Often a popular Striders event, and this year saw 11 of us brave the elements – heavy rain at times, and breezy in places. I didn’t mind the weather (preferable to sunstroke!) though it made it a little miserable for those spectating – thank you to our supporters.
This was my 19th outing, and I was aiming for sub-4hrs (a personal target that over the last few months has grown out of all sensible proportion in my mind) and anxiety had built up over the previous week. I felt ridiculously stressed at the start, and all the way through to Whaw. I started enjoying myself more on the climb up to Punchard – partly because it’s not easy, and the weather became pretty bad here (so I had other things to think about) and also because I shared this section with Robin, who made me run when my legs didn’t want to, and was good company as we headed into a claggy section over the moor. I was seriously thinking at this point that mum had paid him off to pace me, he was so good at pushing me on, and he didn’t seem tired at all.
As always, I thoroughly enjoyed the descent into Gunnerside. I got there just after my planned time and I thought 4hrs might still be on, though by this point I had remembered that running should (must) be fun – goals are a good thing, but not if they detract from the pure enjoyment of what we do. The pull up to Blades hurt (as always) and the odd cramp here was also pretty unpleasant, but I always like this section; getting to Surrender Bridge and knowing you’re almost home, you’ve just got to keep putting one foot in front of the other. I think I remember the weather improving slightly from Gunnerside. Great to see mum and Tony supporting on the stony track back down to Reeth – my favourite finish!
I didn’t quite get that elusive sub-4 but still very happy knocking a minute off my 2011 PB, and enjoying the company of others throughout, and the bogs and the rain!
Some superb performances by Striders – a ‘comfortable’ win (10 mins clear) for Fiona in the ladies race, both Michael and Stuart in the top 10, and some excellent times and positions for others, particularly given the conditions. Well done to all, whether first-timers or Swaledale ‘veterans’ – I hope to see you all there next year
I ran (and walked) my first Swaledale in 1995. I was new to running and Mum (Jan) suggested we give it a go. It was hell. We did it together, and all I remember was her going on about the beautiful views, and me swearing at her a lot. A year later I was back – fitter, 3 months pregnant with Leigh, and up for it. I was hooked.
There are many great races/runs out there, and many reasons why we each have a preference. Swaledale is my firm favourite. I’ve been back most years (though a long break between 2011 and 2017) and completed it in a range of times. With a decent pottery collection now in use around the house, this year was number 17.
For anyone thinking about doing this, I would recommend it (though you may have realised by now that I am somewhat biased!) You need to be quick getting a number (they sell out fast in January), but for £21 you get a well-organised run/walk, water at all the manned checkpoints and cake and sandwiches at a couple, a hot meal at the end, a badge and pottery souvenir, lots of great views, and the chance to share the experience with other like-minded runners and walkers. You don’t usually need to use your map if the weather is good and you’ve recced the route (though be prepared to do so if needed).
This year – I wished Mum and a few other Striders luck at the start then didn’t see her again after the initial climb up to Fremington Edge. The weather was great – not too much sun, a bit of a breeze, and fairly dry underfoot. I was aiming for under 5 hours but a little worried about post-Yomp legs (only 6 days before).
One of the Swaledale ‘greats’ (Strider RotY in ‘93 and ‘99 – and stepdad – Tony Young) once wisely said ‘the race starts at Gunnerside’. It’s true. I often fade here – that climb out is tough with 16 or so miles in your legs – but when I got there, well within the planned time, I focussed on forcing myself to run at least the flats and downs (ok, jog). This year I managed to keep my pace going and passed quite a few people between there and the end. Pushing hard down the stony track into Reeth (my favourite bit of my favourite race) I finished well under target time.
Really hard work but thoroughly enjoyed the day. Good performances from the other Striders that turned out too.
The best bit for me, 22 years after her first ‘visit’, was seeing Leigh at the end and a big hug; and then (with Tony) cheering Nanny/Mum/Jan in.
I jokingly challenged Leigh to do this next year, but I think she declined. I’d be very happy to walk/jog at her pace, perhaps waxing lyrical about the glorious views…. after all, it never did me any harm.
The Swaledale Marathon like any decent run ends up as a story. This will be the story of how I started full of energy, in a rain jacket with a pack full of gels and water and ended up exhausted, sprinting through Reeth and soaked to the skin in just a Striders vest. However, if you ask any who ran or spectated that day they will give you their stories; most of those are shared with friends such as Camilla and Kathryn, Tim and Phil or Gareth and Stephen and many others. While I rarely ran with other Striders I made many friends who shared my struggle and who while I might never know their names I shall never forget.
Swaledale might not be on the FRA calendar but it has one thing in common with the fell races I have ran…it started with a long, steep and painful ascent. This was towards Fremington Edge and while I had told myself and others before I would stay with friends (Jon and Elaine were the ones I was thinking of) I found that my regimen of strength and core training meant I floated up the hill. I looked into Jon’s eyes on the way up and knew that I was too strong to hold myself back. What had felt like a tough start the year before seemed like a jog down to the shops for milk and so I struck off on my own ahead into a windy and rainy new adventure.
Stephen, Michael and Gareth had gone off in their triumvirate but I became the fourth strider running with a group across the top of Fremington and down into the next valley towards Whaw. An increasingly terrifying gap behind meant that the little group I was in became my new comrades and I had to keep the legs turning over to keep up. It wasn’t difficult but I always feared for later as I had barely held onto consciousness last year in the final mile and didn’t fancy going through that again. I kept up through the valley and up towards Great Punchard Head where we lost a few on the climb, at this point I was with a few other men and the first lady (checking the results her name was Amy and she ran for Rugby and Northallerton). She floated up Punchard…I don’t think I ever saw her walk and we were together for 12 or so miles including all the hard work up Great Punchard Head. I ran almost all that uphill as well with only short stops to walk and make sure I didn’t get ahead as I hadn’t recce’d Punchard as thoroughly as possible.
