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Vegan Welsh 3000s 2014

This is a tremendous route, climbing the 15 highest Welsh mountains.  The terrain is very rough for long sections, and a lot of it is at high altitude.  The navigation is often not easy, particularly when you’re in cloud.  This year all the runners were in cloud for hours: there wasn’t much wind, but visibility was pretty poor, and in the early afternoon the rain set in, making the rocks slippery whetever your footwear, and making it all too easy to go astray.  Over 100 runners entered, but only 65 made it to the end.  Many got timed out after getting lost for too long, others found the going just too hard.

The winner’s time was astonishing given the conditions.  Michael Clifford finished in a time of 8:19, with Jayson Cavill 20 minutes behind him.  Third place went to Chris Baynham-Hughes, a friend of mine from Helsby Running Club, in 9:11.  First woman home was Liz Barker in 10:29, with Claire Maxted, editor of Trail Running magazine, second in 12:36.  Hats off to all of them.  We mere mortals were happy just to finish!

Nigel Aston finished in 20th position in 11:30, so his Runfurther Grand Slam attempt is still going strong.  He’s written another great race report, which you can find here.  Note that his photos weren’t taken on the day: we didn’t get views like those on Saturday!  Emma David found Crib Goch a bit intimidating, as did a lot of people, but she finished well and her Slam bid is still on too.

The updated Runfurther Championship leaderboard is here, and the race results are here.  The Runfurther standings didn’t change much – it’ll be the next race that makes the big difference, the Long Tour of Bradwell on the 9th of August.  Ned Lammas of Evesham Vale RC has moved well up the rankings with his 3rd counter, but probably can’t catch Nigel Aston unless he runs at least two more races.  Lee Knight has moved up as well, and has more chance of overtaking Nigel, but since he hasn’t joined Runfurther he’s not eligible to win anything.  If anyone’s in touch with Lee, could you please try to persuade him to fill in a Runfurther membership form?

Not many photos for this one, as our main photographer (Nick) wasn’t there, and our 2nd string (Karen) wasn’t either.  I did my best and took a few early on, but I was soon in survival mode, and photos weren’t on the agenda after that.  I don’t know how Nick manages to keep taking them all the way through a race, but I just can’t do it.  Here’s what I got:

There are also some excellent photos on Andy Milton’s Flickr site.

And lastly, here’s a race report from me:

The Vegan Welsh 3000s – how to finish a race without actually training for it

I suppose that doesn’t sound a big deal, but there are races and then there are mountain ultras.  The V3K is about the same in climbing and in distance as half a Bob Graham Round, and the ground covered is significantly more difficult than on the BG.  It doesn’t make sense to try to run something like this without plenty of training.  When I entered the race I was fit enough to do it.  Then in January I suffered a stress fracture in my shin, which meant no running at all until June.  So four weeks later I was lined up with 100 other runners and a million midges at 5am in Nantgwynant at the bottom of the Watkin Path up Snowdon.

The weather wasn’t too bad to start with, warm enough for t-shirt and shorts as we headed up the hill.  The race route starts up the Watkin Path then cuts up west to follow Snowdon’s south ridge, which is a fun way up the mountain, rocks but on a path, and not too hard.  In fact it was the easiest bit of the day really.  I chatted to a few people on the way, Claire Maxted being one of them.  Soon after we reached the ridge we were into the cloud, and that’s where we stayed for much of the day.  All straighforward stuff up Snowdon, and then Garnedd Ugain.  Last year it was a bit too windy for safety on Crib Goch, so the race followed an easier alternative down to Nant Peris.  Not this time.  It’s 20 years or more since I was last on Crib Goch, and I don’t think I’ve ever been up there in poor visibility before.  It’s a great ridge for an adventurous walker, but it’s not so good if you’re in a hurry, particularly if you haven’t recced it.  Still, at least we couldn’t see the full extent of the drops beneath us as we tottered and clambered our way along and around the sharp rock ridge.  It took forever to reach the summit, and then there’s a tricky bit of routefinding to get off the north ridge and down to the valley.  Luckily for me I fell in with Andy Truswell (no. 3095 – see photo) who’d walked it a number of times before, and he led the way down to the road – thanks Andy!

