Jackie McKenna persuaded me that we should do this half marathon as our first off roader, (although she slipped in a sneaky Durham Costal last Sunday so this wasn’t her first), and it was not without some trepidation that we approached this “multi-terrain trail race”. Having looked at the route profile on the website and the previous two years results, where only 49 and 69 participants’ results were listed, we both separately worried last night that we would come in last today if there was such a small field.
My husband and daughter came up with us so that they could do some cycling while we did our run and we arrived in good time, at a cold and windy hilltop at Edges Green near Once Brewed. Race HQ was two small tented shelters and half a dozen portaloos. We were relieved to see that there were lots of people beginning to assemble and I know that they had sold their 300 maximum places, although I always assume 20% don’t turn up on the day for any race. So we might not come last after all!
I was slightly concerned by the two Mountain Rescue Land Rovers that were at HQ and hoped that none of us would need them. As we lined up at the start banner the main hazard was the copious sheep poo underfoot. The starting horn sounded and we were off, down a quiet road, in a chilly wind with a few dark clouds looming. The undulating road section was a pleasant, familiar surface to a road runner like myself and I began to settle in to a comfortable stride. Jacquie soon pulled away from me, striding well, then we turned on to a farm track and the grassy moors that the website promised us.
As promised, the sheep had been mowing well and the relatively dry period we have had recently meant that the surface was pretty comfortable. Out of the wind it began to get really warm and I risked a hidden long distance lens as I peeled off a layer and then replaced my Striders vest whilst running along.
I can’t recall the exact order of the route but I know that the firm grass moorland gave way to steep stony descents and ascents, stepping stones, limestone paving , timber decking and very soggy bogland, before coming out at a welcome water station and the cooling forest track.
I was pleased to be back on surer footing as I hadn’t been able to admire the spectacular views fully whilst watching where my feet were landing. We hadn’t seen much of Hadrian’s Wall itself although it was above us on the crag tops at one point, but the countryside around is beautiful. We finished with a road section and a sprint finish over a cattle grid, up a winding corner and back across the sheep decorated grass. It had been an up and down route; hard work but not brutal by fell running standards.
Jacquie beat me in in an admirable 2 hours 14 mins, and I was a minute and a half behind her. We were both very pleased with our results. We received good quality tee shirts and the organizers gave out prizes including some lovely Hadrian’s Wall china mugs to those who had travelled furthest etc.
I felt that the organization of the event was faultless. The marshalling, signposts, water stops, pre race information, car parking, indeed all the elements that go to make a successful event were here today. It was an excellent morning.