Category Archives: multi-day

Bob Graham Round, Saturday, May 26, 2018

66miles, 42 Lakeland peaks, 27000ft elevation gain

Elaine Bisson

66miles, 42 Lakeland peaks, 27000ft elevation gain (like climbing Everest)
1 contender (me), 4 navigators (Geoff Davis, Mike Hughes, John Telfer, Steve Birkinshaw) 16 Pacers (Mandy, Katy, Jules, Mike, Jon, Stuart, Scott, Mark, Rob, Fiona, Gibbo, Mike, Penny, Steph, Nigel, Danny), 1 professional cook and road crew (Heather), 1 Road support and bodyguard (Susan), 1 family (husband, 3 children and a dog), stunt driver Katy Walton and sidecar Lesley Charman.

I first heard of the BGR after a run with Katy, shortly after I joined the Club (2014). She had been involved in the club’s Billy Bland challenge (the BGR run as a relay with pairs on each leg) and, having realised my love of hills, had jokingly said I would do it at some point. I’d come home and googled it, marvelling at the extreme challenge. My husband had then bought me the map as a Christmas present.

After London Marathon 2016 I’d had enough of tarmac. I’d been reading…Steve Chilton The Round, Runner by Lizzy Hawker, Feet in the Clouds, Richard Askwith. All fed into my habit and dream. I must admit now, I love the Lakes; it’s been a part of me since I was tiny. I’ve spent my childhood summers walking in sunshine or torrential rain…whatever the weather I loved it, it was like a second home. The only time I would complain was if we were going anywhere steep. I think it grew from my mother’s nervousness but I had a deep fear of heights, one that I have only just conquered.

Having done well at Swaledale Marathon in 2016, I’d offered to help on Mike’s BGR, I did leg 1. I’d taken a photo of him on top of Robinson (the first peak.) From here nearly the whole round is visible and I was in awe of the challenge he had striven to achieve. It felt superhuman. That put my training into perspective; the fells were something else.

On January 21st, 2017, a birthday treat, Geoff, Mike and I went to recce leg 5 of the BGR. It was a beautiful crisp, sunny day with excellent views. Geoff handed me the map and took me through some basic navigation skills. The pair kept looking at their watches on the summits and on top of Great Calva they gave each other a little look and said ‘well, you’ve just managed to hit the peaks within BGR time, how would you feel about training for it? Maybe do it to celebrate your 40th?!’… No need to think, the answer was a definite yes.

July 2017 I supported Scott on his BGR and had been across regularly supporting Geoff with his Joss Naylor Challenge. The love affair and obsession with the lakes was well and truly re-ignited.

Summer last year I’d sent out THE email, the one you spend ages writing, letting everyone know of your intention to attempt it. To ask for help and to set the date. I’d looked at full moon dates and had set this on the BH so there was a possibility of delaying the start if the weather was bad and to coincide with a big moon. I’d spent a while rereading it before my finger, which had spent a long time hovering over the send icon, finally sent it. My cards were on the table, I’d committed to it.

Geoff had given me advice on the build-up to long runs. He has been an authority on all things Bob, giving me advice and support on anything and everything. Between him and my many running books, I wrote myself a training plan. Putting in key runs that I’d need to tick off. I printed off a Bob Wightman BGR schedule so that I knew my times between summits and determined to meet them every time I recced by myself.

Wednesdays quickly became Lakes days. The winter meant shorter recces, limited due to daylight hours and of course the grotty weather. I went across in all sorts, adapting runs to make sure I got the elevation but remained safe. I’d never been able to cover so much ground, to reach so many summits in one go. I’d come home energised and desperate to plan my next trips. It had started monthly, then fortnightly, often Geoff would show me the route then I’d return alone to master it.

I spent hours map reading, marking out routes, practising navigation. The first long runs were Tour of Edinburgh (55km) then Tour de Helvellyn (38miles). I’d done well in both. After these it was a case of hills, miles and mastering the route myself so that I could navigate should I need it. My mileage increased, I cycled my training, building up over 3 weeks then having an easy week. 66miles was the weekly mileage happy goal (that’s what I’d need to run on the day) anything above a bonus, 10,000ft the elevation goal.

Stuart was training as well. We started competing for elevation, recceing together and his support throughout has been amazing. We’ve gone on a journey together, experienced the doubts, the excitement, it’s been quite something.

One of my favourite recces, again of leg 5 was after heavy snowfall, with Geoff, Mike, Jack and John. People were out skiing off Scales fell. The landscape was just beautiful. I’d been trying my best to ease the journey by following in Jack’s footprints. When he realised, he started making giant yeti steps! Somehow I managed to persuade the boys up Great Calva… They agreed on the condition that I lead making the first prints. This might sound easy but Calva is a steep drag anyway, made a million times harder with knee/thigh deep snow. Probably a quarter of the way up I was fading fast and Jack bravely took up the lead. Icicles jangled on the fence line. Never has that trudge been so hard or so memorable. The summit was otherworldly, the thin barbed fence was coated in foot long icicles blasted on by the wind off Skiddaw. It’s fair to say they were pleased I’d persuaded them, just to see it. Another journey home in relative silence as all three boys snored within seconds of Mike setting off.

My first recce of 2018 was a cornerstone. I’d never had such an experience that would make you believe in magic or ghosts or spirits. The snow had fallen but the forecast was good. I’d planned to do an abbreviated leg 5 recce, up Doddick Fell (as long as no ice remained) perhaps down Blease Fell then up to Skiddaw. I’d got to the top path where it zigzags, the path was like an ice rink but I forged on up the steep grass…covered in snow and ice. By the time I’d realised it probably wasn’t so safe I’d gone too far to retreat and it seemed safer to go up.

I reached the top to find myself above the clouds, solitary, it was covered in sheet ice evidence of thaw and refreeze, Blease Fell would be bad to descend. The safest option was to go down onto Mungrisdale. I took my compass out and just as I looked at my map a broken-spectre appeared just where I should be heading. If I hadn’t have read about them I might have been scared, as it was I stood motionless, transfixed by the vision. It seemed to be directing me to safety and I followed. The common was covered in thick fog but I set on a bearing and kept to it until I hit the river Caldew. Up to Great Calva and then onto Skiddaw. My first good day navigating alone in fog and well under target time.

Easter madness heralded the start of my massive ascent figures. I recced all legs, ran up to Arthur’s pike every night from the campsite and charged back down. It was heaven. I felt really strong, distance and ascent figures were huge. I’m pretty sure this is the fortnight that stood me in good stead for the round and it’s thanks to my wonderful husband for supporting and encouraging my training. In the last 10 weeks of training, I’d covered 800miles with 130,000ft of ascent!

One month before I went across with Mike to recce the Scafells, I was nervous. I hadn’t managed to recce this earlier as the gullies had only just cleared of snow. The route between Scafell and Scafell Pike is the biggest headache of the round. You either get a rope set up on Broad Stand (most direct) or you take Lords Rake or the longest is via Foxes Tarn.

Deep Gill/West Wall Traverse/Lords Rake, for me seemed the best of the three but it had been built up to be unpleasant. We’d gone in high winds (the same day Nigel had separately recced leg 5 and had hung onto the rock on Halls fell!). We’d climbed the slope up from Wasdale carpark to touch the peak of Scafell. I’d warned Mike I wouldn’t like it. With a smile and a twinkle in his eye he’d told me, ‘It’s all in your head, now let’s just do it’ and he’d skipped off to the entrance of Deep Gill.

I’d looked down and shook my head and said, I’m not going down there. Somehow Mike encouraged me and quite soon we arrived at Mickledore. I could have jumped for joy I was so pleased. The BGR loop had been sealed. I’d been over the whole route. I felt like I could navigate the whole 66 miles.

3 days later I was across supporting legs 3 + 4 of Stuart’s clockwise round. Even before the day, he’d suggested I do three legs. I’d said I’d see on the day. I’d loved it so much by the time we were at Honister, I was quite fixed on seeing him finish, nothing could stop me. I came home buzzing.

To support someone to reach their goal, particularly when you are training for it and you know just how important it is, is quite special. I’d also ticked off another of my long runs, 3 legs back to back, and felt fresh at the end. Perhaps I really could do it.

A few days later I set up my own secret FB group ‘Elaine’s BGR’. There was much excitement. I was as organised as I could be, I think it distracted me from the enormous challenge I’d set myself. Schedules were tweaked, timing cards made and strung up with pencils, boxes for each leg packed and repacked and labelled with additional fresh food to add. Pacers were assigned to each leg and given jobs (timing cards, kit bag carrier, food/drink bagger, headtorch captain.) I’d even ordered a tracker to make things more fun for my family and easier for my pacers.

I barely slept for the final fortnight, I’d wake regularly and be wide-awake at 5. The butterflies were there almost constantly. I’d tell myself they were flying in formation as Allan would have me think.

The final recce day was surreal. I was still nervous on Halls Fell, Geoff had taken me on it after Stuarts BGR. My legs were fine but I imagined myself at the end of my round, legs wobbling and not managing up the rock. Susan had offered a slow walk up again. The conditions were perfect, dry rock, low wind, and good visibility. We reached the top easily and within time. We’d come across with Geoff and Mike B(recceing leg 4) and David and Mike H (recceing leg 2) it was an amazing day. All these people doing three different recces to help me. Driving home later in the day the car was full of giggles and positive energy. Everyone seemed to will me on, they all had this amazing confidence in me and I came home believing I could actually achieve it.

On the Wednesday before, I met up with my road support Heather and Susan. They were a dream team from start to finish, having helped on previous rounds. I was incredibly lucky to have them both on board.

During the build-up, so that I had a good idea, I’d asked Geoff what weather should I postpone. His reply of ‘high winds, torrential rain’… ‘OK what constitutes high wind?’ (we’ve been out on Robinson when winds forecast 60mph). ‘Anything over 30mph consistently for the whole day’. So the whole week beforehand I was weather spotting, for the whole week it was high winds 40-45mph, increasing in the evening, no let up all day. Geoff said it’s fine, it’ll be fine! I stopped looking at the forecast.

We’d driven across on Friday night, hired a house minutes from the Moot Hall so I could stumble home when the job was done. It was an oversight on my part that it was a three-storey house and not a bungalow.

I spent 30minutes with rising panic as we couldn’t find the code to get in the house. The relief and the tears as we finally got in, I hadn’t realised how stressed I was getting. My poor family have supported me every step, have listened to my tales, looked at my many photos of hills and more hills. Tolerated the piles of sweaty running kit and the lines of laundry. The smelly shoes discarded by the door. The absence at weekends. What they don’t know about ‘The Bob’ is not worth knowing. It’s been quite a love affair and John has been beyond patient with me.

Leg 1 Moot Hall, Keswick – Honister
Robinson, Hindscarth, Dale Head

We left our cottage to arrive at 6:45, the high street already bustling with Market traders and of course my support team. I was feeling nervous, desperate just to start, to stop my stomach doing cartwheels. I climbed the 10 steps to start outside the doors (Stuart had told me it was a lightweights round who started at the base of Moot Hall!) Finally my watch turned 07:00 and we were off. I’d worried I’d miss-pace this section (I was navigating until we met Geoff for the climb onto the fells.) Without my pack I felt as light as a feather, the taper had left me like a coiled spring. I bounced down the lanes, trying my best to keep to a steady pace. My pacers were excited, Katy joined me until Newlands church, Jules, Mandy, Jon and Mike.The sky was blue, lanes full of colour and noise. Lambs now quite large in the fields. The last time I’d been here I’d driven just to remind myself of the rolls of the road. Before that it was reversed chasing down Stuart as he’d sped off on his BGR in the middle of the night, the eyes of the sheep glinting eerily on my headtorch lights.

We dropped down from Littletown to see Geoff waiting. I changed into fell shoes and grabbed my poles, then off up the road accompanied briefly by John who was busy filming snippets of the day.

Up to the house, through the gate and onto the grassy track to the first fell, Robinson. I was all too pleased to leave the road behind. On the steep ascent up to High Snabb, I led and had to wait at the top for pacers to catch me. Geoff had a quiet word, “slow down, you’re going too fast”.

Onto Robinson, my first summit, and amazing views of the legs ahead. I tried not to look around, just focusing on the present and onto the next peak. It would be too daunting to think too far ahead. The wind was pretty strong and deafening, it was hard to talk without shouting at each other. So now the grassy descent before we climb to Hindscarth. My pacers were great, handing me drinks and encouraging me to eat. I touched the cairn and quickly moved on to Dale Head. No stopping. Steph had advised me to just keep moving, keep moving forward and you’ll do it. No pauses for photos, you might need those precious minutes later in the day or tomorrow. So there were no planned breaks until the road stops.

Dale Head is one of my favourite views. Here two of Geoff ’s friends were waiting. Cheering me on. I said a quick hello as I turned and made ready to charge down to Honister. I love this descent it’s pretty grassy and a lovely gradient that you can build up speed. Soon I was running past John who’d walked up to meet us. Then my three, Graeme and Lily were waiting at the bottom. I ran into Honister with cheers and claps. Heather had a chair, tea and honey soaked porridge ready. Susan on duty to keep it quiet.

