You know the feeling. You throw a party and then wonder if anyone will turn up.
On Sunday afternoon, a small group had set up the club tent and flags in the middle of Tring Park, the birthday cake was on its way and the drone camera was flying but…where were the Tring Running Club members
And then, like the cavalry coming over the hill, they started to appear, at first a trickle and then a torrent of zebra-striped runners pouring into the valley. New faces, old faces, families, supporters.
After the limitations of the pandemic, it was a joy to see so many happy folks all together to celebrate the club’s 40th birthday.
The first aim was to make a new club photo. Rachel Wray deployed all her teaching skills to assemble more than 80 club members on the side of the valley and, with expert drone piloting by Dan Newton, we were all soon squinting into the sun and waving our jazz hands. Then a swift sideways move and we joined up to spell out “TRC” for more overhead shots. Watch out for the clever editing of the dispersal footage!
The celebration had been planned and designed way back in February when we were still in deep lockdown. The thinking then had been to arrange a relay event to minimise contact. But as restrictions eased, the plan changed to each pace group running its own out and back route but with all groups aiming to arrive back in the Tring Park at roughly the same time.
And so the groups were waved off by Celine at rigorously-timed staggered starts. The tension on the start line was palpable. Would the plan work? Would the run leaders be able to interpret the detailed but acronym-heavy route descriptions they had been given? Would anyone get lost?
An hour or so later, the cavalry once more crested the hill and happy but hot groups descended back to the TRC hub.
After a few words from TRC Chair Adrian, the final official business was the cutting of the birthday cake. Many thanks to Jane, Brian, Chris and Celine for the delicious and festive fare.
As the shadows lengthened on a sunny and warm late September day, people exchanged stories of their runs, caught up with friends, entertained their children and looked forward to events to come. Bedecked with their memento car sticker “Tring Running Club – Running the Chiltern Trails since 1981”, soon it was time for the club members to strike camp and wend a way home.
A big thank you to the Birthday Celebrations group – Tony, Liz, Hugh, Helen, Celine, Nigel and yours truly – for all the events in this 40th year. Next stop, 2031 and our 50th birthday!
The weekend didn’t get off to a very good start when, through utter incompetence on my part I failed to meet up with Paul on the campsite we had booked and camped on the wrong campsite.
Preparing for a navigation event and failing to find the correct campsite didn’t bode well…Although I had followed the link Paul sent and made the booking I hadn’t really taken note of what campsite the link was for and just assumed it was Upper Booth. On arrival I didn’t find Paul’s car and imagined he had just given up waiting and gone to the pub.
It was only after a couple of pints in the said pub where I didn’t find Paul and, returning to the campsite I noticed it was called Upper Booth and not Greenacres which was the name of the place I had booked, did it begin to dawn on me that maybe I had gatecrashed another site that had lots of signs saying: ‘Full, Bookings only.’ I wondered if maybe my booking at Greenacres would be valid here….I laid low and left early.
The second error was not to have taken note of the event centre. I’d just assumed it was somewhere near Edale and I had to drive about the valley for a while looking for a field full of cars. There were several, I discovered but most were just car parks for day trippers and nothing to do with the race. I was feeling a little flustered when I finally found the correct place and some friendly faces and a rather bemused Paul.
The event was on the southern and northern slopes of Kinder with the option of crossing the Snake Road and running up onto Rowlee Pasture for some controls there. The main Kinder plateau was all out of bounds which meant going out along the southern edge and retracing your steps, going round the end of Crookstone Knoll and along the northern slopes before doubling back again. With hindsight this was the best thing to do as much of it was on runnable paths. In the heat of battle, though it seemed like a lot of toing and froing and so I opted to cross the road and visit Rowlee Pasture and its very unrunnable tussocks.
My mind was rather on next weekend’s adventure with Lynda much of the time and my navigation was hesitant and my progress a little unfocussed and undetermined. With 50 minutes remaining I found myself crossing back over the Snake and bumped into Paul looking for a signpost in a farmyard. After his last effort when he was back late he was playing safe and was on his way home round the hill and finished with five minutes to spare.
I was beginning to get into my stride now and feeling greedy and lined up a further 150 points. I reckoned I needed 60 minutes for this so knew I would be late. 5 minutes late would lose me just 10 points, 10 minutes and I would lose 35. Anything more and it’s game over. Could I make it back less than 10 minutes late? There was a big climb. Would that last run down be fast or horribly rough? I could have missed out a control and saved a bit of time and distance but I fancied the line. Every little trod that helped me through the heather was cheered inwardly but the chest high bracken on the descent was cursed at full volume. 9 minutes late, 30 penalty points. I could have saved those nine minutes by missing a 30 point control.
What the hell, I’d enjoyed the day, had a good run out before the Joss Naylor and none of the aches and pains of recent days had troubled me.
1 David Petit 470
20 Rick Ansell 360 (3 V 60)
42 Paul Terret 310 (15 V50)
After two rounds (best three of four to count overall), I’m 4th in V60 and Paul 7th in V50.
Two minutes into the Nicholls Torture Session on Wednesday evening my hamstring started to niggle. Next day, while mowing the lawn my back went and on top of that the blister rubbed into my heel during the Greensand has still not healed properly. Things weren’t looking good for the Kong on Sunday. I tried to go for a run on Friday but only got 50m beyond the end of my road before everything seized up and hurt.
It seemed a bit pointless to drive all the way to the Howgills not to be able to run, and so I told myself but despite this, I found I was rushing round packing up on Saturday morning. “What are you doing you idiot?” asked my head. “We’re going to go, if you can’t run you can walk. Need to get some hills in if you are going to do the Joss Naylor” Answered the rest of me. Maybe I’m weird (alright..) but sometimes I find that my body just takes over and gets on with something or makes a decision while my head is still wondering what to do. It’s quite handy sometimes when I can’t decide; I just wait to see what the body will do.
The setting sun bathed the hills in a pale yellowy autumnal light as I came up the last bit of the M6 to Tebay. “I really fancy a run on those hills tomorrow” I thought to myself. “What a bummer it’ll have to be just a walk.” “Ah just wait and see,” Came the rejoinder.
I spent most of the night lying awake thinking about the Joss Naylor run and not really focusing on the event at hand at all. In the morning I dosed myself up with ibuprofen, taped up my blister with pads, tried not to enquire too acutely about the hamstring, picked up my number and made my way to the start.
A glance at the map showed there was an obvious first and last control so I was able to amble off up the track and wonder about where else I could go between them. A sheepfold was the obvious second and then a stream/path crossing followed by a summit. That settled I tried a slow jog. 100m and everything was holding together, 500m; I pushed on a bit and felt the hamstring tighten. I eased back and it relaxed. I dibbed at the first control: 10 points, and set off to cross a low ridge. I saw the sheep fold below me and headed for it. Then I saw another one with loads of people milling about so headed for that. “No, you numpty, can’t you see that the sheepfold you want is after that stream junction up there? Look, there’s that one on the map, clearly below the junction” I retraced my steps, annoyed with myself for being influenced by the others and tried to concentrate on going the right way and not on whether my back was sore.
There was a long climb and I chatted to an acquaintance and stopped looking at the map. It stopped me thinking about my ailments and as we crested the rise I let him go and started to concentrate again. Where to after the summit control? There was a tempting cluster of four controls the other side of a deep valley: 130 points for the taking there. It was a big climb and would leave me the wrong side of the valley from the finish. It looked like the obvious thing to do but just didn’t quite feel right, somehow, too committing. I looked for alternatives. To the east there was a 40 pointer and then a 30 in the valley below. “Down that valley then back over those two ridges: much safer”. Everybody else peeled off down to cross the valley. “Am I being too cautious?” It was my head this time that made the decision.
“Go for the 40, leave them to it. Let’s see how many get back in time”. I did the sums again. “Just as many points this way and 3km shorter”
“What if you are back really early?”
“Well maybe you can get one on the ridge on the other side of that valley.”
“Look, there are three controls up there: 100 points then drop back down to the 30 at the end of the valley, then you can do those two ridges. Lots of climbing: good Joss training.”
“OK let’s do the 40 then down to that 30 at the stream unction, that’s just where we camped last summer with Max and Paulette. We’ve done 6k in the first hour including the climb. If you have more than two hours left then you can go up the other side and along the ridge. Deal?”
I emerged onto a ridge and looked about. With all the discussion about where to go I had stopped concentrating on the immediate and nothing fitted with what the map said. I realized I had crossed the ridge at a lower point than intended, saved some climb but added some distance. OK. Now I knew where I was and where I was going. It felt good and right.
A lucky trod led me gently angling into the top of the valley for the big climb to the 40. Suddenly my legs started to flow. Not the usual hobbling stumble but something almost like a proper run. I got stuck into the steep climb, dibbed the 40 and tipped down towards the valley. I passed a guy descending painfully: “Brutal on the knees these hills,” I said. “Bloody right” he returned. “Actually, my knees aren’t hurting here”, I thought. “Must be all that Nurofen.”
I could see the kite below me. Dib and straight through and up the other side. There were people above me struggling up and I found myself catching them. One guy was obviously trying to zig zag up to make the climb less steep but was actually just going back and forth across the hillside and not ascending at all. He looked at me for help. His legs just wouldn’t carry him up. There was nothing I could offer and he knew it.
I was aware of someone else climbing strongly to my left. I glanced across and realized it was Neil Talbot. I decided to try and keep pace for a bit. By the top he had only pulled about 50 m but then he was away like Road Runner disappearing into the distance. “Ok, you don’t have to be that good…” An easy path led along the grassy ridge. Once again, I felt the joy of moving fast(ish) and free through the hills. 15 mins to the next 40 then just six minutes down to a stream source. A young guy dibbed just in front of me but I beat him on the steep descent to the valley.
“Am I having a flyer here? Wonder what everyone else is doing. I bet a few have gone south; bet a few will be late back.”
“90 minutes left: two big climbs and some easy running not more than 8k. Could be really early”
“Don’t ease off. Come on try and chase down those two on the hill. We did this climb last summer. It’s a pig.”
Legs were tiring now but I did close the gap on the woman in front of me. We took different lines to the next control, mine was more direct and steeper, hers longer with more of a traverse. We arrived at the pond we were heading for together.
“Mmmm maybe this isn’t such a great run. She can’t be much younger and is going just as fast”.
A lovely trod led down the ridge from the pond. I could feel the day’s hills in the legs now, that delicious tired feeling when you know you can keep pushing on: “Good hurting” as my mate Andy calls it. I crossed the stream at the bottom, the water low, tepid, sluggish and climbed up to get a 20 on a knoll. Home now but all around the out of bounds. I got the line wrong and hit the fence too low having to thrash through the reeds to get round it. Suddenly there were just 20 minutes and 3km to go. Round the end of the fence and onto a track; horrible and stony. Don’t miss that last 10 pointer. It’s going to be tight but should be just OK.
1 Philip Rutter 680
(4 Kim Collison 520)
21 Rick Ansell 360 (1 V60)
The next event has been cancelled so now the series is just best of two so with a win in the V60 category here and an equal first last time I don’t really need to do the final event…but of course I will. Beers tonight, though.