After a while we made it to the bog and I am not sure how any of us made it through that mass of muddy holes and collapsing paths. It had been raining pretty consistently since the start of the race and by now we were all sodden and the coarse was soaked through from current rain and that in the week before; wet bog is a beast of its own but we fought through mile after mile of tough track and a few self-clip points later and one manned clip point we came to the last self-clip on Punchard. My group had whittled down to myself, another guy who seemed nice and Amy (who glided as if on road). She later told me at one point it was her second time doing Swaledale and that she was a road runner by trade. Considering her nav (thumbing the map as she went) and her strength I would recommend a change of focus. Anyway we reached the final self-clip on Punchard to find a very wet looking group of three clipping at which point Michael turned around and greeted me. We had run the fell so well that we had caught up to Michael, Stephen and Gareth apparently.
This was the start of the downhill towards Gunnerside and when I said to my new friend that these three were some of the fastest in my club she turned to me and said only “you have them”. Encouraged by this I quickly over took Gareth who was busy writing a determined story of his own (albeit maybe not the happiest of tales). When the navigation went a bit awry I took the rest of them and went down towards Gunnerside. While there I did the manned clip and started tactically stripping…I was too hot in the rain jacket and the rain was down to a mere drizzle for the first time since the start of the race. My new friends left ahead and I was left with Michael, with Stephen and Gareth behind. Michael and I started the uphill out of Gunnerside and he stayed with me for a bit until I said something like “Michael, I have run the race of my life but there is not much left and I know the rest of the route…leave me, I will be fine”. So hesitantly he did.
I don’t know how I got through the rest of the miles but I did. I thought I could see Michael’s luminous jacket ahead although it turned out it was someone else and he was actually well ahead overtaking everyone and their mothers. I ran as the rain and wind came back to lash at my Strider’s vest. I fell after surrender bridge while in a small gulley and just remember getting up and thinking that I couldn’t stop. My leg had cramped but I though hiking out of the gulley would stretch it out. I was in a bad way at this point with no strength left although I was fairly conscious at least.
I kept going and after seeing Jan’s husband I made my way down the lane of loose rocks with the last self-clip and came out into Reeth where a small crowd with a few cheering Striders (Joanne and Lesley come to mind) coaxed a pseudo-sprint out of me. It felt like a sprint to me but for all I know it could have looked more like a waddle. Everyone else turned up in layers at the least and mostly in rain jackets but I must have looked a sight in only shorts and a soaked vest. I got to the finish line, gave in my card and went for food. I had finished 14th in 3 hours and 36 minutes. 7 minutes quicker than last year in much worse conditions and 37 places higher. With food I sat down and made merry…job done.
Well done to everyone who ran a tough and wet Swaledale this year with a special mention to Michael Mason (6th), Elaine Bisson (3rd Female) and the Men’s Team (2nd). An honourable mention to everyone who spectated as well who waited in the rain while we had all the “fun”.
I guess a good starting point for this misadventure would be why? I am a roadrunner. I love the roads and although I have grown to love cross country the roads will always be my favourite mistress. After seemingly being stuck in a rut I took some advice from Carole Seheult. She suggested that I needed to love running again and stop PB chasing, so with that in mind I decided to enter races that intrigued me but had never run before because they weren’t on a road. I scoured the race calendar and the two that stood out were the DT20 and Swaledale. As soon as they opened I entered both and was really looking forward to some off road adventures. Before the DT20 I went down to Reeth with my long time training partner in crime, Pete Mason, and we ran some of the DT20 route. I came away feeling that it was tough but achievable. What has this got to do with Swaledale I hear you cry? Well to cut a long story short I ran the DT20 and hated it, my legs were wrecked within the first couple of km and I spent the rest of the race feeling very frustrated. This left me facing Swaledale with some trepidation, I was going to be revisiting the same territory but this time going for longer. Several people tried to reassure me that the Swaledale climbs were not as brutal but I wasn’t convinced.
In the lead up to the race I consulted with a Swaledale vet, who shall remain nameless, who advised me to wear my road shoes over my cushionless Inov8s. This recommendation was reiterated one week before the race so my mind was made up. Unfortunately the weather was not paying attention to my decision as it then proceeded to rain for the entire week before.
I woke on Saturday morning asking myself what I was doing. I had not recced the course, the weather was bad and my experiences at the DT20 were still haunting me. Race day breakfast was consumed and I jumped in the car to drive down. On arriving in Reeth the weather was no better but my mind was made up – road shoes. We assembled in the start field ready for the off, most people in waterproof running jackets that we were sure we would be taking off shortly when we started to warm up.
The ascent of Fremington Ridge began and to my delight I arrived at the top with a piar of legs that seemed to be in good working order. Having run the ridge twice in the past I knew that conditions underfoot would be challenging for the road shoes but to my delight they performed well with no notable traction issues.
Figure 1 – The trusty all terrain Adidas ‘road’ shoes. Next stop Cross Country.
Figure 2 – A photo showing the extensive grip that these beasts posess.