I guzzled away, feeling fresh and looking forward to leg 2, a firm favourite. Geoff had a word, “pull back, you’re 10minutes up already, just take your time, don’t panic, don’t worry if you lose time, take it steady”. I wasn’t panicking, I felt really good, something in me knew I could do it if only the wind dropped if only the damn wind dropped.

Leg 2 Honister – Wasdale
Grey Knotts, Brandreth, Green Gable, Great Gable, Kirk Fell, Pillar, Steeple, Red Pike, Yewbarrow

Mike was navving, Stuart ready with all my favourite goodies (he knew exactly what I like, having consumed all of my food on his round!) and strong pacers alongside, Scott, Mark and John. I shortened my 10minute stop, eager to move on.

Grey Knotts came quicker than expected, the lovely fresh banter of new pacers carrying me on up the steep rocky ascent. Brandreth was soon reached, the ground had never been so dry. On up to Green gable then down to windy gap (it was all windy) and up Gable. I tripped here, only one of 3 trips but it made me pause and take heed. The wind was really blasting me, Mark tagged alongside trying to shelter me from it. At last, we turned a bend and it eased. There is a bit of scrambling up to the summit, its fun and in no time I was again at the top. Ahead of schedule. I knew the direction off, although invariably I lost the easier route. So I happily followed Mike’s lead. He told me to go steady, watch my feet, no need to go fast, we were ahead. I stuck behind him and soon we were on the pass ready to climb Kirk Fell.

Here John dropped down to Wasdale, he was to navigate leg 3. Stuart and Mark were brilliant, keeping time and asking every half hour what I would like to eat/drink. We made good time over Kirk Fell onto Pillar and then one of my favourites, Steeple. It’s a beautiful little summit that sticks out alone, quick to climb compared to the others on this leg. Mike and Mark accompany me while Stuart and Scott lazed on Scoat Fell (that’s what I did on their rounds!). Onto Red Pike then a swift run down until we hit the bottom of Yewbarrow. We pass a clockwise attempt and wish each other well.

I love the ascent up to Yewbarrow, it crosses scree, huge boulders then winds up through heather and turf until it reaches the wide ridge path and on up to the summit. We made pretty quick progress as the wind had really picked up and we were buffeted and blown all the way along. It was tough going trying to keep upright, particularly crossing the boulder fields. Scott led the way down to Wasdale on a lovely scree run where my legs could rest and we could use the stones to drag us down.

I arrived in a very hot valley, feeling still remarkably fresh. Heather had laid out a beautiful picnic of leek and potato soup, egg sarnies, tomato and crisps and of course hot sweet tea. I gobbled it all while Scott shaded me under a huge umbrella from the hot sun.

Leg 3 Wasdale – Dunmail
Scafell, Scafell Pike, Broad Crag, Ill Crag, Great End, Esk Pike, Bowfell, Rossett Pike, Pike O’Stickle, Harrison Stickle, Thunacar Knott, High Raise, Sergeant Man, Calf Crag, Steel Fell

Having had a big team on leg 2 this was smaller. John T leading, Rob up from Bath to support, Fiona eager as always to hit the fells (she’d actually only been down to do leg 5 but had stepped up when she’d realised I was short on pacers. Thank god she did!) and Stuart. Sadly Stuart headed back down half way up Scafell, his BGR still in his legs. John T dropped behind and was feeling sick and when we got to Scafell, Fiona asked me what I wanted to do as he was struggling with my pace… Keep on moving was my response. I knew I could navigate most of it really well but was still unsure of the route off Bow Fell (these rocky sections had relatively recently been covered in snow, hampering recces.) Thankfully John got a second wind, just stopping to miss out the tops and by the Langdales he was back to full strength (its much easier just thinking of moving forward and following than the added pressure of navigating).

John led the way into Deep Gill, it was dry underfoot and the wind howled through the gullies. We made good progress until we passed a group on a clockwise round. Stopping to let them pass we then descended. A shout of rock heralded a huge fall of stones and boulders, which narrowly missed John. I looked up cursing, both Rob and Fiona were equally shocked. From then we were pleased to leave the Rake and ascend to Mickledore. It was a relatively quick rocky clamber to Scafell Pike, today heaving with BH tourists.

I was enjoying the company and the different terrain, it’s the rockiest section meaning you really have to concentrate on where to put your feet which helps to pass the time. Peaks are ticked off quickly. Rob, on timing duty, was a great encouragement, so calm and positive that I was moving well and gradually increasing my buffer should I need it. I’ve also become great friends with Fiona, who shares my love of the fells, her happy chatter carrying me along.

Off Ill Crag I start wondering if I have a stone in my shoe from the scree off Lords Rake. We stop briefly at Esk Hause where Susan has walked to meet us (from Wasdale on her way back to Seathwaite.) Low on fluids, we pinch the last of her water supplies as it’s so hot. I stop to remove the stones only to find an enormous blister on the base of my heel. I put my shoes on quickly, not ready to accept that this has happened so early in the round, I then catch Susan’s eye and tell her. She promises she’ll sort it at Dunmail. I move on up Bow Fell, I know the direct line well.

I reach the top with Rob, Fiona and John waiting at the edge where we are to drop down off the face of Bowfell to Rossett Pike. John must have recognised an awkward gait and he persuades me to stop to temporarily deal with the blister. I remove my sock and their three faces drop. I put a blister plaster on (it barely covers it) tighten my laces and am off after John. I ask him warily, this won’t stop me, will it? (I’m scared it’ll continue to shear off) he says its mind over matter, you want this enough, nothing will stop you. Happy with his answer, I follow on. There are midget gems and wine gums offered.

The wind had dropped by Rossett Pike but it’s hot and we are all getting low on fluids. On to Pike-O-Stickle, we use the balcony route used by Langdale fell race. I don’t know this as well but it’s a pretty climb down then I enjoy the climb up to Pike-O-Stickle. They fill their bottles with water from the stream as I continue on. I refuse to drink their ‘bog water’ in case it has ill effects, I’ve a long way to go yet. I start to eat lots of mint cake. I love the scramble up to the summit and I race Rob as Fiona and John wait further up the path to Harrison Stickle.

Up the slow incline to High Raise, spurred on by a sugar rush, I break into a run and am scolded jokingly by Rob. Off Sergeant Man my heel starts to complain, it has a strange sensation of peeling off. It feels like an eternity from here to Dunmail, too concerned with my heel to enjoy it, it’s quite monotonous after the rocky bits. At the top of Steel Fell, I stupidly choose the wrong route down. I stood at the top with Fiona leaning into the wind like an angel, its so strong she’s almost levitating, until sensible head returns and we find John who is waiting at the correct descent. I make slow progress down, my heel is complaining and I’m worried I’ll cause more damage descending at the steep angle. The relief of seeing Steph, sure-headed, sensible strong Steph waiting, is a surprise. I’d thought she was busy but she’s there kitted up ready to support on leg 4. She’s a comfort realising immediately my concerns and bustling me along.

The road crew are like a well-oiled formula-one pit stop. I’m in my chair, wrapped in blankets to keep warm, delicious freshly prepared pasta is waiting along with tea (thanks to Heather who has also fed the pacers.) Susan is ready to sort my foot and has all my clothes ready for the quick change under Mikes modesty towel. It’s just superb. Susan bandages my foot so speedily and efficiently I honestly couldn’t feel that blister for the next two legs (about 26 miles) which is something as it was huge (afterwards I can barely touch it for two days it’s so painful).

I’m back in fresh, dry clothes ready for the night leg, I honestly feel just as I did when I started all those hours, miles and mountains ago. I’m 35 minutes up on my schedule. Seeing my family, my dog, all of my friends who have come to support and some new happy fresh-faced pacers is really brightening my previously dampened spirits. I am still concerned about the wind. It was ferocious and even in the valley, we are buffeted. I ask Geoff again (I know if I stop now I’d still be fit to run in a few weeks) he reassures me it’ll be fine, I’ve put my trust in him, so shrug my anxiety away.

Leg 4 Dunmail – Threlkeld
Seat Sandal, Fairfield, Dollywaggon Pike, Nethermost Pike, Helvellyn, Helvellyn Lower Man, Whiteside, Raise, Stybarrow Dodd, Watson Dodd, Great Dodd, Clough Head

I’d looked forward to leg 4, of everyone supporting me. I had run with Geoff the most. I was sure he would get me to Threlkeld as comfortably and as swiftly as he could. He’s also renowned for his navigation skills. I’d also asked David to move onto this leg, I’d recced frequently with him, he’d been superb on Stuart’s and I knew if I was fading his strong, quiet confidence would be a huge boost. I also had Mike, Penny and now Steph. A great team.

On up Seat Sandal, Geoff moved to let me lead, I was feeling a bit queasy, I’d eaten a fair amount at Dunmail and needed to make sure it stayed down. I happily tucked in behind, well used to following Geoff’s gentle steps. As we climbed the wind strengthened, I struggled to move forward and felt like I was pushed sideways. Steph, also struggling by its power, bossed the boys around to protect me from the wind. They did their best and on most of this leg, they were there, even sidestepping to help me through.

Unfortunately, it seemed to come from all angles and was incredibly strong (forecast of 40mph gusts was indeed correct). Off seat sandal my knee started to pull – it’s a fairly steep grassy descent.

Now Fairfield loomed above us. People had told me beforehand what a trudge, an unnecessary out and back on what normally was a good loop.

However, I had determined not to dread any summit and had tried to think of something I like about each and every climb so that none would feel impossible. I actually quite like Fairfield, its a mixed step and scree climb, over relatively quickly and then a nice easy run back down to the tarn. I’d often used this little loop around the tarn to gain good ascent on really bad weather days. Today, however, there was no let up from the wind from any direction.

Onto the steps of Dollwyaggon, I managed to get a swift and nice rhythm going. I hid behind David, warning that I potentially would be his shadow all the way along. Again we reached the summit easily. The wind really strengthened as we climbed and both David and Mike worked hard to shelter me. They handed me drinks and food at regular intervals so I barely needed to ask. They soon became nicknamed the Mitchell brothers.

Just before Nethermost I got a shock from a really strong gust and was nearly blown over, we stopped and in the middle of a huddle I put more layers on, Mike immediately giving me his jacket to keep me warm. We moved on huddled together to touch Helvellyn.

As the sun started to set, the sky was filled with the most amazing rich colours, I couldn’t help but smile, it’s my favourite place, its where I come to feel alive. I was now looking forward to night falling, for something different. The group tends to close in, everything shrinks. It forces you into the present, so you can’t think too far ahead.

It was dusk as we climbed up to Whiteside. We stopped briefly to get more layers on and get our head torches out. By Raise it was pretty dark, I love the rocky top and its cairn, I could just about make it out against the darkening sky. The sun soon left the sky, ready to return in a few hours, I wondered where I would be when it reappeared. The full moon behind us made it a little brighter and the stars seemed to fill the sky. Had it not been for the wind it would have been stunning.

We kept moving forward, on up Stybarrow Dodd, Geoff commented that I was still moving as fast as I had been on my first peak, Robinson, all those hours ago. After eating a handful (or two) of Mike’s jelly babies I again got a sugar rush and ran quickly over the next peaks. I am reprimanded by Geoff who normally navigates metres ahead. We were fighting to take the lead. It was a great feeling moving through the darkness. All I had to do was move forward and touch the cairns as they were lit up by torchlight.

I’d climbed and ran well on these more gradual peaks but the descent off Clough Head is steep and my knees really started to hurt, slowing my progress. In frustration, I try to pick up the pace but ended up tripping and falling onto my back. I have to say those few seconds were utter bliss, lying on the soft grass staring up at the starry sky as the wind howled around us. If I hadn’t been on a mission I might have stayed just where I was. As it was Mike, who was guiding me down with his bright torch, was worried and I felt I should really get up and move on.

By the time I got back up Geoff’s little red reverse light had almost disappeared and I shouted for him to stop. Soon we were back on a more gradual incline and I could run comfortably again. I hit the small road and started to smile. What was left didn’t feel so big anymore, especially cloaked in darkness. I was really excited by the last leg and somehow knew it was in my grasp if I just kept eating, drinking and moving forward. On the road Danny was waiting, headtorch on and ready to go.

Turning into Threlkeld carpark I was surprised to see my lovely three, all in their pyjamas and dressing gowns munching on popcorn and having the adventure of their life! I had thought they’d be tucked up in bed, but John doesn’t want to miss a second.

Again I was guided to the exceptional pit stop, handed porridge and tea. I still felt strong, excited. My main concern was still the wind. Geoff asked whether I’d be happier going up Doddick, I’d agreed. Happy and full of porridge, I head into the darkness, quickly hugging my family and Steph. Up we go.

