A Navigation leg, run as a pair – Geoff Davies and Nigel Heppell were sent away ahead of the mass start by the combined efforts of Graeme W(leg 1) and James G/Paul E(leg2).The map is only handed to us after we are a few hundred metres into the race and tells us that the course is 11.2km long with 520m ascent through 7 checkpoints.
By the time we return we have recorded 14.7km and 727m … but manage to hold on to 170th place out of 242 teams(Overall, Elvet Men are 18th of 38 teams in the V40 category).
The route we chose comprised trods with loose rocks, interminable gritty uphill tracks, precipitous descents through deep heather; thigh-height stream crossings; ascents so steep you could nibble the bilberries direct from the bush just by leaning forward slightly, headlong downhill charges through tussocky grasses hiding foot-sized holes in the ground;- and then it got harder when we reached the boggy bits! I face-planted a couple of times and felt my life-force draining away more than once.
Pleased to get to the last 1/2mile of steep grass followed by mud into the finish – for the first time I find myself in front of Geoff, and it happens to coincide with the only photo of us –not a true reflection of events at all
And from Nina:
A stunning setting and good weather greeted us at the fell relays. I ran the navigation (third) leg with Tricia, and had so much fun (more than is usual in a race, for sure!).
After pacing round the ‘handover’ pen waiting to spot Fiona and Elaine running in from leg 2, we were suddenly off, with a sharp climb up out of the woods, collect the map, and set off uphill to the first checkpoint.
Tricia and I made a good team, sharing the lead running (or clambering!) and discussing and agreeing on the nav. I had my compass out a couple of times just to be sure the hills were in the right place, but as visibility was superb it wasn’t really needed on the day. The terrain was mixed, and together we found plenty of mud, streams, vegetation – and some runnable bits too.
We made pretty decent progress round the course, with the exception of one route choice between checkpoints where we thought direct was the best bet. In hindsight it wasn’t. We could see a trod on the far hillside, but had to find (fight) our way through a couple of hundred yards of dense, tall bracken to reach it. As we didn’t have our machetes this slowed us down a little, though made the day particularly memorable! Crawling under the bracken as the easiest way up a steep hill is a new one for me.
A brilliant experience, sharing a race with the best fell runners in the country, and with strong, supportive Striders’ teams. Great fun running with Tricia. A special mention to Adrian for ‘hanging around’ in a muddy field and supporting all day – rewarded (as was I) with a pub meal and a couple of pints. Very well done to the hosts – Dark Peak – for ending the legs with a hugely entertaining downhill (whether running or spectating!) and for organising an unforgettable day.
Elvet Striders were able to produce two teams for this years Fell Relays, hosted by Dark Peak Fell Runners. However, for the first time, one team was all ladies!
A cold and misty start to the morning soon cleared for blue skies, against the impressive backdrop of the Ladybower Dam. Accompanied by the theme to ‘Dambusters’, Susan Davis and Graeme Watt led both teams off strongly. Graeme returned an impressive 13th V40, against some of the strongest fell runners in the country. Not far behind, Susan had a good run and had spent her leg picking people off on the climbs, steadily working her way up the field to hand over to leg 2, Elaine and Fiona.
With the reasonable head start that Paul Evans and James Garland had on leg 2, Fiona and Elaine were unable to catch them, but spent the 8 miles of wonderful Peak District running slowly gaining places to hand over to the nav team, Tricia and Nina. Nigel and Geoff, the nav team for the mens leg were off and away by this point, and with plenty experience of this event knew the ropes. Nina and Tricia, having never run together or competed in such an event (route map only provided 500m past the start), rose admirably to the challenge and had a fantastic run.
The final leg for the men was run by Robin, a last minute reserve who kindly dropped everything to run for us, and appeared to have a fantastic time, even when he locked his bike to the dam and threw away the key. Susan Scott, recovering from a baptism of fire at the Langdale Fell Race the week before unfortunately suffered a bad ankle sprain not long into her leg; but after a short rest, got up and carried on and ran into the finish so strongly that none of us realised until she had finished.
Overall, the men’s V40 team was 18th/38 and the women’s was 26th/53, putting both teams into the top half of their categories – not bad for a Durham based club, competing against the Country’s finest, and I think perhaps better than any of us expected. Above all, it was a fantastic day out and great experience for all.
And now, from us: Firstly, we’d like to thank you all for supporting us this past year while we find our feet and try to explain our mad ideas to you! Even just this past year we have seen the club grow further, new talent emerge and witnessed the improvement of so many people, there has barely been a week we haven’t seen a new PB or record broken. It is such a thrill to hear of all of the Striders incredible achievements. I wonder how many of our members have ran faster or further than they would have dared to dream this year?
Some highlights of the year for us would include the five athletes who qualify for championship entry to the London Marathon (Mark Kearney, Michael Littlewood, Emma Thompson, Stephen Jackson and Michael Mason), Elaine and her continuing success in the ultra-running world with the completion of the Lakeland 100. We also saw the first race of its kind; Stuart Scott ran until he could run no further at the Last Man Standing, and Gareth continued to excel by retaining his winning title at Endure 24 Leeds, breaking his previous course record at the same time. The tradition of summer seeing successful Bob Graham Rounds continued with Tricia, who battled the elements along with a small army of Striders to become the latest to complete the challenge. However, the triumphs are not all endurance challenges! Proving that we have success across the board, we have four people above 80% age grading (national level!) at parkrun (Roz Layton, Fiona Shenton, Jean Bradley and Stephen Jackson), we had representation this year in North East Counties Fell Running and Cross Country teams – out of the six women in the fell running team, two were Striders (Fiona and Elaine) – and the first two home for the North East! Stephen continues to dominate in every discipline, and has even picked up an England Masters Cross Country vest, seems we haven’t seen the best of him yet.
For an unbelievable example of true grit and a never give up attitude look no further than our very own David Toth who conquered the UTMB this year on his 4th attempt. Closer to home, Mark Kearney seems to have cemented his very own happy place, running the ridiculously tough Hardmoors events. At the time of writing, he is leading the marathon series.
Striders also seem to set themselves apart when not running. Many of our members are part of the core team at our local parkruns, we thank you. This is in addition to helping out at other local races, we are a supportive bunch and we all know that without the volunteers, these events would not happen. Speaking of parkrun…. apparently running 1 in one day is simply not enough of a challenge, why not do 8 in one day (and a junior parkrun)! parkrunathon raising money for If U Care Share Foundation was such a special day, terrific work by Catherine and the team for making such a memorable and important day happen.
For us, one of the best parts of having these roles is seeing the enthusiasm of members; when we lose the track in the winter months and everybody rallies to the alternatives, the monster turnouts at relays events (50 at Durham, >90 at Sedgefield!) – exciting as it is when we make it onto the podium, the turnout and energy of everybody who comes to run is what really makes these events. The club is only as good as its members, so we have a pretty good start there! With representation in every discipline from road, track, fell and cross country, and a truly diverse membership of old and new alike we truly are a force to be reckoned with in the North East.
