Many months ago I spotted this in a Twitter conversation. When I saw that a 22 mile hilly, muddy run that had tea & toast at the start, sandwiches and cake en route, and a hot meal at the end for £10.50 I entered with indecent haste ! A bargain to beat all bargains in the running world (cf £40 for 5k obstacle races in the corporate scene).
As always seems to happen, many months ago suddenly became today. I travelled down on Friday afternoon and parked my van very near the start and found some grub (Pork belly and all the trimmings for £5.50 !! )
I bedded down and had a fairly decent nights sleep. I did hear the town clock chime a few times and was woken at 5am firstly by the rain hammering off the van roof and then by a cockerel, who was plainly drunk as it was 3 hours from daylight !
I had loosely arranged to meet some Twitter buddies in that car park before registration but I never saw Catherine (aka @mrsbedders). She had tried to rouse me by standing outside my van (which has photos of my kids on it for easy identification) and shouting "Johnny" loudly. A rather startled couple emerged from a van not supporting photos of my kids. Nice work Catherine!
By contrast, I nearly tripped over my big buddy Jon (aka @thebeardyguy) as he tied his shoelaces in the dark. He had got a last minute place in the 15 mile version, which was a great bonus not only to him, but me too. We have a running history, having run our first marathon and first ultra together.
As usual, I'll try not to just rehash the run. Rather more how I felt on it as it evolved. After a nice mug of tea, it was start time. We had tried to organise a small group of runners, some of whom knew the course. This was quite important to me as it was unlike other events I had run in that it was largely unmarshalled and little waymarked. Part of the challenge was to find the route. However it was so congested at the start that we quickly lost our guides, which wasn't a problem at this stage due to the volume of runners. Jon and I ran with Catherine and her friend Tracy, which great fun as we chatted, ran walked, climbed to the first 2 of the 6 checkpoints.
The weather was largely OK, a little light rain but no wind. I had decided to wear my new Montane jacket for the first time other than a short training run. Its waterproof, has great pockets and a full hood. I was soaked with sweat by the end but I can't see any way round that. I hate wind chill so I'm happy to suffer this. My Inov8 Mistlite trousers kept the wind out too and the Inov8 mudclaws were simply superb. I never twitched as other skated about.
Jon and I ran on together. I started to really feel things about 7 or 8 miles, which was a bit worrying, but often happens to me. I usually pull through, which I did. My strategy of eating a small amount every mile works for me, although I did manage two cheese and pickle sarnies and a half cup of tea at one checkpoint!
The nature of the course was very tough, more so than I expected. The hills are steep and often sustained. But what I hadn't expected was the underfoot conditions to be so muddy at the same time. Water runs off hills right? Not here it seems !
After 14 miles Jon and I parted company, as he headed to the 15 mile finish, so I was now on my own. I had to rely on several fellow runners to navigate as I literally had no idea where I was. I found my pace was slower than I'd like so I decided to press on and hope I didn't get lost. I had to use the excellent, detailed route notes a few times. This was a first for me and I have to say I found it quite fun. Another thing happened too, which I hadnt thought about. After running with friends for 14 miles, I found myself doing what I do for 99% of my running: I was running on my own. Immediately I felt in a comfortable place. This was what was normal to me. I could speed up, slow down, walk, do whatever I felt necessary to get this job done. It allowed me to free up and work more efficiently. In no way does this reflect badly on my friends. I wouldn't change how we ran today one bit. It just surprised me how I reacted to it.
As I find on these long runs, before I knew it it was all over so quickly. It must be a trick of the mind I think as my time was 5 hours 5 minutes ! So in summary, today I ran 22 miles, climbing 4000 feet in superbly muddy conditions with lots of like minded people, some of whom I'm delighted to call my friends.
A huge thanks must go to the organisers, Calderdale LDWA, and all their helpers. A superb event, a good test and so friendly. Would I recommend this event to you? I think you know the answer!
PS I forgot my camera and couldn't be bothered to fuss with my phone so I have no en route photos. I do have one of my great shoes though ! Can you smell them :-)