Leg 5 Threlkeld – Moot Hall, Keswick
Blencathra, Great Calva, Skiddaw

Out of the carpark, Steve said “let’s just do Halls Fell”, that’s all the persuasion I needed, it’s the quicker route by half a mile and takes us straight to the summit….”ok then”. I’d been looking forward to this, my team were good, experienced. Steve, well he’s a legend in the fell running world, so to have him get up in the middle of the night and navigate me round was quite a treat (thanks to Geoff for organising.) Interestingly Steve ran an anticlockwise BGR route as well.

We went up the road, past the hounds (who were unusually silent). Through the gate and over the nearly dry riverbed. Then we wound our way up the bottom slopes of Halls Fell. I followed Steve’s steps. He asked me if the pace was ok. My response, “Its fine, I just want to go slow up here”, is misconstrued and he thinks its too fast…“no its perfect.” Within no time we were winding our way along the crest, to the right we were buffeted by the wind, to the left we were relatively sheltered.

I was not confident on the rocks, I was now 55 miles in, it was blowing a pretty fierce hoolie and I was worried I would slip or trip over. Fiona had promised to watch out for me and occasionally she gave me a shove or just guided me up over the rocks. Both Nigel and Fiona urged me on. We were at the top before I’d really had a chance to think. There’s a beautiful sunken ring to mark the summit.

I tried to run down the slope and over the scree but my knees were now sore granny knees. I was glad to reach Mungrisdale Common, the gradient is kinder and I could run easily. The tufts of cotton grass were magical in our torchlight. Danny kept telling me I could walk this and still make it back in time. He then said “you only need to run if you want to get under 22 hours”…why wouldn’t I want to get under 22 hours now, I thought and pushed onwards.

We wound our way down to the River Caldew. I crossed carefully, the stones are always sloppy, the cold water, as it soaked to our skin, woke us all up.

Then it’s over the bog, the squelchy, muddy, bog. On up through heather to Great Calva. The chatting and laughter carried me on up to the summit. My headtorch started to cast this beautiful surreal super coloured glow to the grass. I’ve seen it before, it’s gorgeous but made me wonder if my head was still on straight. I ate more Snickers, just in case. Off Calva I tried to run, it’s more of a downhill shuffle…as fast as Nigel can walk. I laughed at myself and asked him to at least pretend to run. I looked forward to the ascent to Skiddaw, my legs were still strong going up. I couldn’t believe there was only one peak left. This of all the legs, I knew like the back of my hand, I’d been over it so much. It was comforting in the darkness to recognise it all. I wondered if we’d get there before sunrise?

We crossed the bog on Hare Crag. For once it was really dry, lovely and soft to run on. I usually panic here by myself, worried I’ll get stuck all alone and die in the bog-like that fell-runner. The sky started to brighten, shades of blue and a hint of orange appeared. I asked Steve how much further, “300/400m” he replied. It’s a long 300m.

The noise of the wind increased as we neared the stile. Clips from the motivational video Stuart had sent, played over and over in my head… Rocky… It’s not how hard you get hit, it’s how hard you get hit and keep moving forward, just keep moving forward… Pain is temporary, it may last for a minute, or an hour….eventually it will subside, if I quit, however, it will last forever…

I was handed drinks and snacks, without asking. I started to hide food in my pocket as I now couldn’t swallow. Fiona reprimanded me for it and encouraged me to gorge on Kendal mint cake…That’s about all I ate on this last leg.

Eventually, we reached the stile and I remember holding on really tightly, the wind was so strong, I was scared I’d be blown off. On nearing the top I asked Steve to stand near me, to make sure I stayed upright. Eventually we all linked arms, the wind was so forceful. We made quite a comical group across to the summit and then dipped down the side to reach the gate. My headtorch was whipped off and Nigel kindly went back, I kept checking to see if he was OK. It was pretty scary up there.

Soon, we reached the path and the strength of the wind decreased. I could actually run here, it’s a nice gradient for most of the way down. Not long at all Keswick was in view and we could see the twinkly lights still glowing orange, a huge moon shone pink and bright above the sleeping village. Up the path came a solitary figure, it was Rob who had got up early to join us for the last few miles. That cheered me up no end. I whooped with glee, I’d touched all 42 peaks, I just needed to get down in one piece, I could even get under 22 hours if only I kept moving. Certainly, at that point, I felt like I was moving well. Its 4.5miles down, I kept checking my watch, frustrated when we hit anything steep as my knees were agony. Over the worst of it and I broke into a run. I tripped on a rock and fell face first. I quite liked the stillness, the excuse to stop, but I picked myself up and moved on.

I asked how much further (I knew myself, but I wanted someone to fib!) Rob replied “about a mile”, Steve said, “it’s a long mile!” Indeed it was.

My knees were by then battered inside and out, I walked 50m then started again. It was beautiful, the view and the gradient is partly my reasoning for going anti-clockwise. I love the run round Lattrigg, over the little bridge to Spooney Lane, through Fitz park, over the footbridge. I walked up the slow incline, desperate to make sure I could run up the final straight. Nearly there. My mind went blank in the town, I couldn’t remember the way. Bustled along, everyone eager to get me there, we quickly reached the carpark.

I saw this car, it looked familiar, swerving into the carpark. It looked like a stunt car, the driver was in an awful rush at that time in the morning. I wondered what the emergency was and then the doors and windows were flung open and I saw/heard (!!) Katy and Lesley. They’d driven across, just to see me finish. I waved at them, not stopping, I couldn’t stop. Fiona led us down the alleyway, onto the High Street, everyone was clapping.

There were a lot of people out at a silly time on Sunday morning. Fiona ran with me all the way until I hit the steps. I actually managed to run up all 10 steps and touched the doors. I stopped and bent over, not really sure what to do with myself. My grin was like a Cheshire cat and I couldn’t stop myself bouncing up and down. I was totally overwhelmed. I couldn’t believe it was the end, I didn’t want it to be the end. It had been so good. There were cuddles, smiles, bear hugs, dog licks and many congratulations.

21:44 Geoff said surprised, he showed me his watch to confirm it. I’m not sure he really believed it!

I didn’t really comprehend what had happened, all these people, out all day and all night just to get me around, to see me finish.

I did it, I really did it!

It was absolute magic, each and every step. With the best support, I could ever have hoped for.

The BGR is so much more than just that day. It’s about the friendships forged in all sorts of weather. The sense of being alive, of running miles from anyone and being the tiny solitary dot within the huge mountainous landscape. Of returning to nature, feeling insignificant against it, appreciating weather systems, how it affects the rock, the earth beneath your feet. Learning and developing a great and deep sense of respect for the mountains. Making the right decisions at the right time. Always being safe. Conquering fears, facing them full on. Being able to fill your lungs and your heart and all of your soul. Challenging yourself time and time again. Feeling tired and getting home with the deep exhaustion a day on the fells can only produce. Feeling scared when bad weather closes in, of battling through and returning to the car to flasks of hot sweet tea. Sweaty friends sharing adventures. All having that sense of achievement. The giggles, the laughs, the icy eyebrows and wind buffeted bodies. Being soaked to the skin, numb fingers and toes, wet and soggy bog shoes. Piles upon piles of bog socks and trainers. Packing bags. Maps, maps, maps. The views. Of carrying a bag that weighs a tonne, knowing the lack of it will help you on the day. The happiness and security of coming across fell shoe trod. Learning to seek out the tiny faint trod, or fence post or rock or bit of bog that leads the way. Developing a new vocabulary and using those new words all too frequently (trod, clag, best line. ) Not following paths, seeking out the shortcuts. Checking on the weather, obsessively. Of talking all too frequently of Bob, Bob, Bob……

The BGR it’s just a day on the fells with friends… Well yes, it is, but it is so much more.

Endure 24 and Emma’s debut as a Strider, Bramham Park, Wetherby, Saturday, July 1, 2017

Emma Thompson

After reading about Anna’s epic achievements at Endure, my effort seems a bit feeble but hopefully my account of running this as part of a team is of interest to those who would never dream of being able to run this solo!

Back in January my sister rang me to ask what I thought about a 24hr team relay event – was this a silly idea? I’m not sure what response she was hoping for, but I thought it sounded amazing and so we both signed up, along with other members of her club, Jesmond Joggers, for Endure 24 at Bramham Park, near Leeds.

The event can be run solo, in pairs or teams – grouped into small (3-5 people) or large (6-8). The route is a 5 mile loop through Bramham Park. This would be more miles than I had ever run and it was difficult to envisage how the stop-start nature of running in a relay would play out over the 24 hours. I had grand plans for training, with longer distances and shorter recoveries between runs. But nearly 2 months of injury finished those plans off.  By June I had given up all hope of participating at Endure. But after seeing an amazing physio 3 days before Blaydon, I was back running. I completed Blaydon and with a few more gentle runs under my belt, and an understanding team, I was off to Bramham park for Endure on 1st July.

A clash with my 6yr old daughter’s dance show meant a quick drive back to County Durham after registration, so I missed the start and my first lap. I slotted back in on everyone else’s second lap (which notably was my first run in a striders vest on my first official day as a Strider!).

The route profile had looked hillier than we expected, but actually turned out to be quite a fast course. Over 90% paths, very little grass, a few hills but nothing too challenging. As the laps ticked by it became clear we would all be running further than expected, as we were running much faster than anticipated.

I was in a team of 6. With missing the first lap, I completed 5 laps in total – 25 miles, much further than the maximum 13.1 miles I had completed before. Between the 6 of us we completed 35 laps, 175 miles, finishing 5th in the mixed large teams, out of 31! My sister’s team of 5 completed 37, an amazing effort, finishing 2nd in their category of mixed small teams. Having all gone purely to participate, with no experience of this kind of event, to finish so high up the field was amazing.

The rests made a huge difference. My legs on the last lap felt tired and heavy, noticing the hills much more, but still maintained a consistent lap time.  After finishing, I actually felt less tired than after a half marathon (and the dreaded post race stiffness never set in!)

Running through the woods with a head torch at 2am in the morning, through an avenue of trees with fairy lights and back into the race village to change over, was a fantastic running experience. The team work was amazing – we didn’t miss one changeover, even through the night. Being woken after an hours nap, to get up shivering and go for a run in the dark, was a bizarre experience to say the least – with just a fleeting  “I’m not sure I really want to go for a run/what am I doing?”!! The cameradie from all the different runners was great.

Totally inspiring to watch the efforts of the solo runners. Huge congratulations to Anna and Kerry whose individual achievements were incredible. I can’t believe how fresh they looked the next morning, about to go back out for further laps.

I will definitely be back – but will stick with a team! Hopefully that can be with fellow striders next year. It very much is an event for everyone. With the different team sizes, it allows for all runners. Anyone in???

Photos credited to Catherine Smith.

Endure 24, Bramham Park, Wetherby, Saturday, July 1, 2017

Anna Seeley

Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far they can go. If you think about quitting think about why you started. Look in the mirror, that’s your competition. Ask yourself can you give more, the answer is usually yes. A few of the motivational quotes from the K markers placed round the 5 mile course which would be my home for the next 24 hours. People ask why and I think these quotes help summarise it. Having raced every standard distance going I got fed of PB chasing and wanted to see what my body was really capable of.

My body may have had other ideas though and having fought off multiple injuries and still carrying a few niggles I then went down with a stinking cold the week before race day. A few of you shook your heads as there was no talk of a DNS despite by Wednesday still coughing up a lung and having virtually no voice. The whole year had been building up to this weekend and I wasn’t ready to give up all the hard work but I was sensible enough to readjust the goals. My 100 mile in 24 hrs target scrapped I settled for a C target of 6 laps (30 miles), another ultra ticked off, a B target of 10 laps (50 miles) and an A target of 15 laps (75 miles) which would be a distance PB.

Friday and feeling better but far from 100% I set up camp with the help of Catherine and Gareth. After registering and getting my number it all became a bit more real and we set off to recce the course but due to a lack of markers got a bit lost. Saw enough to know it was going to a be a road shoe job though then had a mild panic as I realised I’d only brought old knackered road shoes with me, for use in an emergency, along with my decent trail shoes. Never mind, what would be would be. A meal out on table 24, fate, and it was back to camp to enjoy the festival atmosphere, drink some beer (medicinal of course) and catch up with other solo nutters who I’d managed to pitch near. Very little sleep was had that night, maybe not best prep for staying awake for 24 hours but I was still fairly relaxed as I was joined in camp by Kerry (running) and Rob (support). Photos with Kerry and fellow strider Emma who was running as part of a team and it was time to get ready to go.

