A great example of an Ultra trial run in the South Pennines !!
Easy to see why so many return to this event year after year.
In the heart of 'Bronte country' , I thought this event had it all, great scenery, 90% off road, rough paths, tough hill climbs, bog, single track, moorland, navigation challenges (for us first timers), great marshalls and even 'Jammy Doughnuts' (definitely a first for me on a long run )
I had an interesting start to the race,after getting up at 3.30am to drive the 189 miles to the community centre HQ, I got there in plenty of time to register and get myself ready, I then missed the start !! (Tip: don't phone your wife 20 minutes before the start and ask ' is everything alright dear'!!) I did a quick dash up the hill, panicking a bit as I was not sure of the route and joined the back of the queue as we set off up the cobbled path.
'A windswept land of heather and wild moors' is the tourist description, well on this day that was certainly the case. As we headed up Millennium Way over Haworth Moor, past Top Withens and onto the Pennine Way to the first checkpoint at Widdop Reservoir, my early memory was desperately trying to find someone to run behind as the strong head wind buffeted us all the way. I was really glad the rain held off.
As a first timer, I had heard that some of the navigation was a bit tricky so my strategy was to make sure I always had sight of 'someone who had done it before'. This worked well and boy was I glad at times, route finding through certain sections was tricky. Stoney Lane and out the back of the golf course had paths going off all over the place, most of which I could not see on my 1:25000 map and even the run through Heponstall was tricky (at 24 miles into the event, my brain cannot cope with running AND route finding)
Now lets mention the climb to 'The Monument', definitely a sadistic twist by the organiser. I know we had just been given Jammy Doughnuts at Mankinholes Youth Hostel (and very nice they were to!) but a climb like that, after 20 miles !, and there was not even a checkpoint on the top!. Harsh, I thought, particularly as when you got to the top, the wind was waiting in all its force to blow you back down.
Taking the 'Calder/Aire Link to the top of the stairs through the 'stairs swamp' reminded me of last weekends run at the 'High Peak Marathon' , boggy, wet and cold feet, deep smelly mud ! (such good memories !). However it was quite a short section (thankfully) and in hindsight after 28 or so miles I did not really want to remind myself I had spent 10 1/2 hours running 40 miles last weekend. It might have been this that flashed into my mind that made my body crumble over the last few miles, but the last climb up over Penistone Hill was painful and I was really glad the 'run into the finish' was all down hill.
In my mind I still have to sort my pacing and nutrition out so I feel better in the last quarter of these events but this was how I imagined Ultra trail running to be. Long and hard -yes, but creating its own personality, making the very best of the surrounding countryside and providing a huge variety of terrain, keeping the event interesting and challenging for all levels of visiting ultra runners - well done to the organisers.
For myself, I look forward to the next event in the series. 2 down - 10 to go !!