The first half mile was spent adjusting my new running belt, taking it off, putting it back on then readjusting my new running belt. By the time I was satisfied with it, I was already half a mile in. Something still wasn’t right…
My quads, my quads were burning. Around half a mile downhill and my quads were already burning, that’s not right.
2 miles in and I knew that I was not going to get my target time and that this was going to be hell just to finish, if I finished it all!
I had finished.
I have given all the money I had on me to my kids so they would just leave me in peace for a moment as I watched other finishers and listen to the announcer talk everyone over the line.
I saw Sarah Fawcett and Aileen Scott pass in quick succession in a time that was well under five hours. I screamed and encouraged them as they passed, both had a steely, unblinking focus on the finish line and completely ignored everything I said, until I accidentally yelled “Come on Eileen!”
Sorry again Aileen.
As I stood watching the pain and joy on people’s faces as they achieved their marathon dreams, I was brought back to reality with the mind numbing spasms from my legs and the realisation that, shit I’ve just smashed that race, that was the hardest thing that I have ever attempted and I smashed it.
That’s when a big wave of emotion came over me and I shuffled off to find my wife as quickly as I could,( which was horrendously slow, painful and resembled the movement of a drunken new-born giraffe.) I gave her a hug and she could tell that I was a bit emotional and so she told me “Come on Peter, you are milking this now aren’t you, it’s time your manned up a bit!”
Probably half of the field hadn’t even finished the race, yet I’ve been milking this for too long!
In hindsight, a deep tissue massage, (elbows and all) followed by a day sitting in the car travelling is not good marathon prep and will never be repeated.
Why did we travel half way across the UK, so far North of the wall that John Snow would be scared, to run a race that was so clearly not a PB course I hear you say?
My wife and I have talked about this considerably in the last few days and we have come to the conclusion that…
We don’t know!
I think the seed may have been sown by the fact that my fabulous wife was 40 years old on the 8th of January this year and so because of this she decided that she would arrange a trip to coincide with every possible marathon I had my eye on for the rest of 2019!
Berlin marathon – she was in Las Vegas.
Manchester marathon- she was in Dublin.
Liverpool marathon- She ran the half.
London didn’t want me, AGAIN!
Errrr, are there any more?
bout 53, Loch Ness? Errrr, why not Anna Seeley says it’s a Pb course! (Whatever Anna!)
I had achieved two good times in 2018 and it was getting infectious. I wanted a sub 3hours 30 minutes Marathon.
Loch Ness it is!
So it was I found myself rummaging around at 5.30am in a dark Airbnb somewhere in Inverness, on a windy and rainy Sunday morning. I had to walk the 1.8 miles to the bus pickup point and be there for 7:15 am. It goes without saying that I was late, so I ran down until I bumped into a bunch of striders making their way along the finish line towards the army of buses.
I have never seen as many buses in my life. It was like a Scottish bus armada. I pictured some marathon organiser sending out a spirited, Dunkirk-esc message to all Scottish bus companies, stating that we need your buses. However, when you Bring your buses please make sure that you are horrendously early, just so we can leave all of our runners abandoned on the top of a mountain, probably the highest point in Scotland, for one hour 20 minutes before the race starts, in the pissing rain and wind! They all obeyed, to the minute.
I was quite the Fountain of knowledge on the bus journey as we had taken a cruise around Loch Ness looking for Nessie the day before. Arriving at Scotland’s highest point with the excellent addition of Scotland’s worst weather, there was literally nothing there apart from the start line, about eight portable toilets and three or four small tanks of hot water to make free cups of coffee and tea. The planning of this was exceptional as we had about 80 minutes to wait for the race to start and each queue looks like it would take about 79 minutes until you reach the front…
I had a dilemma at this point, do I go to the queue for the toilet or do I go for the queue for the free hot drink? I didn’t have time to queue for both.
I wisely chose the hot drink and then proceeded to wee in a bush as the announcer kept telling us not to wee in the afore mentioned bushes. If they did not want us to wee in the bushes then they should’ve probably given us more than eight portable toilets for 5000 people!
It was time to get serious and the race was about to start. I split the race down into four sections:
The first 10 miles was substantially downhill. (Apart from the uphill sections!)
Miles 10 to 18 are the nice, flat, easy section. (Apart from the uphill sections!)
Miles 18 to 20 there was a quite decent and protracted Hill section.
Mile 20 to 26.2 was slightly downhill or flat section.
As previously mentioned, I knew in the 2nd mile that I was in trouble and by mile 11 I honestly was ready to give up.
The 10 miles’ downhill section had much more uphill than I had expected and I also had to put more effort in to this section than I expected. By the time I got to the flat section between mile 10 and mile 18 it was game up. Whenever I got a flat bit of road and tried to get up the target pace the burning return to my legs, it was the same whenever I ran uphill. So I had a decision to make.
Give up, jog round or give up!
This decision got me to thinking about my team Hart that consists of my little girl Vesper, (aged 4) my boy Carter (aged 7) and my wonderful, supporting and very long suffering wife Emma. (Aged 40!)
I thought about how they had travelled to the edge of the arctic circle to support me. Then the guilt started…
How dare you think about quitting when your family have travelled 300 miles just to watch you run past for 10 seconds.
How dare you think about slowing down just because it hurts a bit when they have stood in a muddy field for hours just to get a glimpse of their dad running past.
How dare I not give every last bit of effort I have in my body when my wife is currently trying to survive and control my two troubled angels and no doubt be using some sort of Jedi mind tricks to persuade them away from their daily fight to the death!
All of this just to be there for me…
Come on Peter, man up and get this done!
The next couple of hours were a blur of thoughts regarding making my Kids proud, Emma and what she has sacrificed for me, various Striders and how they have helped me, trying to make my Dad proud hahaha that literally can never happen and the 7 months of training that I had endured. All of this while Slim shady or Eminem as he likes to be known was banging out “Lose yourself.”
Oh and not to forget the searing pain in the front of my legs!
The course is very beautiful, but also hard. The road that you run down is closed and so apart from sporadic water and energy gel stops and two villages the course is very, very quiet.
Long story short, I did it!
I was about 6 minutes slower than my Pb and a good 10 minutes off the time that I was aiming for, but I am so proud of myself for not quitting and literally putting every bit of energy I could muster into getting the best time that I possibly could.
My legs were/are absolutely wrecked during and after the race. I could not stand up, sit down, walk, lean, lie down or act in any way shape or form how a normal human would. The kids made fun of me because it looks like I had pooed myself, I got stuck in the bath and couldn’t get out, in short, I was an absolute mess. I laid it all out on the course that day.
After the race I made a new rule.
The distance travelled to a race may equal, but would never be greater than the time taken to run the race.