Saturday 12 o’clock on the dot and we were counted down, 3, 2, 1 and a hooter went to go. The relay runners went flying off but the majority of us solo runners went for the more relaxed approach although on fresh legs that still involved a sub 30 min first 5K, I’m blaming the rested fresh legs. Once out of the race village we were onto hard packed gravelly trail which made up 95% of the loop and would result in the trashing of many a foot. A downhill to the 1K marker was followed by a gradual 1K ascent nicely named Temple Drag. Downhill past the camper van pumping out tunes at Temptation Corner came the second climb up to the 3K marker and start of the woods, which quickly became my second least favourite part of the course, we’ll get onto my least favourite part later, due to the random stones sticking out which could easily trip without concentrating and became an even bigger nightmare in the dark. Get out of the woods and you could see the main checkpoint with endless supplies of magical pink electrolyte drink and shot blocks, I don’t even like shot blocks but the sugar was greatly appreciated. Down a gravelly path to the only tiny steep hill, it grew longer the more laps we did, on the course then over a short grass section before hitting my least favourite section. A K long v slight incline which unfortunately was being blasted by an evil headwind rendering it much harder to run up than it should have been. The next downhill section was lovely, sweeping and not too steep and then there was the little molehill named Bramhall Climb and you could see the race village. Still 800m away but an achievable target even on knackered legs as it was predominantly downhill apart from a little kick at the end of the lap. I didn’t see the point in the K markers on the first lap but later in the race they were absolutely fab, even when knackered it didn’t take long to get to the next. You had 7 distinct points to work towards on each lap and each marker had a quote on to motivate you.

Having run the whole of the first lap I had already decided on where the walking was going to commence from the second lap on. I could have run a good few more laps but energy preservation is key, it’s all very well running strongly for a few hours but in the grand scheme of things you will go further if you are sensible from early on. Coming down the hill at the 5K mark on the second lap I felt the horrible right quad twinge that I’d first noticed at Windermere marathon earlier in the year. Surely I couldn’t have managed to flare old injuries 8 miles into a 24 hr race, well yes I could and had. By the end of the lap the quad was joined by my hip flexor and groin in a competition as to which could shout loudest at me. Just as well I wasn’t in the mood to listen as this would have been a rather short race report.

Somewhere between 25-30 miles I first became aware that my left ankle was jealous of my right thigh and wanted to join the pain party. I’d been having trouble with this ankle for weeks but had hoped that I’d done enough to settle it, obviously not. Slowing down I had my first wobble of the run, I was only just into ultra territory and my legs didn’t want to play ball. Luckily I knew from past experience that if you refuse to quit and keep moving your head will eventually back down and let the legs do their job and soon I was moving well again. My stomach however was having none of it and other than a slice of pizza when back at camp later I don’t think I ate anymore solid food after the end of lap 6. Luckily I had pre-empted this and packed plenty of high calorie fluids so the rest of the race was fuelled on smoothie, milkshake and of course coke. Not a fuelling strategy I would recommend for anyone but needs must.

At 8 o’clock we all had to have headtorches on so after 40 miles I headed back to the tent to search it out, change into something long sleeved and decided to change my shoes to super cushioned ones which I’d never run more than 5 miles in, what could possibly go wrong? The hard surface was playing havoc with my legs and the B target of 50 miles was looking unlikely. I was slowing down and everything was hurting. At last minute I decided to chuck my race pack on with front bottles so that I didn’t need to worry about water. What a mistake that was. I’ve never run without the pack loaded up with the kit on the back and hadn’t thought about how much the bottles would move without the counterbalance. Result was that miles 40-45 were mainly walked as the swinging bottles were going to cause yet another injury. Ditching the bottles at the end of the lap some running could start again but while my legs were starting to understand the game my head rapidly giving up. So what do you do when the wheels are coming off, you message our ever cheerful enthusiastic captain who will provide you enough memes to brighten the darkest of moments, thank you Catherine and Gareth for chipping in too, I must have sounded properly miserable! 50 miles done in 10:38, somehow a 50 mile PB. At some point Dave Toth appeared as well, super encouraging and a much needed friendly face who having experienced the ultra pain knew what we were going through, thank you.

Lap 11 was the first one in complete darkness and I remembered why I only run with a headtorch when I absolutely have to. The swinging light makes me feel sick and I hate the loss of your peripheral vision. I was convinced that one of the super quick relay runners was going to come crashing into me as they seemed to come concerningly close before swerving. Unnerved I headed back to the tent at the end of the lap to retrieve my spare headtorch, maybe the spare would be brighter, and bumped into Kerry. Out we went, lap 12 for me and the magic 10th lap for her to take her to 50 miles. The woes of the previous lap forgotten we chatted and weaved, neither of us seemed capable of going in a straight line, ticking off the Ks until finally we were done. Massive distance PB for her, she went to find food while I decided rather unwisely to get another lap done before resting for a couple of hours. In hindsight I’d have been better stopping then and restarting at daybreak but wanted as many miles ticked off as possible.

End of the lap and I managed to find my tent, not difficult but my brain was a bit mashed, and settled down for a couple of hours of shivering, getting into a sleeping bag after 65 miles isn’t the easiest task in the world so I gave up and just threw it over me, and attempting to snooze. 5 o’clock and I was back up having forced some more fluids in, I’d given up eating hours earlier. I persuaded my legs that they did want to move and dodging guy ropes I managed to make myself back through the camp site back to the course. Bumping into my friend and 3rd lady at the start point of the lap I had company from 65-70 miles and that helped massively. She was falling asleep on her feet but had 100 miles fixed in her head, had worked out precisely what she needed to do each lap in to achieve her goal and went on to nail it.

Maybe stupid but as I started each lap I mentally ticked off the next 5 miles as I knew I wouldn’t quit mid lap so as I set off on lap 15 I knew I’d have achieved my A goal for the weekend of a distance PB. My legs by now were majorly protesting, I couldn’t move my ankle and my entire right upper leg was throbbing but nothing was going to stop me unless I was pulled off the course by the marshals and fixing a smile on my face was going to prevent that. Each K seemed to be getting longer but eventually the 7K mark appeared and once at the top of the hill the sight of the race village and finish line spurred me on. Finishing the lap on a high and having posed for another photo, smiling of course, for Dave I insanely decided to push the distance PB a little further, how hard would another lap be when you’ve already done 15?

Very very hard and immensely painful would be the answer. The first K was okish but then it rapidly went downhill. Simply putting one foot in front of the other on anything other than the flat, which as I’ve already mentioned there wasn’t much of, was absolute agony. Any sane person would have quit but I’m far too stubborn for that. After everything I had overcome to get to the startline and get that far one more lap wasn’t going to do that much harm so I again recruited the aid of our captain to keep me amused from a distance by messenger. I’m sure every K marker was moved further apart, every hill had grown but finally 1:55 later I dragged myself over the finish line.

80 miles, distance PB, further than I’d ever dreamed I’d get at the start of the weekend and a total that from early on when injuries decided to rear their ugly heads seemed impossible. Even my lack of ability to walk wasn’t going to wipe the smile off my face, already entered for next year, anyone else joining me?

Tour of Fife, Wednesday, July 29, 2015

5 races in 5 days

Dave Robson

29th Jul to 2nd Aug

The Tour of Fife consists of five short races in five days at various locations in Fife. The races are all a bit different. I have done the Tour once before in 2011 and loved it and I had always planned to go and run it again. There are no prizes for each individual race, it is the overall times which count towards the prize giving after the last event. The number of entrants is limited to about 180, but only about 155 turned out. The five races can only be done by Tour entrants, so you start to recognise most people after a few days.

Race 1 The Chariots of Fire 4.2m

This year the Tour started with a classic race, the Chariots of Fire race along the West Sands of St. Andrews. I loved it last time I did the Tour in 2011 and I loved it again tonight. There was a great view of St. Andrews from the beach. The amazingly big stands from the Open golf tournament were still there, but I guess they will go soon.

A can hear the a bit of Vangelis over the waves.

After three days of running and walking the lovely Fife Coastal path, we were a bit unsure about how we would do, would there be much left in our legs ? Before the start we had the music from the film coming out of loudspeakers ! We started very slowly on this out and back route entirely on sand. We found our legs weren’t too bad so after the first mile or so and we gradually started to increase our pace and overtook people. However, we were slowed by the sand getting softer and softer.

We turned the corner at the end of the beach and to my surprise the turn around point this year wasn’t in the sea, so I need not have put on a pair of old trail shoes.

On the way out the breeze had been in our faces, but it was behind us on the way back and we made good time on the way back on the firm sand.

A can hear the a bit of Vangelis over the waves.

Everybody was very friendly and the first person who approached us used to work in Durham and lived in St. Marys, where I now work ! The next person recognised us from the Northumberland Coastal Run !

A lovely way to spend a summer evening

Race 2: Hill of Tarvit 3.1m

This race was in the schedule when I last did the tour in 2011. Then it was 4.25m and three laps. This year’s race was 3.1m and one lap which sounded more attractive. However in 2011 we didn’t go up to the top of the big hill on the estate.

We met a friend of Jon’s tonight who also did the Elvet Striders Clamber last week, it is a small world. Then somebody who also did the Northumberland Coastal run just over a week ago. The runners were are very friendly and welcoming.

Dave hanging in there.
photo © and courtesy Vicki Reynolds

The first couple of miles were fast and furious and hardly undulating at all. Melanie was setting quite a pace and I couldn’t keep up, so I was slowly losing ground as we turned into the woods and started the very large climb to the top of the hill. There was a stile to cross and long grass to negotiate and some very upset sheep, but once we got to the top the view was fantastic. The plunge down to the finish was steep and potentially dangerous, but we had no problems and finished with a reasonable time considering the hill.

Race 3: Uphell Time Trial 1.4m

This is only the second uphill time trial I have ever done, the other one being the same event four years ago.

The logistics are a bit complicated. Everybody has to park at the top and run down to the bottom of the hill to start in pairs at your published start time. Last I underestimated how long it would take to run down and I was a bit late – they managed to slot me when someone didn’t show. I made sure I got there with time to spare this year.

The weather was awful when we parked at the top, driving rain, windy, it felt like November. Luckily as we set off down to the start, the rain stopped and wind dropped a bit.

Melanie was starting 4min after me and I half expected to get caught, although she was a bit anxious about a hip problem which she could feel on the way down the hill.

I started slowly, at least I thought I did. My partner slipped behind and that also made me think I was possibly going too fast (we were paired roughly according to speed, but the faster and slower pairs were spread evenly between the first and last starting times). By the time I got to 800m (the distances were chalked on the road), I was blowing hard and I continued like that until the finish.

There was great support from runners running down to start their race, the two fastest runners were particularly encouraging. I decided to just hang on and keep running even if I slowed right down. Faster runners were going by me making it look very easy.

As we got closer to the finish runners who had already finished were shouting, clapping, ringing cowbells, clattering pans and blowing whistles, a great atmosphere. There was also a piper and the race organiser on a PA.

Dave pretending to be an aeroplane when he should be racing!
photo © and courtesy Vicki Charlton

I managed to get to the finish without being caught by Melanie, but she did come in with a faster time than me – her hip wasn’t an issue on the way up. I was about 45 sec slower than 4 years ago, but I don’t think I had done so much exercise during the week as we have been doing this time [I think it’s something to do with pretending to be an aeroplane, personally. – Ed.].

A relentless event, but definitely worth doing (but only every four years !)

Race 4: Cambo Estate 4m

This race was only about a mile and half from where we are staying so it was great not having to drive too far. It was a very warm day although there was a steady breeze to cool us down.

The route was two laps through the Cambo Estate grounds. It was mainly on narrow trails through woods, although there was one section through a field of cows who got a bit scared on the first lap. They were nowhere to be seen on lap 2.

Jazz Hands!
photo © and courtesy Vicki Charlton

A nice feature of the Tour is that there are three or four photographers there every day who post their pictures on FB and Fife ACs web site and they are happy for them to be copied.

Melanie did much better than me, I lost places to people I had been close to before today, but Melanie gained places on people she had been close to. She also hit the wall like me, but much closer to the finish.

Race 5: Mega Monirail Marvel 4.2m

Melanie
Photo © and courtesy Graham Bennison

The final race, 4.2m. Basically up a quiet road for 0.5m before turning onto a track which climbed and climbed for the next 1.5m or so. After a while the track turned into grassy fields and we made our way to the highest point next to a radio mast.

Then it was almost all downhill on track but with a few muddy patches before it turned into tarmac for the finish.

I started pretty much at the back as I didn’t think I had much in my legs. I did overtake a few, but I ended up roughly where I was yesterday 116th out of 153. Melanie did great 80th. Over the five races I was 108th and Melanie 91st and we were both happy with that after a busy week.

At the finish almost all the runners had stayed to cheer everybody in and there was a great atmosphere. We were lucky with weather again, it started to rain just as the last runner came into the finish. This seems to have happened just as we have finished our runs, walks and races this week. Not to hot, just perfect weather for exercising.

Dave on Dave Five
Photo © and courtesy Vicki Charlton

We then went down to the Village Hall for sandwiches and cake – we had all been asked to bring a contribution to the food, a great idea, and there was lots to eat. This was followed by the presentations and spot prizes – we weren’t lucky this time. One woman who had been doing well but had felt a bit dizzy and unwell had had to walk into the finish. If she had continued she would have been third woman but lost her place because of feeling unwell. They gave her bottle of wine which was nice gesture.

The whole event was lovely and we enjoyed it. Hopefully we shall be back for my third Tour.