Having badgered Paul T into doing the virtual MapRunF series during the spring and not actually done any of them myself, he was probably wondering if I was going to turn up to do this ‘real’ event as well. After a fairly disastrous leg on the Greensand where I was late for the start and almost missed the finish, had to stop to adjust a shoe which was giving me a blister and to have my pre-race pee mid-race, I really just wanted to go and hide in a very dark place where nobody would find me. Anyway, Paul seemed quite surprised to find us in Ashbourne Market Square shovelling down fish and chips.
We had found a campsite about a mile from the race start conveniently situated behind a fine pub in the Manifold Valley. The name always makes be think of noisy exhaust pipes but is actually a very tranquil spot, though the Manifold itself was completely waterless.
Paul is a Scout Master and so of course had his tent up in seconds and he went off to recce the area while I struggled with mine and then tried to check up the WhatsApp to see if Team Athenians had powered through to make the finish. I was pleased to see that despite my attempts at sabotage the team had made it to Northill in good order. Well done Athenians!!
Paul returned and we repaired to the pub. It had been a hot run and much rehydration was needed.
The race next day started from Warslow village and had a mixture of open access areas and farmland where we had to stick to footpaths and deal with cows and, as Paul put it delicately, ‘their recycling of grass’. The map showed a nice straight line of connected paths that led via two 40 and a 30 point to 60 point control at the south end of the map. It shouldn’t have taken me much more than an hour to get there giving me two hours to work my way back and collect as many more points as possible. Most people, though seemed to be setting off in the opposite direction running down through the field where we had parked, to the Manifold Valley. I decided that they must be right and so went that way only to regret it when I found myself having to haul my way up the other side to the trig pint on Ecton Hill.
The trig point was worth 50 points, though and there was a 70 pointer on the next hill and another 50 plus some lower score controls so I began to think I was doing alright despite some back and forths and having to ask Sunday walkers where I was. I had mopped up all the open access area so now it was decision time. There was still 90 minutes left and that would give me time to do a little loop round the fields and back along the edge of the Valley to collect another 80. I was very aware that I was still on the wrong side of the Valley for the finish and inevitably there would be a big climb back from the bottom. This would need time.
For once time seemed to slow down and after crossing the valley I had time to take in another 30 before the run in. I got back feeling really rather pleased with myself. I felt I had collected all the low hanging fruit so to speak. I was soon disabused though when I discovered the first V60 had scored 70 more points than me and I was well down the rankings. I really should have gone out to that 60 to start with.
Paul who had started before me was still not back. He was obviously taking the opportunity to get to know the area a bit better. The organizer was just beginning to get anxious when his red shirt appeared round the side of the hall. Paul’s route, if you looked at in on Strava might suggest a person retuning from the pub. He assured us this was not a result of the several pints of Pedigree he had consumed the night before but a cunning tactic to avoid going up or down a hill. I think he hasn’t quite grasped the concept of fell running yet…To be fair he had actually scored a lot more points than me…Just a shame he lost 85 of them for being late.
He had clocked himself as having run over 14 miles, the furthest he had ever done and 3.15 was the longest time he had ever spent running at one time. I think being within the 3 hour time limit would also have given him his longest run, though….There aren’t many people who would choose to break their distance record over that sort of country. Respect.
On Saturday 24 July 2021, Tom Sawyer and myself attempted the Bob Graham Round. Below is my account of what happened over the 42 peaks, 66 miles and 27,000 feet of climbing. If, however, you want a summary then Oliver (my 22-month-old) summed it up quite well: “Daddy go for really big run. Lots of hills”.
Pre-round I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from the weekend as a whole. We planned this attempt at the end of 2018 before Tom departed for what turned out to be an extended trip to New Zealand. I had imagined many aspects of the attempt but one part I didn’t imagine was the beautiful but hot weather we had. The build-up consisted of moving small piles of assorted food into ever decreasing areas of shade whilst we all attempted to also use these areas to keep us and the children cool. A test of priorities.
The closer we got to kick off the more the doubts crept in. But with plans in place, kit ready and handed out, and some calming encouragement from Lucy (my wife), it was time to try and sleep. Whilst I think I slept, I could sense the buzz of excitement as the team supporting us were getting ready and arriving at the campsite.
As we got ready to leave the campsite we could see head torches on Skiddaw building the excitement. We arrived at Moot Hall far too early. After pacing around Moot Hall listening to a very bad rendition of Stevie Wonder’s Superstition (Tom Raftery later assured me that Stevie wasn’t in Keswick that night…) we ascended the Moot Hall steps and watched the seconds tick down. Saturday 24th July 2021, 00:00. Go…
Leg 1 – Support: Ross Langley; Leg time: 03:37 (-9 minutes); Total time: 03:37 (-9 minutes)
Embarrassment was avoided with successful navigation out of Keswick and before we knew it Ross was leading us up Skiddaw. Ross, Tom and I have trained together for some big events over the past few years so starting this together was a great start to what we hoped would be a great day. Ross had also provided me with so much support in preparation for this attempt. We have spent hours running together or in the car to and from various recce or supporting trips and discussed pretty much every aspect. Thank you, Ross!
The moon was shining bright illuminating Keswick and Derwentwater behind us but the digger before the gate to Skiddaw summit had us thinking the hallucinations had started early! We reached our first summit of the Bob Graham Round in 78 minutes and headed for Great Calva. It was this trudge through the heather where I started to relax, finally. But as I relaxed the enormity of the round and that I was actually running it sunk in and the emotion hit me.
We cleared Great Calva and the horrible descent to the river, then headed towards Blencathra without too much trouble. We had seen head torches ahead and could now see them behind, it sure was a busy night on the fells. Blencathra had a little clag but that didn’t deter Ross who guided us in expertly. Down to Threlkeld via Doddick Fell, just like that leg 1 was done. Excellent navigating and pacing from Ross ensured we arrived slightly up on time but not allowing Tom and I to go too quickly at the start…something that could have very easily happened! A quick pot of rice pudding, some water and a change of t-shirt we were off on leg 2.
Leg 2 – Support: Michael Burgess, Hugh Beedell; Leg time: 04:02 (-18 minutes); Total time: 07:39 (-27 minutes)
Leaving Ross at Threlkeld we picked up Michael and Hugh for the long climb of Clough Head. It was starting to get light as we headed between the Dodds and the sunrise as we hit Stybarrow Dodd was breath-taking. The cloud inversion with the sun rising through and above the cloud was one of my highlights of the whole round. Something I had never seen before. It turns out Hugh is an expert cameraman capturing some awesome shots of us running towards Helvellyn.
Whilst I was enjoying the views, Tom was hardly speaking. One of many personalities we would see during the day. My only struggle along this leg was getting very cold hands and needing a long sleeve and my gloves for the majority. Before we knew it, we were at Dollywaggon Pike and descending towards Grisedale Tarn. I had my first (and thankfully only) fall as we went around the edge. Out and back to Fairfield over the rock and scree reminds you of the terrain to come.
My knee started to hurt here which was worrying as we still had a long way to go. We crossed paths with another attempt here, and were told by wild campers that they had seen ‘at least 9 attempts’ go through already.
As we climbed Seat Sandal my mind wandered to the road stop at Dunmail Raise. We had almost done 2 of the 5 legs and I didn’t feel like I had been running for that long. I remember trying to push this out of my mind and not get ahead of myself. Another brilliant navigation and support performance from Michael and Hugh we arrived at Dunmail Raise 27 minutes up on time.
This was our first real stop and I was excited to see my sister, Emma, who had made it from North Devon to support having no experience of fell running. She had my bowl of Weetabix ready which was washed down with a cup of Coke as Simon slathered sun cream on my arms and legs. What a sight for her!
Leg 3 – Support: Simon Barnett, Fraser Wilcox; Leg time: 05:39 (-27 minutes); Total time: 13:18 (-54 minutes)
Michael and Hugh tagged Simon and Fraser in for leg 3 and we were soon on the climb out of Dunmail Raise to Steel Fell. Getting some revenge on Simon for his Ramsay I ditched my long sleeve within about 3 minutes of the climb giving him even more to carry. As we made our way towards Calf Crag we caught Brian who was out for the day providing additional hill support. By this time Tom’s personality had changed from grumpy leg 2 Tom to excitable leg 3 Tom. The difference was remarkable. I didn’t realise the sun could have such an effect on someone!
I’d done 2 recces of leg 3 but both had been in the clag and I hadn’t actually seen much so I was really enjoying what felt like new terrain. We had been assured Simon was a ‘leg 3 expert’ but weren’t comforted by phrases such as ‘I’ve never done this line before, let’s give it a go’. Much of the early part of this leg is a blur as we transitioned from the early grassier parts to the rockier later part.
We met Brian again at Rossett Pike and I had the additional water he had carried for me. This turned out to be key as all of Simon’s reliable water sources weren’t reliable. A quick chat with some other BGR supporters and on we went with Simon providing some tour guide information on Billy Bland’s Rake as we climbed it.
We made our way towards Great End and had a nice chat with a man and his daughter doing a recce of Borrowdale fell race. Some words of encouragement and we carried on only for a star struck Simon to realise it was Rob Jebb. It wasn’t long before we made it to the highest point in England, Scafell Pike, and lots of walkers and runners who must have wondered what we were doing running up the little steps, shouting out a time, and running down again. Mad people.
Now for the fun scramble to Scafell. We had decided to take Lord’s Rake and the West Wall Traverse but could see another Bob Graham Round attempt ahead of us. Simon wanted to get us there first and dragged us at a speed down to the mountain rescue stretcher. We had a clear scramble up this fun gully.
Once we were at Scafell we had a 33 minute descent ahead of us to Wasdale Head. One of my favourite parts is the scree surf just before the river. We crossed the river and weaved in and out of the walkers. It hit me. I was going to see Lucy and Ollie for the first time that day. I really had to fight the tears back at that point. In to the National Trust car park and there they were. A big hug with Ollie and Lucy was just the energy I needed, I knew I was going to do it at that point.
Some more food and drink and a change of clothes and we were ready for leg 4. Simon and Fraser, like those before, had expertly navigated and kept us fed, watered and moving over the leg we were probably most worried about in 27 minutes quicker than schedule.
Leg 4 – Support: Alan Whelan, Tom Raftery, Claire Shelley, Hugh Beedell; Leg time: 04:38 (-19 minutes); Total time: 17:56 (-73 minutes)
Next, Yewbarrow. We left the car park accompanied by Alan, Claire, Tom R and Hugh (who had decided to double up support on less sleep than we had got!). There was a lot of conversation coming from this group which along with the good stop helped keep the spirits high. That was until Yewbarrow started biting and we slowly put one foot in front of the other.
The heat was really ramping up and was starting to take a toll on me. From Yewbarrow to Red Pike was where it really hit. My legs were hurting, I was thirsty but didn’t want to drink and didn’t want to eat. The guys were great at pestering us to eat and drink.
After Yewbarrow getting to Red Pike feels like it shouldn’t be too far but it is about the same amount of time. The summit couldn’t come soon enough. The chat was back and spurring us on. On to Steeple next and I started to feel a bit better. Some pizza, hula hoops and paracetamol did just the trick.
