Its Coming Home! Well Maybe, but its Definitely the Weekend Report!

Apparently there’s a football game starting shortly, one which seems to have generated fever pitch throughout the country. Whether you’re on that particular bandwagon or not, there’s a phenomenal amount sporting glory right here, a truly epic week and more than enough to sate your appetite for such things. So prepare yourself appropriately, do read on, and who knows, maybe you wont be crying into your Jägerbombs later tonight.

Coals to Newcastle

Did you know I used to go out with a coal miner’s daughter? I guess you could say I was carbon dated…. And we’re off…

Ben Robertson blew us all away this week, completing his epic challenge, Coals to Newcastle. In a nutshell, he ran from Hadfield to Newcastle upon Tyne, dragging a trailer with a 25kg bag of coal in it. We just have to start here, and Ben sent this in….

So like many events and challenges, my latest big challenge had been postponed from last year, however after some some fairly last min changes it was on and suddenly upon me.

Again due to the late changes to Covid restrictions this meant that the only real suitable slot to do the challenge would fall only 2 weeks after completing the Rat Race The Wall 70 mile Ultra.

Whilst I had a sense of acceptance that it is what it is, but will carry on regardless, the hidden nerves were building in the days before. Although I have been out with the trailer and coal I had not covered anywhere near the miles maybe I should have done. Also whilst I had planned the routes loosely I knew this was unknown territory – towing the trailer on roads, some unmarked, some A and B roads and some with heavy traffic. This added to my apprehension. I loaded up the trailer with the coal and packed my bags the night before so that when my support driver ( My Dad) arrived in the morning I could get straight off.

Day 1 – Hadfield to Leeds ( The Long One)

We loaded the car up with all the kit and the Trailer and drove round to the starting point at the Longendale Trial car park, this was also the extremely last minute test to see if the trailer would fit in my dads car with all the kit as his car is smaller than. So seeing we could squeeze everything in was such a relief and one less thing to think about.

We got to the start where a few fellow GDH members were waiting to see me off which gave me a great boost. After a quick couple of pics i was straight of along the trail with Lins Palmer running the first couple of miles with me. Just after crossing over to woodhead reservoir I was met by Guy Riddell who initially joined me back up to the tunnels where my dad was waiting.

Originally the local police had kindly offered an escort up Woodhead to help with traffic and safety, but after an email of shortages I would have been on my own dodging the lorries so this was worrying (think it worried my dad more). Guy not only then kindly joined me up the the road to keep an eye on traffic but continued over Dunford Bridge, Carlecoates and a bit approx 10 miles or so.

I then zig-zagged my way along the country lanes over towards Huddersfield direction keeping it slightly to my left and towards Shepley and Shelley. The original plan was head towards Flockton but changed the route and found myself sweeping further round through Denby Dale and Scissett.

Despite expecting warm but wet weather after a couple of slight showers the sun made an appearance at Denby Dale and was to stay for pretty much the rest of the route. The route change despite adding some miles and some dragging hills meant that I was able to pass through Horbury Bridge where my 2 kids Max & Francesca live and their mum had kindly brought them out to greet me, so this was the first really emotional point of my journey.

This gave me the motivation I soo needed to get me up the short but very steep hill up to Ossett, but meant the miles on to Batley and towards the M62 were fairly flat. The end of Day 1 was at the point of reaching the White Rose in Leeds. (I’ll leave out the hassles and story of the fiasco of the Hotel)

Day 2 – Leeds to Ripon ( The Test of Character )

A grey and wet start and legs rather stiff I began shuffling along the A61 out of Leeds and quite quickly ran out of paths so it was back on the roads. This was the start of what became a quite frustrating day, the day of traffic dodging, mounting grass verges and feeling the full weight of the coal when at times i dragged it though the long roadside grass.

The trailer took a battering up and down kerbs and potholes whilst moving out the way of hurtling lorries and buses, so a lunch break cooked by dad on his camping stove roadside in Harrogate was more than welcomed.

