Monday, 19 August 2013

Oldham 40

Once upon a time (all the best stories start this way !) there was an Englishman who had a dream. Well this weekend (17/08/2013) this dream came true.
The said Englishman is known to the Twitterati as @thebeardyguy and to his Mum as Jon. We'll stick to Jon for now as its easier to type.
Jon took to running in the hills near his home and kept noticing little half hidden waymarkers saying "Oldham Way". He saw them in lots of different places and was intrigued enough to follow this up and try to find out what it was. Some research and old maps revealed this to be a circular route of approximately 40 miles around Oldham, largely in the hills. Once he'd discovered this it took Jon about a nano second to realise he was looking at an amazing ultramarathon right on his doorstep. He likes hills and he likes to run long you see.
Being a proper sort of chap, he checked the route out thoroughly running all of it in sections. He did get a little lost several times including the day when he returned home at 5pm. He'd told his partner that he would be home about 1pm and she had phone in hand about to call Mountain Rescue !!
Satisfied that he had a real run on his hands, Jon invited some friends to join him. I was honoured to be counted in (I dont actually remember being asked !) At this stage I'll tell you a little of my history with Jon.
We met through Twitter. Initially we chatted about music, but soon it became apparent that we were both discovering off road running and were about the same place with our "careers". Neither of us had run a marathon and quite by chance I was told about an off road marathon on the 30th of May 2012. The race was in early July and the closing entry date was the 31st of May. I told Jon. He replied along the lines of "I will if you will!" So with 5 weeks to go we both entered and then ran it all the way together. A bond was forged. I was delighted with what we had achieved and would probably still been lolling about in the glow from that, but Jon wanted/needed more. To cut it short, we ran the Ennerdale 50k in October. So in the space of 4 months I had run my first marathon and first ultra marathon with this man.
Jon's Oldham 40 was scheduled for midsummers day but had to be cancelled because he had an injury. Dates were suggested for the second attempt and this proved difficult for the original runners, but the 17th of August was decided upon. Toward the end of July I hurt my back and running was off the agenda, let alone running 40 miles. I did feel a bit guilty for letting Jon down, but I knew I couldnt do it and, more importantly, I knew that he understood.
As the date of the run drew nearer I was feeling better and thought that the next best thing to running with the man was to at least support him on the day so I decided to travel south. The plan was that I'd be support crew along with the main player in Jon's life, Rowena (aka @rowenanews).
I'd had much conflicting advice regarding my back from GPs and physio but I tried a wee 3 miler in the woods on the Tuesday and all was pretty good so I suggested I ran the first leg of the run and crew from then on.
As mentioned the original runners were unable to make it for a variety of reasons, but in true Twitter style two men popped up who Jon had not met but lived right there and they were well up for it. Step up to the plate Paul Simpson (@xx51mmo) and Steve Lee (@stelee15).
We met up at 7am, introduced ourselves and it was game on. After a steep walk up, we started running. I won't talk about the actual run as Jon has done this much better in his blog (link at finish). Well lets just say that after barely being able to walk for a day or two, being told to give up running entirely by a GP, to run through some hills with my big buddy made me feel as happy as a dog with two tails.
Towards the end of this first section, as we neared CP1 I was desperately wrestling with the possibility of carrying on. I knew that would be wrong for me physically and fortunately the way we'd set the day up with Rowena and I acting as support crew from then on made it impossible for me to carry on.
The three runners carried on, after some refuelling, and we headed off for CP2. This had been quite a tough section I think, windy on the tops and the lads needed topping up when they arrived after 18 miles. The next section was to be the longest at an estimated 15 miles but it actually turned out to be nearer 17 so Rowena and I had arrived at CP3 in plenty of time. And what a bizarre time we spent there. We managed to land right in the middle of a film set where they were re enacting a mass killing for TV! A young man wandered around with a machine gun shooting the same people over and over. Take 45: action! Rowena was quite rightly worried that the ultra boys would run into this set a bit delirious from their activities and panic ! We didnt know where the boys would appear from as we couldnt find the waymarkers. She texted Jon, so fortunately he knew what to expect.
I'm not sure how the next bit happened but somehow Rowena suggested I run the last leg. I think she was joking, but as soon as she said it I was hooked. I felt fine after the first leg, I had my admittedly smelly and wet gear in the van so the only problem was the logistics of getting Rowena to the finish. Fortunately, Paul's family had arrived to cheer him on so they kindly gave her a lift. Once Jon had had a chance to get a drink and Jaffa cakes if I remember correctly, I asked him if it would be ok. Of course you know the answer. Just before we set off for the last 7 miles photos were taken. I certainly felt I was doing a "John Terry" but I so wanted to support Jon.
I enjoyed being with the boys on that last leg. I found it very difficult to judge what to do. I didnt know Paul or Steve, I didnt know how much they were hurting. I didnt know if they were feeling satisfaction in the knowledge that they were soon to finish a great great run. Did they resent my involvement in that last bit? So I just tried to be helpful at gates and stiles, chat a bit, keep out of the way. Whatever though I wanted to support the Englishman.
Massive congratulations to Jon for piecing this together and of course for running it. Paul and Steve: I admire you both and enjoyed running with you both.
Have I forgotten anyone? Oops of course Rowena, as if I could ! My real plus from not running all of the Oldham 40 was that I got to spend most of the day with her. Ive met her only 3 or 4 times in my life, yet we could spend long periods of time not speaking: the true sign of friendship in my book.
Essential info as follows:
The main man : Jon aka @thebeardyguy
Ultra boys: Paul aka @xx51mmo
                   Steve aka @stelee15
Head crew: Rowena aka @rowenanews

Jon's blog: 

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