I was slowly working my way through the field feeling slightly cocky about my choice of footwear. We arrived at the descent, a grass like carpet that I had thrown myself down with great delight in the past. A smile started to stretch over my face as… oh shit its like an ice rink. Road shoes + wet grass = no grip. I backed off and slowly picked my way down the climb as runners in grippier options flew past. Reaching the bottom I was not perturbed as we were on a semi solid track and this turned into tarmac as I slowly picked off the runners who had passed me and then some. I saw Elaine Bisson, had a quick chat and carried on my merry way. Oh how I love my road shoes, all is forgiven. Before long Jon Ayres and the second placed female appeared on my horizon and I caught them too. I was enjoying this far more than expected. My legs felt good, my shoes were paying dividends, even the rain couldn’t dampen my spirits. Oh no but the sucking black peat bog that we were about to enter certainly could. I had been warned that this stretch would be tricky in road shoes but 5 miles in the grand scheme of things wasn’t much was it?? Wasn’t much?? It was f*!k$*g eternity. I was all over the shop, even the smallest change in direction had me scrabbling for grip. I slowed to a walk and quickly lost sight of the runners around me. Not a problem if you know where you are going. I didn’t. As I emerged from the black hell Elaine cruised past telling me to latch on and latch on I did. My directional knight in shining armour had arrived. We powered on having returned to a hard trail. I started loving it again, after all I had just completed the toughest part for my road shoes and I hadn’t gone over once. Things were looking up. We descended down towards the river and the run in to Gunnerside, my legs felt good, my body felt pretty fresh and all memories of the DT20 had been vanquished. To get to the river we left the farm track to cut through some fields, not a problem, its grass not the horrible black peat. We enter a field with a steep slope things start to go wrong, smooth soles on wet grass, this isn’t going to go well and it didn’t. It wasn’t long before I was sliding down the hill on my back. I picked myself up, muttered a string of obscenities and studied the line of mud that stretched down my body. I couldn’t dwell though as Elaine was moving and I needed to keep up. We searched for a way out of the field, found it and dropped down to the river and followed it to Gunnerside. Into the check point we went and straight out again, passing runners that had left me on the peat bog earlier.
Figure 3 – Leaving Gunnerside with Elaine who guided me round a big chunk.
Straight out of Gunnerside there is a steep ascent, Elaine powering ahead, me behind furiously trying to keep up. When we arrive at the top Elaine urges me to go on if I feel like it so I open my legs and away I go. Conditions underfoot seem pretty… woah bang. Next thing I know I am lying in some gorse on my back. I hear the words “are you ok Matt?” drifting over. No way I got away with that one. I quickly pick myself up and with a quick “Yes” continue on my… bang. Knees and hands hit the deck, I’m down on all fours. Not again. The footpath began to open up and I passed one runner and then a second. I hit a gravel road I recognised, I knew the end was near and I still felt good. I hit the accelerator and increased the pace passing another runner. The track ends, now I am not sure, I think I know but not 100%. Where is the guy I passed? He appears, I check, he isn’t sure but thinks it’s the way I was going to choose so I go with it. Through the gate and onto an uneven rocky path, yes this is it. My road shoes suddenly come into their own as I start to fly down the path without a care in the world. I pass a lady who warns me that the next section is slippy. Not in these bad boys. I motored on. The end of the path approaches, I know it’s a left onto the road, I open up my stride and throw myself down the hill as I approach the final bend the crowd roars (namely Jo P, Lesley C and Mandy D). Round I go and through the finish. I look at my watch, sub 4 hours. I collect my mug and walk away a happy man.
Figure 4 – Flying into Reeth and the finish.
Massive thanks to Elaine Bisson for being my guide, to Jo P for providing the post race towel, Lesley C and Mandy D for standing in the rain cheering us all home and the biggest thanks go to my Adidas Glide Boosts, I couldn’t have done it without you!!
8.00am on the morning of the race Paul F & I pitched up to registration, in my case, to hand in my number for anyone who hoped to get an entry on the day. It was drizzling nicely.
An hour later at the start, this year’s cohort of runners seemed somewhat diminished from previous years. The purple posse was there in strength … and the rain was building up.
If you don’t know the course of the Swaledale Marathon it’s 23+ miles over quite diverse terrain, including valley paths, some steep climbs on rubble and bog, some awkward peat hags, some decent paths over the moors and a pretty unpleasant, stony downhill path to the road down to the village of Reeth. Saturday was probably one of the worst conditions I have seen for this run. It was going to be difficult and challenging – a certain bog-fest, even for the experts. A baptism of fire for Swaledale ‘virgins’.
After the start, the walking wounded – Mandy and I – trudged in the now heavy rain to Reeth in search of coffee and shelter. In the meantime the purple posse was doing the slog up the rubble to Fremington Edge. This is a swampy, boggy ridge which goes in the direction of Langthwaite, the route goes through a gate downhill into the valley and then on roads to the first checkpoint. On Saturday Fremington Edge would have been at its most unpleasant – and I hear it was very boggy – but nothing compared to what was to come.
The route then is mostly on roads to Whaw and the second checkpoint. After this is a steep uphill climb to the main road, which the runners cross to the path up to Great Punchard Head. A small stream on the way up had become much more full, and the stream crossing at Great Punchard Head seemed to have become a challenge to some people, as Paul arrived there. After Great Punchard Head route finding can be difficult but, although it was cold, very windy and the rain was hammering down, Paul said that the route was clear. No mist. And, for the first time, the path was marked with flags. However, the ground underfoot was very difficult. Nina said that she lost her footing and one leg ended up knee deep in a bog. A runner in front of Paul ended up thigh deep in a bog – thankfully he was able to haul himself out. Luckily, visibility was clear and so runners could find their way to Little Punchard and then on to Level House – a fantastic food station with tea, sandwiches, cake, flapjacks and lots more.
By then I had joined the dash to Gunnerside – you have to get there early to get a parking place. The rain was now relentless. I missed the first few runners coming through but I did see Jack, and then Stephen and Gareth (poster boy for next year’s race??). The camaraderie of supporters is really amazing – everyone shouts for other people’s runners as they sprint down that riverside path to the road. Even though you don’t know them! The purple posse came hurtling in after that. Phil & Tim, Matthew & Elaine, David Brown, then Jules, Mike Bennett, Jan, Nina, Malcolm Sygrove, Camilla & Kathryn and then Paul! I didn’t get photos of Elaine Bisson (3rd lady!!) who ran a blinder with Mathew Archer (how could he possibly have run that course in road shoes???), or David Brown – his picture was black .Rain?