A customer following my progress came to greet me with a roll of duct tape to patch up the trailer. The rain began Then had a short and sudden downpour as I headed out of Harrogate and was thrilled ( NOT) when a coach passed at the perfect moment to send a wave literally head height splashing into my face…. oh the joys of road running on a rainy day.

Thankfully rain cleared but the paths quickly ran out again after Ripley and it was back to miles of traffic dodging up and down grass verges in the sun and my frustrations were building. This started to slow me down an although i never considered quitting i was stressing about the time it was taking as didn’t want to be running late into the evening.

Also now it was getting close to peak ‘tea time’ traffic the more traffic especially lorries and busses meant i was spending more time on the grass verges and was getting to unsafe so called it a day on the edge of Ripon. This had been definitely the hardest day.

Day 3 – Ripon to Darlington ( The Hot One)

After a good cooked breakfast I was kitted up and off on the roads out of Ripon heading towards the A1 for the A6055 which runs alongside the A1 for miles. This was to be a much better day of long straight fairly flat roads so got my head down and pushed on, meeting my dad every couple of miles to take on plenty of hydration as the sun was out and it was a hot one.

The miles seemed to pass quickly up passed Leeming, where i paused briefly for the obligatory pot noodle, then headed off towards Catterick. Aside from the heat I was feeling good, legs weren’t too heavy and headed towards Scotch Corner.

Still warm but now clouding over as I passed through Barton and Newton Morrell and then the short thunderstorm hit and the short but torrential rain was welcomed as i took a quick brew break. As I made my way ever closer towards Darlington the storm moved away and the sun was back just in time for me reaching Darlington.

Day 4 – Darlington to Newcastle ( The Flyer)

With and extra early breakfast slot in the hotel it was a case of ‘Right lets get this done’ attitude. From early on i could see it was going to be another hot day so i wanted to make a good dent into the final day before it got too hot.

Instead of meeting at shorter interval as I surprisingly felt good both physically and mentally I said to my dad, right I will just push on and found myself reach pit points come and go and instead of pausing just signalling to my dad that I’ll just continue on. This worked well as he would ring from a couple of miles up the road to say where he was, and by this point on was on a mission and even missed him at one point. I rang him to say where are you as not seen him, then when I sent him my live location I was almost 3/4 of a mile past him.

Another tactic was I refrained from unclipping myself from the trailer to keep me in the mindset of I ain’t stopping long just quick hydration top up and snack and keep moving forward. I didn’t take a longer break of approx 15mins until i got to Durham where a pot noddle was downed and with the knowledge of it being mostly downhill and then flat’ish to Chester-Le-Street and mood was building.

Sticking quick stops of a min or two I was ticking off the miles but the sun was strong and at times began feeling the heat, but and ice lolly and then and briefly 5 mins shaded sit at Riverside park helped. This is when the gradual uphill slog began up through Birtley but was blessed by the iconic symbol of the north at the end of the climb ‘The Angel of the North’.

This was my second emotional point for a number of reasons aside from the fact I’d arrived on foot towing a 25kg sack of coal, but also it’s a sign of returned to the ‘Homeland’, soo close to the finish. But the big one is that’s where I proposed to my very supportive fiancee Gemma and made me instantly think of my past, why I was doing this challenge and how lucky and grateful to have met her after such an unhappy, unsupported life before…..soo the tears were flooding at this point.

After the obligatory selfies with my dad by the Angel I set off at an eagerly quick pace, forgetting how long the run in through Low Fell to Gateshead actually is. I found myself running along the High Street now visualising crossing the the Tyne bridge and getting teary just at the thought that it now is going to happen.

As i began to cross the Tyne Bridge the waves of emotions like elation, pride, accomplishment the waterworks began again….especially as my dad who has shared in the full journey with me was there to greet me……I Did it!, I was back in Newcastle by foot with big sack of coal……The coal had well and truly been taken to Newcastle.

A true Diamond – Ben is like a piece of coal that did very well under pressure! Boom!

