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.
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
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 ‘email@example.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
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.
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……. 😉
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.
- 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.
- Bad weather is fine if you have decent waterproofs
- Sometimes a rubbish start doesn’t necessarily mean a bad race.
Everyone please note that the closing date to be registered for the XC is Sunday 24th September. Those who have not paid their subs, spoken to Graham Harrison regarding the payment of subs and/or have not filled out their membership form will not be eligible to be registered for the XC.
Cross country training has also started on weekends where there is not a XC race – meet at the Old Co-op car park in Wrekenton at 09.30 for a 45 minute session.
Everyone is most welcome (absolutely no previous experience required) – this is a great introduction to cross country
Please dress for the weather with suitable footwear, eg fell or trail shoes, or cross country Spikes
The cross country season is nearly upon us again – below are the dates/venues:
30th Sept – Wrekenton
8th Oct – Druridge Bay
28th Oct – Sherman Cup – Temple Park (S/Shields)
18th Nov – Aykley Heads, Durham
6th Jan – Herrington Country Park, Sunderland
10th Feb – Thornley Farm, Durham
3rd Mar – Alnwick Castle
9th Dec – North Easterns – Redcar
27th Jan – Northerns – Leeds
24th Feb – Nationals – London
It was the culmination of 7 months of training and around 5 years of planning, procrastinating, talking and preparation – to say I was happy is an understatement.
I was working on a 22 hour schedule and my training had went well so I was confident going into round.
The forecast was mixed – wind increasing through the day and intermittent cloud, 70% of cloud free summits. At least I wasn’t going to be roasting in the 30 degree heat we’d had the previous weekend.
Upon arriving at the Denton House hostel where everyone was staying I was treated to a rousing rendition of happy birthday (yes it wasn’t a coincidence that I was doing my round on my 42nd birthday), and after having some food at Wetherspoons I tried to get some last minute rest in the dorm.
Leg 1 Keswick to Threlkeld
There was only myself and Bob Neil on the first leg. I felt a little guilty as it meant that he’d have to carry all my kit/food etc but Bob is a machine and I told I would return the favour when he decides to do a round of his own.
Harra, Phil James, Decca and Catherine Vicarage were planning on meeting us at the top of Great Calva where Harra had promised me a Custard Tart to celebrate my birthday.
I set off at 10pm at which point it was still light and we made good progress, passing Harra and co just after Latrigg Car Park. About half way up Jenkin Hill we were into the clag – no big deal as the path up Skiddaw is like a motorway but the temperature dropped and it started to rain so it was time for my waterproof and buff.
We reached the top around 5 minutes up on schedule and conditions had deteriorated again. The wind was gusting across the top blowing the rain into our faces and there was no point in putting our head torches on as the light just reflected straight back at us.
We dropped down to the right of the path to find the fence line and style which we did no problem and crossed over and picked up the grassy trod. It was now like being in a different world, we were sheltered from the wind, the clag had lifted and it had even stopped raining.
It was the usual quagmire going over Hare Crag but we made good progress and reached the top of Calva without any issues, however we were alone and it was clear enough to see that there was no-one else around. I was a little worried but took comfort from the fact that there were 4 of them and assumed they must have turned back. Harra and Jamsie have been to Calva before and with their years of experience they would make sure nothing bad happened…
Coming off Calva we found the trod no problem and started the slog up Mungrisdale Common on the way to Blencathra. I had decided to descent via Doddick Fell instead of Halls Fell as I’ve always been quicker coming down that way. Although not as bad as Skiddaw the clag was still blowing in and out and the rocks were greasy so my mind was definitely made up.
Coming down from Blencathra we slightly overshot the turn off to Doddick Fell and had to retrace our steps but I realised straight away so a few minutes lost but no big deal.
Before I knew it we were running through Threlkeld and into the first changeover. I said goodbye to Bob who was again going home to do his post round. I had lost the time I made on Skiddaw on the decent from Blencathra but was bang on schedule and I felt great.
Gillian, Steve and John were waiting for me and made sure I had food and drinks available – I quickly had a sandwich, cup of coffee and took a banana for the road.