Marathons get you, they really do. I love the emotional and physical rollercoaster ride that is a marathon. It can take over everything, most of your time, all of your energy, your weekends, your evenings, your family time, your conversations or you will wake up on the middle of the night and have to do some more calculations regarding average minute mile pace. It never ends.
Also, this is the biggest secret of running a marathon.
Anyone that has ever ran a marathon will tell you that it’s not easy to bring up in every conversation you ever have that you’re running a marathon soon. You have to be on top of your game to make sure that you don’t miss an opportunity to slip it into a conversation.
Marathons can take over your life, (just ask my wife!) But there is something magical when you cross the finish line of a marathon. Until you’ve done it you don’t understand, you can’t understand yet and you will never understand, because you haven’t earned it yet.
We went to Loch Ness in search of something, what I found was that I have a deep, burning desire to make my kids and wife proud of me and in the pursuit of that I have found that I can go far beyond what I previously thought was possible. Who knows what the future holds…
OK, strap yourself in. I’m turning the Nostalgia dial up to 11.
Back in the day, when I was a lad, we’d often go to visit my grandparents in Peebles. My brother and I would spend weekends playing in Hay Lodge Park, jumpers for goalposts, and exploring the woods along the River Tweed. My grandparents lived in Hay Lodge Cottage, opposite the park gates, where my aunt still lives. As I grew up in Edinburgh I’d still visit Hay Lodge Park, with my student chums, and late at night, we’d sometimes manage to get into Neidpath Tunnel and walk through casting our torches ahead like something out of Scooby Doo. The real challenge was to walk through, alone, without a torch. Larks.
The whole stretch of line here is an engineering marvel, from the tunnel to the viaduct with its amazing skew-arch construction, which was necessary as the bridge crosses the Tweed at an angle. There are stories that suggest that the Royal Train hid in the 600 yard tunnel during WW2 as the Kind and Queen visited war damage in Clydeside. Great story. Not even sure if I’m bothered about whether it’s true.
Fast forward 40 years and things have changed a little. Hay Lodge Park now has a parkrun, and the tunnel is open to the public. It’s normally unlit, but for one day, the tunnel is lit for the Tweed Tunnel Run.
I first heard about the run when I saw that Colin Blackburn had ran it previously. It looked a hoot. Three courses to choose from; 20km, 10km, and 4km. I signed up and put it in the diary.
The weather wasn’t looking great for the run, which was a bit of a shame. There’s a lot of autumn colour and contrasts and a ray or two of sunshine would’ve made for stunning conditions with the Tweed running high after all the rain. The Start was an intriguing affair. Like many races there was the problem of bottlenecks early on, especially with narrow wet rocky rough paths within the first kilometre. The organisers tackled this in an interesting way; every runner was set off individually, with the fast guys off first. It reminded me of these scenes you see of people taking a parachute jump; the starter would tap a competitor, say GO, then the next one would move forward, and a few seconds later (4 I think), the process was repeated. They allow half an hour to get all the 20km runners away, then it’s time for the 10km runners.
I’d seeded myself near the back of the pack and it was about 10 minutes before I finally got going. Even so, it became apparent to me pretty quickly that this was not going to be a quick race. I was full of a big tea from the previous evening, and I was beginning to suspect my field research into the relative merits of Clipper IPA vs Broughton Pale Ale had perhaps, on the whole, been a little too extensive. I settled down into a comfortable pace that seemed to be slightly slower than everyone else’s, meaning that I was steadily overtaken on the narrow paths.
On my feet I was wearing a pair of reliable and comfortable but worn Saucony Nomad trail shoes that had served me well. But the recent rain meant the paths were muddy and slippy. The route is mostly trail with occasional track and short sections of road, but even so, if it’s as wet as this next year I’ll wear a shoe with a more aggressive sole.
The route itself was wonderful. I thought I knew the area pretty well but the race took us upriver and across bridges and along paths I never knew existed. I loved the contrasts. I love woodland paths but this was all mixed in with tracks and riverside and open hillside, with twists and turns so you were never quite sure what was coming next.
Having done a few ultras I thought a 20km trail run would be pretty easy and I was surprised when we got to the 10km marker and got that ‘only half-way’ feeling. But I wasn’t pushing hard and I was happy to run easy and enjoy the views. One advantage of non-standard distance races on mixed terrain is there’s no benchmark. So I felt no pressure to go faster, as frankly, what was the point?
We were led onto open hillside and an exposed climb round Cademuir to the highest point of the course where the views of Peebles and the valleys made me stop and stare for a bit. Then there was some fun descending down slippy paths where again I felt the lack of traction in my shoes. It wasn’t downhill all the way though with a few kick-ups here and there, before the feed point and the turn into South Park Wood and the approach to the tunnel.
This bit of the race was a series of flashbacks, probably mostly imagined, as the last time I’d played in these woods was a long time ago, usually involving convoluted plot adaptations of Swiss Family Robinson. Still, every now and then I’d see a familiar path or feature and it was curious to see how much had changed, and how much hadn’t.
The routes converged and split a few times, and on the final descent to the tunnel there was a bit of congestion. There were no obvious problems as far as I could see though, and I guess if I was a bit faster, I’d be in front of the pinch points. I quite like these mixed-pace runs that you often see with LDWA events where the runners catch the walkers and there’s a lovely big melting pot of runners and walkers all out doing their own thing on their own terms.
The approach to the tunnel was quite a thing. Quite theatrical as it got closer, and then 674 yards until daylight again. I liked it. I wasn’t sure I would as I thought it might be a bit cheesy, but I think they got it just right. There were walkers and runners in the tunnel but I jogged through and enjoyed the surrealism, knowing that I’d be back for seconds later.
One of the great things about this event is that after the races are over there’s a 3.5km walk that you can sign up for that takes in a loop over the viaduct then back through the tunnel. This means the day can be a family affair as the runner has time to get back, finish, then go out on the walk again.
I set out with Roberta on the walk, retracing bits of the run route, and this time with plenty of time to enjoy the tunnel again.
I’ve already signed up for 2020. If you fancy a taster of what to expect, and to see some more, ahem, professional quality video of 2019, have a look at the Tweedlove video below. And I’m not just saying that because I make a brief appearance (1:34 since you ask).
‘And now, time for something completely
I’ve just always wanted to say that.
Glencoe Skyline, the abridged version; I did a not-that-long (by ultra standards!) but somewhat hilly run. I had to pass a vetting process to make it to the start line (climbing, scrambling and mountain running experience)
I averaged almost 20 minutes per mile, or 3 mph. There was nearly 600ft/
mile (>100m/km) of ascent, and a distinct lack of ‘runnable’ terrain, unless
you are a mountain goat (I am not). I ate a lot, drank more – mostly from
streams (yes, it’s ok, I survived) and finished 6 seconds under 11 hours,
11th/24 ladies, 78th/142 finishers (180 starters).
33 miles, 16,000 ft. (51 km, 4750m), a grade 3 and a grade 2 scramble.