To give a summary of this whole challenge, Thanks, Thoughts and what it really means to me:

The biggest thing this has proven and really hope this helps others and that is the mind can be soo much stronger than you think. As you know I am very open about how I feel and what I have experienced. Even recently I have had moments where I have felt stressed, anxious and a nervous wreck full of doubt……. But I have dug deep back with the support and encouragement of others out there have dug deep and and found the the mental strength and resilience to endure long sometime painful days to get from A to B. …… It doesn’t matter whether the distance between A to B was the Approx 120 miles or if A is your front door and B is round the block…its have the knowing that you can push on, you can be resilient and can get through what ever it is your journey maybe.

This challenge was possible with the massively appreciated support of many who I owe my thanks to. This has left me with only one question ……………. ‘What Next?’

Amazing Ben and what next indeed! OK, alright. One more coal joke. Did you hear about the child labour protests at the coal mine? Yeah, the owners had a minor minor miner problem.


One of my favourite races, Trunce has just got everything, but always awkward to get to (Oxpring, 6.45pm on a Monday). No issues for young Josie Swan though, who did manage to get there, and then send this in…

Happily Trunce restarted on a ‘bring your number’ basis this week. Moving from the junior to senior race was a bit of a shock to the system basically: Ran badly, bashed my knee, used the stepping stones when I should have waded, waded when I should have paddled, sprinted about 1km too soon and gasped over line. A great way to spend a Monday eve.

Well done Josie!

Josie takes the stepping stone option

Hadrians Wall

Pete Tomlin was also out this week on a multi day epic adventure. Another cracking achievement here!

I dreamt up this challenge somewhere around the end of the first lockdown and the beginning of the next. I was lacking motivation and needed something to focus on. I’d just listened to a podcast about a couple of runners who’d done a multi-day running holiday along a mountain range in Europe. That was well beyond me, but Hadrian’s Wall jumped into my head as a decent trip. That’s how I ended up doing this run.

4 days, 74ish miles: which I know for some in the club could be done in a day, but for me it was a decent challenge. It gave me a focus and meant that, for the first time ever, I had to actually train properly for something. Originally I thought to do it over my birthday in March 2021, however a mild case of Covid in Jan put me back to struggling with 5k runs, so I pushed it back to July. Chances are it would be better weather then anyway, right? I also decided to use this challenge as an opportunity to raise money for Addison’s Disease UK, a charity who have helped my wife and I since her diagnosis with the condition in 2016. Even more motivation, if I needed it!

From the off I’ll explain that this was never an attempt to race it, get a good time, and all that. The last 18 months or so of lockdowns, shielding, homeschooling and the like have been tough; so this was a holiday. A chance to enjoy the scenery, get some history in and maybe an ice-cream or two. I also decided not to bother with the Newcastle stretch, I’m not in it for the industrial estates and city running. I mean, who wants to run through Newcastle anyway? (cough cough Ben).

So I set off up to Heddon-on-the-Wall to start my mini adventure.

Day 1. Heddon on the Wall to Chesters. 16miles (plus 2 extra)

Day 1 was a cold, wet slog. The weather was pretty bad, raining all day, which made it quite tough. I started off well and was enjoying myself despite the rain. Navigation was easy, any time you started to question where you were, a handy little sign with an acorn symbol appeared. I had a blip in energy between 8-10miles; I think running in the rain, in full waterproofs through wet grass was quite draining. But I had a brief stop at a view point, got some food in and about a mile later got a second wind. It helped that around then the terrain changed from endless farmers fields to woodland and heathland, so was a bit more interesting. Then I was at 13 miles (just a park run to go!) which perked me up. I reached Chesters in 2hrs 58 mins, so not bad, and had a warm lunch there. I then decided to tac on a bit extra, running the couple of miles to Greencarts where the camping barn was; which meant I didn’t have to do them on Day 2. Despite the weather, I felt a sense of accomplishment for even being there, let alone finishing the first day.