Leg 2 – Threlkeld to Dunmail Raise
Accompanying me on the next leg were Iain Armstrong, Jim Thompson and Chris Redfern and we set off at a gentle jog towards the next big climb of Clough Head. My biggest strength is probably my climbing, especially the really big steep climbs of which Clough Head is one. Unfortunately, this was bad news for Chris who had dropped off the back and as we once more entered the clag again near the top we lost sight of him.
We reached the top without him and I made the decision to push on instead of waiting. I did feel bad about this but it had become colder so I didn’t want to hang around and I also still felt good and wanted to keep moving as there is good time to be made on this section. Chris had done the leg before so I hoped he would be able to get back down ok.
Once at the top it is possible to take a more direct line through the Dodds as a shortcut so he may have been able to catch us up, however it was still dark and the clag was down so it would have been difficult for him to find that line.
We proceeded to the next fell, Great Dodd but descending from there we veered a little too far to the left and had to make up some ground so lost a few minutes but just like Doddick Fell nothing to be concerned about.
The Dodds are easy to navigate in good weather but in mist they can be tricky and Jim did a great job in getting me through them whilst Iain was feeding me Kendal Mint Cake.
As we reached Helvellyn Lower Man the wind was getting stronger and I was becoming increasingly colder. Jim must have sensed this as he asked how I was doing. He suggested stopping at the shelter on Helvellyn to put some more layers on but I wanted to push on – I knew that in around half an hour we would descend to Grisedale Tarn and it would be significantly warmer and more sheltered down there so I didn’t mind being uncomfortable until then.
We descended Dollywagon Pike via the fenceline down to the tarn and I was warm again. The clag had also cleared and for the first time I was able to take in and enjoy the magnificent views. Ticking off Fairfield amd Seat Sandal, the last peak on the leg we then made good time on the lovely grassy descent to Dunmail Raise and leg 2 was done and dusted – 17 minutes ahead of schedule.
I was glad to see Chris there. He had made it back safely despite being sent the wrong way by another BGR group and visiting the summit of Clough Head twice.
My right hip had been hurting a little on the descents on this leg so I took some painkillers which seemed to sort it out as it didn’t bother me again. My foot was also hurting so I hoped the painkillers would help that too.
Again I was overwhelmed by the amount of food and drink that Gillian & Steve had prepared for me. I had some baked beans+sausages, pasta, coffee and flat coke and some chia seeds. Keith took a few sandwiches for me for the climb up Steel Fell and then we were away.
Leg 3, Dunmail Raise to Wasdale
Peter and Gemma had set of about 10 minutes before us and we reconvened at the top of Steel Fell. This next section was very boggy but Keith took some good lines to try and avoid the worst of it.
When we reached the top of High Raise we could see another group of walkers who looked like they were taking part in some sort of organised challenge. It turns out they were competing in a 10 peak challenge and we encountered many more of them during the remainder of this leg and the next.
We pressed on and by the time we reached the Langdale Pikes Keith told me I was 15 minutes up on schedule and suggested we have a quick break which we did.
Looking over we could see the Scafells shrouded in mist which was going to make the next section tricky. This section between Bowfell and Scafell is the most technical and rocky of the round and also the most difficult to navigate – Ill Crag and Broad Crag are huge boulder fields which are seldom visited because of their proximity to Scafell Pike.
The climb up Bowfell is biggest on this leg but I’ve always enjoyed it and we made swift progress to the top and into the clag which would last until Scafell.
Esk Pike was ticked off and then we set off towards Great End. In good conditions you can take a more direct line to the top, however Keith told me because of the conditions he preferred to stick to the path as the summit is quite flat so finding the summit cairn would be tricky in the clag.
Progress over Ill Crag and Broad Crag was very slow because of the slippery rocks (it’s difficult to make fast progress at the best of times) – there are deep gaps between some of the huge boulders in which you could easily break a leg if you slipped so I was very cautious. There were a lot of the 10 peaks walkers on this section -at the top of Scafell Pike Keith told them I was doing 42 peaks and I got a round of applause which was nice.