There is a great psychological boost of heading to Pillar and then Kirk Fell in the direction of Honister at this point in the round. The conversation was in full flow from the supporters which I really found helped and I tried to feed off of their energy. Think we were back to “leg 2 Tom” by this point.
At Black Sail pass Brian reappeared with more water for the group which was gratefully received. Up the scree to Kirk Fell (great line Claire!) and next; the what seems unclimbable Great Gable. On a clear day like we had the panoramic view of the whole round is breath-taking and makes you appreciate how much ground you have covered.
From Great Gable to Honister was a bit of a blur and before I knew it I was following Alan off Grey Knotts before he stopped to guide the others to the best line. I ran down to Honister knowing we were ‘nearly’ there. Some well-timed cold roast potatoes from Becky was exactly the food I didn’t know I wanted. I was ready to get to Keswick.
The team we had with us on Leg 4 were amazing. The random chat, the pestering to eat and drink and Alan running ahead to scout the lines. This could have been where it went wrong for me but these guys got us through!
Leg 5 – Support: Simon Barnett, Alan Whelan, Claire Shelley, Ross Langley, Tom Booth; Leg time: 02:21 (-30 minutes); Total time: 20:17 (-103 minutes)
For the final leg we were joined by Alan and Claire carrying on from leg 4, Simon and Ross for a second time and Tom B who met us halfway up Dale Head. Spirits were high as we headed to Dale Head and I don’t really remember much other than there was lots of talking. The same to Hindscarth. Robinson to go. Head down and climbing. The final summit. Get us to Keswick.
We all filed off of Robinson down to the Tarn and all was going well until a squeal from Simon in front as he fell over. No damage done and we continued into Little Town. I was adamant I wanted road shoes for the final bit so stopped for a quick change.
Simon and Alan stopped here whilst Fraser re-joined and Claire and Ross carried on. We tried to run as many of the hills as we could and tried to work out our expected time.
As we headed around the top of Derwentwater Dave joined us for a great moment with Tom. For those that know Tom and I, we never don’t race. Something kicked in as we headed towards Keswick. The pace just kept getting quicker as we sprinted up Keswick High Street. Up the steps to Moot Hall. Touch the door. We did it. 20:17.
As I write this I’m not sure if it has sunk in yet. I feel incredibly proud of what we did and grateful that we had the opportunity and support to make an attempt at the Bob Graham Round. As I struggled to sip a beer looking back at Moot Hall we caught up on the day’s stories from everyone.
Not being able to park at Wasdale, nearly missing lifts, and finding out Oliver and Lucy had been up most of the night as he was sick multiple times but everyone had kept this from me during the run! I think Tom and I had it easy.
The best thing about finishing the round (apart from being able to stop running) was seeing all our friends and family that had put a lot of time and effort in to help us do this crazy challenge. It was a privilege to have you help us and to spend a day in the hills in such great company. I’ll never forget your smiling faces looking at us as we turned around from those green doors.
Ross, Michael, Hugh, Simon, Fraser, Alan, Claire, Tom and Tom across the legs, Brian providing hill support over legs 3 and 4, and incredible road support from Lucy, Emma and Ollie Wade, Dave and Becky Sawyer (Tom’s parents), Ross, Zoe, Maeve and Ted Langley, and Nigel Lacey. I can’t thank you all enough for the support that you provided during the training, preparation and attempt itself. I’m already looking forward to supporting a few of you on your attempts in the future.
Having arrived at Burns Farm on Thursday afternoon, I spent almost all of Friday sorting out last minute tasks (shopping, sorting kit, cooking pizzas), discussing the attempt both with Matt (Wade, co-challenger) and the rest of our support team, and eating. At about 19:30, with four and a half hours to go until kickoff, I attempted to grab a bit of sleep in a tent that must have been over 30°C having been cooked in the sun all day. At 22:54, I preempted my alarm by one minute and got up.
A couple of trips around camp later and I was ready to go, and at 2330 we drove out to Keswick with Ross (Langley) and my parents. Nigel drove a few other members of our support crew to join us at Moot Hall, where we were surprised to be the only runners starting at midnight on a clear, warm July night with a full moon.
Leg 1 (support – Ross Langley):
The watches hit 0000 and we got going from the hall as a trio down the ginnel and over Fitz Park. No navigation issues, a good start. Having planned a 22 hour schedule we walked the majority of the hills from the gate after the A66 bridge. Ross, Matt and I have spent many hundreds of hours running together over the years and Ross had been instructed to keep the pace down in case we got a bit overexcited, which he did perfectly as we chatted our way around.
The run up to Skiddaw was reasonably clear but colder than we’d expected based on the warmth of the previous days. Luckily I’d let Matt talk me into a long sleeve. After Skiddaw we dropped off the top to hit the climb up Great Calva, mostly in darkness with the moon hidden behind the clouds.
Great Calva was summitted and we hit the line to the stile and descended the fence line to make our way across Mungrisdale Common and into the only low cloud we encountered all day which was sitting on the summit of Blencathra.
The decision had been made a few weeks prior to take the descent of Doddick Fell rather than Hall’s Fell to minimise risk in the dark, and we took a few moments to ensure we didn’t overshoot the entrance to the descent. As would become a pattern during the day I watched Matt pull away on the descent before we caught him along the wall and ran into the changeover at Threlkeld seven minutes up on schedule.
Leg 1 time: 03:34, -7 minutes.
Leg 2 (support – Michael Burgess, Hugh Beedell)
A quick three minute stop at Threlkeld to drop off bags and grab some food and we departed down the remainder of the road and marched through the tussocks to hit the long trudge up Clough Head. As Michael had described it the night before, we were on the ‘athlete’s leg’, and we ran a fair proportion of the tops from Clough Head, helped by a high moon on one side and a rising sun on the other. Hugh took some amazing photos, which somehow captured the incredible cloud and mist below us.
With no high mist or cloud we moved easily, with none of the issues finding tops Matt and I had had three weeks prior. The Dodd’s passed quickly, and we swiftly moved to Raise with the sun fully risen. The frequency of peaks and ease of running meant the leg ticked through incredibly quickly, and once we hit White Side I started to think about leg 3 and the increasing heat – I’d been running in just a t-shirt from sometime around Raise and temperatures were already rising. The two Helvellyns passed, and we spent as much time as we could admiring the views.
We went through Nethermost Pike and Dollywaggon Pike, before skirting Grisedale Tarn to hit the Fairfield out and back, having chosen this over the Cofa Pike option. At Farfield we were up on our original schedule by 17 minutes, having been up or level on every split on the leg except for Nethermost.
Hugh and Michael had been great company throughout, and Michael’s navigation was as exemplary as we’d expected. Unfortunately I think they bore the worst of my mood as Matt kindly pointed out later in the day once I’d cheered up.
We dropped down to the climb up Seat Sandal and dropped down to Dunmail – backing off slightly after a couple of slips and near misses down the descent but still extending our gains over schedule to 27 minutes. At this point I started to believe we’d get round – I was feeling remarkably fresh for approaching eight hours on my feet, although we had the big legs still to come…
Leg 2 time: 04:02, -18 minutes
Overall time: 07:39, -27 minutes
Leg 3 (support – Simon Barnett, Fraser Wilcox)
A quick nine minute stop at Dunmail (change shirt, grab some food) and we got moving up Steel Fell. Last time we’d recced the leg we’d had awful weather and zero visibility all day, and neither of us had seen any of the peaks. This was different, the sun was fully up and getting warm. As Matt noticed my mood lifted significantly with the daylight. We saw Brian on the run from Steel Fell to Calf Crag and had a quick chat as he followed us along the top to meet us later.
Leg 3 is the long leg, described by Brian as “the meat and potatoes” so we had plenty of chances to chat to Fraser and Simon. This gave me the opportunity to test my “how many lakes are there in the Lake District?” trivia on Simon, and extol the virtues of New Zealand with Fraser. We rolled along really smoothly throughout the leg, bumping into and having a chat with Rob Jebb (“was that Rob Jebb?”) on the slopes of Great End and overtaking a couple of BG challengers out on the hills. We knew there’d been a fair number going out in the hours before us and we saw at least three groups at various points, mostly on this leg.
Simon’s experience of rounds and fell running is pretty much unmatched, and between him and Fraser they got us through with no real dramas despite the complete lack of drinkable water.
Bizarrely we hit the top of England, Scafell Pike, at midday to the second, and confused a few tourists by climbing the stairs, lapping our watches and running straight down again. Strictly business.
Dropping down, we’d chosen and recce’d Lord’s Rake as our route across to Scafell, and seeing Broad Stand in broad daylight only reinforced that we’d made the correct choice. Matt had a better go through the rake than I did, and kindly waited for me to appear from the gully onto the tops. Off Scafell we surfed down the scree, getting a bit mixed up with another BG crew, and Matt managed to get away from me again, this time on the grass drop to Wasdale. Luckily for me, Matt slowed down a bit washing in the stream at Wasdale and we joined up on the run into the carpark.
Leg 3 time: 05:39, -27 minutes
Overall time: 13:18, -54 minutes
Leg 4 (support – Alan Whelan, Tom Raftery, Claire Shelley, Hugh Beedell)
Wasdale was a hard change, it seemed a good five degrees hotter than everywhere else and with no breeze to cool us as we sorted ourselves. Another fresh t-shirt and a new pair of socks, and some cold pizza and potatoes and we cruised over the bridge trying not to look up at Yewbarrow.
Yewbarrow was a trudge, but we had our largest support team yet and everyone was happy and chatting away. Until about a third of the way up Yewbarrow where Alan pointed out that everything had gone a bit quiet. I continuously felt like I was overbalancing backwards while going up, and regretted my position at the front.
An awful lot of leg 4 passed in a bit of a blur. Claire, Hugh, Tom and Alan kept the mood high chatting throughout. I clearly remember seeing Steeple for the first time and being both impressed and a bit annoyed (“we’ve got to go over there now?”), and then trudging up Green Gable.
We met Brian again a couple of times as he zigzagged through the leg with some extra water, which was much appreciated, and before I knew it we were debating the relative merits of the summits at Grey Knotts before tipping over the edge and dropping to Honister. By now my descending had deteriorated from my normal ‘Bad’ to ‘Dangerously Poor’ and I was grateful to make it down on my feet.
Leg 4 time: 04:38, -19 minutes
Overall time: 17:56, -73 minutes
Leg 5 (support – Simon Barnett, Alan Whelan, Claire Shelley, Ross Langley, Tom Booth)
Honister was a bit warm, and there’s less than no shelter. I sat down by a knee high wall in a fruitless attempt to find some shade. A bit more pizza, some coke and we set off. At this point I’d expected to see Tom, our sole non-Tring member who was making his way across from Keswick, and was worried he’d got lost or missed us. As we got going up Dale Head he appeared, giving us a five strong final leg support crew. By this point we knew we’d get round, and in a decent time as both of us still felt good.
We ticked off Dale Head, a climb that always goes on much longer than I remember, and ran (!) round to Hindscarth to click off the penultimate peak. Somehow we still had energy to run down to the edge and take the direct line up towards Robinson, peak 42. All that remained from there was getting off the hill. We had a line picked out and recce’d, which dropped down beautifully and smoothly down to the north side of the tarn on an easy grass descent.