Down to the Nant Peris checkpoint for a drink of water and a toilet stop, then the second of the three 3000-foot climbs, an unremitting slog up to Elidir Fawr.  This really was torture, and my back was starting to ache.  That was the end of trying to take photos and the start of the mission to get to the end of the race.  I followed a line of my fellow runners as we shuffled our way up.  The next bit, from the top of Elidir Fawr, over Y Garn and down to Llyn y Cwn is actually pretty good running for a lot of the way, but then comes what must be pretty much the hardest few miles of race route in Britain, or at least it felt that way to me.

The Glyders.  Just a nightmare.  I set off up the steep scree gully from the llyn into the clag.  1000 feet of horrible loose stuff all the way to the top of Glyder Fawr.  Then off to Glyder Fach, but before you get there there’s a huge boulder field, with all the rocks slippery, and all trace of a path disappears.  Somehow you have to find the top of the mountain in cloud, and the top is a big plateau of difficult ground, with the top somewhere.  I probably found it more quickly than most, as at least I had my compass out.  There were lost souls all over the mountain shouting to each other for advice.  And to add to the confusion, the control wasn’t at the top, but “somewhere near the Cantilever” according the the last marshal we’d passed.  Well there were about 20 people around the top and the Cantilever looking for it at the same time I was, and none of us found it.  Apparently not many people did all day, although it was there somewhere!  No disqualifications resulted, or there’d have been a very short finishers list.  So we all gave up and headed down yet another horrible loose steep gully.

And so to Tryfan.  Much nicer really, with an interesting rocky scramble up.  The descent was pretty awful though, steep and very slippery, even with Mudclaws on.  And my knees were hurting as well now.  I came down with a couple who had already passed me once earlier, and reached the Ogwen checkpoint in a pretty dazed condition.  They asked me whether I was continuing, and for some reason I said I was, although I’m not sure how sensible that was.  And I staggered off up the road…

And so to the third of the 3000 foot climbs, up Pen yr Ole Wen.  Now this really hurt.  It wasn’t as monotonous as the Elidir Fawr path, as it varies in steepness, and scenery, but I no longer had anything much in my legs, and my back was screaming with every step.  Still, only thinking one step at a time works wonders when I’m in that state, and by trying not to think about what I was doing, eventually I got to the top, and really the end of the difficult ground.  OK there were a few stony stretches still to come, but there’s little climbing from this point on, and it just keeps getting easier as you go along.  Unfortunately it was cold and raining as well, and of course the route stays high for miles and miles across the Carnedds.

Carnedd Dafydd came and went, and then I was wondering how I’d spot where to leave the path and contour round to find Yr Elen, when I couldn’t see more than 20 yards in any direction.  I was very thankful there was a marshal stationed there to tell me and give my the bearing to take.  I headed off across the pathless mountainside, checking my compass from time to time, thinking my chances of actually hitting the peak weren’t really that good.  I underestimated the time and distance to get there, so stopped too early at a small ridge, thinking it was the main ridge to Yr Elen, and started getting more confused, at which point Rob Balogh turned up.  Unfortunately Rob was just as confused as I was, so we ended up just going back onto that 320 degree bearing and hoping for the best.  Luckily it worked, and then Rob relied on my navigation all the way to the final descent into Rowen.

The flog back up to Carnedd Llewellyn was hard work, but then it was back onto the clear ridge path and we were able to move a bit more easily, getting colder as we went.  We reached the penultimate 3000 foot top, Carnedd Gwenllian, with some relief.  One couple were just ahead of us, and they headed off north from the top and we never saw them again.  The couple I’d descended Tryfan with left the top at the same time as Rob and I, and since they’d managed to turn their 1:25000 OS map inside out at the top, I thought I’d try to keep up with them, as my hands were too cold to attempt to do the same with my map in the rain.  Although I didn’t know it until we chatted after the race, they were Ned Lammas and Sheila Barbour, Runfurther members from Evesham Vale RC.  The four of us headed off northeast and soon found the little path that led us on to the last 3000-footer, Foel-fras.  This had a manned checkpoint, or at least it did until we got there.  He had been out there since the previous evening, and had just decided “sod this for a game of soldiers” and was heading down.  On fresh legs and carrying a fetching red umbrella he scampered off down, and the four of us did our best to keep up with him, over Drum and down to the fence corner.  Another runner passed the five of us, but none of us were in a state to catch him, or so I thought.

