You can find them on this page here
The future training schedule has been updated and can be viewed on this page here
All of these are provisional – check the weekly email update on a Monday for confimation.
Take a look here
April 23rd, 2022
Having recced this one and raced it in the past I was quite confident of the route and hazards. Caroline, Niamh amd I were only there a couple of weeks before so I had got my bearings and knew it would be tough.
The long track and road section at the start of the race wasn’t my favourite stretch, but knowing I would soon be in the depth of Lakeland landscape I wasn’t too put off. My running suddenly came to an abrupt halt as I clambered-up the side of Robinson, (almost hands and feet in parts) . When I appeared at the top I was knocked sideways by tremendous gusts of wind , steadying myself I was immediately knocked over again and again before the wall of rock that greeted me.
Being terrified of heights was my main concern, along with this wild wind knocking me over, but I really didn’t want to lose my hat.
After the first climb came more fierce winds and a second rock face. Once over this my energy levels were almost zero and my jelly legs took a while to recover , I was all over the place. I had a word with myself, pulled myself together and trundled on.
During the recce I had run most of the hills but that wasn’t happening in the race, (probably due to not stopping for picnics and photo shoots). I had quite forgotten what these Lakeland races were like. Down and over Hindscarth and Dale Head wasn’t bad but by this time I realised I was carrying far too much in the way of supplies and laughed at myself for being over cautious. I had a bag of cooked, chopped tofu, a pocket of dates, a bar and a gel. (Plenty for a Bob Graham round).
Dale Head was another gusty one but I stayed upright. Up towards High Spy and my brain wouldn’t shut up from saying, “high spy with my little eye something beginning with.. H…hill, S… sky” etc etc. I even said “shut up Ann” out loud.
I enjoyed Maiden Moor but then I started singing folk songs with the word maiden in the lyrics. (Shame I’m not fast enough to run away from myself.) I began to feel at peace when I knew I was nearing the end and was greeted by the support team. Hilary was shouting, “do you want some sweets?” but I declined so she shouted, “but I searched for these vegan ones especially for you!” (Sorry, Hilary.)
The last section was easy enough but as soon as I hit the road my calf cramped up but as the end was in sight it didn’t bother me too much. My time wasn’t quite as fast as my previous time but I had done it and was pleased enough with that.
Free beer would have been great if I drank. I asked if they had zero alcohol beer and the bartender told me there was alcohol free tea and water outside so I downed some of that instead.
What a great race with breathtaking scenery. Thankyou to the support team of
Hilary , Caroline, Martin, Linda and Jonny with his cowbells.
Ann Brydson Hal
Credit for cover image: Harry Bolton
Boston Marathon (UK) :18th April, 2022
For the first time ever, I had paid for a training plan for this marathon from coach Josh Griffiths (who ran a 2.14.49 London Marathon in 2017). Anyway, I followed this plan to the letter following the dysphasia of my London marathon last year. Boston is again an incredibly flat marathon; it is a circular route around the arable fields of Lincolnshire, no hills, no anything.
It was a warm day with a gentle sea breeze. The race still started in waves, so like London, I wasn’t sure how I was doing. My plan of nutrition disintegrated when my five gels fell out of my bumbag at the start, I scrabbled to get them from under pounding feet and lost two due to burstage, not a good start (there were none on the course either). The marathon, was as always, increasingly psychologically challenging.
The initial gambolling runners were reduced to limping figures in the last six miles, the flatness (total ascent over 26 miles is 86 feet) like running on a treadmill. Many were tempted by the turn-off for the concurrent half marathon. My second half pace dwindled, but I developed fortitude in the last two miles and passed many finishing in 3.47.38, 6th in my age group and 40th woman. It does give me an entry time for Boston USA should I ever fancy it and a further London good-for-age time for 2023. London 2022 next? The winning man was Lincoln runner William Strangeway in 2.25.11 and first woman was Natasha White in 2.59.07.
This is me and friend Keith at the end.
For the past two weeks I have been on strike in support of the University and College Union industrial action over cuts to pensions, pay cuts, casualisation, equality pay gaps and unsafe workloads. This post isn’t about the strike but the role running has had in this strike.