Day 2. Greencarts to Greenhead. 16.5 miles

Day 2 can be split into two halves. The first was a delightful run along nice undulating countryside. Beautiful weather and loads of views of the Wall and places like the Mithraian Temple which were pretty cool. I stopped off for a bit of sightseeing at Housesteads and had a bit of lunch, then set off on the second half. The second half of Day 2 was 9 miles of switchback hell! I knew it was coming but it still didn’t prepare me for the psychological battle that would come with it. It didn’t help that I underestimated the mileage for the day, so got to around 15 miles and realised I had another mile and a half to go. I very nearly had a full on strop at myself, but instead I sat down, had some food, and sent a few texts to people who promptly told me to buck up. The end was such a fantastic sight, particularly as there was a cafe, where I downed two cans of coke, a chocolate brownie, a Calypo, and a bag of crisps. Something tells me I didn’t get my fuelling right on this day…

Day 3. Greenhead to Carlisle. 21 miles

I expected Day 3 to be tough. It was the longest of the legs, at 21 miles (longer than I’d ever run before) and seemed pretty intimidating after the beating I took yesterday. I started off well, slow but well. There were lots of bits of the Wall to look at still, although that would disappear as the day went on. I stopped at an old Roman fort, around 7 miles in, for some lunch. It had taken me a surprising amount of time to get there and I was already ravenous; that jam sandwich was probably the best thing I’ve ever eaten!! After that 10 miles came quite quickly and I was halfway. Here my legs started to fall apart a bit. My left knee was getting more painful and my calves were probably compensating so we’re pretty achy. At around 6 miles to go, I broke out the emergency playlist and mantra and slogged it to the end, through ever increasing urbanisation and hard paths. Just what my knee didn’t order!! Jubilation was mixed with sheer exhaustion by the end but I was proud to have done it and a little daunted as to how my knee would fair the next day.

Day 4. Carlisle to Bowness-on-Solway. 17 miles

Day 4 was going to be pretty flat as I headed out to the sea, which I think was probably a good thing for my knee. In the morning, I was pleasantly surprised that my legs were still feeling ok and my knee seemed well recovered. All remnants of the Wall were now gone, as were most of the people, with noticeably less walkers on this stretch. I started following the river out of Carlisle and passed through some lovely little villages, before hitting the dreaded road. I’d been warned about this section by a few people, so knew what was coming: a long straight, flat road for at least 3 miles heading to Bowness-on-Solway. I wasn’t looking forward to this section, but actually it was really good! I was able to get a good rhythm going and the ecologist in me was appreciating the grazing marsh and wetland birds overhead. The worst part was when, nearing the end, rather than following the road into Bowness, the path takes a 2 mile dog leg off in another direction; presumably to make the walk more pleasant. That close to the end, with my knee really playing up, I wasn’t enjoying the extra detour. Speaking of detours, I’d also got lost a couple of times today, the only times I did on the whole trip. I really got the sense that this bit of the path was a lot less looked after, with a few diversions and signage hidden away by overgrown trees. So what was supposed to be 15 miles ended up as 17. Reaching the end was an unbelievable feeling! I genuinely didn’t think I’d make it. Never having done anything like this before, I didn’t know how my body would react, and particularly at the end of Day 3, I had serious doubts I could finish at all. Reaching the little hut at the end of the path was absolutely amazing; as was the beer and chips I celebrated with!

Overall it was 73.1 miles (I’m not going back for the 0.9mile), 5672 ft of elevation and 16 hours of running.