Some ‘character building’ moments in the rain and fog. The course may be
flagged, but a trail race this is not.
There were outstanding views, lots of rocks and a few bogs. I even saw a
spectre! It seems in this instance my good weather dance worked and saved all
the rain for this week; for those starting the cross country season – I don’t
apologise at all!
And since my original post about this, some ‘frequently asked
No, it isn’t a knife edge and we weren’t at risk of ‘falling off ‘, however yes, you do require climbing experience. The climbing is not technically difficult, but you need to be confident on ‘moderate rock climbs’ with no ropes or rock shoes in any conditions. There are sections where a slip or trip could be serious and you need to be competent here, but more seriously, participants cannot get ‘crag-fast’ (where one becomes too scared to move), which can then become more dangerous for themselves, other participants and those who would need to rescue them.
No, there weren’t queues on the scrambling sections (for those ‘in the
know’, particularly referring to Curved Ridge), at least where I was in the
race there weren’t – but I suspect with only 180 starters and the run over the
WHW at the start (not flat) that few people had to wait. The mountain
safety team were very good at ordering people to wait until the top to
overtake! There were after all a further 25 miles to do so…
Yes, it was hard!
Yes, I found something that tired me out. I even took (nearly) a
week off afterwards.
Yes, it was fantastic and I got lucky with the weather, the race taking
place towards the end of a period of high pressure (an hour or so of rain, some
atmospheric cloud and generally mild). The views were spectacular, all
captured on my internal camera.
Yes, despite some comments of ‘don’t you have any more clothes with
you’, I do feel the cold! But really, it was rather mild. I put a
Buff on at one point (yes, my hat was in my bag!).
No, I might not do it again, I’m not in the habit of doing things twice – but I’ll still be back, and I would absolutely recommend the races (hard sell from someone who thinks £10 is a lot for a fell race!). The event is well organised and the money is spent where you want it – on mountain safety teams, maps, proper catering… I find racing really quite stressful, but rather enjoy setting out the courses and standing around in the rain annoying participants by ringing cowbells and shouting ‘honestly, only a few more hills to go…’
All I can say is “ I was conned”. I can’t remember who said it is all downhill or flat , but someone did. I entered this one only about 2 months ago, on a whim, and to have an excuse for a short Scottish holiday with my husband to incorporate him cycling and us walking in the Cairngorms.
So having driven all the bloomin way up to Inverness, with a stopover in Perth, it was fairly rude of the weather to be so lousy. The Event Village was already cold and muddy on the Saturday at registration but by the time we got back to the finish line Sunday afternoon , it was a quagmire. Before that though we had to get to the start by transport buses in the dark and rain , an hour’s drive to a howling moor at the top of a hill above Loch Ness in the middle of nowhere.
I’ve never stood in a toilet queue for 50 mins in a bin bag before, but the young Swiss chaps in front of me ( in kilts) gave me a nip of their herbal hooch to warm me up. I couldn’t find my fellow Striders, other than a quick wave to Sophie and Debra from the queue. So no group photo unfortunately.
Then a miracle happened: the start line assembly involved repeated plays of The Proclaimers 500 miles and the rain stopped and as we trotted over the start to the accompaniment of a piped band, we were off, downhill ( as promised).
Now I knew that the people weaving past me at speed would probably regret it later, so I kept a happy steady pace and tried to enjoy the moors, trees, greyness etc. Then we saw the Loch and the route runs beside it for several miles and this is where I was conned because it keeps undulating up and down. Nothing severe but my legs could feel it. I ran with a lovely young Scot called Iain for a while and we talked about his caber tossing and bagpipe playing amongst other things. Mile 17.5-18.5 is a hill that I knew I would run : walk so I sent my husband a text to say I was probably going to take 5 hrs and he could judge when to stand in the cold at Inverness. I had seen Karen for a cheery smile and Aileen and I had passed each other 3 times. She was looking strong and happy in her first marathon.
I was getting tired and properly disappointed when I saw the finish line over the river and knew the bridge was near BUT they only bloomin make you run on to the next bridge don’t they? I managed a hug with my husband at mile 25.5 then walked a minute when I was out of his view before a slow sprint for the line. Thanks Alan for the shout. We were incredibly lucky for a dry few hours in the middle of 2 weeks of rain. The event was very well organised and super friendly. The Baxter’s soup at the end was just what I needed. Aileen and Alan did brilliant first marathons.
Sitting in a lovely restaurant later full of marathoners in their medals with Aileen, Alan, Sophie and Debra who all got the memo about dress code but didn’t tell me(!) we celebrated the other Strider finishers, Peter, Karen and Craig as well as Carolyn Wendy and Mike’s marathons elsewhere. A good weekend.
For a while I’ve had it in my mind that I wanted to do a big challenge – either running or biking or a combination of the two. I love running in the fells and my new passion is my bike, particularly on hilly roads, so the Lakes seemed the place to go. But there didn’t seem to be any obvious event and anyway I fancied devising something myself. However, I didn’t really know where to begin and sadly the idea faded as I embarked on a new job which involved up to 5 hours a day of commuting and less and less time to train. My personal situation also changed and I lost the drive I’d had previously. I kept running and biking but with no kind of direction, no racing and no goals.
Then things changed and I decided I wanted to do something not for myself but for Beat. They’re not a huge charity but one who are doing great work to help people struggling with eating disorders. I had also resigned from my commuter hell and given myself a summer of being unemployed and therefore a few full days to train (when I wasn’t occupied with childcare).
At first I thought I’d do a long run and then a long bike ride but I couldn’t work out any routes that worked. I considered known routes for the run such as the Cumbrian Traverse and then just doing an out and back on the bike but it didn’t feel very natural or neat as a plan. I spoke to Tom about it who suggested a run up the Scafells followed by a ride to Keswick through Hardknott and Wrynose and maybe stopping off at Thirlmere to run up Helvellyn. I quite liked the idea of doing big hills on my feet and big passes on the bike and it felt like a plan was beginning to come together. It just didn’t feel enough. I decided to add on Skiddaw – if I’m doing the three biggest peaks why not add on the fourth? But I still felt like it could be a neater plan. Starting in Wasdale seemed a bit tricky…and wouldn’t it be cool to make it a round beginning and ending in Keswick? When I suggested this Tom seemed to think I was maybe a bit mad – to get from Keswick to Wasdale is a long old ride as you have to go all the way round to the west and it would add on a lot of mileage. But we agreed there was no point in doing it if it wasn’t a challenge…
So the route was planned and the motivation to raise money for Beat was there. As this was a new challenge there were no training plans to follow or even recommendations from friends. So I figured the key things were to get to know the route and also practice mixing riding and running. It seemed to be the right plan. Getting used to the feeling of transitioning from cycling to running took a few goes but I loved being back in the lakes for a few days of hill-climbing. We managed to get a couple of days to recce the bike ride and it was then that I began to worry. After a full day of riding I was aching and ready for my bed – and this was only half of the full ride. The second half of the ride was harder and due to bad weather very slow – getting up and down Hardknott pass is not fun on a bike (or any form of transport) and seeing a car which had failed to make it up in the rain didn’t help. Tom kept telling me this was a massive challenge and I did start to think I might be mad…
I didn’t have much more time to train after this with a holiday to France with the kids and my new job starting soon. But I’d told everyone I was doing it, recruited some amazing folk to support me and set the date so I had to do what I could to prepare myself. Fortunately, the holiday was an active one in a hilly area so I got some hill reps in and some nice sociable bike rides. Then once I started the new job it was time for a good taper…
Right from the start I’d known that my biggest enemy would be the weather. I’m useless when I’m cold and riding a bike with no feeling in your fingers is more than a little dangerous. So I obsessed about the weather forecast for the week leading up to the big day and was amazed to see it was really quite good. And as the day got closer it stayed quite good – unheard of for the lakes! As we drove over on the Friday evening the scenery was absolutely stunning. I had no excuse for failing – the weather was on my side, the team were ready, I had an endless supply of food, drink and clothing. And a lot of people had given their money towards the cause. I’d even invested in a tracker so the team and supporters could see how I was doing. The problem with it being an unknown was I really had no idea how long I would take to do everything. I assumed each section would be a bit slower than when we recce’d but beyond that I wasn’t really sure….
