Shaun Roberts on the 30-miler …
I’d had my eyes on this for one for ages … it starts and finishes here in Wolsingham, and the closer bits of the route are ones I train over, so there’s really been no excuse not to have a go … except for that ’30-mile’ bit. I’ve never gone that far before, so despite my telling myself (and quite possibly some others) that there’d be loads of walking on the uphills, I was a bit apprehensive going into this. Loads of friendly Strider faces at the start though, some on the 16-mile option, some walking, some running. Talked to Dave Robson who’d very helpfully indeed passed on his Garmin route from a previous outing to a few of us.
So … the ‘mass start’ was a very low-key affair, with lots of walkers obviously not about to go eyeballs-out over the start line. Nonetheless, I thought I’d start pretty firmly, and ended up running up Wear Bank in a group of five. One idiot had a radio in the top of his rucksack pumping out inanities from a commercial station – how’s that for a great way to ruin a day out on the hills? I’d told Dave R I was intending to run up this steep first hill, which he was surprised at – I said it’d get me warmed up (it did!), and that it’d be the last steep slope I’d be running up (it was).
Onto the moors, and the other four went off ahead. Err, surely too far ahead I thought … shouldn’t we be turning left here pretty soon? Well, yes, so I turned left alone at the first checkpoint: the others had all been on the 16-miler! So for what was genuinely the first time ever, I found myself leading a field. Small matter of having to do all my own navigation (doh!), but Dave’s course on my GPS was reassuringly telling me that I was on track, so onward and upward. Approaching a stream crossing a group of other runners did catch up, which was probably a good thing, and we headed into Hamsterley Forest more or less together, and I lost track of where I was in the field. The rain, by the way, was coming and going, and my jacket kept coming off and going back on again … this kept happening all day.
Now, I won’t trouble you with the remaining details of each piece of bog we crossed, each stony track we walked up, each stretch of heather we picked through. Suffice it to say that there are a lot of these and more in the 30 miles between Wolsingham and Middleton-in-Teesdale, and with the weather not being great, the views weren’t as good as I know they can be – ok for running, though, tbh. Great to get to each checkpoint for a drink and as often as not a choice of cakes. But it was really nice to eventually make it to the checkpoint on the B-road over the moors, after which I was on very familiar territory, and could imagine the end. My quads were absolutely screaming at me by now, really aching for some reason … though the heart/lungs were going ok. What was really nice along here was being in a group of four, sharing the navigation, having a bit of a natter, and generally keeping each other going. Heading down into Weardale, a lad from Darlo and I pulled away a bit – I’d been helping him out with the route-finding, as he’d turned his first set of instructions to paper-mache, not having them protected, and was close to doing the same to a second set!
Thought I was going to have to walk/run the last bits, but kept plodding on as my last group-mate went off ahead. Delighted to make it back into the school in 5 hours 42 minutes, where they told me I was third! The Darlo lad had come in second, and only Nick Spencer of NFR had gotten away at the front earlier on. Giddy heights, eh? Dave and Mel got round in 7h11m, over an hour faster then the last time he did this. Dougie finished in 7h34m, which he was well-pleased with having contemplating dropping out with blister problems, and Angela & Sue took somewhere round 9hr 23min – so everyone got round ok in the end.
My overall impression of this one is that it was bloody long! Good to have done it … but I’m looking forward to something a tad shorter, such as the imminent Saltwell Fell Race.
… and Rachel Bullock on the 16-miler:
This was the first time I’ve done an event like this. Jules, Dave and I set off as ‘Team Cripple’, all of us having various ailments, but we had signed up for this ages ago, and I had been really looking forward to it, so there was no way we were backing out. The course was ideal for a first-timer, very few hills, fairly gentle terrain and easy to navigate. The checkpoints were the highlight for me; well-stocked with goodies – loved the ginger cake!! They made the route pass much quicker.
We saw plenty of Striders around the course – Jan, Laura and Anita, all of whom had great runs – Laura in particular looked very comfortable and much more competent at following the instructions on the route sheet than we were. Seeing as Jules and Dave had already recce’d the route, we completely neglected the instructions sheet, which resulted in us missing three of the checkpoints!! But I promise that we did cover the full route!! I just blame missing the checkpoints on the fact that I had removed my glasses due to the fairly persistent rain between miles approx 5-10, or maybe due to Dave’s affinity to taking shortcuts. Lessons learnt for next time! But anyhow, we cannily managed to bag the checkpoints with the good food 😉
The only other issue on course was the bull, but after Jan had wrestled it to the ground, we pushed on towards the finish. The pie and peas (and more cake) provided afterwards were the perfect end to an overall really well-organised and friendly event. I’m sure it would also be very beautiful in sunny weather! I was also really pleased to have covered a greater distance than I have ever run before on zero training – for this I thank Dave and Jules for the great company! (And the checkpoints for the great food!). Although as I write this I can safely say that I am paying big-time for the zero training. Ouch.