At the fence corner at GR705708 the path turns right with the path and heads more steeply down, on good runnable grassy ground.  This is where I can sometimes turn the gas on, even with tired legs, as long as there’s nothing but downhill to come until the end of the race.  Having done the race last year I knew what was coming so I thought I’d give it a go.  I hammered down the hill as fast as I could go given the state of my legs, not looking back, passing the runner who’d overtaken us earlier.  I heard at least one runner behind me, but I’d no idea who or how many until I reached the Roman Road at the bottom.  I looked round, and only Rob had come with me.  The other three runners and the marshal were nowhere in sight.  Rob and I kept up a good pace all the way to the final steep road section into Rowen, where we passed another runner, and I even left Rob behind as I pelted down the tarmac at unreasonable speed.  Once round the field and I could collapse – I just love race finishes where I can run myself into the ground on a final downhill stretch, but this one beats them all, with five miles of runnable downhill to finish.

My time was 13:33, and I was 36th of 65 finishers.  I’ll settle for that, and I’ll probably be back next year, whether it’s in the Runfurther Championship or not.  It’s a truly great race.

Three Rings of Shap 2014

Saturday morning saw about 200 people gathered at the Memorial Hall in Shap, Cumbria, for the 10th Three Rings of Shap.  Even at 8am it was warm and muggy, and it pretty much stayed that way all day.  The route follows three rings of about 20 miles each, 62 miles in all, and it’s a great route but a very hard day.  For the first time this year all five members of the Runfurther committee were there to run, and Nigel Aston was there of course, still aiming for his Grand Slam.  It was good to see Kevin Hoult as well, last year’s Runfurther runner-up, still recovering from his ankle injury, but ready to attempt his first Runfurther event of the year.

Kevin’s comeback has started with a bang, and he was fastest to complete all three rings in a new record time of 11:39, 2 minutes faster than Iain Kelly’s time of 11:41, set in 2010.  Kevin ran the last few miles  with Lee Knight, winner of this year’s Hardmoors 160, but Kevin had started 20 minutes later than Lee.  Kev’s ankle was a bit sore by the time he’d finished, so let’s hope that’s only a temporary problem.  Matt Wilson and Martin Terry were next in, with Nigel 5th, so his slam attempt’s still going strong.  Emma David finished just ahead of Karen Nash, but since Karen had started a few minutes after Emma, Karen was the fastest lady on the day, also setting a new record of 14:23: Emma’s 14:28 was also faster than the old record, 14:36 set by Clare McKeown in 2012.  Nicky Spinks had withdrawn her entry and wasn’t there on the day – no idea whether she’s injured or not.  It was good to see so many Runfurther faces, and great to see those records broken.  The race results are here, and the updated Runfurther leaderboard is here.  Trawden AC are now well ahead in the team competition!

Nigel’s write-up on his day is here, and Karen’s is here.  Nick’s photos of the day are here.

It’s not formally a race, so although most people started at 8, many of the runners started a little later, to reduce queuing at the early stiles and the stepping stones.  I started with Karen and Nick at 8:15, a little apprehensive as I knew I wasn’t really in a fit state to run 62 miles after a four-month layoff.  My legs were slow to get moving, but that was fair enough I suppose.

The first loop heads west into the Lakes, over to Mosedale past the bothy and then up Branstree and Selside Pike, down into Swindale and back to Shap.  It was a great run out, not too wet underfoot considering this was Mosedale.  Proper mountain scenery, but nothing too rough.  I was starting to tire on my way back into Shap though.  My legs just weren’t fit enough.  The second loop heads north, across farmland and along streams, very different countryside, which is the great thing about this event – three very different runs in one.  By halfway my stomach was rebelling, I was feeling sick all the time, being sick sometimes, and for the last four hours as I shambled back to Shap I could eat nothing and drink nothing.  I spent an hour feeling wretched in the Memorial Hall, retching from time to time, and being comforted when necessary by Gaynor, RO of the Grand Tour of Skiddaw, who was there with her dog.  So I never saw the third ring east into the limestone clints.  I set off home with my tail between my legs just after Kevin returned triumphantly home after finishing, pausing briefly in the car park to retch once more.  Oh well, at least I got some miles done.

Many thanks to Tony and his team for organising such a great event: I hope they manage to find a way to continue putting it on in 2015 and beyond.

Next race the Vegan Welsh 3000s!