So the morning arrived (or is 4am still the night?) and after a somewhat disturbed night and two bowls of porridge consumed I was ready to go…
Most of the biking was just Tom and me – we had hoped to have road support between the changeovers but sadly our support wasn’t well so it was just the two of us from Keswick along the 45 miles to Wasdale Head. When we started it was still dark and cold. And when I say cold I mean really cold. I knew there was promise of a nice day ahead but it doesn’t help when you feel like you’re in a fridge. Fortunately, (?) we were soon heading up Whinlatter pass which woke and warmed us up a bit but dropping back into the valley it seemed to get colder and colder. I was desperate for the sun to come out and start warming us up… Eventually it did and we both began to feel more human. This section of the bike ride was the only bit with some tricky navigation but other than one point when wishful thinking made us turn a bit early Tom did a grand job leading us in the right direction and at a comfortable pace. It was a beautiful morning and although hilly, the roads were empty and a pleasure to ride along. I started to feel incredibly lucky to be able to do what I was doing. Life can be so complex and hard to navigate – having the strength to enjoy our beautiful country in this way is a real blessing. I had just one point of terror when my chain came off. I’ve only had cleats for a few months and poor Tom has had to endure several occasions where I’ve yelped as I toppled over before managing to unclip. This looked like happening again and we had an interesting discussion in crescendo where he said “unclip” and I said “I can’t” repeatedly until eventually I managed to free myself. I must admit I didn’t feel very professional at that point…
I’d assumed this first section would take 4.5 hours but as we cycled along the absolutely beautiful Wastwater in the morning light I was chuffed to see it was around 9am, just 4 hours since we set off. Tom told me to go into the car park first so I could be cheered in but when we got there we couldn’t see any of the team! Nina and Fiona quickly appeared from Nina’s campervan (the star of the day!) and Alex wandered down from the other end of the car park so all was not lost. But unfortunately the combination of a rubbish tracker (it failed from about 20 miles in) and a misjudgement of timings to drive from Keswick to Wasdale, the car with my kit and food was nowhere to be seen. Nina and Fiona calmly established that I could do the Scafells in Nina’s clothes (fortunately she’s pretty mini like me!). I tried not to stress but it felt all wrong – I had my food and my clothes planned and now everything had been thrown into disarray. Tom went off in search of Nick and my kit and after the others had fed me a cup of tea and some food I realised it would all be fine. Then just as I finished putting Nina’s running kit on Nick and Mel appeared with the car!
I quickly changed my shoes and then we set off up Scafell pike. I’d had a longer break than planned but in a lot of ways that was good – I was ready to go and it was fun to chat to Nina, Alex and Fiona. The thing that makes this challenge very different from most Lakeland running challenges (apart from the fact there’s much less running and more cycling!) is that I’d decided the easiest way to do the peaks was up the tourist routes. Scafell pike is a popular hill any day but on a lovely late summer Saturday it was particularly hectic. It was quite a novelty passing people who exclaimed at our speed (which was not actually very fast…) or helping people out who weren’t sure of the way. Whilst the weather was still lovely down in the valley the tops were pretty cloudy so before long we were into murk. But navigation is very straightforward and before long I was touching my first peak of the day. The next bit was the most exciting of the running element of the day. There’s no easy way between Scafell pike and Scafell but between Fiona, Alex and myself we were pretty confident of our route and enjoyed introducing Nina to Lord’s Rake which is a quite exciting scramble. Once you’re up through the gully it’s a short climb up to the top of Scafell. The cloud was pretty thick at this point and it was a little confusing not being able to see where the peak was! After a bit of dithering we agreed where we were going and spotted some rocks which seemed to go uphill so headed up. Second peak done it was a fairly easy descent back to Wasdale. It was good to get out of the clouds and though I’m not a fan of scree it was quite exhilarating “skiing” down it
Back to Wasdale and we were met by Tom who looked at
his watch and asked what we were doing back so soon. The 3-3.5 hours expected
for this leg had been an over-estimate and we were down in 2.5. Tom was
obviously worried I was going to crash and burn because I’d gone too fast but I
assured him I was fine. After a good feed and change back to cycling clothes I
was all set for the next leg – the hard(knott) one. Nick was joining us for the
first part of this ride and I thought that would mean a nice leisurely chatty
pace. To be honest I think that’s what it was but as soon as I got on the bike
I started to feel the miles I’d already covered and had a slight mental wobble.
I’d still got the big passes to navigate as well as two more big peaks and several
hours of Lakeland undulations on the bike. I focused on the beautiful scenery,
had a drink and before long was happily pedalling along and enjoying the Tom
and Nick banter. After a few miles we passed the pub where we’d stayed on our
recce and I marvelled at how much better I felt today than I had the night we’d
stopped there for the night.
A few miles from there was the big one… Nick chose
to catch a lift as Hardknott approached and after a quick cup of tea it was
time to get our heads down and start the climb. If I’m honest I had no
intention of cycling it – on the recce I’d had to push almost the entire thing
because it was so wet. So once we hit the steep road I jumped off and started
pushing and up we went. And up. And up. The steepness lessens about half way up
so we managed to cycle a decent section before jumping off again to get to the
top. Then the fun bit starts… As I said the recce had been wet and there was
no way I was cycling down it in that weather but today was perfect conditions
so I decided to give it a go. The sensation when your bike is facing downhill
on a 30% gradient and there are tight bends to negotiate is a bizarre one.
Somehow I got down but there was a fair bit of cursing whenever we met cars…
When I finally got off the brakes in the valley I had the weird sensation that
my fingers no longer knew how to bend. All that clinging on to the brakes for
dear life seemed to have sent them into permanent cramp.