To mix up the picket lines, and to keep warm on bitterly cold strike days, the Leeds UCU branch have organised a “running picket line”. Every day we meet up and run three laps around the circumference of the University campus with whistles, banners and flags. It helps me gets a 10K run in before lunch time, but more importantly it has allowed me to meet fellow striking colleagues who I wouldn’t usually meet during my regular working day.
I find that running as a group provides an easy way to speak to new people, hear about why they’re striking, hear about why they’re running, and hear what they love about their work. I’ve run with post-docs in plant science, professors in romantic literature, language support staff, PhD students, school engagement officers and library staff! While the journeys that brought us to the University vary wildly we come together everyday and run for a common cause. The first lap often involves introductions to new-comers, the second lap allows people to mingle in naturally paced groups, and by the third lap, high on endorphins, we’re ready to take on the world!
More widely, away from campus and strikes, I love how group running allows people from all walks of life to come together and create a powerful energy and joie de vivre. At least that’s what I have found from running with NLFR and UCU.
The running life of course includes periods of not running, whether it’s because of injury, illness, lack of oomph, or just lots of life getting in the way. Our members who are not running are still our cherished members, so we thought it would be nice to get some reports of what people are up to when we don’t see them at club training or races. A questionnaire was sent out with the following questions:
Why are you on the subs bench?
How long have you been out?
What have you been doing, if anything, to keep mentally and physically fit?
What do you miss about running, if anything?
Why are you on the subs bench?
Where do I start? It began with hamstring trouble at the beginning of 2021, then calf strain and other niggles; the year continued with loss of mojo (due to grief and stress) and consequently putting on weight. I started up again in the autumn with renewed positivity (I did the Dales Way in 4 days in September), only to end up with knee trouble through the winter months.
- What have you been doing, if anything, to keep mentally and physically fit?
As much walking as I can, which is great for my mental well-being, and biking when I’ve had the energy or enthusiasm. I’ve enjoyed watching and supporting races too.
I now have renewed intentions of getting out on the bike much more regularly and am even going to dabble on the turbo trainer, which I have just set up!
- What do you miss about running (if anything)?
I miss everything! Running is part of me and what has defined me, certainly on a regular basis, for the past 32 years (with fell walking and general fitness/sports all my adult life).
To list a few:
- physical and mental well-being
- coffee shops
- the thrill of reaching the top of a hill and enjoying the views
- I’m currently on the subs bench after bashing my foot in running down a volcano in Tenerife (El Chinyero, specifically). I hit the rock, fell over, tried to stand up and couldn’t walk, then flew home on crutches.
- I’ve been out for four weeks now.
- I’ve been doing pressups and planks to try to keep fit. I decided to get the turbo out but dropped it on my foot. I took this as a sign and haven’t tried since. I’ve also deleted Strava to keep me sane.
- I miss the fresh air and the wind and the rain. I never thought I’d say this, but I’d do anything to be knee deep in a bog right now.
Ann Brydson Hall
My bench is wearing thin…
Post viral fatigue/syndrome is something I have suffered from since having flu as a teenager and taking part in a 42-mile hiking competition before fully recovering.
I am on the bench quite often due to this and just creeping out of an episode now. It causes fatigue, aches and depression with a little bit of health anxiety thrown in for good measure.
What I do to keep sane…
I sing. I’m a small group called ‘hot flush’ (three part harmonies), read walk when possible and try to be outside every day.
I miss the fun of the fells with running mates when out of the loop.
2022 started off well for me. Bright and early(ish) I was out for a new year’s day run over Burley and Ilkley Moor.
But mid-way through January my running came to a stuttering halt. Coccyx pain emerged – seemingly from nowhere – and refused to depart. I was hobbling round the house like a man twice my age. Every time I sat down I braced myself. And the same when I stood up. A call with the GP (inevitably) came with the recommendation to back off on the running. I did what I was told.
‘Ah well,’ I thought. I’d been bemoaning my inability to make time for yoga, so I found some specific lower back stretches, practised my breathing and my namastes. ‘I’ll give it a week,’ I figured, ‘see how it goes.’ I gave it a week. It didn’t go.
