to me and said ‘you are First Lady in’ I was absolutely astonished. I didn’t believe it and I was certain there must have been a mistake.
 
So what do I think now it is over?
 
  1. I loved night running, I had thought I would hate it but it is a strangely cathartic experience that focuses your mind and I think not seeing what is to come really helps you mentally at long distance.
  2. Bad weather is fine if you have decent waterproofs
  3. Sometimes a rubbish start doesn’t necessarily mean a bad race.
 
Would I do it again? Hell yes!! It was extremely well organised, well marked and a cracking route. One of my favourite races to date! I highly recommend it if you want to step just beyond your comfort zone and go on an adventure.
 

 

Laura 

 
Laura Gledhill
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102 Sheriffs Highway
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