We tootled along the valley (which was stunning),
fingers gradually becoming normal and then inevitably had to start the next big
climb up Wrynose. I managed to stay on the bike a bit longer on this one but
after about two thirds I had to get off and push again… On the way down I felt
a tiny bit more confident but the hands were getting another battering. At one-point
Tom passed me and as he said his brakes were about to fail I got a distinct
whiff of burning rubber. We stopped and his brakes appeared to be almost on
fire. Water sizzled on them and we waited a few minutes for them to cool down.
Once we were down into the Langdales I knew we were past the worst and started
to feel pretty happy and confident. I could see we were well ahead of time and
I rethought my timings and decided my aim should be a midnight finish. The ride
to Ambleside seemed to fly by and then we were onto the main road all the way
back. Somehow I always have it in my mind that more major roads are easier and
flatter. They’re not. This one goes up Dunmail raise and when you’ve been going
for 12 hours or more that’s not much fun. I found myself longing to get off and
have the relief of climbing Helvellyn!
Eventually we reached Thirlmere and the car park
and again Tom told me to ride in first for the cheers. But again we were early
so Nina and Adrian were the sole supporters! We realised Geoff and Gibbo (set
to do Helvellyn) probably had no idea I was ahead of schedule and with no
reception there wasn’t much we could do about it.
I tucked into some much needed food and got changed into running gear and now I had my new target I didn’t really want to wait too long for the guys to arrive. So Nina and I set off on our next little adventure. The route up Helvellyn from Thirlmere is straightforward and it was an absolute pleasure climbing up in the evening light. The views were just stunning and again I was able to enjoy myself rather than worry about what I was doing. As we admired the view we spotted two familiar figures climbing behind us. We kept going as we could see they were going faster than us but as the wind picked up we decided to shelter behind a rock so Geoff and Gibbo could join us. It turned out they’d arrived just a couple of minutes after we’d set off. As we continued the climb the wind gradually got stronger and it was reminiscent of Elaine’s Bob Graham when Gibbo had been responsible for sheltering her from the wind!
Once we reached the top Nina took a couple of quick windswept photos and we were off back down again. The legs were starting to complain but the wind died down and the sunset was spectacular and it started to feel like I was on the homeward straight. Once down in Thirlmere there was just a short final bike ride into Keswick and Skiddaw to deal with. Thirlmere changeover was fairly short – it was getting dark and we knew it wasn’t far to ride so we wanted to get going. Riding along quite a busy road in the dark wasn’t the most fun but it was a great feeling to know we were doing the last few miles and I knew I had it in me to finish the job!
Back into Keswick it was great to see the spot where we’d set off about 15 hours earlier… we’d done it – or almost! For the final climb I had the dream team – Nina, Tom, Geoff and Susan. Head torches on we set off chatting and enjoying being the only ones out on the hills at this time. I figured it was likely to be windy since Helvellyn had been pretty bad but as we climbed higher it seemed like this was going to be a different scale of windy. At first Susan tried to shelter me (despite me pointing out there isn’t very much of her to shelter me!). Then we all started to struggle to stay upright and Geoff grabbed hold of me – speaking to each other wasn’t an option through the noise of the wind so we all just clung together as we fought our way up. I’ve never experienced anything like it. If I hadn’t had Geoff and Tom to hold onto I’m fairly sure I would have taken off…
The climb seemed longer than usual (and Skiddaw is always long!) but eventually we were there. Nina loyally tried to get photos on the top whilst we all did our best not to fly off and then we turned round for the final descent. We wanted to move a bit quicker but not being able to hear, see or stand up properly were hindrances… It was a relief to get to normal levels of wind where we could actually speak to each other. My legs were really not that happy now but as it started to drizzle we broke into a jog. I assumed we’d lost loads of time trying to fight the wind to the summit but I was delighted when Tom said it was only 11.30 and I knew the end was in sight.
Finally we made it back to the bottom at 11.45pm and my challenge was done. Over 100 miles and over 17,000 feet done in 18hours and 45 minutes It’s a weird feeling when something like this is over…exhaustion, elation, emotion…it was all there. Tom and I waved everyone off and then had the simple matter of riding back to our holiday home (less than a mile away). I looked at my bike and looked at the road and thought I can’t do this! Challenge done I knew it was time to relax and sleep….
Congratulations to anyone who has read this far – I know it’s a long one but this really was a most amazing and important day for me. The money it raised for Beat far surpassed my expectations and I am so incredibly grateful to everyone who donated. Beyond that there are some people I owe huge thanks to – this was an odd adventure for all of us and you all made it so special. So big thanks to Geoff, Susan, Fiona, Alex, Nick, Mel and Gibbo. Extra big thanks to Nina who was with me for every step on the hills and whose campervan was an absolute lifesaver! Biggest thanks of all to Tom for encouraging and supporting me every step and wheel turn of the way from the very first seed of an idea through the training, all of the organisation and right to the final pedal and peak.
In mid-July an email from Nigel Heppell* entitled “This one’s got your name all over it”, contained a website link to the Abraham’s Tea Room Round. “A tea room? Does that mean there is cake?” I thought wistfully….and clicked to explore further. Fast forward two months, and Nigel’s dangled carrot resulted in probably one of my most enjoyable days on the hills to date, and the reason for this report (both to cement it in my memory banks, and to tempt other folk to give it a try…).
*please note: IT WAS HIS IDEA!
Ok so here goes for the background history bit…The George Fisher store in Keswick was originally the Abraham’s photographic shop, but in 1957 George Fisher turned it into an outdoor equipment store. High up on the top floor, with spectacular views – is Abraham’s Tea Room. The view from the café is beautiful, but often obscured by the weather, so someone has painted the view above the window, and labelled all the fells that you can see on a clear day.
A remark from Alan to Jacob (who work at the store and had clearly been looking at the painting and daydreaming) apparently went along the lines of “Tell ya wat Jacob. Garn round skyline from Tea Room would be a grand day out eh?!”
This inspired the 30 mile route that starts at the front doors of the shop, it’s creation coinciding with George Fisher’s 60th Anniversary – see the George Fisher Blog.
The website states that the tops you need to ‘touch’ are: Catbells, Robinson, High Stile, Grisedale Pike, Hopegill Head (AKA Hobgarton), Eel Crag, Sail, Causey Pike, Rowling End and Barrow. You can do them in any order/sequence that you like, and successful completion of the route (photos and submission of a GPX trace as proof) is awarded with a badge, and place on their leader board.
The website states that the tops you need to ‘touch’
are: Catbells, Robinson, High Stile, Grisedale Pike, Hopegill Head (AKA
Hobgarton), Eel Crag, Sail, Causey Pike, Rowling End and Barrow. You can do
them in any order/sequence that you like, and successful completion of the
route (photos and submission of a GPX trace as proof) is awarded with a badge,
and place on their leader board.