From Gunnerside the runners leave the road at the top of the village, taking a long steep path up to a (usually) decent path to Blades. Part of this has vehicular access for the cottages and farms so wouldn’t normally be difficult. At Blades the route veers off to the left onto a level moorland path to Surrender Bridge which can often be quite muddy – a quagmire on Saturday! Surrender Bridge is the last manned checkpoint and marshals point runners in the right direction for the last push to Reeth. Once you’ve negotiated ‘Crinkly Bottom’, a small but steep ghyll, (I hear it now has a bridge to cross it), you make your way to a long, narrow and often steep path of stones and boulders. Punishing on, by now, sore and weary feet. For me it’s always been a nightmare. Then it’s a downhill cruise on the road to the finish.
In the meantime, I drove back to Reeth, after Paul came through Gunnerside, and joined the finish supporters at the Buck Inn. People were sharing stories about the bogs, the peat hags and the awful conditions underfoot. It was certainly a more difficult course this year – for everyone. Gareth said “Never, never, ever again!”. Tim said “It was great I loved it”! Everyone had a story to tell! Spirits were high.
Regardless of the conditions, Elvet Striders did a great job. We were second male team, only just beaten by East Hull Harriers. And Elaine Bisson was 3rd Lady in a sensational 03.55 and was 33rd overall. There were some excellent times:
Michael Mason – 3.24, Jack Lee – 3.36, Steven and Gareth 3.39, Mat (road shoes) Archer – 3.53, Elaine (super woman) Bisson 3.55, David Brown 4.19, Tim & Phil – 4.31, Jules – 4.36, Mike Bennett – 4.45, Nina – 5.10, Jan – 5.17, Kathryn – 5.19,Malcolm – 5.26, Camilla – 5.27, Paul Foster – 5.37, Joan & Anita – 5.42, Emil Maatta – 6.02, Anna & Catherine – 6.51, Barbara Dick – 7.01, Louise Billcliffe – 7.20, Christine Farnsworth & Margaret Thompson – 7.42.
I hope the first-timers won’t be put off. On a good day it’s a fantastic course with wonderful scenery. Saturday was not the best start! However it takes more than a day’s deluge to dampen the spirits of the purple posse.
Here’s a gallery of some thoroughly soaked Striders!
Well this is the most exciting race I have ever done! I would highly recommend it!
This is meant to be a helpful account for anyone who has not done it before, as well as a race report.
So, it was a race I had hoped to enter but didn’t get a place in as it fills up very quickly! …but then a few weeks before the race, another Strider offered me their place as they couldn’t do it-sorry for them but very pleased to get a place! So began a rapid preparation … but what was the route? It is not on the Swaledale Outdoor club website. Hummm, there is a description but for someone who likes to know the detail it was a bit too short for me. Luckily I found a trace of the route from someone’s Garmin on the Striders website from a past year-thank-you! You can find this by searching for ‘Swaledale marathon’ in the race reports section. I copied it onto my OS map and was able to mark on the positions of checkpoints and ‘self-clip points’ from the description on the Swaledale Outdoor club website. Closer to the event Jon got hold of a few copies of the route and Elaine photographed them and sent them to me. I can confirm that they were the same as the route I found on the Striders website, so it seems to stay the same each year.
Elaine and I were a bit worried about navigating our way! The weather forecast was thick cloud, fog and mist!! Hummm, Elaine had done a few reccies of the route but not of the middle section. I knew the first bit from walking in Arkengarth dale in years BC (Before Children). It was the unknown middle section of disused mining hushes that was grinding our grapes – didn’t want to end up down a sink hole! ..I was also a bit unsure of the crack..other striders helpfully advised me and showed me the start time and registration times are in the SI entries system race information, but as far as I can see not on the Swaledale Outdoor club website?. There is a compulsory kit list on the Swaledale Outdoor Club website which includes compass and waterproof trousers. And importantly you need to carry a plastic cup to get additional water at checkpoints. Jon advised there is water at all checkpoints and food as well at one checkpoint. Also you get a free meal at the end if you like!
Arriving early doors in the outskirts of the pretty village of Fremlington, everything was very well signposted and organized. A big sign saying “marathon carpark” pointed to the entrance of a large grassy field, within which were lots of cars, runners getting ready and portaloosportable toilets and car park marshals. Registration was a short nip up the road in the Fremlington village Hall, the direction of which was signposted and easy to find. At registration my kit was checked and I was given a small yellow card and piece of string. The lady explained this card would be clipped at each checkpoints by marshals who would also record my race number. The card was labelled with numbers of the checkpoints and then with A, B, C and D. These are the self-clip checkpoints. You literally clip the card with a thing that looks like a staple remover exactly on top of the letter corresponding to the self-clip point. As the race starts and finishes in a different place you cannot leave a bag of warm clothes etc. at the start as they only have the village hall til 10am.
So… we were all crowded in a small field ready to start! The weather was as forecast and actually very warm as well. The race began! With a steep upward climb! There were lovely views across a very green Swaledale. I watched Penny, David and Elaine bound ahead! We soon reached the level of the mist, got to the wall and then we were running along top along Fremlington Edge! This was a grassy, boggy, misty fast section! Nice and soft on the feet! Because of the wall and as people were bunched up in the early stages, navigation was easy at this point. Then, at the end of the edge you go past a large cairn marking the highest point (which was not visible in the mist) and then the path zig-zags down the steep hill – except the runners did not!! I was in a group of guys who had done it before and they confidently charged over the side of the hill and launched themselves down the steep, wet, grassy slopes!! Ha ha this was exhilarating! My bum touched the ground a lot! Mainly on purpose as I didn’t want to fall! Thoroughly enjoyed this bit, found it quite hilarious! A girl running whose name I didn’t get who is from Richmond “ran” this bit with me before zooming ahead!