I’ve learnt a lot doing this challenge, even in the run up. I’ve learnt how to get the best out of myself through training and what kind of routine works for me, but I also learnt a lot over those 4 days:

  1. When the website for the camping barn you are staying at says basic, it means it, and your idea of basic changes significantly as you get older.
  2. Buffs make great eye masks for when the places you are staying have no curtains.
  3. It’s remarkable what your body can do. A lot of people say ‘mind over matter’ but I’m not so sure that applies to me. If anything, my brain is the weak link sometimes and this was a real lesson in putting one foot in front of the other and relying on the surprising strength of my body.
  4. There’s nothing quite like breaking out the emergency playlist and mantra to get you to the end of a tough day.
  5. I hadn’t fully accounted for the effect of cumulative fatigue; particularly how each day the same distance could take subsequently longer. Linked to that, just how much I would need to fuel, despite spending a lot of time thinking about this in training, I don’t think I got it quite right. I was ending days with food left, and by Day 4 just couldn’t face anything I’d brought.
  6. There’s no such thing as unsupported. I was on my own for these four days, but that doesn’t mean I was unsupported. I’d got a lot of advice and support from fellow Harriers in the run up, and during the trip there were always messages on my phone from family, friends, Harriers and complete strangers to keep me going. A few messages to the right people at a low moment soon resulted in a proverbial kick up the arse. So a massive thank you to everyone who helped me with this challenge.

If you are able to, and would like to bung some cash in my fundraiser please do so here, every penny is much appreciated and goes to a fantastic charity who are pushing for awareness and vital research on Addison’s Disease.

Cumbrian Traverse

Chris Webb was back out doing what Chris Webb does best. Really long, hard and very fast stuff. This route sounds great! He sent this in….

With the kids both isolating at home due to COVID cases in their school and the Mrs not feeling too well I was given the chance to have a day out somewhere (“One of us may as well get something out of the weekend!” were her exact words).  I’m slowly ticking off all the various Lakeland routes and rounds and I’d had my eye on the Cumbrian Traverse for a while.  It’s a point-to-point 32miles/12,000ft outing starting at the village hall in Broughton Mills (think “big shed” rather than a charming stone built hall!) and finishing at the Moot Hall in Keswick.  I managed to bag a lift from my parents who wanted a day out in the Lakes and as I was going solo and unsupported all they had to do was drop me off and pick me up about 8hrs later!  I set off in murky conditions and after picking off the first couple of peaks in Dunnerdale the heavens opened as I found my way up Caw.  From here it’s terrain Duddon runners will be familiar with (in reverse) but on this route you deviate to pick up a couple of extra peaks that were new to me – White Maiden and Brown Pike – before hitting the main path over Dow Crag to Coniston Old Man.  The section from here to Swirl How is glorious on a fine day but I could barely see 10 yards ahead so I just enjoyed the peace and quiet as most walkers seemed to have stayed in the cafes in the valley.  Wrynose came and went and then you’re on the crux of the route; after Cold Pike I took a “cross country” line (it seemed like a good idea at the time!) to Crinkle Crags and then up the Bad Step before hitting the main drag over Bowfell, Esk Pike and up to Great End.  I was excited about taking the direct line off Great End down to Styhead and it didn’t disappoint, nice and steep and I took a few walkers by surprise as I emerged from what must have looked like a cliff and bounded past towards Great Gable.  The weather had cleared up by now and it felt hot which didn’t help the slog up Great Gable which, with 9,000feet in your legs, isn’t easy.  However, once it’s done it’s neighbour Green Gable is ticked off you can enjoy the easy descent on the Bob Graham trod to Honister.  Somehow I was still feeling half-decent at this point and made reasonable progress up to Dale Head tarn and then High Spy before cruising along the lovely ridge overlooking Derwentwater all the way to Cat Bells.  I was ready to be done and descended into the woods and the trails back into Keswick, done and dusted in 7hrs 50mins.  It’s a good route that feels longer than it is, as it connects so many different parts of the Lakes.  It is challenging, keeping pretty high throughout.  If you don’t fancy my unsupported approach, there is an option to meet crew at both Wrynose Pass and Honister Pass.  Details here:

Endure 24

This may have slipped under the radar, but marathon master Marie Williamson endured 75 miles in 24 hours at Bramham Park near Tadcaster last weekend. Bonkers!

Heights Ultra Trail

Never heard of this one, but the race didn’t escape the attention of some of our lot, who went up to show some blue and orange. Pete Wallroth and Simon Toole both sent something in….