Unfortunately we missed that line by going off early and had to pick our way down a rocky, lumpy descent to the south of the tarn. We were cheered on briefly by some wild campers on the edge of the water and we jogged down to the road.
I kept jogging through Little Town while Matt changed shoes and we joined back up, with Fraser doubling back from earlier. After walking one climb we had a discussion about the relative merits of saving energy with less than five road miles remaining and picked up the pace. We met Dave (dad) on the corner of Derwentwater, and turned onto the bridleway to Keswick.
As Matt pointed out that he could see Booth’s in the distance we went for it, running a 7:30 mile while Ross got us across the road crossings at the foot of the high street. We were clapped all the way up to Moot Hall by our support team and strangers alike and touched the door at 20:17.
Leg 5 time: 02:21, -30 minutes
Overall time: 20:17, -103 minutes
I can’t be certain, but I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to see a town centre high street on a Saturday night. We sat on the bench chatting for a while and had a couple of pints before all heading back. It’s hard to think of how the day could have gone better – we had perfect navigation thanks to Ross, Michael, Simon and Alan, incredible support on the legs from Hugh, Fraser, Claire, Tom and Tom, great hill support from Brian out on legs 3 and 4, and fantastic road help from Nigel, my parents, the Wades and the Langleys. I can’t thank everyone enough for their help and I look forward to supporting a few rounds in return.
Back in the dark days of lockdown in February, Rick suggested I might enjoy trying some ‘Score Events’ as something to challenge me, with a combination of off-road running and lots of navigation. So, I found myself signing-up for a series of four Peak Raid MapRun events, which use a GPS app on your phone to record your run. The rules are simple – they send you a map by email, with 32 checkpoints marked on it, and the challenge is to visit as many as possible, by any route you choose, and return to the finish within two hours (with penalties for being late).
Bearing in mind that my running in recent years has been somewhat sporadic, due to injuries, and that my usual event is a 7-8 mile club run on a Wednesday, I could see that stepping-up to two hours, in the Peak District, was going to be a challenge. And it was.
We were free to choose when we ran each event, as long as they were all completed between 1st April and 31st July, so I was constantly checking the 5-day forecast for not-too-wet and not-too-windy weekends.
The first event was at Monsal Head, starting on an abandoned railway line that is now used as a walking and cycling trail. But any hopes of clocking-up the miles (and score) on a nice level track were quickly dashed, with my route climbing both sides of the valley, undulating thereafter and then returning twice more to river level. But I got round, almost on my planned route, and only 1½ minutes late finishing. Not bad for a first attempt.
Perhaps I should add that, by receiving the maps prior to the event, competitors have the opportunity to plan a route in the comfort of their own home – a luxury not available on a normal event in non-Covid times. Having accepted that my running fitness wasn’t going to amount to much, I realised that I would have to concentrate on route planning and navigation. For hours I studied the map provided, plus the equivalent OS and Harvey’s maps. I even went on Google Street View and Google Earth to try and build a picture of the terrain.
Anyway, a few weeks later, I was heading back up the M1 to the second event, at Middleton-by-Youlgrave. Another cool and sunny day and a lovely area in which to run. Not quite as hilly as the first event; I really enjoyed this one and even finished 60 seconds within the time limit. My route choice was slightly better this time, having learned from Monsal Head, and perhaps I was getting more used to the format. Whatever, this was my best individual result, finishing 39th out of 208.
Middleton will also stick in my memory for the friendly lady that I started chatting to on the way back to my car, who popped into her cottage and reappeared with a can of chilled Coca Cola. Perfect end to a great run!
The blurb for the third event stated that the first challenge would be to find the starting village, Rowarth, and they weren’t kidding. Time pressure, and the gradual lifting of lockdown restrictions, meant I was running this after a week of heavy rain showers and wow, it was muddy. It made the ‘S’ bends in Tring Park in winter look like a paved highway by comparison. But the route was scenic, even if it was another hilly one. Annoyingly I missed scoring at one checkpoint by about 20 yards when my phone ‘pinged’ for an incoming WhatsApp, rather than for arriving at a checkpoint. Schoolboy error not to have assigned different ‘pings’ to each app.
The fourth and final event was based around Hollinsclough and was brutal. The organisers had thoughtfully dropped several checkpoints on top of Chrome Hill, Hollins Hill and Parkhouse Hill – not surprisingly these didn’t feature in my planned route. With the series deadline approaching, I found myself running this one with a cold (yes, a cold, not Covid) which certainly didn’t help my stamina, nor my tactical thinking. Already behind schedule, I decided it would be a good idea to carry-on with my planned route (up yet another hill) rather than cutting back to the finish. This cunning plan scored me just 40 additional points but lost me 90 points in time penalties – yet another lesson learnt !
So, four events in four months. All hilly and all in beautiful countryside around the White Peak of Derbyshire and Staffordshire. And unlike normal races, I hardly saw another runner in 8 hours of running. I met a few in the car park at the start/finish but, apart from these, it was a practically solitary affair.
Given that race reports are traditionally written by the highest-placed Tring runner, I thought I should grasp what will probably be my only opportunity, simply because no one else from the club actually ran. Not even Rick…
In the delicate Yorkshire of Paul B, conditions were ‘a trifle moist.’ In the vernacular of SE England they were *!@^!!&*#@ apocalyptic. (I better not write rude words here or Sally will tell me off). Some of the bursts of rain we enjoyed delivered more litres per minute per m2 than my power shower; even when it is on Extra Boost; and it is a pretty top of the range power shower, more or less the same as a Kacher pressure hose (well alright my shower is a Karcher pressure hose if you have to know). The rain was so cold that it left you hyperventilating; not helpful when you are trying to run up a steep hill and already struggling for breath.
The Saddleworth Round is only a B Category race (probably why Paul was there) but it certainly delivered the punch of an A. The race actually had to be diverted as a river was un-crossable and we had to go round by a bridge. “There are no other rivers that you have to cross”, promised the organiser as he cheerily sent us on our way (and no doubt scuttled back to the safety of the pub). Well, on the way up Black Hill on the Pennine Way there was a river.
Two weeks ago I ran through this and the water didn’t even come over the top of my shoes. This time I waded warily in and it reached my waist. Luckily it was only a few steps across because I was on the verge of being swept away and had to lunge for a tussock on the opposite bank. A woman and another guy were on the other side looking a bit shaken by their experience of crossing. 100m further we had to re-cross and we hauled each other over this time. I thought we were probably safe now as I knew that although there were more streams to cross these were only side streams.
When we came to the next one we met a walker: “It’s really deep,” he said looking at what he had just come through. “Can’t be as bad as what we’ve just done” said the lady and dived, literally, in. She disappeared up to her neck and pulled herself out slightly the wiser. I crossed a little more circumspectly and managed not to go more than thigh deep. The thing about crossing rivers in spate is not just the wet and the cold and power of the water but the noise of the water which really makes you feel threatened.
At the end Paul had similar stories of the river crossing. Apparently he had had to be rescued from the waters by a female vet (by which I mean an older woman, not an animal doctor).
At this point we were about half way through the race. The first part had been fairly civilized, very much B category. Most of the initial ascent was done before we actually reached the start line so we had just a gradual climb over the top of Alderman’s Hill and then an easy enough descent down to Dovestones Reservoir. There was a rather unnecessary climb up to Fox Stone and then we were back down in the valley again.
An old guy in a Dark Peak vest came past: “So where exactly is Tring? I’ve seen some of you guys out. You have some really good runners in your club”. “Yes”, I thought, “Actually we do,” And a little shiver of pride ran down my spine along with the rain.
Thinking about the race beforehand I had told myself I would run all the way up the road to the Chew Reservoir and I was pleased that I actually managed this even though the woman I was with walked it and still pulled away. Once up at the Chew Dam you are off out into the heart of the moors. With the wind at my back I managed to maintain my ‘run’ on the gradual and very boggy rise to the high point and pulled back the Dark Peaker. Whatever else, I thought I was going better than two weeks ago. I decided that the wind assistance was counterbalanced by the water resistance of the stream pouring down the path I was following up.
For the second time in two weeks I visited the top of Laddow Rocks and started the long trek to the summit of Black Hill. For a brief minute the rain abated and washed out sunlight gleamed greenly on the slopes of Black Hill. The bare peat that gave it its name has been largely reseeded and now it is, in summer, a grassy sunlit upland. The adventures in the rivers refocussed my mind on the job in hand and once onto the slabs that carry the Pennine Way to the trig point I got my head down. I felt for some jelly babies but realised disaster had struck, possibly in the river and I’d lost my packet. Could I make it back with no more food? Luckily the marshals had some, albeit rapidly dissolving, babies at the check point, which restored confidence and energy.
The next section follows the old route of the Pennine Way across the expanse of Dean Head Moor to the road crossing of the A635. Although there is still a clear trod here, the path is little used now and has largely reverted to bog. Well, it always was bog, I suppose, which is why they rerouted the Pennine Way. I was enjoying the physicality of the terrain, and the wind now in my face and looking forward to a drink at the road. With all the water so dark and peat stained it was always difficult to gauge whether when you put your foot down you were going to go two inches or two feet deep in it. But I was getting blasé now and running as hard as possible and Devil may care and clearly He did as I suddenly went thigh deep and pitched forward face first into the ooze. I came up looking a bit like Neptune only instead of seaweed dangling from his beard I had sphagnum moss and peaty black gunge. “They say it’s very good for the complexion” my friend told me. By which I think she meant it had improved my looks. Fortunately, the next shower powered through soon after and by the time I reached the marshals I was presentable again.
From the road there is an interminable stretch of paving slabs across the moor. I hate running on the slabs, they thump your thighs like a road does. At least on a road (if you are foolish enough to run on one) you can just shut your eyes and run along and forget where you are. On the slabs if you take your eye off them for a nanosecond one of them will reach up a rugosity, grab your toe and smash you face down on a brother slab six feet further along. I know they absolutely have it in for me. My friend skipped away into the distance and two guys who I had worked really hard to overtake on the proper boggy section came breezing past.
I caught one of them, though, on a slight rise once we got off the slabs onto the home run and I started to close in on the other who seemed unable to see the flags that marked the route and kept stopping to ask for directions. I thought I knew the way home but the flags took us off across some fields. I made myself keep jogging up the hills to wear him down mentally if not physically. We turned onto a road.
“Straight up the hill then turn right” said the marshal.
“Come on” I said to my new friend. “Let’s get this killed off” and I set off to run.
“I can’t run up this” he said.
“Nor can I”, I thought, “But I’m bloody going to.”
Of course he caught me in the last 500m down to the pub but he wouldn’t go past me and we ran in together.
“Help yourself to jam tarts and drinks,” said the marshal. “There’s a chip butty in the pub”. Did you have a good day?
“Absolutely brilliant,” I said and really meant it.
A big thank you to Jo for buying me a cup of tea to go with my butty.
And well done to Paul who was showered and changed by the time I got back.
In the old days if there was a Bob Graham attempt being made, I used to hope I would get invited along to support. Bob Graham weekends were always a highlight of the year. You could watch people suffer, have a relaxed, non-pressured weekend out in the hills, running, perhaps, in the small hours and seeing the sun rise and then having a few beers in celebration in the evening and sleeping the sleep of the dead.