Having had a relatively empty race calendar since my Hadrian Hundred at the end of
May and no trips to the Lakes at all this year, I was feeling rather dubious
about our chances; not worried about the distance, but rather by the climb…with
“12,000ft +” it has over twice the amount as the Tour (de Helvellyn) which I
have done a few times and is always a tough one. Was this bonkers?!
Nigel and I vaguely pondered logistics…usually
in the pub after club night, and mostly without any resolution (other than
continued consumption of pints and soggy thrice-fried chips). When to do it?
Clockwise or anti-clockwise? Who could we rope in? Could we run it as a relay?
Were we fit enough? Were we mad enough?!
As the weeks went by, summer was fading and it
felt like this was a project best saved until the Spring, with better weather,
longer daylight hours and more serious recces under our belts. We’d vaguely
considered the 23rd September as a possible date, but long term forecasts
didn’t look that hopeful, and we had agreed that – after my two previous 100
mile rainstorms – this was NOT going to be a bad weather outing. But then the
Met office predicted a strange thing…was this a mini heatwave on its way?
Surely not?! I emailed Nigel…. we had a weather window! would he consider an
outing sooner than planned…in fact very soon…like, THIS weekend?! Shall we just
go and DO IT?!
After roping in another last minute willing victim
in the shape of Mike Hughes, at 5.45am on Saturday morning 14th September, we
were driving down a deserted motorway bound for the Lakes, not quite sure what
the day had in store. We parked in Keswick, made our way to George Fisher’s
(slightly eerie walking through empty streets that were usually rammed with
tourists) and took the obligatory starter selfie on their doorstep before
setting off soon after 8am.
The route starts with a short run out to
Portinscale village before heading up and over the top of Catbells. As we made
our way up the first climb, the early morning sun was shining, spirits were
high and we were all enjoying the distinct lack of tourists – a rare occurrence
here! A calm Derwent Water was gleaming below us, and we stopped frequently to
savour the views. If it continued like this, it was going to be a cracking day.
We descended down into Little Town in the Newlands
Valley, trotted past Newlands Church and up the grassy banks of Robinson:
familiar territory from leg 1 of the Bob Graham, only difference being this
time I was allowed to pause for breath! After another selfie at the summit
cairn – all grinning from ear to ear – we descended Robinson using an easier
grassy route than the hideous slippery rock scramble down to the road that we
had tried on a recce (when I had ended up on my bottom x4 times), this time
taking us straight to Gatesgarth and the shores of Buttermere. Well aware of
the most difficult section that lay ahead, we enjoyed a quick pie pit stop and
psyched ourselves up for heading into virgin territory for the loop on the
other side of the Lake.
The climb up High Stile starts innocently enough
as the path contours parallel with the water, climbing gradually until you
cross a fast flowing gill, but then you clamber up through the crags ..up and
up…a relentless quad-burning and calf-popping climb (there was swearing), which
wasn’t helped by the increasing strong winds. But the views back over the Lake
(and beyond in all directions) were breath-taking, and at one point the three
of us just sat down to gaze back into the valley and soak it all in.
Knackering, but what better place to be on a Saturday morning?!.
After a windy summit photo stop, the only way back down was to tick off Red Pike Summit too (staggering views on the ridge line but avoid Chapel Crags edge), and the descent from here down to Bleaberry Tarn was dismal…sliding/staggering down on loose scree and rocks that smashed at your ankles and sapped the (now waning!) energy from the legs. The route back to Buttermere eventually takes you through Burtness Wood, on a never ending path of rocky steps that –with wobbly legs – was frustratingly impossible to attack with any sort of speed (if you still valued your teeth).
Ah, returning to Buttermere was a relief! All feeling a bit battered, we headed to a cafe to refuel on shortbread and tea (well, it was a tea room round after all!). As we sat savouring our cuppas, my comment of “anyone fancy getting the bus back then?!” was met with unanimous agreement that we were going to crack on. After this we would be committed to be up in the hills for a good few hours, but I think we all felt ok. The thought of coming back and having to do High Stile again if we failed on this attempt was all the motivation I needed to carry on.
It was soon after 4pm when we left Buttermere, the possible rain that had been forecast hadn’t appeared, and in our minds – even though we had hours ahead of us – it felt like we’d broken the back of it. For the first time that day, it dawned on me that we had a good chance of completing the round, and we trotted out of the cafe feeling rejuvenated. As we headed out of the village up through the woods alongside the river, I grabbed the chance to devour another of my sarnies before I needed both hands for my poles and the climb up Whitless Pike. As we clambered up to the top it got progressively rockier and ridiculously windy (same as last time I was there…coincidence, or bad luck?) and the poles were soon ditched to make sure I had both hands to grab on safely.
Over the top, we took the track to Wandhope and over to pass east of Crag Hill. By now everything felt a lot more isolated & exposed, and the only other faces we saw were the fluffy-cheeked smiles of Herdy sheep that were idly chomping on their early supper, but the terrain was more runnable in parts. Stretching out in front of us to the left was Sand Hill & Hopegill Head behind it, and Grisedale Pike to the right, both of which we had to climb. The skies (that had been full of high cloud for most of the afternoon) were clearing, and the low sun gave everything an orange glow as we set off to do this out and back. The odd shaped triangular bit of the route on the map didn’t look too daunting compared to what we’d already done. Someone commented “this bit’ll be over in a jiffy”, which of course wasn’t the case.
It was hard going, but again the views from Hopegill Head were a just reward. The ridge route along Hobcarton Crag was, er, bracing! (and another crawl on all fours in parts…just felt safer when my bum was on the floor!) and after a quick selfie stop on top of Grisedale Pike, the pace quickened to get back down asap, and retrace our steps back to the crags, and back to the route that returned to the eastern side of Crag Hill. After a ludicrously steep but relatively short climb up to Eel Crag, we pushed on to Crag Hill summit, and paused. This was the highest point, with spectacular views and beautiful skies in all directions, and the landscape around us was burning in low evening sun. Wondering if I’d ever be lucky enough to experience these kind of views and conditions again, I just stood there and savoured it for a bit.
Shortly afterwards on our way down, we sat in a line on the grass, legs stretching down the hill and resting back on our rucksacks, and just had a breather. It was just before 7pm, and my Garmin said we’d done 25 miles. Only 5 miles to go? Hhmm I was starting to suspect it would be longer, and it wouldn’t be long before we lost the daylight. But the toughest climbs were behind us…for the next few miles it was a case of running along the ridges with gradually decreasing height…it felt like the end was in sight.
We pushed on across to Sail, past the squiggly ‘fix the fells’ giant zig zag path, and along Scar Crags. The increasing wind had become bitterly cold (yet more layers were pulled out of the rucksack), and again going was slow as safety demanded trying to get as much contact with the rock as possible. The side wind on Causey Pike summit was mental…I struggled to stay on my feet, removing my glasses before they were whipped off my face. The sun was just setting behind us as we descended down, creating orange and pink clouds ahead of us and rich inky shadows down to our left in Rigg Beck Valley.