Yesterday was the delayed, inaugural Heights Ultra Trail event, having originally been scheduled for 2020 I think. Great organisation and based at Colne Valley High School on what was a somewhat drizzly morning. Having driven over Holme Moss in thick clag that morning, it set up for good temp to run in.

I started off alongside Steve Crossman & Simon Toole for the first few miles but we then separated over a series of stiles and road crossings.  First 10 miles of this is actually quite zippy and flat along reservoir feeds before eventually rising up to Wessenden Head and dropping towards Holme village via a well charged Dean Clough. Was more like running in rivers than paths here, it has to be said, so was a good test of Brooks Divide but they held up really well.

The lads nabbed some bargains at the pre race car boot sale

From here the ascent starts, and it felt like it was going on forever, starting from
Yateholme Reservoir, climbing up through thick woods before coming out, flanking Snailsden Reservoir and onto the moor around the stunning Ramsden Clough and Holme Moss. Over half way here, so a morale booster, until having to negotiate the bogs to Black Hill which killed the legs for a while.

Descending off and to Wessenden for a restock and refreshment, it was a welcome downhill along the reservoirs. Doing well, and comfortably on at this point to finish in 5:30 and a new PB for a 30mile, and 6 mile left I turned into a little lane. The subsequent 100m ascent in the next half mile just destroyed my legs. It was a plod from there to the finish back along retracing the starting route and finished in 5:44 (14th out of 91). Ended up alongside a great guy from Dewsbury called Dom from about 11 miles so was good to have company and a running tussle.

Defo recommend this. With only about 10% road, so it’s a top trail route through some stunning landscapes, not that we saw much of it yesterday with the clag.
Grateful to Sue Clapham for transferring her place to me. Top day out.

Meanwhile, Simon and Steve were enjoying themselves too much….

I entered this event in March and, after convincing Steve to run it with me, picked up an injury so only managed about 6 weeks of proper training.
Starting at Colne Valley High school in Linthwaite, we lined up for the start in drizzle, perfect for running, and the 3 of us were together for the first few miles. Pete steadily ran on as we easily got to the first aid station 10 miles in at Holme village, all very runnable and not too hilly. Time for a feed as we carried on and Steve wondered what he had got himself into when I asked him if he wanted to try one of my salty spuds, a look of relief across his face as I pulled out a small bag of potatoes prepared the night before.

Si fondles his spuds

The next 10 miles were a bit of a slog as we climbed up onto the moors towards Holme summit and over to Black Hill Trig . Visibility was down to about 100 yards as the low cloud made it a real pea souper and with all the rain we have had this week, conditions underfoot were boggy to say the least. Along the Pennine Way towards Wessenden Head and the final aid station, much needed after a tough energy sapping section.
A good downhill start for the last 10 miles was most welcome, down to Wessenden ,Blackeley and Butterley reservoirs and then a steep climb up to Deer Hill resser. My lack of training was now starting to show as the last 5 miles were a struggle but a few words of encouragement from Steve ” Come on get those little fat legs going ” brought a smile and lifted me towards the finish. We finished 50th and 51st in 6 hrs 52 , Pete finishing 14th with a very respectable time of 5 hrs 43, 91 runners competed.
A great day out and fun all the way, highly recommended.

In what I can only assume was a mix up on the entry form, Guy Riddell found himself doing 50 miles instead of 50K. Guy cruised around the course in 13 hours or so, finishing about middle of the pack. Excellent running chaps!

A confused Guy Riddell looks for the finish at the 50K mark

Salomon Serpent Trail 50K

Chris Smith was daarn sarf (some place called “Hampshire”?) running this one, which is part of the Golden Trail National Series. Looks like Chris had an excellent day, finishing 25th out of 300 or so, in a time of 4:34:09

That’s a new profile picture if I ever I saw one!


Nick Ham, Chris Jackson and Paul Skuse headed out to Castleton for this little gem organised by Derbyshire Cave and Rescue Organisation. The Skusinator sent this in….

