All the Twos

By Rick Ansell

I was going to call this ‘eight twos’ but I got so many difficult questions from the editor about why I called my last post ‘seven fives’ I decided against it.  Anyway, according to my book there are eights twos but according to the map there are nine so it was a bit confusing.  Eight (or nine) 2,000’ hills in the Cheviots that is – an upland area straddling the border between Northumberland and Scotland.  I went over the top of the ninth, it was on my way from the third to the fourth so it doesn’t matter if there are eight or nine because I did them all.  Perhaps I should have gone metric added The Schill in and made it 10 sixes (600m hills).

Enough of numbers, we are talking about hills and it was the lack of numbers to worry about that made the run particularly enjoyable.  This wasn’t a race so I wasn’t worried about which number I finished and, although I reckoned it would take me about six hours I wasn’t running against the clock so the only pressure was to enjoy the day.  With this attitude I find you relax and start to flow rather than fight my way over the hills.  Instead of seeing the next hill as being miles away you start to see it as too near as you will arrive too quickly and have less running to do once you have got there.

Despite the post-lockdown madness I thought the Cheviots would be reasonably quiet and I’d always thought a circuit of all the high points would make a good and not too demanding day out.  With no races or events to go at at the moment I am slowly ticking off these little challenges that dismal winter evenings have given birth to over the years.

I set off in a light drizzle from Hartside, the roadhead in the Breamish Valley.  It was good to be running with a map and compass in hand until I realized that the map I was using wasn’t waterproof.  It was an old event map.  Nowadays any map you get given to race with is waterproof but in the old days you had to put your map in a big plastic bag to keep it dry and this map was 15 years old and I didn’t have a big plastic bag.  I decided I would have to only use it if the weather got really bad and in the meantime try to navigate from memory.  I wrapped the thing up in my waterproof and tucked it away in my bumbag.  Running from memory did lead a to a couple of errors but nothing that added much time to the day and later the sun came out and I was able to use it again.  A close call, though as a map turning to pulp would have spoilt the day.

The first hill was Hedgehope and this was that annoying gradient that’s just not steep enough to walk. So I had to run it and it was a steady 3km up hill grind.  By the top I was nicely warmed up and ready for a jelly baby.  A lovely downhill run led me to the morass that is Comb Fell.  I escaped this to get stuck into the steep grassy slopes of the Cheviot.  The heather was in full bloom and for once I loved pushing through the thick vegetation.  I was in no hurry, just pushing hard enough to feel I was working.  After the Cheviot and its two (or three) satellite tops there was a long section of mostly flagstones along the Pennine Way to Windy Gyle.  I padded happily along thinking of weary Spiners coming up here in the last few miles of the race and wondering if I would go on feeling as happy as I was if I went on south all the way to Edale.

Leaving the Peninne Way I dropped into the Usway Valley and jogged up the track to the lonely Uswayford Farm.  The next hill was Bloodybush Edge and I did start to lose my equanimity as I stumbled through the tussocks on tiring legs but the trig pillar eventually came into view. The wind was at my back and there was just one hill to go before the final 5km run in. I trotted back to the car feeling more than content with the day; sufficiently tired without having had to flog myself.

I reckoned the day was about 36km with 1,400m and a good mix of easy running on the Pennine Way and hard going on tussocks.  It took me 6.32.