The route then follows the pretty stony path along the Arkle Beck into Langthwaite village. The girl from Richmond passed me again! (she had stopped in the village to use the public toilet there). It was lovely to be greeted by supporters Rachelle, Allan, and Vics plus kids here. After an undulating minor road section you head up a moorland track towards Great Punchard Gill and Great Punchard Head. This was a steady climb! Up and up and up! Fantastic views below mist level. I was running with two guys at this point. We came to a bit where the path divided, luckily just at mist level so we could see runners ahead. The path literally took two routes, which re-joined further up. We decided to split up to see which was fastest. I and one guy took the track and the other took the grassy zig-zag path. It was exactly 50 :50 ! Then higher up we were in thick mist. The mist kept changing from thick to thin, making it hard to tell how far away things were. There was a steep gully to the left, which in thick mist looked like it was really deep, but when the mist thinned the bottom of the gully was only 30metres or so away! (Hard to tell though as I was also moving). At the top of Great Punchard Gill I heard voices and laughter and as if from no-where a mountain rescue vehicle, 3 jolly mountain rescue men and a marshalled checkpoint appeared! After having my card clipped I headed onwards. The path does a sharp bend and is a narrow peaty/boggy/heather path with a sharp drop to the right. It then turns and heads across the top of open moorland. Another nice run across soft peat and bog. I tried to keep up with the group of confident guys I’d seen earlier but they were going fast and so eventually they were too far ahead to see. There was no one behind me for a bit, until footsteps behind me, it was the girl from Richmond! It turns out she had taken a wrong turn after the last checkpoint and descended steeply quite a way, then had had to climb all the way back up again! She was ok, but disheartened. We ran together for a bit until yet again she zoomed ahead! Then after a while another checkpoint … bring on the banana cake!
The next bit was the ‘moonscape’! The heather moor gave way to a high up rocky, barren area, devoid of all plants and peat! This was the hushes. Old mine building ruins appeared in the mist here and there, piles of rubble and a rusty old metal machine thing with a big wheel on it. Ahead I noticed a small red and white flag in the ground, about 30cm high with supporting rocks around it. It had definitely been planted there. Could this have been put there by a child on a family day out? The mist thinned at that moment and I saw a whole line of them! Waymarks, Wayhay! After that the gravel path was more obvious and led to self-check point A-a wooden stand with clips hanging from it. The path then wound back into grassy, peat area down and down, I saw runners ahead! More steep descents down grassy banks and we were down to Gunnerside Beck. I got a bit lost amongst the little gated fields but not for too long and then the path follows the Beck to Gunnerside where there is a checkpoint. Nice support from locals and others …
The last stint is up and over fields and lowland moors. Where there is an up or a down it is steep! (This is the nature of Swaledale!) A final checkpoint at Surrender Bridge gave me much needed water. After a bit I was unsure of the way and was standing consulting the map when a runner caught me up and confidently pointed to a jumper with a stone on top of it and said the jumper was a waymark! He was right! Ha ha I love this marathon! The last miles are blissfully and painfully on the quads downhill funneling to a walled track where underfoot is stones with a layer of slippery grass on top! Negotiation of this leads to the final self-clip point on a farmers gate, then down and Reeth is there! Wohoooo! The finish is down the hill and round the corner in the Reeth village hall. Lovely to see Strider supporters cheering us at the finish! Afterwards, great to drink a cup of tea. And get a very nice bespoke Swaledale marathon pottery cup!
A fantastic adventure I would love to repeat! I’d like to do it in good weather mind to see more views!
Extract from the book Running My Way by Tamsin Imber with permission from Pitch Publishing.
… Jon Ayres
A year ago I’d crossed the line here with equal measures of Joy and Wonder. I’d broken my goal time, taken a decent chunk off my PB but I was left scratching my head pondering what I could get if I hadn’t cramped up and had to take a forced break during the race to let my legs recover. I’d also watched the Ladies team take the prize in their category and thought it would be a very good thing indeed to encourage the Gents to have a crack at emulating this.
Skip forward a few months to November and a, hopefully, friendly persuasion campaign began as I tried to recruit others into sharing my ideas as to putting teams onto the podium come June 2016.
So to the day,grey skies hid the top of the first climb as the officials started the race, Michael Mason and Steven Jackson quickly disappeared from view as us mere mortals followed them up to the heights of Fremington. Myself, Jack Lee (pressed into action only a week prior to the race) and Elaine Bisson formed a group and tackled the road and then trail to the grassland that would lead us to the ascent.
Jack and I ran well together picking off runners and chatting occasionally,his enthusiasm was infectious and my plan of around 10 min miles saw us heading up Punchards mix of trail,track and bog and reaching half way a fair bit inside this program.As we descended into Gunnerside Jack started to pull away as he fell into a group that I couldn’t keep with on the descent, a quick high five as we crossed paths into the checkpoint at Gunnerside village hall seemed to mark the unspoken thought that as of now it was time to dig in and head home.
A quick glance at my watch as the last major climb began confirmed that a PB was on but there was still work to do to secure this,the long slow haul of besting Gunnerside began. The breaks from slow, tortuous hill climbing via a stumbling jog and slower, tortuous hill climbing via a hands on knees walk became more frequent as the yards up the incline increased I also became aware of pre-cramp pains in my legs and started a feeding frenzy of gels, pork scratchings and water in an attempt to stave them off. All the while as this carried on Jack became nothing but a smaller dot in the distance until eventually he disappeared, unfortunately the pains in my calves and hamstrings did not.