Nowadays I’m worried that people might ask me to help. I really don’t think I can move fast enough to keep up. Maybe I could manage it for a double round late on the second day….Anybody?? Probably Matt and Tom thought the same thing: ‘Shall we ask Rick? Better not, he might say ‘yes’ and we might never get round in time…’
Anyway, they didn’t ask so I didn’t have to say no. Unfortunately, though, Lynda said ‘yes’ to a different proposition I made to her a while ago: to make an attempt on the Joss Naylor Lakeland Challenge in September. I had thought I could have a quiet, under the radar go which if I failed on nobody much would notice. Actually, when I first though of doing it, I thought: ‘Well 48 miles in 18 hours: shouldn’t be too bad’. Suddenly as the date approaches, 48 miles seems an awful long way and having to keep up with an international athlete is turning me to a jelly-legged wreck. We all know that Lynda just gets faster and faster as a run goes on. What speed is she going to be doing by the time we get to Pillar?
Normally by mid-summer I have had months of running in the hills and am reasonably hill fit if not somewhat jaded and burnt out. So far this year I have had one competitive outing and two solo runs on the hills and the one competitive run showed me that my legs are no longer working. With things now opening up I penciled in a series of races to try to stop the rot and see if I could at least keep up with Lynda for the first couple of the 33 hills we have to visit.
Plans were set back with the cancellation of the Trigger on the first Sunday of August but actually it has come as a bit of a relief as this was going to be the second of three consecutive longish Peak District races. Having completed the first, Holm Moss, I will need two weeks to recover sufficiently before I can contemplate another.
I did Holm Moss a good few years ago, didn’t enjoy it much had an awful run on a roasting day which involved giving up at one point and lying in the river before realizing that the only way to get back to the finish was to complete the course and so I duly plodded round the remainder. It involves about 25km with some good running on the Pennine Way and some horrible, rough sections and several shortish but brutally steep climbs and descents. Probably just what is needed to prepare for the Joss.
I set off steadily, using the first mile on a track and road to warm up, though the day was already warm enough. A couple of ladies took the first steep descent on a very narrow trod very gingerly and we all backed and started bumping into each other in a very non-social distancing way as we tried not to pressure them but couldn’t keep the brakes on tightly enough. I was secretly rather pleased to find someone going downhill even more slowly than me.
Eventually I slipped past them and was able to set my own pace. I felt positive and was running with enthusiasm. I caught runners, hung behind them and then overtook setting my sites on the next vest. The momentum was good. At the first checkpoint at the road crossing by Holm Moss TV mast I barely paused, grabbing the proffered water and skipping over the stile. There was a nice grassy descent and then I got stuck into the next climb with gusto, driving my legs upwards like in the old days. All good till I got to the top and suddenly the legs changed from being pistons to being jelly. There is a long gradual descent to Crowden from the ridge here. I decided a bit of nursing and things would pick up again. A couple of guys passed me but then as we approached the valley they stopped going away from me and began to come back. “My legs just aren’t working” said the first one I caught: “You and me both” I replied, though actually my legs had improved from jelly to a sort of soft compound rubber.
I always feel momentum is key in races. Once you stop to drink at a checkpoint and pass the time of day with the marshals you are doomed. Grab a cup, walk three steps as you down it and go. I sort of managed this and started to prepare mentally for the coming two big climbs and descent that would get me to Laddow Rocks and the start of the return. It wasn’t quite driving pistons up the first hill but I did mange to keep going and pass a couple of people who couldn’t.
“Not enough hills in my legs for this” said one as he admired the view. Good to think it wasn’t just me then. I was pleased that the descent went Ok, knees not too bad but then the next climb reared up. It is a steep pathless scrabble, pulling up on the heather and bilberry. There was one guy sitting there actually in tears. “Come on, it’s not that far now” I said encouragingly. “It bloody is” he replied, and he was right. As I neared the top I began to wonder if my legs would actually get me there or just expire and not carry me any higher. Eventually I pulled myself onto the top of the Edge. The marshals were all positive and upbeat. They had cups of water. “Here have a seat said one, the view is fantastic” and he made room on the rock he was on. Sod the momentum. I sat down to enjoy the view and have the drink.
An elderly lady (well she was V65) who had been on my shoulder all the way passed me. After a bit I set off in pursuit. I managed to jog a lot of the way up the flagstones to Black Hill and every time I looked up she was walking: “Great, come on, pull her back” I said to myself but she never got closer and opened up a big gap on the run down from the trig to the mast and the start of the last section back along the hillsides we had traversed in the morning. “Come on, come on stay strong. You’d be fine if it was 14 miles to go and not four” I told myself. Somehow when you know you are nearly there it is too easy for your body to give up prematurely. The vet lady was struggling and suddenly I had nearly caught her and another guy. “Don’t care. Just want to finish”, my legs told me. The last hill really was a struggle and the last 2km of track and road stretched out to infinity it seemed but like all bad things it did indeed finally come to an end.
I didn’t break 4.30 which I hoped for. I didn’t make even the top three V60s but I wasn’t last, I’d had a good day out; wonderful to be running on the hills again and I won a bottle of wine in the raffle. I came home feeling replete. But those 48 miles with Lynda are now looking positively terrifying. Can I really get strong enough in time?
I never intended to enter this race. In fact I had no idea that it was happening until the day before when, out walking our dog along the Golden Valley in Ashridge my wife and I came across two mysterious signs one saying 5K pointing one way, and another saying 10K pointing the other.
Being the curious chap I am, I got onto google on returning home and found out that the signs were for The Gaddesden Gallop 5K and 10K and that it was taking place at 1030 next morning starting from Little Gaddesden Sports Ground. I texted the organizer who texted me straight back to confirm that she would pre-register a place for me in the 10K. I was in!
But would there be any other Tringers lining up on the start line? Never fear, a small (elite?) group of us gathered pre-race including Sally Nash, Martin Hopcroft and Paul Crudge. There may have been others, but there were no other Tring RC vests to be seen.
The course itself turned out to be relatively challenging, the first half going out along the Golden Valley mainly uphill, followed by a sprint downhill along a wooded path and through a tunnel before reaching Nettleden Road. Unfortunately I took a bit of a tumble on this section when I tripped running downhlll, however after a quick roll, I bounced straight back up without losing my race position. I scraped my arm but as Monty Python’s Black Knight once said “Tis but a scratch!”
After the Nettleden road crossing there was a long climb uphill which luckily I had recently run with the 10’s group, so at least I knew when we were getting near the top! From there it was a fairly flat second half mainly on country lanes before returning across the fields to the Sports Ground and over the finish line, with lots of encouragement from the watching spectators and runners that had already completed the course.
I have to congratulate the organisers of this race, Little Gaddesden Primary School, for putting on a great event, hopefully raising a significant sum of money for the school. The race marshals, presumably parents, teachers and school staff, many accompanied by their children, were superb both in their directions to the runners and in their welcome, vocal encouragement. It was also very touching to see so many little primary school children completing the 5K race with their mums and dads. Hopefully a lifetime of running beckons for them.
I would also like to congratulate my fellow Tringers who all managed to achieve finishing positions in the Top 10:
3rd Overall Paul Crudge 44:23
5th Overall (and 1st Female!) Sally Nash 46:04
9th Overall Martin Hopcroft 48:26
Well done to you all!
And 31st Overall…Dave Cary 55:50
Finally on leaving the car park to drive home I spotted Ronnie Wood (whose country residence backs onto the Sports Ground) heading for his back gate with his dog.
So it turned out to be a Rolling Dave and a Rolling Stone kind of morning!
On Saturday 26 June Christina and I ran the Greensand Ridge Relay route. We started in Linslade, near Tiddenfoot Waterside Park and finished 34 miles later at the Crown pub in Northill.
It was the completion of what had become a project- several Sundays over the last few months we spent “Greensanding”- recceing the legs and learning the way in preparation for the event. Celine and Lynda joined us for some social-runs, and we combined legs and organised cars and lifts (thanks Paul, Ian and James!) to get some long training runs in. I also did leg 5 with my Dad who lives in Bedford, not far away.
We were looking forward to joining the vibe that is Greensand on event day and imagined we would enjoy seeing the succession of Zebra vests from the different TRC teams fly past- hopefully all going the right way! When the event had to be postponed we decided to complete our run on the day anyway. It wouldn’t be the same, but with family and friends on board as support, we’d get the job done and have a good day out.
Brian saw us off- and it was good he did! -as neither of us has been present at the start of the race previously we didn’t know where the actual start line was. Brian showed us and after an official photo (thanks Brian) we were off. It was a 15 degrees, which rose to a sunny 20/21 later in the day and very humid indeed. I wasn’t unduly concerned- it wasn’t 25 degrees, we weren’t going up a mountain, we’d done plenty of “training” (well running), we weren’t after a fast time- it would be fine, wouldn’t it?!
For the first two legs we trotted along at our easy pace and were pleased when we reached the pretty run in to Woburn where you can see Woburn Abbey in the distance. Rachel was meeting us there and we were looking forward to seeing her and having a drink. A bit too keen to get there I took us off the trail too early- our only navigation error of the whole route. It was only a small error so we got back on track and soon there was Rachel, in full voice, cheering us in!
I was more tired than I should be – we’d only run 9 miles, at a very easy pace – so I was a bit confused as to why this was, but had some drinks, a couple of snacks and then thought we’d better get on with it – surely I’d feel better soon?
Leg 3 starts with the trail creeping gradually up hill through Woburn Park, with deer and Woburn Abbey to delight the senses. It then winds through villages, across undulating fields, passed the Segenhoe 12th Century ruined church, across the M1 bridge and finishes by running into Millbrook by the golf club and proving ground.
It is probably the leg I know the best, having raced it in 2017. It is the longest leg of the relay, and the most exposed. Probably it is also my favourite leg, but on Saturday it was where I felt my worst. I had to sit down for a rest at least twice, and then could only manage to walk rather than run for rather large portions. Christina was very philosophical and so supportive as my pace slowed and then stopped…”just think of it as a picnic in the countryside with some running” she said. “We’ve got all day”, she said, “it doesn’t matter,” Thanks Christina!
Rachel came up the trail and ran into Millbrook with us. I sat in her car boot feeling a bit sorry for myself. She was great though, sensitive, empathetic, but also pragmatic, “Yeah, it’s humid, yeah it’s hard, have a drink, have some food and then come on, let’s go!”
So, with half of Christina’s electrolyte tablet (mango flavour) in my water bottle we got going. Rachel ran with us for the first part of leg 4 which was a real boost. If you know Rachel you know she can talk (and run). As I’d lost the ability to talk during leg 3 it was good Christina now had someone to talk to and I could potter on behind. We passed the horses and on into Ampthill Great Park. I must have been feeling a little better as I remembered the correct way through the park!
Slowly but surely we got to Maulden Wood and were met by the mobile support station that was my parents. They had been waiting a while, Mum patiently doing crossword puzzles, Dad stomping round the woods…. Here, Lucozade Sport and a mars bar perked me up. I think I checked my phone at about this point and saw Brian’s supportive message in response to the fact I’d been struggling but was now feeling a bit better- “just get to the pub”…ok Brian!