Only 3 GDH ( plus Stevie K in his away strip) made it to the start line for this beast of a race, me, Chris Jackson and the ever-present Nick Ham (I’m putting red marks against certain non-racing individuals’ names in my list of shame). That said, the overall turnout was fantastic. In fact, that’s true for all the races I’ve so far attended. You can keep your Christmas’ and birthdays, just give me a mid-week fell race and as happy as can be.
So, a short and sweet summary of the DCRO Dash: Well, it certainly has a sharp climb at the start. I’m known to like a bit of a climb but this was the hardest start of any race I can remember. Think the start of Mount Famine, minus trees and then just keep going up. Then go up a little more. No, further than that. Come on, really use your imagination. That’s more like it.

Finally, the course levels out and becomes runnable – except it doesn’t! It’s still a tough climb, now with added tussocks to keep life spicy but because compared to the start it seems relatively flat, you feel obligated to run even faster. Chris and Stevie were awesome, they smashed the start and were up the hill like rats up a drainpipe.
Once at the top, it’s very similar to the Peak Forest race; grassy paths, fairly soft rolling hills and full beans effort required to keep at race pace. It lasted longer than expected and I kept thinking we were about to drop back to the start. We weren’t. It just all looked the same. I guess this is why some folk look at watches to know where they are in a race. Mine was set to distance in KM and converting metric to imperial measurements whilst giving it P for plenty just wasn’t on the cards. When at last I saw the final descent, there was a real sense of mixed emotion; on the one hand ” Hurray, its nearly over!” and on the other, ” I’m not running down that!” I opted for the downhill mince as that’s my only way of getting down on rough stuff. But we’re not home and dry just yet. There’s one final downhill on a contour which took all my effort to stay on track. Others weren’t so fortunate. And that’s it, the finish line.
It was really well organized and is a singular race; you won’t confuse it with any other. Thanks to Luke Holme for the race recommendation.

Results are here:

After 47 attempts, “sorry Paul, can you just go back up and do it again?” Nick Ham finally captures a picture of Paul descending like a pro. Seriously though, a great picture!

Lakeland Trails 23K, Ambleside

John Pollard was up in The Lakes again, showing em how its done…..

I do like these events, and while they’re obviously pricier than a bog-standard fell race it’s still good value for all the support they offer, flagged route (no thinking involved😉…though I have a little story here later), free race photos, t-shirt (I’m addicted to these) and some razzamataz if you want it (well, in the good old days anyway).
The Ambleside instalment of their trails is probably the best version for many folk as the routes take you on a nice journey and there’s some serious running to be done, with ultras at 55k/100k taking place, the 100, setting off at midnight, had finished by the time I arrived at Rothay Park at 12 for my second go at the 23k.
The 128 runners were set off at 2 minute intervals in ‘waves’ so it’s not always clear how you’re faring in race terms as you can only measure yourself against those you set off with, and I didn’t see the six I started with after part of the first climb up to Low Sweden Bridge as I’d left them for dead😌.

So you pick up earlier starting runners, or you have faster later starters cruising past you…this is probably a tad demoralising for the slower fun(?) runners who are regularly seeing dust, as opposed to sand, being kicked up in their red, perspiring faces. I don’t mean to sound mean. This scenario is probably familiar to GDH runners who’ve raced during the pandemic(not the red, perspiring faces…the cruising past bit).
Amazing how many are already walking the climbs by the time a couple of miles are chipped away.
Theses are hard packed gravel trails and can be pretty fast if you avoid the tourists and dogs on their way to Stock Ghyll waterfalls.