The out and back run from Causey Pike to Rowling End was memorable due to the attentions of an extremely stubborn and persistent grouse*. Not content with bursting out of the undergrowth around us every few minutes, flapping about our heads and generally making a horrendous din, it manoeuvred itself on the path in front of Nigel and became our little bobbing front runner! This somehow seemed even funnier on the return journey. But even so we were glad to be rid of it when we turned to drop down into Stoneycroft Ghyll.
* it turns out the grouse had almost celebratory status on the ATR facebook group. George Fisher commented “we actually decided you needed a bit more of a challenge so have been training “attack grouse” to help keep your times competitive”. On a more serious note, they realised that it was probably protecting a next somewhere and have asked folk to be considerate.
By now it was almost completely dark, and I could just make out Nigel and Mike’s silhouette’s as they headed down into the valley through the heather ahead of me. Even in daylight, there is no visible path or trod…. it’s a case of spotting the path up (eventually bearing right, up to Barrow) on the opposite side of the valley, heading in that general direction and hoping that you can cross the beck when you get to the bottom. It was a long slog down, but thanks to Nigel’s lead, we found the path, crossed the beck, and paused to put on head torches before we climbed up again…the LAST ascent…and not before time.
We climbed up in silence, tired but determined, the world around me confined to the small pool of light from my torch, with spiders, toads and other wriggly wildlife things scuttling out of sight. At Barrow summit we stood and looked down at the twinkly lights of Braithwaite and Keswick. The three of us let out an audible sigh of relief…we weren’t home yet, but it was all downhill from here.
The inky black route down to Little Braithwaite seemed blanketed in calm after the earlier windy heights. We let gravity tug us down over the gently descending grassy banks and every now and then spotted the little flicker of a glowing insect (beetle?) flashing up from around our feet. Once down on the road, for the final couple of km (that dragged!) we followed the signs to Portinscale and Ullock and the feeling of nearing civilization grew as the houses became more frequent, until we found ourselves back on the same path leading back into Keswick, and walked through town back up to the market square. We got some odd looks from Saturday night revellers who were spilling in and out of the pubs around 10pm, and looking at the selfie we took when we reached the doors of George Fisher, I’m not surprised!! We looked somewhat more bedraggled and weather beaten than we had at the outset, but the big smiles were still there. We had done it!!
At the end, Mike had muttered something under his breath about “never opening an email from Jules again”…!…but over the few days that followed there was swapping of photos and stats. 32.89 miles; 14:01 hrs; 14,603ft ascent: 7hr15m going up: 5hr43m going down; and 1hr05m flat time. After emailing our gpx proof to George Fisher, a reply informed us that we had been added to the Leader Board of Glory and would also receive some spoils in the form of Badges of Honour, and…wait for it…. free tea and cake in the café next time we are there!
Next time I am there? Will I be in Keswick to just to sit in the café, or will it be to try this again? There is no doubt we could have done it quicker (skipping the food shops/food stops/sit downs/café visits/grouse chasing episodes), but would I want to? I’m not so sure… the day was pretty near perfect as it was.
But one thing is certain…next time I am in Keswick for whatever reason, there WILL be cake.
I can’t remember the last time I entered a 10K race. Sure, I run 10k’s as training runs, but they are normally at a nice comfortable pace. I made the decision after my last Ultra to give up on distance for a while and just focus on getting my love for running back with some shorter stuff with my ‘Long runs’ being around 10 miles unless I was at an event.
The Coxhoe Trail 10k was just a random event that I knew would see a good Strider turnout. It was local, cheap (£10), and had a nice t-shirt. It was the T-Shirt that sold it for me.
Registration was quick and easy at the Active Life Centre (formerly the Leisure Centre) in Coxhoe itself collecting race number and event t-shirt. It is then a miles walk uphill to the actual race start location. This worked quite well as a bit of a warm up.
At the start area a huge strider contingent amassed and led by Captain Michael a number of us headed out for an out and back warm up. It was at this point I was starting to feel like the odd one out. I had chosen, as I always do, to wear my striders t-shirt and not club vest. everyone else was of course in their vests. Since I don’t like wearing a vest I’d just have to be ‘unique’. Back from the warm up and now assembled on the start line we were ready to go, though I soon realised that I was far to near the front of the pack.
The 10k route spends a lot of its first mile running downhill, and starting to near the front, I of course got swept up in the initial stampede.
Running a 7:30 minute mile downhill is all good and well if you can sustain it onto the flat, I, in my current shape (round), cannot. For long anyway.
As more and more sensible runners passed me having already reached their appropriate cruising velocities I reluctantly eventually reached mine. This was after thinking about a mile in that I was on course for a 10k PB on the flat, never mind off road. Reality soon kicked in and forced me to slow to the far more comfortable 8:30ish pace on the flat.
After the initial downhill sprint (and delusions of grandeur) the Coxhoe Trail 10k course is actually really nice. It’s an out and back loop course, so head out along the flat trails, which I assume are a former railway line, drop down, and then at around 2.5ish miles start a long steady climb up to Quarrington Hill. Several runners were struggling on this climb, but I felt strong. Anyone who has ever ran a Hardmoors event would probably only consider it a minor blip on an otherwise flat section, but to those who haven’t I can understand why it was a struggle.
As said, this is an out and back with a loop, and what goes up must again come down. As I approached the summit of the climb I passed fellow Striders Ian Jobling and Lesley Charman, who obviously weren’t loving the climb as much as I. They both caught up with me as we descended, and Lesley kept with me for the majority of the rest of the race, though I kept both of them in my sights.
Down the hill, back along the flat former railway line (please someone tell me if I’m wrong) and back up the hill which I flew down at the start. Going up the hill, I again felt strong, perhaps because my delusions of grandeur had long since passed and a PB was now just a passing memory. As I eased my way up through the field I was about to pass Lesley when she suddenly let out a huge scream and pulled up in pain. Concerned I stopped to make sure she was ok, she assured me she was so I pressed on with Ian Jobling now in my sights.
I passed Ian, again on the final hill, and noticed Anna Mason was just ahead, she too looked to be struggling on the hill, and as we approached the top I shouted some words of encouragement to her “Don’t get beaten by a fat lad”. I suspect it didn’t work since I didn’t see her again.
Slightly cruel, but to finish this race you actually have to almost run past the finish and into the woods for a final loop, I did this and entered the finish field to see the Strider finish staff doing their jobs admirably.
Ok, so lessons learnt; Hills for strength, Track for speed. Guess where I’ll be headed alternate weeks on Wednesdays, even though I dislike track (sorry Allan). I really enjoyed this race, even though I’m not used to ‘racing’ and would recommend it to anyone. Special Congratulations to Gareth Pritchard for 1st male and Emma Thompson for 1st Female, and to all the other Striders for some great efforts.