Charity Relay, Pennine Way, Friday, July 24, 2015

Anita Clementson

Northern Section: Friday Leg 2 – Byrness to Bellingham – 15.5 miles – with Diane Watson

Anita and Diane running toward the finish of their leg on Bellingham Bridge As we waited for the arrival of Kerry & James, our northern leg 1 runners, we took the advantage of having tea in the local inn and gaining some inside knowledge on the route ahead. On asking the rather grumpy woman at the inn, she took a long breath and turned her head slowly to the clock, then looked back at us: “are you planning to do this today?” We were obviously not giving her the impression of experienced fell types that were capable of tackling 15 miles of the boggiest part of the Pennine way (a feature she was also keen to warn us about).

Luckily we managed to regain some positivity and returned to wait patiently at the checkpoint. Text messaging allowed us to get some idea of Kerry & James’ progress. In the meantime we had a leisurely chat with a guy who had nearly finished his 18-day walk of the whole PW and then there were Kerry & James, bounding along looking quite fresh after their epic 25-mile first leg trek.

So Diane and I were finally on our way! Navigation was required for the first half of what was a fairly undulating but not too hilly route. Luckily there had been plenty of time to study our OS map and so we had more or less memorised the route ahead.

Due to the delay and the fact that we didn’t want to arrive too late for Scott, who was waiting to take over at Bellingham (we were nearing 3 hours behind schedule) we took the option of missing out the boggiest part of our section (we were also warned about this by two people we met) but had to add an extra half mile of easier ground. It wasn’t an easy decision, and it would have been nice to just follow the course of the PW but common sense took precedence. As a result, the ‘baton’ [or ‘map’ as it also known – Ed] was passed on safely at the bridge over the North Tyne in pretty Bellingham, pausing only to take some photos, before Scott was on his way…our job was done!

We encountered only beautiful scenery and a slightly surreal sense of being a little part of a much bigger event knowing that all of our friends in the club were with us in spirit and that we were making our mark in the history of the club.

Karen Hooper

Central Section: Sunday Leg 5 – Sunderland Bridge to Palace Green – 10 miles

Elvet Striders Relay Runners on Palace Green at the end of a successful 2015 Charity Relay We ran through armpit-high thistles with our arms in the air, got rashes from foot to shoulder from the long grass…I spoke to Striders I had never spoken to before…I turned round and saw a whole tribe of purple behind me in the beautiful countryside…I weed in a field with someone I’d only spoken to once before who I’m now proud to call a friend…I talked about the sadness of losing babies and the support that 4Louis provide to bereaved families with a total stranger…I cheered Striders running further than they’ve ever run before…I enjoyed meat pie and a pint with new friends in The Elm Tree and shed a tear at Paul’s speech. Thank you Striders – it was just what we all needed! X

Dave Shipman’s white van

Southern Section: Friday, Saturday & Sunday – Support

Dave and Jan about to set off the leg to Pen-Y-Ghent Thursday 6.30 am: Contents being removed including old lawnmower and box of unsold car boot stuff which I have carried round for ages. Must be an expedition coming soon? Parked up next to house, suspect we will head off after work?

Thursday 5.30 pm: I was right: all surfaces hastily cleaned and bags of kit thrown in.

Thursday 6 pm: ‘Driver D’ joined by ‘Kiwi Mike’ (with no dog this time, but several more bags and a tent). Off we go!

Thursday 6.30 pm: Durham City, pick up ‘Lady J’ (must be in for a long trip if the number of bags she has are anything to go by!).

Thursday 8.30 pm: Got through all the road works (and avoided running out of petrol) to Woolley Edge services. Joined by Driver D’s double, known as ‘Our Kid’ apparently – and yet more bags!

Thursday 9.30 pm: Fiddly, wiggly roads to the campsite. Abandoned in car park for the night – typical!

Friday 5.30 am: Kettle on – bloody hell, this is an early start! Joined by what looks like a black coffin -carrier but on investigation it’s a multi-purpose removal estate car on its way back from an end-of term university visit – my sympathies, done that run a few times! Mobile catering function required for several sleepy campers after what they describe as a snore-interrupted night (nothing to do with the beers they drank before bedtime then?).

Friday 5.55 am: Bleary-eyed bloke carrying two rucksacks approaches; also has what he calls ‘a tent’; looks more like a full-body condom to me! All goes in through the back door; he sets off running and away we go!

Friday 12.00 noon: After several hours hurtling over hill and dale, parked at length on the end of Saddleworth Moor. No sign of Kiwi Mike. Eventually he arrives after losing his way but by then I’ve moved on to Yorkshire where I’m joined by a red Honda Jazz and two more runners with lots of kit bags.

Friday afternoon: Yippee! Into Calderdale relay country after ‘Pirate Nige’ (the driver of the black coffin-carrier) and Lady J (she of the many bags) have been off-piste looking for hairy sausage caterpillars! Familiar roads and hills that I’ve been round a few times.

Friday night 8.00 pm: Make it to Malham before nightfall as required but then drive backwards and forwards on narrow, stone-walled lanes looking for Moon’s Farm campsite. Find two campsites but not of that name and eventually work out that it’s the one at the foot of Malham Cove. Joined by a red Golf and red Polo, so relay convoy status is now established. No room on the campsite but Mrs Moon kindly lets me use her car park, assisted by red Golf moving over to give me breathing space which I need after the last 24 hours!

Saturday 7.00 am: Mobile catering required again: runners seem even more bleary-eyed but still enthusiastic. Bags, damp tents and sweaty kit thrown in the back, along with an assortment of food and drink.

Saturday 8.15 am: Runners set off in beautiful sunshine. I get my insides swept out and Kiwi Mike beats my carpets – first time in a long time!

Saturday 8.30 am: Off for a beautiful trip round the Dales: up to Arncliffe, down both sides of Pen Y Ghent seeking runners on the move with no success. Then to Horton where I’m left in a pub car park but am eventually rescued by Kiwi Mike.

Saturday 2.00 pm: After being abandoned for a couple of hours in Hawes, found by Driver D and ‘Chatterbox Jan’, both looking sweaty and weary but with bags of food and drink and off we go again.

Saturday 6.00 pm: On the road for ages, over Butter Tubs Pass, people in and out, stops at Tan Hill, a tunnel under the A66, supposed to be heading for near Middleton but left parked next to a barn: sign says “To be kept clear at all times” so I will probably get towed away by a tractor! Passengers seem intent on standing in a field with cows, staring for over an hour at a distant horizon. Farmer arrives and doesn’t tow me away, instead gives friendly advice about how savage cows can be then, once the red Polo has been moved, farmer drives off up track. Eventually runners appear, pause briefly for water from my diminishing supplies then head off up the track after the farmer.

Facing up to 'savage' cows was all part of the challenge!

Saturday 8 pm: At last! A campsite instead of a car park! Company of other vans and tents; passengers have all gone to the pub; night may not end well!

Saturday 10 pm: As I suspected, a crowd of folk have returned to use my lounge facilities: Kiwi Mike brings out cake; ‘Party Jean’ finds a bottle of Amaretto left over from Xmas; rattling bags of cider and beer come from cupboards and rucksacks. Remarkably, peace and quiet by midnight.

Sunday 7.30 am: Breakfast time again: folk seem more bleary and tired, less energetic until joined by ‘Tigga Till’ and Joan who set off up the hills. Random packing follows before I head for Wolsingham Station via Bollihope Common and across the moors. Apart from our convoy, there’s hardly any traffic and no people.

Sunday 12.00 noon: Tigga Till and Joan arrive at the station, no trains running, so join us for a drive to Witton Park where I am left on my own for hours by the side of Paradise Park (an over-generous description when compared to the scenery I have been through in the last 48 hours!). Seemingly, Bleary-eyed Paul, Pirate Nige and Lady J got lost in the long grass!

Sunday 1.00 pm: Diversion to Newton Cap Viaduct seeking ‘Captain Anna’, who in turn was seeking Kiwi Mike; no sign of either so on to Willington…

Sunday 1.20 pm: Willington: amazing crowd of runners, all waiting for Kiwi Mike, none with bags and none needing a lift thank goodness! All say they are running to Durham.

Sunday 2.30 pm: Sizeable group head for Durham; party atmosphere. Kiwi Mike leaves me near Durham Rowing Club and heads off with Bleary-eyed Paul to do yet more running.

Sunday 5.30 pm: Kiwi Mike and Driver D return in pouring rain but good spirits. Appears that the trip has been a great success!

Sunday 5.45 pm: Parked up in Chester-le Street; over 450 miles covered; job done! Kiwi Mike and Driver D remove a few bags of kit and walk away. Wait a minute! Come back! What about the bags of wet and sweaty kit? What about the soggy bananas and left over cake crumbs, half-eaten sandwiches and water bottles? And who do these red boxer shorts belong to?!!

Penny Browell

Southern section: Friday Legs 5 & 8; Saturday Leg 1; Sunday Legs 4 & 5

Penny, Paul & Steph come together for an almost nocturnal 'selfie'.

Friday, Leg 8 – Ickornshaw to East Marton – 9 miles – with Paul Evans: having said I probably shouldn’t run at all (dodgy ankle making me whinge a lot), I decided I wasn’t content with the 10-miler earlier with Steph and Paul so volunteered to take on what turned out to be the final leg of the evening. I was told it was easy-ish and not too long (which I guess is what 9 miles and 1,250 feet is for Paul Evans!). But even he was tired (after more than 20 miles) and the climbs seemed bigger than they should have been and whilst it was lovely to see the sun setting from a perfect viewpoint it was also a bit nerve-wracking as we had no head-torches and there were still a few miles to go.

More worrying though, were the cows, one of which seemed to take a dislike to me and after a little lurch, started heading towards me. Paul recommended jumping over the fence but as it was about shoulder height for me – with barbed wire on the top – I didn’t rate my chances! To cut a long story short, we managed to escape unscathed but still had to race the light to reach East Marton by nightfall.

When we got to the canal we knew we were nearly there but when a slight edge of doubt crept in to Paul’s voice I was beginning to get a bit concerned. Then I spotted a lonely beam of light flickering in the darkness ahead – it was Steph! Come in search of us! And so, just before 10.00 pm, our leg was done. Sadly too late for the pub dinner I’d promised myself but still leaving me with a very content smile on my face.

Juliet Percival

Southern section: Friday Legs 2, 3 & 7; Saturday Legs 4, 5 & 6; Sunday Leg 2

Juliet in a 'weary legs' phase! As I write this, the three days of the southern legs are now a blur of…chilly dawns…hurried muesli…squeezing wet tents back into bags…driving…plodding…eating cake…driving…running…wonderful views…eating cake…running…endless views of rolling green hills and patchwork fields…waiting…cheering and clapping for smiling Striders out in force…drinking coffee…wonderful company…running…weary legs…waiting…runners’ heads bobbing up over the horizon…dreaming (of a hot shower)…drinking coffee… “there they are!” …running…COWS!…”what if it’s a bull?”…slow to a walk…eyes down…be invisible… beautiful, peaceful countyside…lovely banter…”how many more miles?” …getting late…pitching tents in the dark (hilarious!)…racing to the pub (too late for food)…crisps and alcohol for supper again!…”another round?”…”why not!” …returning to campsites in the dark…no showers…grim…feeling stinky…sleeping bags…overtures of snoring…chilly dawns (again)…hurried muesli…”off we go”…”

Roz Layton

Northern section: Saturday Leg 3 – Knarsdale to Garrigill – 14 miles – with Debs Goddard & Jean Bradley

Nothing could be nicer than standing in the middle of unfamiliar countryside on the Cumbrian/Durham border on a warm day, surrounded by orchids, harebells, cranesbill and buzzing insects. Just a nagging worry affects the mood: where are they? Are they OK? Have I missed them?

Thank goodness for a good phone signal and Debs’ clear decision-making (…leave Alston, come and meet her and Jean further up the route at Knarsdale). This turned out to be an abandoned station on the old South Tyne railway, with platform, an old ticket office and signs threatening forty shilling fines…

It wasn’t long before Debs and Jean came trotting along the track, cheerful but a bit frustrated by the disappearing Pennine Way ‘acorns’ [motif that indicates the Pennine Way trail – Ed]. So much for the Pennine Way becoming an eroded motorway then – even when we could find the route it was often overgrown!

Jean and I could only admire the map and its reader as we were ‘spectacle-free’ and so we continued, skirting Slaggyford happily enough but losing time as what ‘acorns’ there were led us over stiles and into fields with no apparent exit. On one occasion we found ourselves face to face with a herd of cows and their calves and – yes – climbing to his feet as we approached, a big creamy bull guarding the gateway!

Alston to Garrigill had less drama but was just as pretty. We anticipated ‘lashings and lashings of ginger beer’ but a wonderful half-pint outside the newly refurbished pub won out, underscoring the satisfaction of running twice as far as I’d expected and the ‘Striderly’ pleasure of running with good friends.

Mike Elliott

Northern Section: Saturday Leg 6 – Cauldron Snout to Holwick – 9 miles – with Andy James.

Mike makes the awkward descent of the waterfall of Cauldron Snout.