And then just as thinking maybe – just maybe – I can run again, along came Covid and the great unknown of what will it do to me? Double vaccinated and boostered, I figured I’d ride it out OK. And I’d seen a few folk – not least a few members of NLFR – raving about the latest 30 day yoga challenge from that Adriene. ‘That’ll be what I do during isolation,’ I reckoned to myself. ‘That’s isolation well spent.’
And I did ride it out ok. By day six I’d done my negative tests, I was out. I was free. As soon as that line stayed clear for 30 minutes it was trainers on and out the door. But I’ve learned that just because a lateral flow is negative, it doesn’t mean you’re fully recovered and fighting fit. My back has thanked me for the rest. But the heart rate levels my watch is sharing with me post-run are looking alarming.
I’ve not yet dared try anything hilly or technical, sticking to the safety and relative flat of the roads of LS6. But I’ve been hankering to be out somewhere greener, somewhere higher, somewhere fell-ier. I’ve been jealously browsing instagrams, seeing people’s runs, their races, their views. The rare February sun. I’m itching to get back out now.
Oh, and that Adriene thing. I’m 13 days in. Those folk raving about her were right.
I know exactly when I fell ill, because it was 36 hours after running Auld Lang Syne tethered to eight other NLFR women and Hilary-Santa, while dressed as Dancer the Reindeer. It was glorious fun. Then: a sore throat. Then a headache. Then fatigue. Of course I started lateral flow testing like they were going out of fashion, then did a PCR test. All negative. I felt grotty for a week and did no exercise but felt so grotty I didn’t care. I mean, this was when I got to the Co-op, a quarter of a mile away, and seriously wondered how I was going to walk home. After a week, I felt well enough that I went on a club run around the Chevin, and it felt fabulous to be running again. Two days later: total relapse. And that has been the pattern for six weeks. I feel better, I do something though conservatively, I feel worse. After two weeks my body decided to throw a cough at me too, first dry coughing fits that had me sprinting out of the British Library, plus constant “it’s not Covid, honestly, I’ve tested” apologies. Then a chesty cough that has yet to shift. I have done exercise, I have done runs. This weekend I ran 4 miles along a seriously gusty Welsh coastline, then the next day walked for 5 miles in pouring rain. I know. Idiot. I am now not ill but not well and that is the best way I can describe it. What do I miss? All of it. The thoughtless delight of being well and healthy. The ability to plan to do runs knowing you’ll be OK to do them. The fitness. The social comfort of doing the sport you love with others who love it too.
I’ve kept relatively fit. I did a daily squats and plank challenge in January, even when I was coughing and spluttering, so finished the month having done 3,000 squats and lots of planks. I did Adriene’s 30 day challenge and got addicted to a morning yoga session. I have walked and sometimes run. But I’ve put on half a stone in mostly comfort-chocolate. And I pulled out of Rombalds Stride because I felt rotten again and like I couldn’t stride one mile never mind 22. High Cup Nick is next on my race list: who knows whether I can do it, but I’ll probably try.
Jenny Cooper : Ghost Runner
I suppose you could call me a ghost runner, nothing to do with the Bill Jones book of the same name, (although worth a read) but more to do with my training/club attendance. Despite being a paid-up member of the club for nearly 4 years I can count on one hand how many times I’ve been to training. Most members won’t even know me to be honest.
Why be in a club but not train with them? Good question and one I used to say about members of my previous club who ran for us but not with us. Basically, it’s to do with time for me. I’m lucky enough to work from home a lot so I tend to go out during the day or when the husband gets home from work, we can be done and dusted before 6.30pm.
During lockdown I was running with my mate in her lunch hour, the same route at the same chatty pace with no training taking place just “out for a run”. At no point did we push each other or have any significant hills to tackle. Not great training for a fell runner, especially when most of it was on road. We did a few “away runs” on a weekend but again nothing above conversational pace.
These social runs had a huge positive impact on my mental health during lockdown, but little did I know, they would also prove to be a very solid base physically for when races finally started getting added to the calendar again.