 

Northants Ultra 2014

The Northants Ultra took place on Sunday, and for the second year running was a hot one.  As we set off at 8:30 the sun was shining but at that time in the morning it was a reasonable temperature for running.  By lunchtime it was too hot for comfortable running though, and a fair few of us were suffering in one way or another.  For me it was my first run of any sort since my shin stress fracture in January, so I was already struggling after 15 miles, & my feet were getting pretty blistered too.  Still – I finished, & the comeback has started.  It was great to be running again, and it’s a very well-organised event, so many thanks to Steve and the team at Go Beyond.  Bring on Shap…

Nigel Aston has written a race report from a lot closer to the front of the pack, so click here to read it.

The race results are here, and the updated Runfurther leaderboard is here.  We’re 6 races into the series and only a few of you have run four counters so far, so the leaderboard is still only an early indicator.  Emma David is now leading woman, just ahead of Karen Nash, but the new name in the frame to watch out for here is Kate Whitfield of Mercia Fell Runners, who’s led the ladies home at two events so far.  It’s not clear what’s going to happen on the men’s side, but I doubt the current leader, Nigel Aston, will stay there.  Ian Symington’s only run two races so far, but he’s certainly one to watch.  Nigel’s still on track for his main aim though, the Grand Slam, as is Emma.  They’ve both got their biggest challenges coming up soon though – Shap and the Vegan Welsh 3000s.

Nick took some photos, and you can find them here.

Right – better get back to organising my own Ultra for Saturday…

Late May 2014 News

It’s a bit more that a week since our last post, but we’ve been very busy writing copy for an article for the next issue of Fellrunner, which should be arriving on every FRA member’s doormat at the beginning of August.  It may sound a long time away, but we had to get the copy to them today.

The next Championship race is a week on Sunday – the Northants Ultra, aka the Shires and Spires.  Most of the committee will be there, so if you’re going too, we’ll see you at Lamport Hall.  For me it’ll be my first run since my shin stress fracture in January, so I won’t be a pretty sight afterwards, assuming I get to the finish at all!

We’ve found the results from the past years of the Championship in the archives, and they’re now up on the website here.  We haven’t got the 2006 results though, so if you’ve got a copy let us know.

We’ve also made a start at putting a comprehensive calendar of off-road ultras together.  So far it just covers June 2014, but I’ll keep working on it when I get the time.  Let me know if you can suggest any improvements to it.

Kintyre Ultras 2014

That was a great weekend.  Thanks to Rob Reid and his team: they certainly know how to put on a good race.  It was a bit of a drive to get there, but not as bad as you might think.  I picked Karen up at 3 on Friday in Preston, and we were at registration in Tarbert at 8, having stopped for dinner and a pint on the way.  Four of the Runfurther committee were staying in a couple of wooden “wigwams” on a site at the edge of town, so we met up with Emma and Dick at registration where they were handing out the Clif Bars, and picked up our new committee t-shirts:

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Again, many thanks to Fastrax for providing and paying for the shirts: that gives the rest of you no excuse for not buying us all a drink (preferably after a race, not at registration).

All of us apart from Karen had found a good excuse to run the 35.5 mile race rather than the 67, so 5am saw me driving Karen to the start and waving her off at 5.30 with a small band of equally crazy runners.  It was then back for a leisurely breakfast, then a drive with Dick to Tayinloan to man registration and get ready for the short race start at 9.30.  I took a few photos of the start then headed off after the rest of them, still walking.  The doctor said no running till June…

I’ve updated the leaderboard, and the race results are here).  The long race was won by Hugh McInnes in 11:17, the 3rd fastest ever (the record is 10:38), although this year there was a temporary diversion that shortened the route a bit.  Second was Stephen Yule, over an hour behind.  First lady home was Debbie Brupbacher (13:26), who came over from Switzerland for the race.  Mind you, this was just a short race for Debbie, who was first lady home in the Spine race in January.  Second was our own Karen Nash, 12 minutes behind Debbie.

The “short” race was won by Peter Buchanan in 5:19, with Ross Christie 7 minutes behind him.  Emma David was first lady home in 6:15, finishing alongside Nigel Aston.  They’re the only two runners still aiming for a Runfurther slam this year, and this was also Emma’s first 1000 point score.  I suspect it may not be her last, as she’s going very well this year.  Other Runfurther regulars running were Les Hill, Marie and Harry Godson and Steve Dixon.  John Vernon and I walked the short course, as we were both too injured to run it.