We were soon off onto leg 5, down through the car park lay-by and onto the grass verge by the A road, that each time I have run on (3 times now) I wonder if this really is the correct route (I think it is….?!)
The combination of Lucozade, the now more overcast conditions and the cheering thought that we were only 10 or so miles from the finish spurred me on and luckily I could now maintain a slow running pace for longer than a few minutes at a time! We got to the leg 5/6 changeover, “Oh, you’re here earlier than I thought,” said my Mum, handing out more Lucozade and Coke. So, nearly there!
Leg 6 was a leg we had only done once, but was pretty straightforward. I got my map out just in case…although carrying a folded map and not looking it is perhaps not optimum. Luckily Christina remembered it well, and we actually completed leg 6 faster than on our previous recce. We were thrilled to finish and joined my husband, daughter and parents who had bagged a table at The Crown to enjoy some refreshment before heading back to Tring.
Some time back, someone in the club posted an ad for the above event, and I distinctively remember thinking, “Why on earth would you want to do that ?”
Well, some time later, I was looking for something to do to top up my base after my little 102.5 miles completing this year’s LDWA annual 100-mile event. By the way, I am the first TRC member to complete this event as a septuagenarian and, although not wanting to wish my life away, am already thinking how nice it would be to complete one as an octogenarian. It’s funny how the mind wanders sometimes.
Anyway, with all of my usual LDWA events still on hold, I remembered this event. I also thought that if I had managed to complete the Incombe Hole 100 Challenge, then, after all, this couldn’t be THAT BAD. So, whoever posted it, it’s all your fault.
The basic event details are thus. Start at 14:00 on 19 June and run 6.55-mile (Quarter Marathon) laps for as much or as little of a 24-hour period as you like. Simples; I planned to run 8 laps to collect all of the badges on offer, Half Marathon, Marathon, Ultra and Double Marathon plus my finisher’s medal, insulated mug and embroidered towel for turning up. No wander my house is full of so much junk.
Upon arrival at the mini event village, I discover that as the river Ouzel had burst its banks, and that part of the course was now under a foot of water, the course has been shortened to 10kms, 6.25 miles.
As 8 laps would now not be a double marathon, not that they were in the slightest bothered, I didn’t want to collect that badge under false pretenses. The simple solution is 10 laps, 100kms, 62.5 miles.
Well, we started on time, around 300 plus of us, we ran it “Our Way”, as it said on the tin, and all finished sometime later. On my first lap I got chatting to a woman who at the end of that lap told me that she was now done and was going home. At £33 for the entry fee I think that some people appear to have more money than sense.
Anyway, I took a short break every 20kms and kept running ??? all through the night. I like this part of any long-distance event and really perk up when the dawn finally arrives.
The results are in entry number order and I simply don’t have the will power to make sense of them. It really surprised me how many people only completed a few laps, many, many 5 or less. I duly completed my 10 in a pathetic time of 19 hours something. The most laps completed by a soloist was 15, which I thought was equally disappointing compared to the 31 laps completed by the fastest team of 6.
The route was very scenic for Milton Keynes, going around Campbell Park and both of the Willen lakes. It was quite enjoyable, in a masochistic sort of way, and I would genuinely recommend trying it sometime. I’m already thinking maybe next year.
After a shower, and a couple of hours kip, I set off for Whitehaven on the Cumbrian coast in Andy Collings’ camper van. I had agreed to deliver 2 bikes for Andy, who was taking part in the 3 Peaks Yachts Race. They duly arrived circa 01:30 Tuesday morning, having had to row for a while due to a lack of wind. The 2 “runners” set off on their bikes to ride and run to the top of Scafell Pike and back, which they completed in 9 hours 15 minutes. I’ll leave Andy to compile a much-anticipated complete report of this incredible race and journey. I will, however, throw in a spoiler and report that his team did complete the event and that many of the teams did not.
As usual, yours in sport and its myriad of guises,
On Wednesday 26 May, Andy Collings and I left my house heading up to the Lake District for Andy to help with a Bob Graham Round. He was due to navigate leg 2, at about 00~30 Thursday morning, for a friend of a friend, so to speak.
When the chap finally arrived some 35 minutes down on schedule, the writing was firmly on the wall. On a perfectly clear night Andy navigated the leg without any problems. Although Andy spent much of the leg trying to encourage the contender to go a little faster, He dropped another 40 minutes on the leg. He started leg 3 well outside a 24-hour schedule so it was no surprise when we later found out that he had retired at Rossett Pike and gone down into Langdale to be picked up.
Without going into detail, we both could write a book about the errors that the contender and his team had made. It constantly reminded me of what a professional and well-oiled machine TRC is when it comes to organising such endeavours. Anyway, we were on our way to Scotland as I was up next.
After a leisurely day on the Friday at New Lanark, Andy dropped me off at Milngavie, just north of Glasgow. I was just about to run, walk and crawl the entire 96-mile length of the West Highland Way, plus an extra 6 miles, as my choice for this year’s LDWA virtual 100. I set off at 5 minutes past midnight and disappeared into the darkness. I won’t bore you with a blow-by-blow account but will just say that it was tough, very very tough.
Andy supported me at 9 points along the way for which I am very grateful. I must just say that the highlight for me was being met, on the trail just outside Beinglas Farm, by Kirsty and Simon’s children. I had only done 41 miles by then but realised that I was already rather emotionally fragile, but this lifted me up no end.
I carried on through the next night and eventually finished on Sunday evening in around 44 hours. I had ascended and descended some 18,000 feet. While this was not a race but a challenge, I had done the West Highland Way race, albeit 6 miles shorter, 7 years ago in 27 hours. I have to say that this time round it felt a lot tougher. Maybe something to do with my age me thinks.
After a whole day’s rest, and the reason for finishing in Fort William, it’s time for the main event as Simon is about to start his attempt at the Charlie Ramsay Round.
At 01:00 on Tuesday 1 June, Simon began his attempt at the epic Charlie Ramsay Round. A circumnavigation of 24 Scottish mountains over 3,000 feet in height. It also entailed the little matter of covering some 56 miles and ascending and descending over 28,500 feet along the way as it started and finished outside the Youth Hostel in Glen Nevis. All of this and to top it off it must be completed in under 24 hours to count.
I’ll not dwell on the details as I will leave that to Simon for a much-anticipated future report, but needless to say he DID IT.
I had the privilege to see Simon through on three occasions which included a nice train ride on the West Highland Railway and a lovely 2,000 foot climb up to a col only to see him and his minders disappear up a near vertical rock face. I’ve supported and spectated Simon on all of his big round attempts and have felt it a real pleasure and privilege to do so.
The things some of us do to get out of the washing up.
As ever, yours in sport, Brian Layton.
P.S. On Saturday 19 June at exactly 2pm, Andy starts the 3 peaks yachts race and I start the MK24 hour race. Will we ever learn ?
Brian’s report on his Incombe 100 Challenge adventure.
I thought I had better let you all know that I am still alive, if only just.
Well, what an amazing day Monday turned out to be, and that had nothing to do with my rather mediocre performance. I must start this roundup of the day’s proceedings by profoundly thanking, from the very bottom of my heart, the small army of TRC’ers that kept arriving, staying, sometimes for a considerable amount of time, then departing. You kept me on my toes by popping up from everywhere. The top, the bottom and even passing me going up when I was descending off to the side. At one point I started to think that somehow a mysterious rota had been devised as no sooner had one person / group disappeared before the next lot arrived.
This just went on all day, with many of you doing reps. with me, and sometimes a LOT of reps.. I will not try and name you all for fear of missing someone out, especially as there was three or four members that I have not seen before. Equally so, I had not seen most of you for over a year.
As the day progressed and the fatigue truly set in, I am aware that I became rather emotionally fragile, so apologise if this became apparent. Your genuine and unconditional encouragement was truly fantastic, and not a heckler in sight.
I have also had a lot of very nice emails and would kindly ask those people to accept these ramblings as my response as I have had a very busy week getting my 96-year-old father out of hospital and trying to keep him out of trouble.
Now for the boring bit, how did the day go ? I started at 05:40 am and decided that I would go left at the top for odd reps. And, you guessed it, right for the even ones. I also had, at the bottom, two plastic containers. One with 100 small snooker balls in it and the other to transfer a ball into it at the end of each rep.. This worked really well and at no time did I lose count.
Simon arrived in time to see me through the 100-minute challenge and went up and down with me for well over an hour before running home to do a day’s work. I’m still not sure if this was to offset a tiny guilty conscience for devising such a wacky challenge or not. Anyway, it was very much appreciated and got me in the groove.
The early weather was very mixed, with sunshine one minute and rain the next, but with quite a strong wind throughout the day.
It wasn’t long before the day shift of support started to arrive and kept on arriving to the very end. The strategy of anticlockwise and clockwise reps also meant that the contour into the start point trashed the opposite side of my feet on alternate reps.
I took occasional short breaks to eat and drink but essentially kept plodding up and down all day.
John Manning stayed with me to see me through the ten-hour mark before speedily running home for a Zoom thingamajig. At about the 85 reps mark, when it was REALLY starting to hurt the very best Mrs. Motivator on the planet arrived in the guise of Celine. She had me convinced in an instance that it was in the bag. Her infectious positivity knows no bounds and we are all better people for experiencing it. She also got her husband to do alternate reps with me for a while.
Next up and a very pleasant surprise, Simon, Kirsty and the children come trotting up the path for Simon’s second shift. He is in training for something or the other I believe, and does another hour with me. At this point I must tell you that I had the privilege and honour of first seeing Elizabeth and Jack in hospital when they were a few hours old. To see them now running up and down that face like a pair of gazelles was a truly heart-warming sight.
Next up, for the glory shift as he put it, was Andy and Dom, who stayed with me to the end of my 101st rep. Yes, 101. All day I had promised myself that if I managed to do the 100 challenge, I would do one more rep. JUST FOR ME. We were in the very last of the useable light and reached the bottom, for the very last time, at 21:29.
The basic stats for the day are thus:
(1) Start at 05:40, finish 101 reps at 21:29. 15 hours 49 minutes in total.(2) I did 14 reps in 95 minutes for the 100-minute challenge. (3) I did 72 reps in 9 hours, 53 minutes within the 10-hour limit. (4) I covered circa 50km in the process. (5) I ascended in excess of 19,000 feet and, what a surprise, painfully descended the same amount. (6) As a septuagenarian, I claim the M70 title for both challenges, but eagerly await some competition in the near future.
I’ll finish by answering the obvious question, WHY? There were three main reasons why it seemed like a good idea.
(1) I needed a serious test for a bad knee injury I sustained just after Christmas. This kept me awake for 2 weeks and off running for 6 weeks. While I could just about feel it, it was no worse at the end than at the beginning, so job done. I only entered my 100 miler in two weeks after Monday because of this.
(2) Due to COVID, I had a lack of base climb in my legs (my upcoming 100 mile challenge has circa 17,500 feet of ascent in it). This just fitted the bill nicely.
(3) I wanted to give some perspective to Simon’s initial achievement, which was very good indeed. However, simultaneously being at the top and bottom of the same table tells you very little. He’s now at the top and I am at the bottom. I hope that other possible contenders will start to think about what they might be able to achieve, given the data. Just a thought, I’ll cross my fingers.