My first race last year was Eccup 10 which I did in a time of 1:25, not blistering I know but when you consider I’d been running at 9:30/9:45 pace for no more than 6 or 7 miles two or three times a week it was certainly a surprise to say the least. What was good about it was it felt comfortable and sustainable. I then ran two half marathons in space of a few weeks, Major Stone in September and Bridlington Half in October. I did both in a time of 1:54, even with different routes and conditions with Brid being the harder of the two. Sod’s law: I was 2nd FV45 at Bridlington but they weren’t doing any prizes except for 1st!
I then entered some off-road races and discovered that my lack of hills/mud would make for some tough races over the winter. I shall not mention my appearance for the club at the British Fell Relays at Tebay as I was well and truly found out on that one and the least said the better. However, this was a wake-up call and since then I have incorporated hills and strength training into my regime along with being back on the spin bike and the pool. I’m hopeful for some stronger off-road performances going into 2022, as well as representing the club at relays.
I suppose that as we get older we should expect to be sidelined more often, the aches and pains are more frequent and it seems to take much longer to recover from a long or particularly tough run. However I can’t say I’m even slightly philosophical about being on the Subs’ Bench, the truth is I’m pretty grumpy about it.
It’s my own fault of course, I’m a relatively new member to NLFR and joining the club has given me some proper incentive to get fit, so I’ve been working my legs hard in the gym and have totally overdone it, managing to really strain my upper hamstring tendons. It feels like I’ve been kicked by a particularly malevolent cart horse and the only way I can sit down with comfort is if it’s in a pub and soothed by beer. Seriously though, unfortunately I suffer from an auto-immune condition that manifests itself in a form of inflammatory arthritis, meaning I’m predisposed to things like tendonitis and I should have known better. Most of the time it’s all under control and I manage it without serious medication, but it’s a cruel thing to happen to a fellrunner.
I had my first ever DNF at Rombalds Stride a couple of weekends back (unless you include a failed Bob Graham attempt ten years ago) and I’m annoyed that I was daft enough to start. I’m working hard to rehab the sore bits and am doing plenty on Zwift and the elliptical trainer. With luck I’ll be back in action soon.I hope to have another go at the Joss Naylor Lakeland Challenge this year, so have a real incentive.
‘‘Twas a few days before Christmas and all through the house not a creature was stirring not even a mouse….
When suddenly on my phone there arose such a clatter (whatsapp)
I sprang from my chair to read what was the matter
And away to my phone and keyed in the pass(code)
The screen gave the list of objects we need
When what to my wondering eyes should appear
But a miniature sleigh complete with Santa, and eight tiny reindeer
Messages of tights, t-shirts, tutu’s and antlers abound
We knew in a moment it must be our kit
More rapid than eagles our clothes we obtained
Race day was looming and prizes to gain
As we whistled and shouted our new reindeer names
On comet, on Cupid, on donner and blitzen!
As dry leaves before the hurricane fly
When we meet with obstacles we mount to the sky’s
Over fallen trees and through rivers we flew
Santa sprang in her sleigh and to her team gave a whistle
And away we flew over hillside and moor
We heard people exclaim as we had the finish in sight
“Eeh they did well them lasses staying together”
With much applause we ended our plight
Got first prize for giving such a sight
All bottles of beer to enjoy one night‘
Happy new year to all, and to all good running…
The ladies of NLFR got first prize for fancy dress and I know I am not page three material so I was very pleased we got page four in The Times. A great team effort from Meg, Rose, Ruth, Caroline, Emma, Ann, Hilary, Hannah and me (or Santa, Rudolph, Donner, Blitzen, Dancer, Prancer, Comet, Cupid and Vixen).
Next year’s outfit is already in our thoughts….
21 miles, 3731 feet.
Caroline left a comment on Strava: “rock up and do 20 miles, why don’t you?”
She was right. It can’t be anything other than rocking up when I didn’t get an entry until the Tuesday before the race on Saturday. Inadequate training is now a theme with me, but this was even more daft than usual. More daft than training for the Three Peaks with spin classes; or Tour of Pendle having done hardly any double-digit running for weeks?