Last year only 3 Runfurther regulars ran in the Speyside Ultra, which was last year’s Scottish race.  This year we had at least 10 in Kintyre, possibly more as we picked up some new members as well.  I hope that’s a good sign for the future.

What was the race like?  Well here‘s a race report from Nigel Aston, and here‘s a link to Karen Nash’s blog report.  The running was mainly fast, with a lot of forestry tracks, and some coastal path.  The hills were many but most of them not too long, although the pull out of the last checkpoint went on forever.  The views were tremendous whenever you came out of the trees – Kintyre is a beautiful part of the world, and if you’ve not been you should.  With luck Runfurther will be back another year.  There are plenty of photos on the race website, plus some of our own below:

Hi to Dave Knox, who ran/walked the last few miles with me, and to Angela and Katherine, who I was passing and getting passed by earlier in the race.  By coincidence, Dave was the first RO of the Jedburgh Three Peaks Ultra, & Angela (I think) is the current RO.  We’d have liked to include that race in this year’s Runfurther series, but it was too close to Rotherham.  Maybe next year!

A few more photos of Kintyre from Steve Dixon:

Early May 2014 News

Fastrax

A few news items to report this week:

The Runfurther committee should be a lot easier to spot at races from now on, as we now have new technical t-shirts that identify us.  These have been kindly donated to us by Fastrax.  They make a range of customised running clothes, so if your club or event needs shirts, vests, fleeces etc, take a look at what Fastrax can provide.  We’ve added a link to their site in our Links page too.  You now have no excuse for not coming up to us & saying hello, so please do.

The Long Tour of Bradwell is now open for entries, so you can now enter any or all of the remaining 2014 Runfurther series races.  This is a great race in the Peak District, on Saturday 9 August.

It’s the Kintyre Way Ultra races on Saturday, so we’re planning our weekend in Scotland.  I’m looking forward very much to this one, even though I’m going to be walking again while my leg continues to knit.  I’m doing the 35.5 mile option: I should be able to make the cutoffs at a fast walk I think.  The committee will be wearing their new t-shirts of course!  If you’re going, we’ll see you there!

Evesham 2014 (updated)

The Evesham results are now out, and I have also updated the Runfurther leaderboard and team results.  The first version I posted today had errors in the vets points calculations, so I’ve now fixed that.  Thanks to Nigel Aston for pointing out the problem.  I wasn’t at Evesham but I have this from Emma: “Great day out at Evesham yesterday. The organisers and the Marshalls were fab in particular and thankfully it didn’t rain all day!”  Karen Nash has written a race report with photos, and you can find that here.  Nigel Aston’s race report is here, a bit further down this post.

The race was won by Mark Davies in 7:18:24, five minutes ahead of Ned Lammas.  Ned’s local to Evesham, but has signed up to join Runfurther, so we’re hoping we see a lot more of him at the races.  Third man was Adam Lloyd of Bromsgrove & Redditch.  First woman home was Kate Whitfield (Mercia) in 8:11:55, which looks to be a pretty fast time.  Again, Kate’s signed up for Runfurther, so she’s another we need to look out for as a contender for this year’s title.  Second woman home was Emma David, with Karen Nash third.

There were 5 possible contenders for grand slams coming into this race, but only 3 survived.  Sadly both Dick Scroop and Harry Godson got timed out.  I understand Dick’s retirement was due to getting lost & so arriving at a checkpoint too late – I don’t know whether the same was true of Harry.  That leaves Karen Nash, Emma David and Nigel Aston still in the running, although I think Karen isn’t actually planning to try for a slam.

Next race is Kintyre on 10 May.  It’s not too late to enter, and it should be a great event!

Nigel Aston’s Evesham report:

A few words on Evesham …

I was not sure what to expect for the Evesham Ultra. The race briefing was extensive, but friendly. We gathered outside the town hall ready to walk off to the start down by the river. I had a jog round the block to warm up and when I got back everyone had gone – I searched around but couldn’t find anyone, eventually an ambulance guy got hold of the map to the start and finally pointed me in the right direction. So I had a fast jog, even a run, to get to the start with a minute to spare.