After doing ‘Park Run’ in the morning I checked my OS Teesdale map of early-60s vintage that didn’t even show the Tees being dammed at Cauldron Snout to form Cow Green Reservoir (luckily the contours were in the same place however). I then joined Andy at Ebchester for the drive to the start of the final northern leg of our charity relay, arriving there about 4.00 pm for an estimated start time of 5.30 pm. No other Striders were in sight but it was early days…

The weather was sunny: 14 degrees with a gentle breeze but then a black cloud appeared, bringing heavy vertical, then horizontal, rain and HAIL! (Was this July?). So, like the sheep around us, we sheltered behind a stone wall (baaa!). The storm passed, the sun came out again and we soon dried out.

By about 6.00 pm we concluded that with no one else was going to join us, and that we might have missed a ‘relay running late’ message. Miraculously, we found a sign near the dam which said ‘GOOD MOBILE PHONE SIGNAL HERE’ (move one yard either way – no signal!) and called Steph who said Jon Ayres was on his way from Dufton and should be with us in an hour and a half. Being the good civil and electrical engineers that we are, off we went to explore the dam and its water pressure measuring boreholes, generators and anything else we could find (howay, it filled in the time!).

To our delight, Jon arrived a tad early from his magnificent solo effort across the tops and after sharing info and pleasantries, his legs then had the luxury of driving Andy’s car to Bowlees visitor centre.

Still no more troops, so off we went, down the side of Cauldron Snout and onto the rock-strewn paths of the Falcon Clints’ boulder field (could have been on the moon) along with the odd board-walk then eventually onto something vaguely runnable. This was not going to be a 10K PB!

The first half of the leg was on the north bank of the River Tees (the south bank appeared to be marked on the map as an MOD training area). After the tribulations of the Clints and Holmwath Escarpments, we arrived at Widdy Bank Farm where we could at last make good progress after our mountaineering experiences. Then we saw the sign that said it all: three and a half miles back to Cauldron Snout, three and three-quarters to High Force. HEY UP – we thought this was a 10K!

Across ditches, and through stones walls via little wooden gates, across the bridge over Harwood Beck, then crossing to the south side of the River Tees at Cronkley, then onto a wide track for 400yards (which made us look like models on a cat walk).

Next was a trip around a farm yard (no Old Macdonald or quarter-pounder’s to be seen) where we encountered a problem due to the lack of way markers: options were to follow a boggy fence line, climb a steep hill covered in gorse or back-track towards the MOD area. We chose to climb the hill (probably a short cut to dry ground but slightly longer) until we hit the PW again.

Next obstacle was a barbed wire-topped fence where we put our high jump skills to the test (gold medals being awarded to both participants). Then it was back down to low ground to see some friendly faces albeit a flock of sheep (who decided not to follow us due to the fact they were not as fit as us athletes!).

At last we hit a reasonable track, so, putting more coal on the fire, we reeled in the miles to High Force. What a long three and three-quarter country miles that was (must have been all those photo stops)! A quick decision not to dive into the cold, fast flowing, peaty waters at High Force then we pushed on to Low Force and Wynch Bridge (a suspension footbridge built for lead miners in 1830).

Here we saw a poster nailed to a tree saying Strathmore Arms, 1 mile – nectar! In the heather we caught a glimpse of a young ‘Monarch of the Glen’ [a deer – Ed] scratching its lug at the sound of these two explorers; he then showed us how to cope with cross county hills by bounding away.

Onwards across the quickly darkening fields with Andy’s phone shattering the quiet of the countryside. It was Paul asking if we are still alive and what our favourite tipple is! Back to tarmac and the comforting lights of Holwick (or IS it Holwick? – No sign of a pub and only a few well strung out houses – have we got the wrong village? – We stop and knock on the door of a house at 10.00 pm – “Where is the Strathmore Arms?” – “Just there love” – relief!).

Finally, after two-and-a-half hours, we receive the most rousing of receptions from the locals and many of the lads and lasses who ran the Southern and rest of the Northern legs. Then it was into the pub with just enough time to embrace everyone in sight, hoy a pint down our necks (courtesy of the landlord) and enjoy the band.

The campers then made their way to bed so they could be fresh, waiting for Paul’s foreign accent to ring out at 7.00 am: “Hi de hi campers, your breakfast is ready and no cooking required: IT’S IN A CAN!”.

We intrepid explorers continued our adventures: a one-and-a-half mile cross-country walk to the car (thanks for the torch Nigel) and then over the dales to Ebchester. I never knew rabbits came out in such numbers at night, with the journey being a rabbit slalom course (we managed it without harming any, so rabbit pie was off the Sunday menu).

Hope you enjoyed the above tale. It could have been the tail of Peter………..Oh come on, they don’t get any better!

Joan Hanson

Central Section: Sunday Leg 1 – Holwick to Wolsingham – 16 miles – with Till Sawala.

Me and Tigger Till strike out for Wolsingham Today I picked up a total stranger that I met via a Facebook message then got quietly freaked out on arrival at the campsite at 8am to be told by fellow bleary-eyed striders that Till can run…didn’t you realise Joan?.. really quite fast…sub 3-hour marathon actually. Till then proceeded to run ‘really quite fast’ although he referred to it as ‘relaxed social pace’. He was certainly able to converse with ease as he bounced along beside me in his Hokas (quite a lot like Tigger) consistently up a big hill, then on tarmac (that’s another first). Words of encouragement were offered by a convoy of the aforementioned striders in their cars before we struck out over the moors and down into Weardale. We took slightly longer than the 2 hours on the original schedule for this leg but had a great morning out and we didn’t get lost.

Tour of Merseyside: 5–11th July, Wednesday, July 15, 2015

6 races, 7 days, 52 miles

Denise Benvin

I had spotted this little beauty back in 2013 on the BTR website it was 6 races in 7 days, it was 52 miles over the week all different races and different terrains and different distances. As I had only been running a matter of months an I hadn’t even run a full 5k, I thought one for another year. In 2014 I was on holiday when it was taking place so 2015 was me year. So euro in hand I went to use the computer in reception whilst on holiday and secured my place. I have family in Liverpool and put a weeks holiday in at work and invited myself to my parents for the week (they didn’t object, not sure why I wouldn’t want to spend a week with me)

Race 1 was Southport half marathon an it was a warm day to say the least, Dougie had also decided to do this run an it was nice to see a strider face at the race. This was a flat fast course and went out one way to a turn around point, on my way to the turn around point I spotted Dougie coming towards me on the other-side a few mins between us, at least I knew where he was and so the chase was on. I did spot Dougie in the distance around the lake some 6 miles further on, and all but few miles from home and I was catching him, he however also had a canny spurt and I never got any closer. You can read Dougie’s amusing report which is also on the website [thank you! [blush] Ed.]. The gauntlet has been thrown down for next year though … 13 miles done

Race 2 was in Thurstaston the Wirral side of the River Mersey and was a 6 mile multi terrain race, it was a wet night which got even wetter in fact torrential at one point, but it was a lovely run that went out on to the beach for a around 2 miles it was heavy going here on the legs and only got a bit lighter on the legs as we made our way towards the woods which was equally as nice to run through. It was then along the track for a couple of miles and back to the start finish line. The atmosphere was lovely and people were getting to know each by now … 19 miles done

Going Coastal.

Race 3 was by Walton Hall Park and was 10 miles on the Sustrans Cycle Trail known locally as “The Ralla” it was 2.5 miles one way then 2.5 miles back to the start/finish then the same in the opposite direction, whilst this was not a course to rave about it was nice in the fact you got to see the other runners going in different directions and there was plenty of encouragement through out to field an it turned out to be a nice night considering the look of the grey clouds and dull skies an the forecast was for rain … 29 miles done

Race 4 was a short and sweet 5 miles, and somehow it ended up as a fancy dress night (think it might be a regular after this year) the race started and finished in the Wellington pub car park in Hale Village, a dammed good idea I thought, nice and handy for post race refreshments. It was a lovely flat 5 miles in the evening sunshine, it was a race of left turns around the outskirts of Hale. We got lots of encouragement from people sat in their cars waiting to get through the village as well as local residents who had come outside to watch the spectacle all of whom must have thought we were all nutters, they wouldn’t be far wrong in all fairness. The Children however thought it was fantastic and it was lovely to hear the laughter and squeals of delight as we ran past. I do wonder if the Lord Mayor will let us back next year????? It was a great atmosphere people really having fun getting to know each other now. I had managed to find a leopard print dress in a charity shop that I cut up found a scarf to match and went as Jane, thankfully nice and light to run in given the heat. I will have to start thinking now for next year as there was a pretty high standard set this year, so I am open to suggestions folks. A fab night all round … 34 miles done

Race 5 was at Stadt Moers country park. This used to be the tip many many years ago and deep in the trees you can find the outlet holes for the gas to escape, you wouldn’t believe it if you went thought it really is a lovely place and is one of the winter xc courses for the area. We had to do 2 x 3 mile laps but before we started it was time for everyone to catch up and laugh on the previous nights costumes. Race time came and it was on with the announcements and handing the tour leader tops out then off we went. The course was lovely and with a bit of mud in the winter it would be fab, we snaked around and up and down the hill and trees in front a few times before heading off in a different direction and then coming round to the start finish for a much needed bottle of water in the heat and lap 2. When finished the queue for the ice-cream van soon built up, it sold handmade ice-creams an had been getting some hammer each night but the poor ladies really had to work on the warm nights, so even if you run just to eat the ice-cream it was worth it. Another great night and 5 races down this meant that tomorrow was the last race, I had made it this far tomorrow I would finish even if I had to finish at a crawl pace … 40 miles done

Race 6 the final race, this was once again on the other side of the river at Wallasy it was the Wirral Coastal run and the final 12 miles. It was a tad windy as we waited for the start we had been asked to be there for 9.30 so we could have a group Tour photo, an so we all gathered around to have the picture taken, it was the photographers job to get us all in, and so balanced up a step ladder dug in to the drifted sand on the prom it was cries of squash up a bit more, move to the front, supporters move left or move right, no move in more an a few more to the front etc.

Squash Up!

However the picture was eventually taken with much laughter and ribbing and one photographer who somehow didn’t fall off his ladder and we for the last time took our position at the start finish line. This was going to be fun, 6 miles of head wind woo hoo along the prom towards Hoylake, I had got to around mile 4 when the leaders came towards me flying along and well on their home, how they managed their words of encouragement going at that speed was beyond me. To get the full 6 miles in we went on to the beach at mile 5 and a half, and ran half a mile on the sands to the water station which was also the turn around point, that was it, I was on my way back now, I was on my way home to the finish line and to completing my first Tour. The head wind which was now supposed to be behind us helping had dropped an the sun was out, and so it was a very warm 6 miles to the finish, It was a fantastic feeling to count the miles down and the final push to the line was full of fellow competitors and family members all cheering and clapping, but I crossed the line, I had finished. I had completed The Tour of Merseyside I had run my 6 races in 7 days I had run my 52 miles an I was a fully fledged “Tourist” I was given my medal and collected my T Shirt. I made my way back along the prom to meet one of my new friends and run in with her and watch her cross the line. All that was left was to make our way back to Liverpool an the post race bash an presentation. So with a nice pint in hand an some much deserved grub from one of the food sellers we all chatted till it was time for the presentation an awards. Then it was time for a good laugh at the footage that had been recorded all week by the camera man catching our week for us, his hard work an cutting an editing each night to put hours an hours of footage on to a DVD so we could look back an remember total miles completed 52 …

Same time next year I think

The Spine, Saturday, January 10, 2015

268 Miles

Flip Owen

Britain’s Most Brutal Race, 10–17th January

A winter's tale. The spine race is the whole of the Pennine Way in January. 270 miles of hills, bogs and everything the winter weather can throw at you high up on the backbone of England. It’s a continuous race as in the clock is always ticking. It’s billed as the UK’s most brutal race and although conditions differ from year to year it’s fair to say it’s always brutal. It just has several different kinds of brutal.

My spine journey started a couple of years ago when I entered the race. However when it came to the second payment in November my knee was playing up and a few other niggles weren’t great so I decided not to do it. I sent of an email saying as much but offered my time helping out if needed. Scot the RD said, he certainly will be in touch and I never heard anything more. As the race started in January I watched my friend’s progress and as Alan Rumbles approached Middleton-in-Teesdale I went off with Anna to see if I could help him in any way. Alan was his usual smiling self as we got him some food but his feet were even at that stage a real mess. (Sadly Alan had cellulitis in his feet and after another 100 miles, within reaching distance of the finish had to make the call to call it a day.)