Yes. Even dafter than that. Because this was a 21-mile race I’d never done before, that was entirely unflagged, that had only four checkpoints, and that I’d had no time to recce. It also had a small number of entries —- under 100 — which would mean a spaced-out field. At least the weather forecast was good. And as it was aimed at walkers and “non-competitive runners” too, there would be a) people out longer than me in case I got extremely lost and b) hot food no matter what time I got back.
Moors the Merrier. I think it was the name that appealed. And the fact I’d never done it before and I have a habit of doing the same races each year, if the pandemic allows. My friend Louise told me about it. She had entered, as had Tanya from Fellandale. But then Louise fell and cracked a rib so the only person I’d know would be Tanya and although a few years ago we were matched for pace, that has long since been untrue. She stormed round Wasdale this year, for a start, with a fabulous performance, and she’s been running brilliantly. I’d be running around on my own.
I wasn’t sure how I felt about that. Four or five or six hours – who knows – of my own company? I’m good at solitude (writers are) but I also enjoy running with friends or making friends on the way round. It felt like it was going to be a very long day out. And it was a day that started early: the race HQ was Hebden Bridge golf club, high on the valley side, which meant a 6.45am start from Leeds. Of course the night before I was wide awake at 3am with a horrible restless leg, plus an equally wide awake cat who thought it was breakfast time.
I knew where the golf club was as I’d run near it the week before doing Mytholmroyd fell race. I’d had a great day at Mytholmroyd: not that I’d won owt or got any category glory, but I’d taken places all the way round, felt strong, and finished by pelting down the steep valley side feeling like I was good at this lark.
I’d also had a good run at Tour of Pendle, my birthday race. As usual, Kieran the RO, had given me my age as my race number, a handy thing when you’re in the hinterlands between 50 and 55 and can’t quite remember how old you are when asked. I love Pendle, and this year I ran really well, right up to when the clag came down, as it always does, because the women hanged as witches quite rightly want revenge even when they were hanged miles away.
I followed someone who was following a GPX, missed the turn-off to CP11 and added half a mile to my route. I know that not by Strava geekery but because people I’d overtaken much much earlier were then ahead of me. Does that serve me right for passively taking advantage of GPX? Yes.
Anyway, Moors the Merrier. It’s run by Craggrunner, who also put on The Lost Shepherd, a cracking race. On this one there were two starts: 8 am for the walkers and non-competitive runners, 9am for everyone else. I wondered about the non-competitive bit. I’m competitive but I rarely get any category prizes. But if competitive means trying your best, then I was going to start at 9am.
The weather was clag and more clag. I got to the golf club just as the car park had filled up so parked along Heights Road. Darren, the RO, had emailed with copious instructions of where to park so as not to annoy bus drivers, along with this mandatory kit list:
- Santa hat
- Waterproofs (top and bottoms) with taped seams and jacket must have a hood
- Hat and gloves
- Map of the route, compass & whistle
- Santa hat
- Plastic mug for hot drinks on route (optional)
- Spare long sleeve top
- Spare food and drink
- Santa hat
- Survival bag
- Head torch
- Santa hat
I assumed the repetition was for emphasis, not that I needed to carry three Santa hats. So I gathered my Santa hat that I’d been given at the Stoop race, decided against my elf socks in favour of my usual mucky rainbow ones, and trudged up to the golf club. I’m fully in favour of rigorous kit lists, and so I had followed it to the letter, to the point where I could only fit one 500ml flask of water in my pack because of the survival blanket and extra long-sleeve and head-torch. So I was slightly disconcerted that the kit check consisted of checking that I had waterproof trousers, spare food and a headtorch. They didn’t even check I had a jacket. Weird.
We’d also been asked to bring a present, maximum value of £2, to “put in the bran tub.” I had no idea what a bran tub was but I brought one anyway. A bran tub looks a lot like a garden trug to me.
[Update. Bran tub :“a lucky dip in which the hidden items are buried in bran.”]
There was no bran.
The golf clubhouse being a golf clubhouse, it was warm and comfortable. For fell runners without campervans who are used to car-boot/back seat changing this was luxury. There were changing rooms with lockers, though the solitary shower in the women’s was broken. If you’re desperate for a shower, Darren wrote, we can sort something out with the men’s. I don’t think any woman was that desperate not when there were hot water taps and wet wipes.