We set off in damp, overcast conditions with a light breeze. The conditions remained much like this for half the race and then warmed a little with occasional sun later on to be much better than the start of the day forecast had predicted, so many were probably wearing too much or had over packed – still better to be safe. I’d decided to print out a full map set unsure as to the goodness of the way marking. In the end it was brilliant with regularly spaced markers and also at all the decision points – perhaps 400+ round the course. Once we got into the habit of looking for the markers all was good, although occasional mistakes were made as a marker got missed by those around me and later by me too.

Once on to the main ridges the running was great with super views, even in the slightly low cloud conditions. Short grass and slightly downhill in places meant for some quick running. I had Kate Whitefield for company much of the first half of the race. She dropped a little after 20 miles  saying she was looking forward to her drop bag contents at the 24 mile cp. I left that cp just before her but eventually she caught up just past Broadway tower and whizzed off – to finish 7th, excellent.

The route has much flat stuff and I found the climbs a welcome relief to restock on food and drink and give the legs a break/change. The early morning rain meant that there was mud on the course, some of it causing loss of grip, but generally not much of a problem. The last 8 miles which covered field after field after field of grass, crops, gentle ploughing, allotments, grass, etc. did go on and on. In the end the road appeared. I travelled this section with Heston and florescent top (Mark Denby and Ian Overthrow) which kept the pace up. Once on the road Ian shot away and was soon out of sight.

The sun shone and it was warm as I finished jogging into the town centre, to some cheering from patient helpers. A camper van had also been conspicuous around the course and its occupants did plenty of cheering too – thanks, much appreciated. All smiles at the finish. The organiser was so helpful – offering to put onto my muddy shoes the blue plastic foot protectors so I did not have to remove my shoes to go into the Town Hall for refreshments. Presentations were done as and when, completely informal, and just right for what was a low key event in terms of competitors (46?), pity on the low numbers because the organisation was great and could easily have coped with the entry limit of 100.

Mid April 2014 News

I’ve now updated the Runfurther leaderboard with the Calderdale Hike results.  I’ve gone back to something a bit more like the leaderboard used to look in 2012, with men & women ranked together in the list, rather than the women at the bottom below the men.  Women’s scores are still based on the fastest woman in the race though.  I’ve now corrected it to include Steve Spence’s & Wally Coppelov’s Calderdale results.

At the moment it’s the women’s championship that seems to be hotting up first for a good competitive year.  Karen Nash, Helen Price and Emma David have all completed all three races, and there’s nothing between them on points.  Carol Morgan and Nicky Spinks have run two races each, and both have the speed to overtake the top three.  My money’s currently on Nicky!  Karen Nash’s race report on Calderdale can be found on her blog here.

Nigel Aston’s still heading up the men’s ranking, with Kevin Smith and Mick Cottam in 2nd and 3rd.  No really fast man has yet run three races though, and I’m keeping my eye on Ian Symington and Kim Collison as good bets for this year’s champion.  Kim’s not yet signed up for the series, but Ian has, so we can expect to see him at more races.  Kevin Hoult is currently recovering from injury, but since he won the 26 mile race at Calderdale, I think we’ll be seeing him back in the fray shortly too.

The first team rankings are up too, with Trawden AC just ahead of Harrogate Harriers at the moment.  It’s early days for the team competition though, and I’d expect a fair bit of change here.

Good luck to everyone going down to race the Evesham Ultra next Sunday.  I hope it’s a good one.  I’ve had to pull out due to injury, but the rest of the Runfurther committee will be there.

Calderdale Hike 2014

Firstly, welcome on board to RaidLight, our newest sponsor for the 2014 series!

We had a great day on Saturday apart from the rain that hit us slower participants.  The results aren’t up yet, so the leaderbard update will have to wait until next weekend, when I get back from the Lakes.  Nick Ham has returned from swanning round the world & got back to his real work of running & reporting on ultras.  His photos are here.  Here’s Nick’s race report:

Calderdale Hike 37 miles. Sat 12/04/2014

A competitive field of runners gathered in Sowerby for the 36th Calderdale Hike. Although this was the third race in the 2014 Runfurther series it would be my first on account of me working (and doing a bit of loose leg swinging) in foreign climes throughout March.

Calderdale Hike has been a long-standing firm favourite in the Runfurther series with physical and navigational challenges that seem unique to Calderdale. It was good to be back and see the familiar faces, one of the first being Ian Symington. I offered my hand by way of greeting, to which he replied: “You wouldn’t like to touch this after where it’s been”, as he tried to dissipate the Vaseline onto his other hand.