Gunnerside was finally beaten, or at least matched, and the levelling of the land allowed for quicker strides to be taken and the last major drop on glorious smooth tarmac into surrender bridge was embraced.The final stretch of the race a PB is on, runners are not so far ahead that they can’t be caught and despite the fleeting shots of cramp I smile and offer my card to the official to be clipped. I’m passed here by a local runner whom I know well, she’ll eventually be 2nd lady home, and I try to match her pace but there’s nothing in the tank that allows the increase: it’s head down now and a march/jog/whatever gets me home and only a few miles of attrition left. A drop in and out of a gorge and I see Elaine Bisson is now on my tail and closing quickly, machismo and panic hit me with equal measure and I lengthen my stride and hope to hold her at bay.
Then as in every other time I’ve raced this event cramp hits, it hurts, really hurts and I try to strectch out my legs. Nothing eases it and the acceptance that the race could be over, PB’s lost with just over two and a half miles to go starts to sink in. A fading of the cramp starts and hope rises anew I can stand, I can walk, I can at least jog time to dig in and run hard for two reasons, I don’t know how long I have until the cramp returns and a few runners have passed me. Fortunately the next couple of miles are mainly down hill and this allows for a good pace (my fastest of the day, maybe the sitdown helped) and that’s it the race is done. Ten minutes are taken from last years run out and despite the enforced break during the race I don’t think I could have run any harder or made any more time up and whilst a hugely improved field from last years race saw me finish further down than 12 months ago I’m content and settled with my efforts.
The ladies of Elvet defend their trophy, Mandy Dawson and Penny Browell who takes second female vet were part of the team that won it last year with Elaine Bisson (third female home)and Tamsin Imber part of the unit this year too.The Male contingent take Third with three debutantes amongst their number,the aforementioned Micheal Mason,Steven Jackson and Jack Lee provide very strong placings as I make up the numbers. Tom Reeves continues a strong year of running since surgery breaking four hours whilst Mike Bennet,Jan, Barabara Dick, Juliet Percival and Camilla are amongst other striders who get to keep a bespoke hand made mug.
Mentions to the families who supported too must be given the Masons,Jacksons,Browells and Bissons were loud and plentiful many of them appearing at various points of the course. Whilst Allan Seheult and Matt Archer gave up their day to offer support and refreshment.This year was very much a team effort and the places whilst won by those out on the course belong to those who backed them too. Sincere thanks to all.
Twelve months ago I’d limped over the finish line at this race cursing my lack of preparation. I’d cramped up badly at seventeen miles and from that point on saw my goal time, which looked in the bag, drift away leaving me feeling drained, dreadful and for a few moments up on the moors wondering if there was any point in putting on a pair of trainers.
From January this year, once my entry had been confirmed, my plans had been more methodical, lots more miles , more off road runs, practicing with food that might prevent the same issues and when possible getting down to the area where the event was held but still chattering away were the nagging doubts.
So to race day and registration, kit check, hello’s to the multitude of striders at the start, loo queues and last minute alteration of attire. And then the doubts returned: negative gripes, memories of when training hadn’t been good and good Lord boy what are you doing wearing road shoes? The start, up Fremlington went Ok, my plan of averaging 10 minute miles was put on hold, as expected, the slow hilly clamber eventually lead to the top and then time to push on across the top of Frem’ for a couple of miles until a quick descent and time to head out to Langthwaite with tarmac and smooth(er) surfaces. Around here Penny Browell and I joined forces and started to pick off a few runners and drag down our mile times.
Around 7 ½ miles all seemed OK and the protracted and lingering ascent of Punchard was embarked upon. For those not familiar with the course this is mixed terrain that doesn’t seem to allow a regular running rhythm (it’s bloody hard work) but by the time we reached the checkpoint at 13 miles we were still, just, inside my schedule.
The run from here down to Gunnerside split Penny and I up and also saw me sliding down the steeper descents backside first. The countryside and its fantastic views not really being appreciated as I constantly glanced for time checks.
Then the climb, the one that last year had led to me face planting to the ground screaming, really screaming, as both my legs seemed to set firm and muscles freeze hard. As someone more used to tarmac and getting upset about slight inclines I find Flemington’s a tough climb, Punchard really hard work but Gunnerside is cruel just plain cruel, the start of the ascent’s rocky, it twists and deceives and then just for good measure it’s got a second part to destroy hope and legs. Here my pace slowed to a shuffle and slow walk the miles seemed to take forever to pass but finally the top was reached and the road, trail and blessed quick drop on Tarmac that lead to surrender bridge saw me a few seconds over my time plan. A bit of work on the rocky trails and surely I’d get back to where I needed to be.
A small ( though by now it felt enormous) ravine type area, that had to be dropped into and climbed out of was passed and I felt OK and started to think that this year was the year then with about 5k to go I cramped, just one leg this time but all I could do was drop to the floor and howl. I screamed out that it wasn’t fair and punched the ground in frustration, I’m not ashamed to admit I wanted to cry. Six months work wasted and this time I’m not coming back.
A stream of profanities and a couple of futile efforts to get up and then silence and negative thoughts. I lay still hoping that my leg would ease, I grabbed salt drops from my pack and poured them neat onto my tongue and still no relief, then slowly the pain started to rescind and a fellow runner offered a lift up. Remembering how last time my legs had repeatedly froze if I jarred them I took short soft baby steps expecting stabs of pain but nothing my legs were holding out. A gentle increase in pace and still all held well and with two Km to go I’d 18 minutes left of my allotted time, hope rose anew. Then( and I promise this is the truth) as I approached the final self check point, it’s less than half a mile from the end, and reached for the string on which was attached my check card I realised it had fallen off.
A couple of sickening moments of panic took over. I’d last used the card about 3 miles ago would I have to head back and find it? Could I convince the judges that I’d been through all the points after all folk would have seen me on the course and my number had been taken. A deep breath and rational thought led to me checking the pocket where the card should be and a resultant sigh of relief as it nestled snugly underneath my water bottle.