Thanks again for the incredible support. You collectively turned what would have been a very long and lonely day and, quite frankly, a war of attrition, into the best day I have had, on the hill, for a very long time. Sorry for being a bit long winded, but you should know what to expect from me by now.
With my very best regards to you and your families, yours in sport,
From Simon Barnett:
It took almost a year, but someone has finally had the gumption to attempt and succeed the wholesome version of the Incombe 100. Congratulations to Brian Layton.
There were a couple of highlights of particular highlights for me. Firstly Helen’s video during which she asked Brian if he was going to eat one of his 100 snooker balls that he was using as counters having mistaken them for some kind of foodstuff! And then (it could only be) Dave Jones who upon attempting to field his dog’s tennis ball about 1/3 way up the steps managed to step backwards into a combination of dog/ hawthorn bush before losing balance and somersaulting about 4m down the hill looking as if he wasn’t going to stop until Pitstone Windmill!
Undoubtedly though the star of the show was Brian who displayed dogged determination to complete this fantastic feat of endurance. To keep going from lap 72 (after 10 hours) for another 5+ hours to reach the required 100 laps is exactly the kind of idiocy that the Incombe 100 was designed for.
The Incombe 100 remains open to all-comers until Covid is arbitrarily declared as being over the inaugural member. In all likelihood that gives you just over a month to get involved – whether that’s as many complete laps as you can manage in 100 minutes (25 to beat) or the holy grail of reaching triple figures inside 10 hours…
The legal restrictions have lifted, but the local case numbers are high. We need to use what we’ve learned if we’re to continue our good record on low transmission. Like many other organisations, we’ll play on the safe side, and so won’t meet indoors as one club just yet, but we are talking to Tring Cricket Club about when we might resume renting the clubhouse and how that will work.
Thanks again to everyone who shared their views in our recent survey on how they see the future of ‘Home’ and ‘Away’ runs; this has been really useful and is informing our discussions with the Cricket Club.
So what’s changing now? Not much compared to previous weeks, apart from that Run Leaders no longer need to provide the Club’s COVID Coordinator with names of their group. (The NHS Test and Trace scheme will continue to identify and isolate contacts of positive cases.)
Before the run:
Any member may offer to lead a run. Runs tend to be on a Wednesday evening, from a range of locations around Tring.
The Run Leader can announce the run to the whole club or the pace group. If the run is announced before Monday evening, details will be included in this newsletter.
You can let the Run Leader know by Wednesday lunchtime if you intend to join them, or just turn up if the Run Leader has indicated that’s ok. Do use the contact details provided by the Run Leader (rather than let the whole club know!).
During the run:
Be mindful that some runners have reason to be more risk averse than others and may not want a (sweaty!) hug or high five.
Members of the public may prefer a bit of space too.
At a time of high COVID-19 prevalence, bear in mind the safeguarding measures we have been following to mitigate the risk of transmission (e.g. hand hygiene and social distancing).
Don’t join if you’re COVID positive, have the symptoms, or need to self-isolate, obviously.
After the run:
Run Leaders no longer need to provide the Club’s COVID Coordinator with names of their group. The NHS Test and Trace scheme will continue to identify and isolate contacts of positive cases. If a runner needs contact information to flag a positive test, the Run Leader may be able to help by accessing confirmation of run attendance (held for a maximum of 21 days).
Our Risk Assessment (below) has been updated following recent Government and England Athletics guidance. We will revise it again when we get to meet up indoors. Obviously any Government/Public Health recommendations in the meantime will supersede it.
Many years ago I ran the South Wales Traverse—a run of about 70 odd miles across the Black Mountains East, Brecon Beacons and Black Mountains West. It didn’t count as inadvertently I missed a couple of tops but was still a significant day out in my books. It is brilliant in conception, but in practice spoilt by a ten mile road section between the Brecon Beacons and the Black Mountains. Rather than go back and do it properly I decided it would be good, one day, to do them as two separate runs and so this weekend I went down to do the Black Mountains section, the shorter of the two. I’ve just measured it (with my wheelie thing) as 48km with 1,900m of ascent. It felt longer but maybe that is just age and Lockdown.
The South Wales Traverse finishes at the Half Moon in Llanthony so I decided to start and finish my run there. It sort of has mountain running history, a bit like the Moot Hall in Keswick (I decided the Moot Hall was too far off track and in the wrong country to start form).
I spent the night in the back of the car parked outside the pub. There is a deep peace about the place. The old priory, vandalised by Henry VIII, seems to exhale tranquility and harmony. There was no radio reception in the valley let alone a phone signal. No wonder the monks chose it to make their home. I watched satellites and shooting stars between sleeping fitfully.
Usually when the sun rises on the day of a big event I think how nice it would be not to have to go and run all day and to be at home to make some coffee and go back to bed. But on that day I found myself actually relishing the day on the hills in the sunshine. I couldn’t think of anything better to do after all the weeks of being stuck at home.
I loitered about the pub watching swallows nesting in the eaves, waiting for 9.30 to click round so I could start. There was no real reason for not starting at 9.23 but 9.30 seemed neater somehow. The run began with a 400m climb to the ridge. The Black Mountains are brilliant hills to run in. Once you are up you can go for miles without having to come down. There are grassy paths to almost anywhere you might want to go so there is no thrashing through tussocks. The hills were bone dry, I didn’t step in a single patch of mud and my feet only got wet when I crossed the river at the foot of the final climb in the late afternoon.
I padded along Offa’s Dyke, one foot in Wales and the other in England, the sun on my back, the breeze in my face and huge views on either side. Hay Bluff marked the northern point and I dropped down to the Gospel Pass with less than two hours run. Lord Hereford’s Knob, the next hill, it has to be said, is a rather more commanding feature than Paul’s Knob.
Although I seemed to be making good progress, it seemed to take an age to overhaul walkers and once passed, they didn’t seem to disappear very quickly behind me. I felt I was moving slowly and got depressed. I tried to persuade myself that the time didn’t matter, that I am an old man and that just being able to get out and travel over the hills under my own steam is enough. I wasn’t very convinced.
As the morning wore on the clouds built up and away to the north little strands of showers swept down over the Wye Valley. On Pen Allt-Mawr I drifted off line. I had been going for four hours now and decided I must be getting tired. I suppose Mark Innocenti would have covered about 30 miles in this time and would be just getting warm. At least my views were better.
The next leg took fully two hours as the wheels fell off. I had terrible stomach cramps, something I seem to suffer with a lot now on longer runs. Psychologically I was on the way home but now, after all the ridge running I had three big descents and two big climbs to cross the ridges back to the Vale of Ewyas. There was a certain amount of tricky route finding to pick up paths to cross the farm land in the valley bottom but everything started hurting—feet, quads, knees. I got too hot in the valley and then too cold back up on the ridge and the afternoon drifted by. After gaining the next ridge there was 5km of gradual uphill to the penultimate top of Pen y Gadair Fawr. My stomach was more than uncomfortable when I jogged, the wind had turned unfriendly and the sky was overcast. It was teeth gritting time.
At the top I was on the Black Mountains Race route. I haven’t done the race for a few years now but I remembered there was a small grassy trod and a glorious swooping run down to the valley. The trod has become a well-worn path now and my stomach, feet and knees meant there was not much swopping but I got myself down and had a two minute sit down before the final climb. I remembered it as starting with a steep scrabble through some gorse.
I slipped and wobbled and noticed someone behind me. He quickly caught me, chatted for a moment and strolled on up the hill looking for his wife who he said was out for a run. Although I was tired it was soul destroying to be passed so effortlessly. He wandered off across the hillside and then came back to join me on the race line. He looked familiar and I searched an addled brain for a name: “I’m sure I recognize you.” I said. “Yes, you look familiar too, I’m Lloyd Taggert” . I didn’t feel so bad about being passed then. Soon Jackie Lee, his wife and also a British Fellrunning Champion came lolloping down the hillside to us. She’d been out collecting Nuttals and done about 25 miles. She looked a lot fresher than I felt.
I pushed on to the final top and was soon slithering and stumbling down to Llanthony. I touched the door of the pub at exactly 6.15pm and sauntered back to the car. Rooks cawed in the trees and somewhere a cuckoo called. The cold wind blew the first drops of rain into the ruined abbey. Mission accomplished. Take some satisfaction from it.
We all remember that last summer Ross set us the challenge of the Langley Score Event. At the time I had set myself other challenges and never got round to it but when Lockdown 3 kicked us in the teeth, I was in need of something to get excited about. I spent many happy hours over Christmas plotting all 100 control points on to my map and then starting to plan routes.
I went out early in the New Year to attempt the One Hour version and came home feeling very pleased with myself. Ross sent me the results and I discovered that Simon and Matt had managed to get more than twice as many points as me and I was only a little ahead of Jack Barnett. The wind rather left my sails.
Ross sent me a kind message saying that I had done mine in winter while the others had all run in the summer so it was impossible to compare. It was true that it was Peak Mud but I knew he was just being nice because that’s what Ross is. Mind you, he still hasn’t broken 2.45 for the Marathon…Sorry, there was absolutely no need to say that, it’s not nice.
But it’s true.
After a third comforting beer I realized that the thing was, I was a long-distance runner and completely unsuited to a short sprint of an hour. So I went out for the Two Hour the following weekend. It was a braw afternoon and familiar local spots suddenly took on whole new characters. No longer was Wilstone car park a car park, it was 8 points. My tally, though still put me well down the rankings.
I had decided that for completeness’s sake I should do all four distances, so next up was the Four Hour. This was more like it. I knew that Celine and Alison had done a tour of Ashridge and Little Gaddesden and visited the 100 pointer at the Buddhist Monastery, chalking up over 400 points.
Others too had got in the 400s so this seemed the target but the Buddhsit Monastery didn’t seem to be answer so I planned a route out to Halton and Wendover and then up to Widmoor Wood, Swan Bottom, the Lee, and back across the grain of the Chilterns via Chartridge, Hawridge and Cholesbury. This got me into the 500s and interestingly I was now less than 50% behind Simon. Bring on the Eight Hour.
Only two others had completed the Eight Hour, Simon, obviously, and Andy E, so I reckoned there was a good chance of making the top three in the rankings.
It is amazing the excuses you can find not to go for an eight hour run. I seem to find enough excuses not to go for a 40 minute run. Finally the excuses ran out. The Spring Equinox called for something to mark it and what better way than a long run. So a little before 10.30 last Sunday I set off across the football field from the Cricket Club for a fourth time.
For weeks I had been plotting and measuring my route and visualising it, working out the times for each section. It was all clear in my head and I was hardly even going to need to look at the map. Out through the Park, Aldbury, the Monument, Little Gaddesden, Studham, Dunstable Downs, a loop back through Ivinghoe and Pitstone, then out through Cheddington to Mentmore, Crafton and Wingrave, basically visiting all of Ross’s old houses.