Descending towards Mickledore Keith was a little concerned we were on the right track and we stopped for a few minutes just to check bearings and look at a more detailed map. Within a minute of continuing we were at the stretcher box, confirming our position and I was relieved – I have complete faith in Keith’s navigation and he had gotten me through the toughest part in very poor conditions.
I had originally planned to climb Broad Stand but unfortunately Jonny’s daughter had netball trials so he had to pull out so we went via Lords Rake and the West Wall Traverse instead whilst Gemma and Peter descended on the tourist path to meet us at Wasdale. For anyone who has not done this route I would thoroughly recommend it – it’s one of the most exhilarating ways to a mountain top up a very steep scree slope which cuts across Scafell Crag and then another steep traverse to the summit – you really get the feeling you are inside the mountain.
Keith wanted to stop for a few minutes at the top of Scafell which we did, before the long descent to Wasdale. We came down the 2nd scree shoot from Rakehead Crag which was much better than the 1st scree shoot I had come down a few months earlier and I really enjoyed the descent. I think I spent most of the steep grassy section after the scree coming down on my arse – it was certainly faster than running!
Gemma and Peter met us at the stream and we all ran into the National Trust car park together to complete the leg.
Wasdale is a pivotal point in the round and a one where many people give up – the long descent from Scafell is a real quad thrasher and the next climb up Yewbarrow is probably the most brutal of the round – it’s extremely steep and relentless so it was good to be coming in still feeling really strong. Paul Richardson informed me that we were going to play a game of the tortoise and the hare, his way of telling me that he was setting off up Yewbarrow before me.
Steve washed my feet for me and Gillian cleaned my shoes and got all the scree out of them. I also brushed my teeth to stave off any potential ulcers from all the sweet stuff I’d been eating (a problem Jim told me he had suffered with).
I’d lost 35 minutes on leg 3 – a combination of going via Lords Rake instead of Broad Stand, and the poor conditions. This combined with a longer than scheduled stop meant I was 33 minutes down on schedule leaving Wasdale. This didn’t concern me at all though as I still had an hour and a half contingency and I was still feeling strong and moving well.
Leg 4, Wasdale to Honister
As well as Paul who had already set off John Butters and Fred Smith were also accompanying me on this leg. John set a good pace going up Yewbarrow (or Yew-B**tard as he calls it) and half way up Fred informed me that we were on 36 minute pace and not 47 minute pace (per my schedule) but it felt comfortable and I made 12 minutes on the climb and another 6 on the next climb to Red Pike at which point we were back in the clag again.
This might have taken its toll on me as for the first time I started to feel a little tired and my foot was also hurting again. Luckily it didn’t last long and a cup of tea from Fred, slice of maltloaf, a gel and some painkillers after Steeple sorted me out.
Descending from Pillar the clag cleared revealing fantastic views down into Wasdale and Ennerdale – Paul commented that “you can see the pub from here”.
You could certainly see the Wasdale Head Inn but I still had a long way to reach the pubs of Keswick. We ascended Kirk Fell via the Ennerdale race gulley at which point we stopped for a quick snack and admired the views.
On the top of Kirk Fell we were joined by Jim Thompson, Dave Bradburn and Simon Long who had ran in from Honister via Moses Trod to run the final section of the leg with me. Iain had also planned on meeting me here but I learnt later that he had been in some pain on leg 2 so decided against it which was totally understandable.
There was only one big climb left now up to Great Gable which I enjoyed and Paul took a good line on the descent, bearing right of the path to avoid the rocky scramble.
The next section over Green Gable, Brandreth and Grey Knotts was good running – unbeknown to us Satch was waiting for us on the top to Grey Knotts but unfortunately none of us saw him.
Another fast descent and I was running into Honister feeling absolutely fantastic. There was never a point when I thought that I wasn’t going to make it but it still felt good to running into the last changeover and seeing everyone there waiting for me.
As well as my support team my friends Malcom Lewis and Helen Stephenson were also at Honister and it was great to see them although I wasn’t able to speak to them much – save that for Keswick…
I had made 38 minutes on the leg which meant I was now 5 minutes up on schedule.