From here I glided home yes the path was awful and hidden jagged stones attempted to turn my ankle but my goal was attainable, a drop onto the road ,a jog to the village hall and that’s it job done home with six minutes to spare a plate of food, lots of orange juice, congratulations to friends and all problems were forgotten.
Penny came home in a very respectable 4.05 despite getting lost and the Elvet ladies recorded a famous victory (aided by Mandy’s protestations and a belief in all that is fair) . So next year? I lost three minutes, at least, pinned down as my leg seized and if I learn how to run downhill there’s time to be found but for now just relief that I’ve not wasted the first half of this year and that the choice of foot attire worked.
My third attempt at this gem of a run. Rolling hills, fabulous views, checkpoints which would give any WI cake stall a run for their money and of course the cracking company.
A really well organised event from start to finish, on its 35th year so I guess they have had lots of practice. They even had a nice shiney new shuttle bus to take smellie runners back to the car park just outside Reeth post race.
Great to see such a good turnout and mix of striders, from the very experienced Will, Dougie, Maggie, Andrew T and Mandy to striders taking the plunge for the first time on a longer distance fell event namely Camilla, Lucy, Kerry, Denise & Helen. A few striders choosing to take the walking option were Roz, Barry & Christine. Also Angela teamed up with Sue who was pacing herself salvaging energy for the Rosedale marathon on the following day!
The morning started off feeling quite warm with the clouds giving a slight promise of the sun making an appearance at some point. Runners and walkers gathered for the ‘grande departe’ at the foot of fremington edge. We were off but no mad dash with elbows out, no, this was a walk and a queue up the hill with runners politely by-passing the walkers. In reality this only lasted about 5 mins then we were making good ascent up the edge and once on the top the race really began as there is a lovely long stretch slightly downhill to Langthwaite. I was running with Camilla and Lucy and it was their first Swaledale. My aim was to get under 5 hours and better last years time of 5.21. Pacing was on plan as we hit the next climb upto Punchard, felt good but bloody hot! The miles just seemed to tick by really comfortably, running with company was really enjoyable and we passed quite a few other striders on our way having a quick chat and also chit chat with other fellow runners. This is one of the absolute highlights of this type of event, it is relaxed and everyone’s out for a good days run taking on the challenge soaking it all in.
A cake fest at checkpoint after a bit squelchy Punchard, pass through ‘moonscape’ then a grassy descent to Gunnerside with a couple of really cheeky steep banks thrown in (unfortunately cramp set in for Camilla at this point). Re-fuelled with more cake and tea here for the last stretch. Was fab to see Jan Young & hubbie next cheering us all on (hope you will be running next year Jan), this was a real boost. Lucy was running really strong as she had plenty left in the tank for a good finish so at the next checkpoint Surrender Bridge she bounced off into the distance. I’d forgotten the last section, even though it’s mostly downhill it is quite stoney so requires a fair bit of concentration and effort to not fall flat on your face! I was still on track for achieving my desired time, the rocky path finally came to an end and a Marshall shouted ‘300 metres to go’. Dodging the throng of cyclists doing a reccie of stage 1 of the TDF, I ran as hard as I could, past the crowd outside The Buck Inn and all the finished runners lying on the grass, cheering everyone in, what a finish! Will was first strider home and 4th male, Jon A , Mike H & Aaron all gaining PB’s. Mandy & Jules 1st strider ladies home with Lucy 3rd. David Brown, David Selby & Rachel strong finish times on first Swaledale. Ladies team 2nd overall, Men’s team 4th.
Aye, a grand day out in all.
… Will Horsley
Swaledale from near the front
From the very start a couple of fellas made their intentions clear and were pretty much out of sight by checkpoint 1. Did catch one last glimpse of them on the climb up Punchard Moor and they were still on each other’s heels. It looks like they pushed each other to very quick times. For the chasing pack we settled into a steady rhythm and took turns in leading, with me usually leading the climbs. Eventually me and a lad from Newton Aycliffe, Dez, pulled a small way ahead and pushed each other round for good finishing times. Indeed Dez acted as a superb guide when it came to the descent to Gunnerside. We both slowed up badly in the final few miles with Dez staying just that little bit sharper than me. Conditions were very humid at the start and dehydration was clearly going to be a concern. It stayed warm all day but conditions dried out. It was cool and very damp underfoot on the top at Punchard Moor. This was a fantastically organised event with cheerful marshals and supporters, nice conditions, beautiful surroundings and a huge number of striders. It was also great to see Jan, Tony and Pam out on the course cheering on the striders and others. I gave this race everything and am still recovering now but it was worth it. So proud to be a part of this club, which looks like we had the greatest number of entries and took 4th men’s and 2nd women’s team positions. Stride on!
Having signed up for this race back in January thinking I had plenty of time to train for the distance I hadn’t planned on an ankle injury in February putting nearly all running on hold for 2 months so I arrived at the start line wholly unprepared for what was ahead of me. With my longest race being the Great North Run last year and my longest run being a winter Broom Park outing one Sunday morning for 14 miles I was a little worried about doing 24+ miles over fells.
A good sleep the night before plus a good breakfast and I managed to get to the start line feeling as good as I could on the morning of the run. Off we went up the hill and after taking advice from Sue Jennings and reading Anita’s report from last year I walked up this hill as well as many others throughout the day. After a quick picture at the top of the first climb I finally got chance to get running. I ran past Anita and Dougie saying a quick hello and then shortly after Mike Hughes caught up with me and we had a bit of a chat while running. After my performance at Broughton Wood Wobble, when I was passed by glaciers while descending, I decided to read up on how to descend properly. I put this into practice here and managed to make a few places while going downhill.