I usually like to spend my faffing time in the car, but I wasn’t going to schlep half a mile just to do that, so I sat at a table with a cup of tea and watched the time pass. I was trying to understand who the crowd was. Wall-to-wall Inov8s, race numbers on chests, race vests, shorts = fell runners. Numbers on legs or — worse – racepacks, long tights, the odd Hoka = ultra runners. I know, how judgmental of me. But I’m not wrong. I decided this was a mix with the majority more ultra than fell. Not that it mattered, but it passed the time.
I told Tanya that I was worried about navigation. I’ve got a GPX file on my OS maps app, I told her, because it’s not an FRA race, is it? She put me right: on the notice board was a sign saying it was run under FRA rules. Oh. No GPX then. I’d drawn the route onto an old-ish OS map, and had printed out the pdfs on the race web page, though my printer had run out of colour ink. I would regret this later. I planned to carry the pdfs, 6 pages of them, swapping them around in the plastic folder so that I could keep my thumb on my position all the way round.
Faffing time was up, and we went outside. It was a small gathering of Santa hats, and very nice to see. The clag was still clag, but we set off, up behind the golf course and onto the moor towards High Brown Knoll, where I’d been seven days earlier, heading down to Mytholmroyd. I had my thumb on my map and would keep it there for 21-ish miles, and for a while I was really pleased with myself, checking off landmarks in the landscape and finding them on my map. Shaft, check. Sharp left turn, check. Climbing the contours, check. I didn’t need to do any of this, there were plenty of people around, but from Pendle I knew this could change very rapidly and I’d be reduced to squinting into thick fog trying to see if anyone else was going the way I was going. I realise this means I put ridiculous levels of faith in other people’s navigation. I’d also regret this later too.
Through the clag, I heard the booming Yorkshire tones of the one and only Dave Woodhead. You again! I shouted, as I’d seen him last week too. Dave and I yell at each other but it’s affectionate: I think he and Eileen are brilliant to be standing out in all weathers photographing just for the love of the sport. He was standing just by the trig pillar, and this was our conversation. :
Him: Stand over theere by the trig, it’s got a heart on it.
Him: Right, now bugger off.
Me: I love you Dave.
Him: Merry Christmas girl!
He’s a tonic. Onwards to CP1 on a main road. The clag was lifting now, I had people in front to follow, my thumb was on the map, I knew where I was and I could see the hi-viz of marshals in the distance. Number taken, then the marshal said what I thought was “have a good day” but actually he said “don’t forget to dib,” because I had. We had our dibbers on wrists like giant babies with tracking devices, set free from hospital cribs to lurch across sodden moorland.
Was this a fell race? It had plenty of off-road in it so far, but paths rather than trods. It was being run under an FRA licence which meant FRA rules, which meant you could make your way bewteen checkpoints as long as you weren’t flagged to a particular route or didn’t cross private land. But Darren in his setting-off announcements had said to stick to the route, so I was going to try to stick to the route.
Page 3 of my maps and bloody hell I recognised where I was. I expressed this delight by saying out loud “Nook!” which people around me wisely ignored. Nook is the ruined building on the way to Stairs Lane (or maybe on), last seen on the Haworth Hobble. I had no idea where we were going after that, but every now and then I’d recognise sections from one race or another. I think there were bits of Mytholmroyd, Haworth Hobble, Heptonstall (at one point I said to a woman running near me, “This is Heptonstall backwards!” and most bizarrely she didn’t respond).
It wasn’t cold, the forecast rain hadn’t yet arrived, and I felt comfortable. A woman ran up behind me and said, “I wish I’d worn shorts.” Only me and one other woman did. I answered with my usual self-critical, “My legs have plenty of insulation,” and she said, “that’s a magnificent pair of legs” and I fell in love with her immediately, enough that when she overtook me by climbing a gate instead of going over a steep and tricky stile as she should have, I nearly forgave her. Nearly.
I didn’t feel as strong as I had done on Mytholmroyd. I even looked at my watch, saw I’d only done 8 miles or so and thought, shit. I try not to watch-watch but for the next half a dozen miles I did, and it didn’t help. I couldn’t understand why I felt so tired.
