We had arrived nice and early on Sunday morning at the start with thanks to Frank’s sat nav. It was freezing cold and windy and I think we all had one of those moments asking each other “Why are we doing this again?”. This was not helped by looking enviously on at spectators, drinking tea and eating bacon sandwiches. Dave, however was being very optimistic with sunglasses and suncream.
You know a race must be serious when mountain rescue are there with at least 3 vehicles and 10 members of crew. Myself and Jacqui laughed nervously that neither of us could fall over. We gathered at the start and weirdly we all picked up GPS on our watches straightaway, quicker than at training on a Tuesday night, even though we were literally in the middle of nowhere.
Before we knew it, we were off. The first couple of miles were on road with some very steep hills. At mile 2 and 3, I was already feeling it in my legs (as you can see from the course profile below) and was thinking with a sinking heart, can I really do 10 more miles of this. Eventually we turned off the road and we were on grass/rocky trail which also included lots of marshland. I came across some stepping stones and water, and thought there is no way to get around it, I’ve got to go for it. Unfortunately at the same time, a random guy also had the same idea, and we ended up clinging onto each other laughing as neither of us wanted to fall in.
Around 5/6 miles we followed the Penine Way, where the scenery was spectacular and we were running through a meadow with long grass and buttercups. The only downside being that we then had to find some energy to climb up and over a stile (Although where else in the UK would you cross over a stile in a half marathon race). Up until this point I had been really struggling with heavy legs, stepping over rocks and climbing endless hills, until something popped into my mind. It was an image that Sam Robertson (Sorry, Sam, hope you don’t mind!) had posted previously on Facebook. It had simply written, the words “You’ve got this”. I was thinking to myself, I’ve definitely got this; this was only the 4th half marathon that I had done, I only took up running a few years ago, with the amount of leg fractures that I’ve had, I reminded myself that I was lucky to even run at all and that most people with my condition (brittle bone disease) are in a wheelchair.
With these thoughts in mind, I continued on and eventually came to opening of the forest (5 mile section of the race) with of course a hill to climb up, thankfully there was a water station here. The water stations throughout the race were excellent placed around every 5km with cups (biodegradable!) of water. Again, we came to another hilly section of the course, which looking at the course profile went on for at least 2 miles. The weather whilst running through the forest was horrendous with torrential rain and strong winds. It was so bad that one lady in front of myself started running backwards to see if it would help at all! Around mile 8, a marshall shouted “You are almost there!”. luckily one of the mountain rescue crew was more realistic with a shout of “Well done, you are over half way now”.
After what seemed like an eternity, we eventually came out of the forest and followed a track/road, until mile 12 we could see the cars and tents back at the start. This was the first race I had encountered where the finish was uphill however the support from other people and my fellow hoops was brilliant.
Spot prizes (decent running socks and accessories) were given out at the end with various categories of non-club runner and the most muddiest runner etc. Dave was lucky enough to win one of these. We then got changed and headed off looking for somewhere for Sunday lunch. We decided upon The George Hotel at Chollerford, although initially we were a bit giddy and none of us could stop laughing at the way we were dressed, hobbling across the car park and thinking would they actually let us in. Luckily they were very welcoming and we finished off a brilliant day out with a lovely Sunday lunch and a few well earned drinks.
We have all decided that we are definitely going to tackle it next year, but possibly without our Garmin watches on (!) to just enjoy the scenery and running without worrying about pacing. Hopefully we can get more of Saltwell Harriers involved next year.
184 Jacqui Candlish 2:03:44
190 Frank Wilkinson 2:04:20
201 Dave Candlish 2:05:32
343 Charlotte Proud 2:26:25