After passing through the gate, over the bridge and up a hill I reached round to take a drink from my newly acquired Pier to Pier bottle belt and disaster, my bottle had fallen out. At this point Mike Hughes caught me again and when I mentioned what had happened he said there was a bottle lying back at the bridge. Only being 4 miles into the race on such a hot day, it was a quick but difficult decision but I had to turn round and run back to the bridge. I think it only added about a third of a mile to my race but it was so demoralising running the wrong direction with lots of people passing me.
I grabbed my bottle and took off up the hill for the second time where I eventually caught up with Anita and Andrew Thompson. Having never met Andrew before I spent a bit of time running and chatting with him before he and Anita ran ahead as I slowed a bit due to my hips hurting. I knew that to get round this run I would need to find someone to focus on and stay within sight of and I decided that Andrew would be that guy.
I kept them both in sight and caught them just before the first checkpoint running again with them as we crossed a road at about 8 and a half miles and headed up the fells. Andrew ran on ahead with Anita and me running a nice pace behind. Up yet another hill and I was keeping Andrew in sight when I decided that my choice of attire was a mistake. Having always worn under armour while running (I only started running last September and have always needed it) I had to stop to take off my under armour top. A Clif bar and a drink and I was off again with Andrew still in sight.
For about 3 miles I just kept plodding away and eventually caught Andrew before he took off again and increased the distance between us again. At this point I noticed a girl with a skull and crossbones tattoo on her arm that I had passed a few times so decided that she would be my new target as Andrew was getting further away from me. I kept up with her until the 12 mile checkpoint where I met Andrew again who was having a chat with Dougie and getting ready to leave. I grabbed a drink and a sandwhich and started walking up the hill with them. At this point I had passed my furthest distance ran before so from here on it was uncharted territory. After a bit of a walk I spotted the girl I was chasing a little in front of me so started a slow jog up the hill. The rest of the race was overtaking, then being overtaken, by this girl. The time was passing so slowly with me checking my Garmin every quarter mile or so. At this point I considered taking the watch off but instead I made a conscious decision not to look at it quite so often. A quarter of a mile later I checked my Garmin, this was going to be a long day.
With just over 6 miles to go I was under 3 hours 50 minutes and had a sub 5 hours finish in my head. Then I left Gunnerside and the climb nearly killed me and sub 5 was a distant dream. I can’t remember much until Surrender Bridge and once I got up the hill I spotted ‘the girl with skull and crossbone tattoo’ and decided that I was going to overtake her for the final time and stay in front.
After doing a walk/run strategy all through the race I decided that as there was ‘less than a parkrun to go’, I would run every step to the finish. I passed quite a few people on the way to the finish. Once past the final self clip point I ran down the narrow path with the loose stones and into the town to a great welcome by the spectators and a 5 hour and 12 minute finish. If I had to sign up now for next year, with the pain my legs have been in today, then I don’t think I would be back. However, come January I may be persuaded again.
Barrie John Evans
Bob Layton *HS
*HS Honorary Strider Striders Mens team 2nd, Striders Womens team 18th, of 19.
I was really keen to do an endurance event this year and push the boundaries from my previous longest race (Coastal Run). The Swaledale marathon ticked quite a few boxes for me 1) nice views 2) mixed terrain 3) hills 4) friendly non corporate event 5) (and most importantly) serves tea and cake at checkpoints!! Thanks to the reminders on the Striders emails I got a place as they fill up literally within hours when the Swaledale Outdoor Club announce race entries early in January.
The weather conditions looked pretty grim on review the night before and thus was expecting a soggy experience. Arriving in Reeth though the next morning the clouds were breaking and I dared to be optimistic that the forecast could be wrong. A handful of Striders were taking part in doing the race, Maggie & Andrew Thompson, Christine, Shaun, Dougie, Jan, Tom, Angela and Sue (who’d both completed the full yomp last week, hence not much recovery time but that’s never held these two feisty ladies back!)
This race was hilly and this was no joke for the first slog upto Fremlington edge, wisely was a steady walk and this took on the premise for the rest of the race, walk up the hills! Once we got upto the edge the sun came out and the Yorkshire Dales were in all their glory. The views were stunning and really lifted my spirits. Another positive feature of this race is it has walkers as well as runners, the field of competitors was very friendly and a few words of chat were to be had when passing people en-route. This also meant for me as a slower runner that I wasn’t at the back of the field for once.
We’ve had horrendous weather over the last few days with lots of flood alerts. The tops were very boggy (nearly lost my shoes a few times) and had to negotiate a lot of streams and bogs. Everyone commented that it’s the wettest they’ve seen it on this race. Although conditions were pretty good for running staying dry and sunny but not too hot with good views until the last 3 miles (after surrender bridge) and then we had hail stones (felt like it anyway, was well battered!) was very soggy at the end, the stony path backdown into Reeth turned into a gushing stream (a kayak would have been useful a runner behind me commented).
I paced myself with Maggie who is a seasoned marathon runner and on her 10th+ Swaledale. There were check points serving cakes and tea! You don’t usually get that on runs. One checkpoint had homemade fudge (yum yum). With the slower pacing and fuelling I felt pretty fresh at 17 miles and Maggie encouraged me to go on. After a 15 minute teastop at Gunnerside the last few miles were my fastest and I even did a sprint finish to the village hall finish in Reeth. This was assisted by making sure I overtook Mr Nordic poles whom was in my eye line in the 21st mile, who made a comment about runners as he overtook us at checkpoint 1. A free meal and copious amounts of tea were served up in the Reeth village hall with lots of volunteers (seemed like the whole village had come out to help) and caught up with other club members whom had already finished and also Barry & Pam who’d had to give numbers up unfortunately. I’ll definitely be back next year.
Swaledale Road Runners
Paul Foster *HS
Joan Hanson *HS
Tom Reeves *RWM
Thomas Hanson *HS
Bob Layton *HS
*HS Honorary Strider
*RWM Running With Missus
Striders Mens team 7th, Striders Womens team 15th, of 18.