I tried to chat to people to make the time go quicker, especially ones who seemed very confident in the route or had recced it. They were going to be my very special friends. If I’d been left to my own navigational devices, I think I would have gone wrong quite a few times. But perhaps I’d have been more rigorous than keeping a weather eye on my map. I’d already realised that black and white maps aren’t ideal: the colour gives clarity, particularly when the colour is blue and denotes big reservoirs that you can see with your eyes but not on the map. Except it actually was on the map because this is what this excellent navigator did: for an entire map section, I couldn’t undrestand where I was. My thumb wasn’t making sense. I was with people who seemed to know where they were going — no hesitation at junctions — so I wasn’t too worried, and by the time I was thoroughly confused by the disconnect between landscape and map, there was only a mile or so to the checkpoint. There was a reservoir in plain sight, but I couldn’t see it on the map. The trouble was that I was convinced that a section on the map was a bit we’d just come through, a clough with a beck and a bit of wiggling up the sides and then I tried to make the rest of the map fit even when it didn’t. And I put the missing reservoir down to my black and white print-out.
When I reached the checkpoint, then set off again sorting out my map pages, I realised.
I’d been following the wrong map. We had been running along pdf number 3, and I’d been following pdf number 4. What a bloody idiot. The reservoir that wasn’t? Perfectly present and correct – Gorple Reservoir – on the right map. I suppose if you are keeping your thumb on your map it helps if it’s the right one.
I swore to pay more attention, and keep my compass to hand.
By now there were 3 or so of us who were running near each other, sometimes overtaking, sometimes retreating. There was an older man behind me with a full OS map. I mention that because for some reason my brain told me “ full OS map means he knows what he’s doing.” He was one of the people with his race number pinned to his racepack, and on one climb I asked him why. “Because if you change your top you don’t have to faff around changing your number.” Oh, I said innocently, but I thought it was against the rules? “Well,” he said, “no-one has bollocked me yet.”
Plenty of people were using GPX too. I didn’t, but I benefited briefly when we ran a section that I recognised though god knows which race it had been a part of. (I’m going with Lost Shepherd.) This took us down through more bog, no paths in sight, and the map route ended with another wiggle, only we got the wiggle wrong, and only a man with his GPX put us on the right direction. At that point the route headed due east, no paths, and I got my compass out and used that. We’d passed Lumb Falls early on; now we were heading into another dell with rushing water and slippery rocks. None of this was familiar but it all looked like any other dell with rushing water, woods and rocks: Hardcastle Crags, Lumb Falls, anywhere. I should point out that it was beautiful even if my eyes were mostly on my Mudclaws.
On the way to the next checkpoint I saw a man ahead carrying a huge log on his shoulder. I thought it was a local carrying some firewood – a lot of firewood — until I ran past him and saw he had a race number on his shorts. “Are you doing this for training?” I asked. Yes, he said, I asked no more, we wished each other a good run or walk, and I headed to the checkpoint for a cup of tea. 15 miles in, nothing was going to surprise me.
By this point I should have been worried. I hadn’t even drunk 200ml of my water, and looking back I was definitely dehydrated. I hadn’t fuelled much either: a couple of gels, a quarter of a Snickers, and a small wrap with hummus does not consist of adequate fuelling for 5 hours on your feet. But it was cold enough that I didn’t feel thirsty, and I wasn’t hungry either. Daft. And it explained why I was so tired, along with the energy-sapping bogs, bracken and soft fields.
Burnley Road, over the other side, and up into the woods. I passed caber man again. “Are you fundraising?” “No.” “What does it weigh?” “30 kg.” “Right.”
The route showed zig-zagging switchbacks all the way to the top. I was on my own, with the OS maps man behind me, and I carried on the main path, not exactly confidently, but not feeling like I was going wrong either. I saw two women with race numbers walking down below and got thoroughly confused, and still don’t know where they were going. I carried on upwards, thinking, it should be switchbacks but it will turn back on itself soon. I also thought, as long as we get to the top and I head south, I’ll be fine.
