Hedgehope Winter Wipeout, Ingram, Northumberland, Sunday, January 22, 2017

Half Marathon

Tamsin Imber

So..this is the first time this race has been run! It is organised by ‘High Fell Events’ (see their website). It was fantastic! A hardy group of Striders who hedged their hopes on this wintry half included Katherine Preston, Joan Hanson, Penny Browell, Neil Sleeman, Corrina James, Kathryn Sygrove, Anita Clementson, Camilla Lauren-Maatta and Kate McPherson.

For me, it began with ‘the morning after the night before’. The ‘night before’ being the ‘Durham Mums on the Run post-Xmas party’ and ‘the morning after’ being 6am in a quiet and dark house! The family who had been intending to come until yesterday slept soundly! I quickly ate some breakfast and crept out of the house into the pitch black street. The sound of my key unlocking the car seemed to echo loudly in the silent street. I got in and drove off, carefully to find a dim, car-free, A1. Progress north was steady, and cheerfully accompanied by loud cheesy tunes on the radio!

The race start was at Ingram, a small hamlet in the Cheviots. Turning into Ingram I saw a pretty stone church, a few houses, the visitor centre and café and a signpost to parking in a field. It was starting to get light and the morning was dim and hazy with low cloud. And it was FREEZING!! Some surprised sheep looked on with curiosity as cars kept arriving and parking up. Registration was in a tent with a handy heater 🙂 The café was open selling welcomed hot drinks. A big group of chatting and smiling, high spirited runners was gathering.

The race began! ..Slowly! I found myself stationary behind a bottled-necked start-stop queue of 300 odd runners trying to fit along a narrow path! Luckily this was not for long and soon we were climbing up grassy, boggy moorland! It was muddy and very uneven underfoot. Icy pools of water formed in ruts and soon my trainers were soaked through. After a mile I warmed up and had to stop to force my thick waterproof jacket into my backpack. About 50 runners passed me as I wrestled with the zip! Job done, I got into steady pace. Being no path I spent most time looking down to see where to put my feet! I found the bog was deepest where the moss was light green, so I avoided that moss. The ridge climbed upwards to the crinkly Cunyan Craggs which towered above us. It was stony, slippery and steep! I was running in a group with 2 other guys at this point. We waved to the friendly marshals above the Craggs. Continuing upwards to reach Dunmoor hill the grass became stiff and white with frost. Some of the strands of grass had beautiful fringes of 1cm long ice crystals! Looking around, bleak, featureless moorland stretched in all directions. White, rounded Cheviot hills were seen in the far distance. And we could now see the summit of Hedgehope Hill ahead! As we got closer the first guy was galloping towards us! And then more guys behind him! It was fun to see everyone pass us! After my shouts of ‘well done’ and ‘put the kettle on’ I focused on speeding up as I had spotted a lady in the runners ahead. I clambered past her. Then Penny was zooming downhill toward me 🙂 🙂 ! Soon I was also at the summit. It was breezy and misty at the top and the rocks were white with frost. Two amazing (they can’t have been warm!) and windswept summit marshals shouted encouragement! We had to run round their summit flag…and then we were off back down! Trying to fly fast without falling over was exhilarating! My new trail shoes seemed to forget their purpose! I fell over five times in total, including a double-body-roll event! 🙂 Down, down down we went! I was now very brown in colour! Back past the green moss, past the Craggs, past friendly runners coming up, moor, mud,muddy moor, … more mud .. I was nearly there.. only a few miles to go. I was starving hungry now!I had a short daydream about hot chocolate and fell over again! Then after a bit more mud, here was the minor road to Ingram! Wayhay! The tarmac jarred my legs in a new way! It was not far though and I looked ahead and could see where the road turned into Ingram. I planned to start my sprint finish there. …but…turning the corner ..oh!!! BIG OH!!! …ha ha ha! The route was suddenly marked off-piste..to the river!! !! !!as in, to wade ACROSS the river!! oooooo it was deep!… and cold!! and up to my waist !! ha ha ha!! brilliant! ..I staged onto the gravel river banks, only to see the route was taped a bit further on to wade back across the river, and again!! Fantastic! A very refreshing, surprise ending! Ice-bath included in entry fee. Plus I was not only in brown any more! A climb over a fence and small jog into the finish tent ! What a great run!

After a rapid change into dry clothes I saw Penny and others in the café! We drank our free soup/I ate chocolate cake and then we stood round the handy heater in the tent waiting for people to come in. Later it was lovely to see Penny get 3rd place prize in the presentation. What a great, fun and well organised event! The organisers and marshals were superb. There were first aiders with erected shelter tents and mountain rescue at strategic points. The route was spot on! The vibe was good. I really enjoyed this race!