Kevin Hoult was also back to do his thing. He had to return anyway to return the winner’s trophy from last year. In addition to Ian and Kevin, Kim Collison was also there to spice up the proceedings among the men. For the women, Nicky Spinks, Helen Skelton and our very own Karen Nash were familiar names in contention.

We gathered outside the cricket pavilion for the 9am runners’ start under overcast skies with a cool breeze blowing and rain forecast before midday. At the moment the ground was uncharacteristically dry. It would be the third and final year for this route, which has been marked throughout by cool and damp conditions by the end of the day. That is in stark contrast to the previous 3-year route from 2009 to 2011, which was marked throughout by summer-like conditions of warmth, sunshine, dry ground, even moor fires one year!

With the race organiser’s send-off instructions ringing in our ears – don’t descend right from Hoof Stones Height otherwise you’ll get filled with lead like the grouse (my words, not his, but you get the gist) – we were sent off on our tour of checkpoints at Nab End, Erringden Grange, Stoodley Pike, Lumbutts, Cross Stone, Mount Cross, Hoof Stones Height, Widdop Reservoir, Top Withins, Tom Stell’s Seat (far point), Grain Water Bridge, New Bridge, Delf End, Jerusalem Farm and Luddenden Foot. The leaders slowly pulled away out of sight on the long uphill start never to be seen again, so thanks to Kevin Hoult for the following privileged information from the sharp end.

Kevin Hoult, Kim Collison and Ian Symington bounced back and forth with each other until CP5 at Cross Stones, each taking a variety of route choices. Kim was looking strong at CP5 and had probably been delayed by route choice issues. (Going via Mytholmroyd between CP1 and CP2 is definitely not optimum despite what the organiser’s suggested route might say.) Ian, on the other hand, knew the route well but may have been slowed just a little after completing the Lakes 42 race on the previous weekend, where he finished second. He also may have been under the weather after recent recovery from illness. How would the rest of the race pan out? Sadly the blow-by-blow account stops here (reason explained later) so I have to fast-forward to the results, which are:

1st Kim Collison:  5:24

2nd Ian Symington: 5:28

3rd Edward Davies: 5:38

And for the women:

1st Nicky Spinks: 6:17

2nd Karen Nash: 7:04

3rd Carol Morgan: 7:07

Well done to all for most impressive results. I know Helen Skelton’s name would have been up there in lights, but I hear she had to retire due to injury. Get well soon, Helen.

So what about Kevin? He is recovering from a foot problem and wasn’t sure he’d be fit enough to do the full 37 miles so he elected to do the ‘short’ marathon distance instead. That required him to backtrack from CP5, which is why the blow-by-blow account of the long race stopped there. He did not disgrace himself though. He won in record time of 3:48; a marathon around the Calderdale hills and bogs in 3:48? That is some going. Apparently the foot held out well, so we can look forward to even hotter competition in the Runfurther series men’s category from now on.

Here’s hoping that Helen can get herself repaired so she can raise the temperature in the women’s category as well. We’re rooting for you Helen.

Now with the important information taken care of, please forgive Ultraploddernick his indulgence:

I settled into the job of easing my way around the route as fast as possible, not blowing up too badly and not finishing too low in the bottom quarter of the field. I was expecting a PB, given that I had enjoyed a few more weeks back in the UK from business travel to get some races and fitness in the bank. Regardless of that and true to form, the inevitable slowdown occurred after more than 2 hours and the overtaking and leaving for dust commenced, especially after that slog across the bogs after Hoof Stones Height. Am I the only one who’s always wasted by the time they reach the track on the other side and has to walk? Many overtook me on that track, including the winning team, which gained just over half an hour on me from there to the finish.

Now it was time to bimble for an hour or two, down from Widdop and up towards the Walshaw Dean reservoirs. As I crossed the dam a group of walkers passed in the opposite direction. They recognised me and I recognised them as friends of old from the LDWA events. We exchanged pleasantries and they wished me good luck. A few groups of runners also passed in the opposite direction doing their own thing. One of them was heard to say: “That was a Glossopdale Harrier”. Yes, I was proudly sporting my new fell-racing colours on their longest outing yet by far.