So I carried on, past two lads on motorbikes who said “is it a sponsored event or something?” and along a decent path (the Pennine Way) that ended at a gate. I could see Stoodley Pike up ahead, and I was pretty certain that the route contoured around a hill. I also knew it was southerly. But at this gate there was a sign for the Pennine Way and it was not going south, but there were flagstones and it was the only path amongst bog and bracken. I still didn’t think I’d gone wrong, and when I looked behind me, the OS maps man was following so I must be right, right?
At the other side of the bog, I joined a track and then to my right, nearly a dozen runners arrived, and I’d never seen them before. I had been running with two other people in sight, mostly, for miles, and suddenly there was a crowd. Oh.
I thought: I’ve obviously gone wrong. I thought, I wonder how much I’ve short-cut. I thought: But as long as I dib at all the checkpoints, I can’t be disqualified. There was no way I was running all the way back to the missed turn-off, nor making my way through sodden bogs to get onto the correct route. I kept on.
It was nice to have different faces around, although I couldn’t work out whether they were walkers or runners,as not that many people were running by that point and on this terrain, which was vigour-draining bogginess. It’s hardly polite to ask someone if they’re walking when they’re supposed to be running. Sometimes I thought I knew what was what by people’s footwear, until someone in what I thought was a pair of hiking boots starting running, and I gave up. By now I was in the minority for having kept my Santa hat on, so I was pleased to be Santa-ed into second place by this man:
I headed upwards, but mostly following people and thinking I’d never have found this on my own. I was still running and feeling a bit stronger. By now I was near a group of young women who I’d only encountered after my accidental short-cut. Even without the shortcut I wouldn’t have thought we’d be anywhere near each other in the race field, but I looked later and learned they had been Early Starters. I can’t remember the next stretch: it seemed long and all I knew was that it ended up in Mytholmroyd and that Mytholmroyd was the last step before Hebden Bridge golf club and warmth and food.
I crossed over Burnley Road again, puzzling Christmas shoppers with my mud and Santa hat, and I was in the last mile.
It was a nasty mile. I don’t mind testing finishes. I’m quite fond of Butt Lane on the Yorkshireman, or running up cobbles, or any uphill finish. I’d rather have an uphill finish than run a lap around a field. This though: we were at the bottom of the valley and had to climb to its top and the Calder Valley is properly steep. It was only slightly shorter than the steepest climb: 700 feet after 20 miles. Also it was exactly the route I’d done 7 days earlier only I’d been careering downhill, not slowly trudging upwards dreaming of pie.
It was hard. No-one was running by now, and there was general trudging and silence. I felt exhausted, both my knees hurt and I was in a world of niggles. Up, up, up and more bloody up, till a footpath that veered off the road and was a shorter way back to the clubhouse. Then the tarmac drive that also headed uphill.
Make it stop.
It stopped. I finished. 5.09. Inside, I found Tanya, who had only come in 15 minutes before me, and had found it oddly tough. It was harder than Tour of Pendle, she said, although it was less climb but more distance (5000 feet over 17 miles, 3500 feet over 21 miles). She’d gone wrong a few times, missing High Brown Knoll trig so that she passed under it hearing Dave Woodhead’s voice through the clag. I’d got half a mile less on my watch than she had.
I got my cheese and potato pie and when the server said “do you want mushy peas with that” I practically yelled OF COURSE I DO. Hot pie, mince pie, still not enough liquid. The walk back to the car, in the delayed heavy rain that was now falling, seemed a very very long way.
I was 9th V50 woman, which is a fact that I find delightful: that so many women over 50 are so strong and fabulous that I haven’t a hope of winning category prizes except in tiny races. I didn’t get a prize for wearing my Santa hat all the way round, but I did get a packet of miniature Cadbury chocolate bits and bobs from the bran tub. Everyone’s a winner.
It was a grand day out. I’d got to unknowingly run through and near places called Cock Hill, Miller’s Grave, Bogs Eggs Edge, the famed Tom Tittiman, Cludders Stack, The Notch, Egypt and of course Horodiddle.
All that, all those moors, and all that sky, with a pie to finish, for £15.