Leg 5, Honister to Keswick
John Walton, Harra, Phil James, Simon Long, Andrew Softly and Catherine Vicarage set off shortly after I arrived at Honister to get a head start.
After a quick toilet stop I set off up the final big climb of Dale Head with Tim Forster, Dave Bradburn and John Butters. catching up with the rest of the team at the top and Malcolm who had also walked up.
Some of the team went straight on and cut out Hindsgarth which is pretty much an out and back. Then it was time for the final climb and the final peak, Robinson. It felt fantastic to touch the last cairn – number 42 – just the run in to Keswick to go now.
I had previously told Tim that I wanted to take the grassy alternative to the rocky scramble at the top of Robinson so we veered off the path. We went a little too far to the right and ended up at the top of the crags and had to come back up a little but it wasn’t a big deal. Soon we were descending the lovely grassy descent down to the tarn where I paused with John B. Looking back up I could see everyone coming down but there was no sign of John W. Someone shouted that he had rolled his ankle and that Dave B had went back up for him.
Tim told me to push on so I did down the path and eventually joining the road. As we approached Little Town we spotted Steve and Gillian waiting by the road up ahead – I think were surprised to see us so early and raced off ahead to get back to the car park before us.
A quick change into road shoes and my Saltwell vest and it was time for the final 4.5 miles along the road. I still felt great so made good time on this section running with John B and Andrew with the others following behind and before I knew it we were on the outskirts of Keswick.
The feeling of running up Keswick high street with everyone cheering me on was incredible and I raced up the steps to touch the door of the Moot Hall 21 hours and 19 minutes after setting off from there the previous night.
Steve handed me a pint and I stood at the top of the steps and tried to contemplate what I had just achieved – 66 miles, 42 peaks and 27,000ft of ascent.
Iain was one of the first to congratulate me and welcome me to the club which was a fantastic feeling after all the training we have done together and supporting him on his round 4 weeks previously.
The rest of the team then started to come in, first Phil, then Tim , Harra, Catherine & Simon , Dave and finally John W who’d valiantly pushed on and completed the run in – I was glad to see him and relieved that he was ok.
Gemma told me I needed to have something to eat so we retreated to the Kings Arms and she very kindly bought me some Fish and Chips, although I only managed about half of them. I stayed in the pub for another hour or so before walking back to the Hostel and finally getting some much awaited sleep.
So what are the main things I learnt from my round? For me the hardest part was constantly eating and drinking. It’s totally different to the way I train and I had to force myself to keep taking fuel on board. I did feel a bit sickly a few times because of all the sugar but it didn’t affect my running & passed after a while.
One of the pieces of advice Keith gave me beforehand was to enjoy the day and I can honestly say that I enjoyed every last second of it. Amazingly I didn’t have a bad patch and never had a single negative thought enter my mind. I never thought about how long or far I had left to go or what climbs were left – on every leg I just looked forward to seeing my support crew at the changeovers and running with them.
I’ve probably done more training than most people would for a round and I think this was the biggest factor in why I felt so good on the day and didn’t have any issues. I was also able to regularly eat and drink, even though most of the time I didn’t really feel like it.
I didn’t have any soreness in my legs at all which meant I could take the descents (relatively) fast – the only problem I had was my soreness in the balls of feet which I’ve had for months and I was able to run through that.
I must also give a massive thanks to all my support team. Amongst others I had the 2 reigning winners (male and female) of the Chevy Chase and 6 people who have previously completed the round running with me. I simply could not have a better team and I want to especially thank Steve, Gillian and John – it was a very long day for them too and they couldn’t have looked after me any better.
I would thoroughly recommend anyone who has an interest in fell running to give the round a go – as long as you can get the right training in beforehand then you are definitely in with a shout.
I wrote a blog in preparation which is here http://www.saltwellharriers.org.uk/category/rob/ and my strava route is here https://www.strava.com/activities/1052246111
Oh, and if you’re wondering what happened to the Calva Party…. Well they missed the turn off and ended going half way up Skiddaw. No-one had a map but luckily Catherine was able to use an app on her phone to pinpoint their location and after attempting to pick up the right path they decided to call it a night and retreat back to the car.