The place was a bit chaotic so I helped where I could, served tea and coffee, washed up for them and causally remarked to Amanda Crozier (I think) that I’d offered to help but heard nothing. At that I was leapt upon and asked if I could relive the marshals at Tan hill ASAP ! (Scott had forgotten about my email which isn’t surprising as I guess he gets snowed under as the race approaches)

So off we went. We saw Sunderland stroller Neil Bennett through (who finished) and met Martin May Ottersbach who was in excellent condition but sadly had over slept and was taken out of the race. Lovely bloke though and I look forward to more journeys with him. I worked the next day they I was summed to Bellingham CP on the evening. As I pulled up and went through the doors a lad was standing in bare feet holding onto the door frame and asked if I might just help him for a minute. His feet were buggered as well. This was Charlie Sharpe, a well know and very fast runner. He was trying to get to the sleeping area which was across a court yard. I told him to wait there and backed my car to the doors, helped him in, drove the 10 yards to the sleeping area and helped him to his sleeping bag. From there I relieved the marshals at Byrness. It was some 6-7 hours later in the early hours of the morning the spinners started to come through. I had a stove in my car so I made hot drinks and fed them with goodies I’d picked up along the way. Charlie came in (he couldn’t remember me at Bellingham several hours earlier!) and slept for a while in my car before struggling to his feet, barely able to stand and they blasted the Cheviots in 6.5 hours. That’s always amazed me as the lad could barely walk. Chapeau Charlie!

So, to cut this short and to put it mildly, this race cried out to me to run it.

2015 Race

Well I guess like others the lead up to the race fairly did my head in. The gear was a compromise between ultra-light, meaning ultra-expensive and I couldn’t afford or what I could afford but was going to make my back pay (and slow me down) due to increased weight. I begged and borrowed and bought as wisely as I could. (More on gear later). Then there is the route. Unlike a lot of ways in the UK the Pennine way isn’t that well signposted. Yes there are plenty of signs but it’s a long way and I’d say as many junctions of crossing paths without any indication of the way as there is. That is of course if there is a path. Sometimes it’s a faint line or almost nothing. Add in some snow and you’ve got nowt !

I addressed some of this with a few days on the way in late September. Starting in Edale, where I’d never been before and heading north. I checked out the route, pubs, and places to fill bottles, possible bivvy places and found the CP North of Hebdon Bridge. I made a few mistakes, which was good as I wasn’t going to make them twice and I spent as day in Haworth and another in Marsden refreshing (well it was my holiday as well!) Surprisingly a very enjoyable & interesting few days. I should do more hill walking. I just too busy running!

So come December and I’m starting to ease off. Looking after myself a bit and constantly reading Damien Halls excellent guide book that I used on my week recce. I also decided to take this with me. If you’re lost I figured a detailed explanation would be like gold dust and worth its weight.

New Year’s Day and I very gently ran around the Captain Cooks fell race being very careful and enjoyed the social after. It was here I tempted fate. Talking to Jason & Lisa Taylor I remarked I was in very good form with no injuries and my only worry was all the people around who were dying of cold-and pretty rotten colds at that. I said if it gets me, I’d be out of the race. In fact a few had come on the FB spine page and said as much. I guess everyone was gutted for those people and also like me thinking please god, spare me till after the race please.

On the 4th January, our club Christmas handicap it hit me. I was meant to be marking the course but was swooning and coughing and couldn’t do it. I went along and took some pics and to the social as I like to support our club traditions. However on the evening I was ill as a dog. That was a Sunday, 6 days till race day. Monday was the same and Tuesday not much better four days till race day and I’m in bed ill!. By Wednesday I thought it easing a tiny bit. Thursday I had to make a decision and hoping I hadn’t been hit by what everyone else seemed to have I decided to run. I booked a hotel in Sheffield, figuring I wouldn’t be that popular coughing all night in the Youth Hostel and got a lift to the start. Did the kit check and briefing and heading to Sheffield. And I did cough all night. Train to the start with John Vernon and a good natter about the race and Hardmoors stuff.

Start

Well it was delayed 3 hours so a lot of hanging about but at last we were let go. Apparently Marcus who one the challenge event that had started at 6:30 am (the first 100 miles) was blown clean off his feet and injured. My Aarn backpack was playing up and I was very grateful for Neil Rutherford, another Aarn user working out what was wrong. The Aarn is a wonderful bit of kit but it is complex especially if you get all the straps twisted.

Kinder downfall. Just before the snow & hail hit.

The weather just then wasn’t crazy bad, although the wind was howling. It wasn’t really till we got to the top of kinder when the full force of the winds really hit us. It was quite difficult to stay on your feet. Kinder downfall was our first soaking as it was blown back onto us but to a person we all had our water proofs on. This was something I’d notice the previous year. Not one person didn’t have their entire water proof kit on. This brief spell of ‘good’ weather was all to brief. The gale force winds hit us and the horizontal, hail and snow battered us. This was the story for the rest of my brief race. The weather has been described as biblical. I’ll go with that. However I was quite please.Pleased because after all that worry I think I got the gear right. I was pretty snug and although it was hard going, especially vision wise I was happy enough. Except that was for the coughing. It took its time to start but heck coughing is exhausting at any time never mind I in the UK’s most brutal race. I must say i found the weather exhilarating. I always do. I’m sure i wouldn’t have said that at the end but weather like that make you feel alive.

Still I was optimistic that the coughing would sort itself out. I came across John Vernon approaching Black hill. John’s an expert navigator but my recce was invaluable (and John said as much later). Every turn or junction came back to me as we came to it and I was particularly pleased just after the A62. The good path here becomes a peat bog track, cut up by mountain bikes and in parts 20ft wide. On my recce I went straight past a tiny white post on the right hand of this track that takes you almost ninety degrees right along a faint track. I purposely stayed right knowing that the post would be easy to miss. Just as I was telling John to stay right we came across in covered in snow. Unfortunately just as we did I saw another group heading over the hill making my recce mistake. I shouted and shouted but the wind took it away and they were out of sight.

At the A672 a van waited and we topped up with water. Not much mind as they were running low. I filled up at the next stream having already used my 2 litres. (I carried a small collapsible plastic bottle for this purpose). The goal was to make the white horse pub and refuel but with the start delay we missed it. With hindsight we were never going make it and we should have detoured on the Marsden road crossing to the great western pub. At the closed white horse pub John said he needed to eat so quickly cooked something up. I brewed a coffee and which went cold instantly. It was snowing, the wind was hellish and then realised it was bitterly cold. Some guy pulled out here, bivved down and went to sleep. I was a tad worried about him in the conditions.

Paving stones. Your best friend/worst enemy.

I whipped off my water proof and put on my Hanger 18 down jacket. Put the waterproof back on and was Ok again. That down jacket was a late acquisition for me but heck it was brilliant. From here it was straight forward.

My recce meant we weren’t glued to maps (which was tough to read in the wind and snow). John knew the way down form Stoodley Pike (which I missed on the recce as I dropped down to mankinholes YH (which was group booked). Just as well as that can be tricky.

We crossed the canal and used the light for the road lights to changes our head torch batteries and slowly made our way to the cp. All the time I was coughing more and more. I put a balaclava on and was trying to breathe through it as that seemed to help with the coughing (possibly by warming the air). Into the cp and had a some food. This had taken us 16 hours for the 42 miles. I know it’s completely different but to put it into perspective this is the distance of the Devil of the Highlands race. I’ve done that in 8:45 before. We agree to rest up 3 hours.

No rest for me though as I started is hacking up continually. I left the dorm as I was keeping others awake. I knew it was useless and I just wasn’t well but it’s a very tough decision to make. I pulled out after speaking to John. Gutted. (John also finished something that pleased me immensely)

Hardmoors family John & Ernie at the finish.

The rest of the time I got cleaned up and helped out a bit. Lass (i now know as Alzbeta Benn) had lost her water proof gloves and was heading out without them so I found mine for her and then as everyone left and the cleaning started I found myself cleaning the men’s bogs while coughing my guts up. Now, really lads, what was going on here? Mud up the walls and everywhere. As the boots come off at the door I don’t understand just how the mud was splatted in and around the sinks and also up the wall. Cleaning boots? The floors took 6 buckets to mop out. Not sure how this was possible.

A hard working spine worker lass gave me a lift to Hawes then to Middleton. After helping get all the food in I was picked up for home.

By the time I got there I was pretty ill and spent the next few days in bed hacking up. I watched the tracker on my phone cursing my luck but willing my friends on. It’s taken another two weeks to get clear of the virus.

Despite the biblical weather or is suppose because of it. The race had a bumper finish this year no doubt partly due to the divisions and the race being held up five times giving ‘free’ recovery time (if the race hold you up you get your clock stopped and the time back). I doubt that will happen again.

So, will I be there again?. If money was not an issue then there would be no question at all. It’s a must do race for me.  The spine IS good value for money as the setup is immense with crazy logistics. However it still costs 5 times the cost of say a West Highland Way Race, Hardmoors110/160 or Lakeland 100 (The Three classic northern 100 mile hill races ) and for me that’s a lot of money. The race coming so soon after Christmas doesn’t help as being self-employed no one pays me when I’m on holiday (yes this was my holiday).

It’s also a lot of money to risk that can be lost to a cold or an injury. However it won’t be left at that. I will take the risk of colds or injury & be on the start line again, I just don’t know if it will be next year.

So a bitter disappointment and huge waste of money but it was an experience and all experiences have positives no matter how frustrating or hard to bear. The trick is to take the positives and put them to good use. Once my pet lip is put away I’ll do that.

West Highland Way, Saturday, June 21, 2014

95M / 14,000'

Phil Owen

The West highland Way race starts at 1am in Milngavie (just above Glasgow) and covers 95 miles of hills to Fort William including 1400ft of ascent. This was my fourth attempt, one DNF and two finishes with a pb of 26:47. I truly love this race but it’s hard to explain why. After all there are lots of 100 milers in beautiful places about and it’s not even the toughest of them (but more than tough enough). However there is a lot more to this race than the actual race itself. It has history, traditions and whw family. You just have to be there to understand.

The route of the West Highland Way Race.

Milngavie to Drymen (12.11miles)
Drymen to Balmaha (6.84miles) [overall 18.95miles]

The start is a funny old thing. For a race that takes you through some beautiful landscapes, starting at a subway under a road and along a fairly dreary main street always seems at odds with the race but the electric atmosphere, the nerves and excitement soon put that out of your mind. Through a park and woodland, along old railway lines and to Drymen. This is the flattest section of the route but by no means flat. Head torches bob and folk run way too fast. They usually pay the consequences. I try and switch off for a while. I like to leave Drymen behind to be honest; a couple short tarmac sections annoy me and I want to be on the whw proper. Soon after Drymen we glimpse Conic hill, a 1000ft hill with a good run up to it. I always feel this is where the race starts. On the top, it’s light now and the view of Loch Lomond is superb. Down the other side, lots of steps and into Balmaha Car park to be met by my support. I leave quickly and won’t see the support again till Beinglass.

Balmaha to Rowardennan (7.70miles) [overall 26.65miles]
Rowardennan to Inversnaid (7.26miles) [overall 33.91miles]

Two very tough sections lay ahead with constant climbs and very rocky ground. From Inversnaid hotel we have a few miles of the famous Lomond side rocks to negotiate. More scrambling than running but I do love this section.

Inversnaid to Beinglas Farm (6.63miles) [overall 40.54 miles]
Beinglas Farm to Auchtertyre (9.54miles) [overall 50.08 miles]

I take a bit of a fall just before the checkpoint and have a few scapes but luckily my back pack saved me form the worst. David Hetherington follows me into Bein glass CP, sits down and eats. I know I’ll not be fast this year but I do want to be ahead of David or I’ll never hear the end of it for the next year. I refill my water and eat at the same time, grab something I can eat on the way out and move on. Total time, no more than five minutes. Dave’s still sitting, looking like death and eating what appears to be pedigree chum as I leave. Some decent climbs then some steep rolling hills in the forest finish this section. Under foot is a lot rockier than I remember but I’m glad of the shade in the forest. The heat has been taking its toll on me. I run well into Auchtertyre.

By yon bonnie banks and by yon bonnie braes, where the supporters turn out on Loch Lomond.

Auchtertyre to Bridge of Orchy (9.26miles) [overall 59.34 miles]
Bridge of Orchy to Glencoe Ski Lodge (10.82miles) [overall 70.16 miles]

At Auchtertyre I’m weighed and have lost 4kg. Not good, they will keep an eye on me. However a breeze has picked up and I’m finally cooling. As I leave I see David come in and sit again. The cooling has completely changed how I feel and for the first time in the race I’m feeling grand. 50 miles of overheating and feeling rubbish is never that much fun!

I plod along the short easy section to Tynndrum while eating. I meet my crew here, as it’s a good place for them to park and eat. I hate the next 10 miles of rolling rocky track but I’m feeling good and really pick up the pace. As I come into Victoria Bridge, something is up. David’s (one of my support crew), mum has taken gravely ill and he has to leave with my other support, his wife Carolyn. He’s speaking to the race director on the phone as it’s strictly against the rules for anyone to not have support. I tell him just to go and the race is secondary. The RD’s right hand man, Sean a medic and race safety officer is by chance on hand. As I’m looking good, he speaks to the RD and I’m allowed to continue. I’m very lucky not to have been pulled from the race.

Lindley an old pal who I had no idea was there appears. He’s supporting a friend who arrived before me and says I can stick with him. However one look at the lad and I don’t think he will finish so decline to run with him. Lindley does take my gear onward and sadly my support and great friends leave. It’s a short hop over Murdo’s hill to the Bridge of Orchy I realise I have no food on me to see me over Rannoch moor. By chance again I meet a Karen whose runner has already retired and is just enjoying the day helping out. She agrees to drive round and I have the pick of her runners grub.