Then for some reason the afternoon before I glanced at the map and a whole new possibility suddenly swam into view: going west and south to Wendover, Cadsden, the Hampdens, Missenden and back. There were not many checkpoints out there but they were all big pointers. Simon had over 1,300 points and I knew I wasn’t going to get that but 1,000 seemed like a good target and I remembered a little hint that Ross had sent me. I spent most of the night pondering the options. Each point suddenly seemed potentially life changing. Somehow in my mind I had made something of absolutely no importance the most crucial thing in the world.
Over breakfast I made the decision. The Plough at Cadsden it was. The fact that my monthly average so far this year has been about 40 miles and an 8 hour run was going to require at least this distance in a day was a fact so daunting I tried not to look at it. But I was pleased to find my body quickly fell into the old familiar shuffling rhythm, feet skimming the ground, minimal lift, stride shortening for each slope and lengthening slightly to go down a hill.
In the backstreets of Tring I bumped into Rich B just back from a run. “Can’t have been much of a run if he’s already finished at 10.30”, I thought. I reminded him that I had beaten him last time we raced, hoped his training was going well and went on my way. At the top of Aston Hill I met Simon S. He said he had been for a Strava Segment. We passed the time of day and I continued into the Woods, wondering what a Strava Segment might be. Approaching the café I decided it was probably a kind of cake. Simon looked like he’d been on the cakes over lockdown.
Soon I was padding up Wendover High Street to tag the Shoulder of Mutton and thinking the hors d’oeuvre was over. Now I had the Main Course, up Coombe Hill along to Dunsmore then a long leg across to the Plough. I always remember the furore when Dave and Samcam slipped over here for a quick Sunday pint and left one of their children behind by accident. I suppose at least he knew how many children he had and eventually noticed that one was missing. Not sure the same can be said of the current weekend resident of Chequers.
Anyway, the Plough was a sort of turning point. I was no longer running away from home. Well, I was, I suppose but I wasn’t running away from home in a westerly direction and somehow this made me feel better. I now had to visit the Hampden churches. This took me into new territory and for a while the paths in the woods and paths on the map didn’t quite match up so I resorted to that tried and tested navigation technique: asking Sunday walkers where I was. I was very conscious of the fact that if the wheels fell off here, I was long way from home, and even further from Tring. However, eventually I was coming into Missenden, ten minutes up on my hoped-for time and still moving reasonably well.
I admired Richard White’s works here and all the men standing around in very bright, very clean orange uniforms carrying out his project. It seemed it required one man to stand and do nothing and eight others to watch him. I climbed up to Pike Hill radio mast and I really was on my way home now. Maybe not directly but the way you come back from the pub, weaving about a bit. There was a rather tedious road section from South Heath to the Lee. I was definitely beginning to feel like I had been running for a while but I still seemed to be progressing with reasonable comfort and I was looking forward to popping into my sister’s in Chartridge for a bottle refill and a chat.
On leaving Chartridge and crossing to Asheridge I thought I might actually have the time to get down to the Black Horse in Chesham Vale (for 40 points, not a pint, of course) before climbing back up to Hawridge. I made the turn but was suddenly afflicted by agonizing stomach cramps. Maybe it was the water in Chartridge or maybe it was my new predominantly vegetarian diet but for a while I was doubled up. Eventually I was able to add my bit to the greenhouse gasses and feel a bit better.
I turned direct for Hawridge Church. It was a weary old plod up the road to Cholesbury, Always on these score events the first few hours tick by at a nice sedate pace but the closer you get to the end the faster the time goes. I think this was Einstein’s Theory of Relativity? Someone? At St Leonards church I had 61 minutes left.
Today’s gurus all tell us we should be ‘in the present’. This is one of the many modern bits of wisdom that send me apoplectic. There are plenty of times that the present is not a good place and the last hour of an eight hour run is one of them. (Lockdown is another). You do everything possible not to be ‘in the present’ and everything to imagine the future. I kept a very clear picture of me sitting on the bench by the Cricket Club, feeling the satisfaction of having made it in time.
This image sustained me up to the Crong and all through Pavis Wood to Hastoe. In the Park I diverted to touch the wooden turtle/tortoise in the play area for 9 more points and then made my way down to the bridge and finally to that bench beside the door of the Club. Two minutes to spare. Just over 1100 points. The gap is closing on Simon…Is there a 12 hour version, Ross?
Off-road, Pendle Way in a Day, alternative route, Saturday 3 April 2021. Approx. 30miles with 4534ft ascent (46km, 1382m).
“These hills look big,” I said to myself as I drove the last few miles towards the race venue. Except for a run over Windy Hill near Bolton in February whilst there with work, my last time in the hills was in September 2020.
Having entered the race 3 weeks before the event, not expecting to get in as there was a waiting list, I had to get some long runs in and hope that would do, as I live in a particularly flat part of Northamptonshire and had no chance of getting any meaningful elevation on my training runs.
I set off around 08:15. With it being a timed race rather than mass start there was no waiting to get though gates and such, which was nice. I opted for a bum bag, so the Tring vest was on full display. A few asked where it was and were surprised how far I had travelled, but I did explain that I did not live there. Although legal I was still concerned I wasn’t exactly staying local, but I met a number of Geordies who had travelled a similar distance which made me feel less guilty.
We finally headed onto the moors after a fair bit of tarmac, the sun was trying to poke out from the clouds and all was very, very good.
Meandering pace was the theme, lap up the atmos’ and have a good day out. I was a bit confused by the signage at the second checkpoint as the lane said Private Property, so took the path around only to be called back, phew. I was then keeping pace with the chap who called me back (Matt) and we struck up a conversation and stuck together from then on. He was local, however, not confident on this part of the route and I had laminated printouts and my watch to help.
We started the climb up Pendle Hill and Matt explained he was having injections for his back every 3 months. At £300 a pop and having had his last one 2 weeks ago he was a little disappointed when his back was twinging on the climb. He said that there was a longer route down but would most likely be less busy than the race route down the steps. This was a really good call as when looking up to our left it was like a procession of people all the way up the steps.
The route was a little confusing across the last few fields. We chose a route somewhere between the race route, my watch and his local knowledge which was more or less the same mileage and climb. Much like my, “these hills look big,” thought this morning my old demon, “you could walk it from here,” came back so I was glad of Matt’s company to keep me going. I think I need to have my head read about this one!
A bottle of the best beer I’ve had in a long time awaited us at the finish, as did glorious sunshine and an iron on patch as a memento.
There were 46 finishers and my 3rd place is my joint best result on any race ever so well chuffed!
Difference % back % winning time % average time % median time
Last summer Simon Barnett offered us all a challenge that sensible members of the club will have carefully forgotten. It was to run up and down Incombe Hole for ten hours to see what happened to you. Simon did 99 laps. He did offer a more accessible challenge which was to run up and down Incombe Hole for 100 minutes. There are rumors that Nigel K attempted the full ten hours (most unlikely to be true) and that Andy C also attempted and got to about seven hours before retiring injured (likely to be true). In these days of being mindful it takes a certain sort of person to do something so utterly mindless for so long. There are a few in the Club, Andy C being one of them: the brain numb. Peter Hamson gets my prize for club’s most brain numb. He will tell you stories of doing a 24 hour race round a shopping mall in Milton Keynes. (I think he did well over 100 miles….). Some people have it and some people don’t.
I don’t, so 100 mins was my challenge. A few had gone before me. Simon himself chalked (pun intended) up 25, Celine and Lynda chatted their way into the teens and John Manning almost got through the teens. This was a fine effort by John who doesn’t do hills. If you ever get taken on a run by John you will find yourself running at great speed round and round reservoirs or along the tow path or possibly through featureless muddy fields somewhere out in the Vale. Last time I went out with him he had discovered a new reservoir out beyond Aston Clinton somewhere…(it was dark). John runs much faster than me (round and round reservoirs) but surely I could get more hills in than him…??
I choose a bitter grey day with the ground frozen but just beginning to thaw. Drizzle was in the air and the grass got dampened making the descent a little slippery. I regretted not wearing shoes with a more substantial grip. I reckon they cost me about 8 seconds a descent. Counting the laps is cause for consideration. I knew I would be able to count to three but probably not beyond. Initially I thought I would take 25 jelly babies and eat one each time I got to the top. I could count the remaining babies at the end and do some computational jiggery pokery to see how many laps I had done. Then it occurred to me that by the time I had done a dozen or so I might not want another jelly baby and I could hardly throw them on the ground or we would have obese foxes or red kites or something. In the end I dug out 25 obsolete coins and decided to drop one each time I passed Go. Simon spent some time looking at the coins trying to decide if they were from 25 different countries.
I had told Simon about my attempt and he said he would come out to support. This made it feel a bit like Joss Naylor coming out to meet you at the end of the JNLC or Fred Rogerson in the old days greeting and meeting BG contenders. I set off enthusiastically (it was cold and I needed to get warm). After a couple I looked at my watch. Under 9 mins. The aim was to keep each lap under five minutes. After five I was warm(ish) and there was less need to be enthusiastic so I was very pleased to see Simon at the bottom as I came back down. “That was 4.40” he said and joined me, effortlessly levitating up the hill (him, not me).
With the company I soon lost count and got into the rhythm: jog the first bit, walk, break into a jog as soon as possible at the top and try to keep the footing coming back down. I noticed that I was beginning to start the walk earlier and end it at the top later. The minutes ticked by. By about 15 the lactic flooded through by half way up. It began to feel like a gym session, the sort where you do bench presses till failure. As I entered the last phase of the torment, failure got perilously close before I reached the top. Nine minutes left. Last one? I wobbled up and made it back down. Thank God, only three minutes left. No time for another. I counted the coins. I had just squeezed out of the teens.
Next morning coming downstairs to make coffee was, shall we say, uncomfortable. I was rediscovering muscles I had forgotten I had. Simon reckons it is about 55m of climb so I had done over 1,000m. Probably as much climb in one afternoon as the last four weeks. I probably covered about four miles in the 100 minutes…
Of course, as always, afterwards you think: What if…With a bit of practice and the correct shoes I reckon I’m good for another couple but not 25. It was great to hear that Henry went out the next week and did 25. I’m thinking a round dozen in an hour would make a good session once a week…Then maybe over ten weeks I could challenge the 100.
With apologies to John, Andy, Peter and the Brain Dead (but definitely not to Simon who really ought to be the one saying sorry).
I ran the Aylesbury Ring on 21 November 2020 as part of the Camino Ultra Virtual 50km and attempted to beat the Fastest Known Time of 7hr7mins.
I started at the Wendover Clock Tower. The route was nice and muddy throughout with some parts shin deep in mud and water. It was beautiful though, winding through the villages of Great Kimble, Dinton, Hardwick, Rowsham and Astrope. Lots of pretty old churches, ploughed fields and rolling hills to keep me busy. Then along the canal from Aston Clinton to Wendover for a nice quick finish, back at the clock tower.
After recovering from that, the next was the South Bucks Way on 1 December 2020, with a friend, starting up at the top of Coombe Hill for a stunning sunrise over Wendover.
From there, we headed towards Little Hampden, up and down the hills, then over to Great Missenden and up to Little Kingshill, which offered some nice views, but nothing like the start.
Then it was down along the valley towards Amersham, the Chalfonts and then the last stretch into Denham, finishing up on the canal to make it 23 miles of trail fun. Much better conditions than the ring and more fun with good company.