On the climb up from the empty Walshaw Dean Middle Reservoir (empty for maintenance, certainly not due to drought), I felt as though I was at the back of the pack, all alone with no-one in sight behind me. However, true to form, after a prolonged slowdown to allow the body to recover I began to reel a few runners back in on the approach to the far point at Tom Stell’s Seat and the turn back into the wind for home 13 miles away. The only other times I did the overtaking were thanks to optimum route-finding. I got it spot on this year, and we get to begin all over again next year on a new route. It’s why we keep coming back. Calderdale Hike never gets old or stale.

I thought we were going to get away with it as far as the rain was concerned. A tiny sprinkle was felt as we climbed up towards Hoof Stones Height but was soon forgotten. It was well into the afternoon before the first dense drizzle shower blew in as I descended towards New Bridge. I didn’t mind now because I was on the homeward stretch with 9 miles to go. It was never enough for waterproofs anyway.

I’d been eating well but was feeling hungry again and looking forward to a third sandwich at New Bridge. However there were none left. A “supply cockup” was mentioned and more supplies might be arriving later. I wasn’t going to wait; I wasn’t that desperate. I made do with a couple of custard creams instead, which are never a disappointment in themselves.

The final big climb took us out of the valley to Pecket Well, through the Delf End checkpoint and up onto the moor via Deer Stones Edge. The crossing after the second ventilation shaft is somewhat damp underfoot but the linear bog on the other side masquerading as a footpath is something to behold (and wade through). During the enforced walking/stumbling break I seized the opportunity to eat yet more food to keep the fire burning as the bog-slogging was making me feel somewhat drained.

I caught up with the fastest walking group (the one that wins every year) at the Jerusalem Farm checkpoint. They had started two hours earlier. After that is was a (mostly) downhill road run to the final checkpoint at Luddenden Foot, where the car occupant emerged just long enough to clip my tally and note my time and number – I was alone yet again. Then it was a final short run along the canal towpath to the next bridge, right over the river and follow the road up, down then up to the finish (via the back entrance of course). One of the staggered prize presentations was in progress as I arrived.

7:58 was more than I could have wished for considering I’d only managed 8:39 in 2013 and 8:34 in 2012. Age isn’t a barrier to speed. 😉 The post-race meal and enough tea to sink a battle ship provided the perfect refuelling. Many thanks once again to the organisers and marshals, who have to work on the runner’s and walkers’ behalf for a very long day. The organisation is slick and professional (apart from the sandwich situation at New Bridge, but I’ll let you off on that, all things considered). The Calderdale Hike is always a pleasure to return to every year.

Congratulations of relief must go to Andy Robinson who, recovering from a stress fracture of his leg, elected to walk the long route on the runners’ start. He wasn’t the last one back, he had no leg problems and he returned in time for the Runfurther committee meeting, which was not expected. Good news Andy, you’re back.

I took a few pictures during the day.

Nick Ham.

Early April News

I’m going to try to post a news item weekly from now on, so watch this space.  If I lapse, complain about it.  It’s the Calderdale Hike next Saturday, one of the Runfurther classics.  It’s the same route as the past 2 years, so next year the route will change.  For anyone new to this year’s route, watch your navigation from Delf End to Jerusalem Farm towards the end of the Hike, or join up with someone who knows this section – it’s easy to go wrong.  And just put your head down & keep going on that last brutal road climb up to Sowerby – you’re nearly there so the pain  will stop soon.

Prizes provided by Runfurther at Calderdale may be Clif Bars again, or we may have taken delivery of goodies from Injinji, the Ultramarathon Running Store and Ultimate Direction as well by then, so the prizes could be more varied.  In any event, every entrant will get a Clif Bar, as they will at every 2014 race.

We’ll be around at the start with membership forms etc, & we’ll be putting a copy of the leaderboard up somewhere.  All the Runfurther committee will be taking part this year, so faster finishers won’t find any of us at the finish.  Karen or Emma should be first of the committee back.  I’m not allowed to run with a broken leg so I’ll be walking it instead.  There’ll be a Runfurther committee meeting after the race at a pub in Sowerby Bridge – full details on the Meetings page.  All members are welcome at committee meetings.

We’re getting some t-shirts printed for the committee, so everyone will know who we are.  I don’t think we’ll have them in time for Calderdale though, so look out for the fliers & results board if you want to find us – we’ll probably be near them.  See you in Sowerby!