The Rannoch is long rocky hilly exposed and hard work. I hate it with a passion so do it as fast as I can to get to Glencoe. Lindley’s girlfriend is waiting with pasta and refills my water. I put on a jacket, hat and gloves and head off. I can’t find my head torch and think I’ve left it in David’s car! I always carry a spare micro head torch and although its not great for running with , it will get you of the hills. I say nothing though as I’m not risking being pulled out the race.

Glencoe Ski Lodge to Kinlochleven (10.55 miles) [overall 80.71 miles]

The Devil’s Staircase is next, a zig zaggin rocky 1850ft climb. I usually like this because I know after it is almost four miles of zig zagging rocky downhill that I just love to run. Unfortunately this micro head torch isn’t going to cut the mustard to make that possible so my usual fast decent where I usually over take loads becomes a bit of a trudge with lots of slipping.

Kinlochleven to Lundavra (7.58miles) [overall 88.29miles]
Lundavra to Fort William (6.99miles) [overall 95.28miles]

Into Kinclochleven and weighed again. No change and I still look good so I’m ok. I hear my mate Darren, a Sunderland stroller has had to quit on the Rannoch but David (another stroller) is supposedly 15 minutes behind me. I doubt this because his supports aren’t about. I guess he has also quit and later proved right. I’m fairly sad about this but as one whw runner said:

there is never any real failure, just ongoing series of experiences that enrich our lives

The climb out of killy is another killer and seems to take an age. I know what’s coming as well, nearly seven miles of very rocky way. Again I move as fast as I can on it but suddenly I’m hit by overwhelming tiredness.

I’m not surprised though. On the Thursday I’d had a call to work Friday and had to go so no lie in. I planned to sleep on the afternoon but a neighbour chose that time to take a delivery of paving slabs. In the end I got up and drove the three hours to my supports house in Scotland, had a cuppa and drove to the start. When the race started at 1am I’d been up since 6am. That’s not a good start.

I seemed to kick every rock on that road and hurt my toe a bit. Still I made good time to Lundavra and the turn into the forest & homeward bound. Forest trail with steep drops and climbs follow until a last long climb to the Land rover track and the wonderful view of Ben Nevis. The toe was really hurting now and downhill was a problem. Not good when this track is so high it takes three miles of winding down to get to the road level in fort William. The first time I did this race I ran the whole thing (which is very tough on the quads at this stage) but I now took an age to limp down. Never mind, another finish and exquisite third Goblet is mine when the most wonderful ceremony that takes place later.

The famous WHW goblet.

30 hours running, way over my best with these races you soon learn, the finish is the important thing (as a lot don’t) and a good time a bonus. My future plan is to try and do this near 24 hour pace. Should be fun trying….

Lands End to John O’ Groats by bike, Sunday, June 15, 2014

1030 miles in 10 days

Dave Shipman, Mike Bennett

Dave …

I know, it’s not running, but enough folk in the club do triathlon, duathlon or ride a range of sportives and local rides like the Durham Big Ride and Beast, or just cycle for fun and fitness, to hopefully make it relevant and interesting.

Mike Bennett and I, along with a colleague, Andrew, have just completed LEJOG, enjoying a fantastic period of weather – only rained once in 10 days!! – and cycling through some of the most beautiful parts of Great Britain. We did it with no back-up, carrying our own gear, on a route worked out to avoid major routes and to find quiet back roads wherever possible, although in reality that did mean more hills and slow progress on many days. For accommodation we stayed in a range of cheap hotels, B+Bs, youth hostels and pubs and to make the whole thing possible we got the train down to Penzance for the start, then back from Thurso at the finish.

Only, err, 1030 miles to go ...

The daily schedule, which we managed to stick to only by toiling through some very long days and late finishes, looked like this:

Day 1 Penzance – Lands End – Newquay 63 miles
Day 2 Newquay – Tiverton 110 miles
Day 3 Tiverton – Bristol 70 miles
Day 4 Bristol – Craven Arms (north of Ludlow) 90 miles
Day 5 Craven Arms – Southport 115 miles
Day 6 Southport – Carlisle 132 miles
Day 7 Carlisle – Stirling 125 miles
Day 8 Stirling – Tomintoul 121 miles
Day 9 Tomintoul – Crask Inn 121 miles
Day 10 Crask Inn – John O Groats 83 miles

Significant aspects along the way were the kindness and warmth of people everywhere and something which really surprised me, the majority of drivers were cyclist-friendly. Only in Preston, where a man in a VW Golf nearly killed me and a young chap in a Peugeot got very verbal were things intimidating. Only the rush hour into Bristol, a stretch into the Lakes and parts of the A9 in Scotland got scary. Otherwise from start to finish we had “pinch me, I’m dreaming roads” several times a day, had a great many laughs – do it with friends/family if you decide to give it a go yourself, it’s a brilliant way to spend time together – and can look back on miles of quiet lanes, notably in Cornwall, Shropshire, the Lake District and Scotland for the rest of our cycling lives. The ride along the seafront at Crosby, with the Anthony Gormley statues looking out to sea, also was unforgettable.

During the journey, from time to time we were given an extra cheer, much appreciated by all of us. Roz and her sister joined us just outside Hereford, but sadly couldn’t ride with us due to family commitments. My brother John and his partner Lyn popped out from a garden centre in Chester and John rode with us til Lancaster. Barry Bird joined us from Carlisle to Moffatt, then turned round and rode back to Carlisle. Apart from that, although there were nearly 50 cyclists starting at about the same time as us at Lands End, encounters with fellow LEJOG or JOGLE riders were rare events after Day 1 until the last day, in reality we all went on slightly different routes, covering different distances at different speeds so were dispersed to the roads. However, in keeping with the growth of cycling fever and the Tour Depart in Yorkshire, wherever we went cyclists were very much in evidence, which is brilliant to see.

Is it me, or are they getting thinner?

Practically and mechanically things went pretty well too, Mike had a couple of punctures, Andrew shredded a back tyre but that was all, the only noticeable downsides were late night rides into Carlisle (near midnight) and Tomintoul (elevenish). Somehow we/I failed to notice the extra ski resort after Glenshee before Tomintoul, which took us over the only hill we had to walk up in the whole journey: head for “The Lecht” if you want a challenge, don’t think I could get up it even on a mountain bike after a rest day, so after over 100 miles on a very hilly day the legs and trusty touring bike gave up!!

Like on most endurance events, we all turned into food processing machines, eating more of anything and everything as the days went by, huge breakfasts and frequent meal stops supplemented by a million muesli bars/flapjack, jelly babies, chocolate milk, Turkish Delight, Bounties, Jaffa Cakes, salted nuts but despite that inevitably had times when the energy levels dropped and all lost a few pounds in weight by the end.

So,would I do it again, most definitely, different route and probably take a few more days, do it from North to South (JOGLE) next time … could we run it as a club relay? Yes,if enough people would commit to running a few 10 mile legs each … though the route would have to take in a number of long distance footpaths to make it both safe and interesting – one for the AGM to discuss perhaps … ?

… Mike adds …

Hallelujah!

I signed up to this thinking it was ‘something to do’ It wasn’t until a couple of days into the event I began to appreciate the enormity of the task, especially given the 10 day schedule with no rest days built in. Having said that we settled in to a routine and the actual cycling became surprisingly manageable despite long days in the saddle. Memorable bits centred around scenery, food and accommodation, the cycling was almost incidental. Maximum calories were consumed, major roads where possible were avoided major hills however were included, the Cheddar Gorge, Kirkstone Pass, Glenshee, the long hill out of Moffat which took an hour to get to the top of and many others along the way. The Crask Inn deserves a special mention, many miles along a single track road (the A836 no less) from Lairg in Scotland, landlord and landlady waited up for us to serve a cooked meal, a few pints of the local Black Isle Beer and a wee dram of the local malt.

Our trusty steel framed touring bikes performed well and got us to the top of all the hills bar the Lecht. They also raised a comment or 2 from some of the older cyclists we met on route.

All in all it was one of the most memorable, (for all the right reasons) adventure holidays I have been a part of. My thanks to David for the route planning and booking of accommodation. (We’ll forget the minor oversight of the road up to the Lecht ski centre in the dark and wet.)

The Billy Bland Challenge, Lake District, Saturday, June 7, 2014

66 miles

Geoff Davis

 

Ready for the start.

What is it?

It’s a relay based on the five legs of the 24 hour Bob Graham Round (BGR). It involves approximately 28,000ft of climb over 42 Lakeland peaks and covers about 66 miles. It was inspired by Billy Bland’s record for completing the BGR of 13 hours 53 minutes set in 1982. The challenge is open to all teams of at least 10 runners with a minimum of two on each leg. The aim is to get as close to Billy’s record as possible or, as in our case, to get round in less than 24 hours. It can be run at any time in June and, like all the best things in life, it’s free!

Jules, Susan, Rachel and Graham.

Why was it attempted?

I wanted to spend the weekend closest to my birthday with some good friends and arrange something ‘challenging’ for them to do.

Who did it?

The individuals are named below but mainly it was friends from Striders plus others from NFR, Morpeth Harriers and elsewhere – Team Elvet Striders and Friends was born!

What happened?

Leg 1 Keswick to Honister
Navigators: Graham Daglish and Susan Davis
Pacers: Rachael Bullock, Juliet Percival and Katy Walton.

The start in Keswick.

An all Striders team set off from Keswick in good weather and high spirits. Rachael, Jules & Katy were having their first experience of a BGR and seemed to love every minute of it, in spite of the strong wind over the tops, and finished comfortably inside the schedule. They can’t wait to come back for more and perhaps one, or more, of them might give the BG a go in the future themselves – I just hope Rachael doesn’t wait till she’s 42! The highlight of this leg for me was at the end when Sarah Walton presented me with a birthday cake (baked by Mum).

Thank you so much – it was delicious!

Leg 2 Honister to Wasdale
Navigator: Tom Reeves
Pacers: David Gibson and Steph Scott

David, Steph and Tom.

Fresh from her victory at the ‘Yomp’ last Sunday Steph kindly agreed to spend nearly five hours on the fells with Tom & David! It was just as well she did because the weather really started to ‘pep up’ on the second half of the leg as they traversed some of Lakelands toughest and most attractive mountains (Great Gable, Pillar etc.) Soaked to the skin at the finish they were still able to keep up their non-stop banter on the long drive back round to Keswick – Susan and Rachael were delighted!

John and James.

Leg 3 Wasdale to Dunmail
Navigator: John Telfer
Pacer: James Garland

A touch of the trots kept Paul Evans in Durham so it was left to John & James to tackle what is probably the toughest section of the round in the worst weather of the day. I can only imagine what it was like across the rocky desert that is the Sca Fells in that rain and mist – they both deserve a medal! A reward came in the form of clear skies for the latter part of the leg so at least they could enjoy the scenery! Spot on nav, plus incredible determination, saw them round more or less to schedule in 6 and a half hours – fantastic!

Leg 4 Dunmail to Threlkeld
Navigator: Kevin Bray
Pacers: Mike Hughes, David Hall and Andy Hastie
A late ‘drop out’ meant I had to switch to the last leg and ask Kevin to nav on this section – which is traversed primarily in darkness. Being a veteran of many BGRs, including his own 14 years ago, he never hesitated and recruited a couple of his own henchmen to keep him company (plus our very own Mike H on his first BG). Unfortunately, they were also accompanied by a thick mist on the fell tops. This makes night time nav in the mountains, for over five hours, doubly difficult and finding a small pile of stones marking the flat top of Nethermost Pike or Stybarrow Dodd can be “a sodding nightmare”! Nonetheless, Kevin managed it and ran into the car park at Threlkeld Cricket Club with the words “what a night that was!” just as the first hints of dawn were arriving.

Gap in the clouds.

Leg 5 Threlkeld to Keswick
Navigator: Geoff Davis
Pacer: Nigel Heppell
Moot Hall. Nigel and I had 4 hours 35 minutes to complete the final leg if we were to achieve the overall target of ‘doing the BG’ in under 24 hours. The narrow Hall’s Fell Ridge on Blencathra was dark, misty, wet and greasy but that wasn’t going to slow us down. We were up and over quickly and pressing on to take in Great Calva and the final top – Skiddaw. The larks were singing to herald the dawn and the triumph of Team Striders and Friends as Nigel and I were honoured to bring the team home in 23 hours 18 minutes accompanied by Rachael, Mike Susan & Jules, for the final run in from Latrigg. Phew!!

Can I just say a final word of thanks to all those named above, particularly Susan, for giving up part, or all, of their weekend to indulge my whim! Thanks must also go to Linda Bray, The Walton Family & the Reeves Family (particularly Joan whose birthday it was on Sunday!) for all their help and support. BG or BBC weekends are great; let’s hope there’s many more to come! I suspect that one or two Striders might want to give it a go themselves after putting ‘a toe in the water’ last weekend – we’ll be ready and waiting!