A bit of fell does follow and soon you’re above Rydal below Nab Scar on the Coffin Route west and careering down to the main road crossing, leaving Willie Wordsworth spinning in his grave(coffin?). Round to Grasmere and a welcome drinks station after maybe 7 miles.
I had somehow forgotten to put my race vest in the car before driving, so my carefully prepared electrolyte drinks and gels and other sundries were on a chair at home….so fortunately I had a wee bumbag with me and a single inov8 container in the boot, so I filled its 500mls and resolved to refill at the two drinks stations. But it was humid and thirsty work. No need to take anything else even with rain threatening, a lack of kit faff with no choice made a change.
Through Grasmere on tarmac, dodging various lines of ice-cream and fudge-queues etc and getting an equal mix of puzzled looks and encouraging shouts we contoured round towards the second main climb, on the flanks of Silver Howe heading SW for Chapel Stile and fantastic views of the imperious Langdales…but they would be for another day.

Now this was where a little episode unfolded which I can only share here among friends, as will become clear.
There’s quite a technical section of an exposed rock face to pussyfoot here and it presents a bit of a challenge to some, but while I’m a crap ascender I do like a rocky or steep descent, and I made good headway across this and the shoulder high bracken that was making your foot-planting hard to see. Further on there was more bracken and ferns and a variety of paths through, and as I was now running alone I came to one fork and took the left on a whim, as there were none of the little yellow flags Lakeland litter the route with to help you along and mark the way.
Shortly below me was another guy who’d stopped and I realised we were on a possible descent away from the main route above us to the right, where I now could just spy runners who’d come from behind making progress along the upper bracken-clad path.
There were no yellow flags and it looked as if we faced a retread back to the fork in the path or an awkward climb across rock to get to what looked like the official route, as a small gorge was opening up between the two. The guy below agreed this wasn’t the ‘correct’ way and asked where we were heading (it was taking us down to Elterwater, the next landmark, but he was unaware).
I remembered walking from Elterwater over to Grasmere years ago and was pretty sure you could descend here and wind up ok in the village, but I wasn’t sure of the path lower down. But, observing the mantra ‘don’t lose altitude unless you have to’ I ploughed on though I couldn’t see clearly ahead because of the steepness and the 5 foot bracken.

The other guy had obviously returned somehow to the comfort of the ‘actual’ route. Good luck.
I was soon in a quarry area of grey slate and wondering if I was heading for my own ‘bombed out’ trophy as I traversed back east to where I knew Elterwater lay…and hey presto a stile appeared below me and led out onto a minor road. Still had to get back to the race route proper, and I was thinking I’d lost some time by this manoeuvre….until I glimpsed runners below me on a track which I realised was going to the main drag in Elterwater and the Wainwright pub(always good to bag a low Wainwright!).
I dropped down and snuck into the convoy of runners who had emerged from the village and without looking at a map (I didn’t have one!) I pretty much guessed I had taken a good line/cut short the route/cheated (delete as appropriate).
Now in a fell race, apart from having to make the checkpoints, a little creative route-finding is admirable; in Lakeland trails there are no checkpoints…nudge nudge wink wink.

The last climb out of Elterwater contouring the lower slopes of Loughrigg above its tarn was finding a few out now, and I was glad of the last drink stop to replenish.
Two young ladies had stopped by the side to take a selfie I thought, but when they came racing past me shortly after I exclaimed “blimey girls I thought you were on a bike the speed you’ve come flying by”, to which they shouted…”no, we’re propelled by haribo!”.
So I spurted to catch them up and they kindly let me grab a handful of the little gems to see me through the last 3 or 4 miles….which were fairly uneventful as apart from the usual uphill sting in the tail, was mostly downhill and I enjoyed a couple of wee battles to spur me on to a finish in 2hr 45m., 18 minutes faster than last time I ran it.
It was, of course, a tad shorter this time. But please don’t tell anyone.

Nice work John, and there’s nothing wrong with using the racing line! 2nd V60 no less! Top work mate!

Bosley Fete Fell Race

I know very little here, except serial racer Nick Ham was in attendance on Saturday, snapping his way around the 5 mile course in 49 minutes or so.

Virtual Champs

A last minute tweak to the race route at Round the Resers demanded a stewards enquiry, with arguments raging as to whether the old 100m at the start, or the new 100m at the end provided the greatest advantage. The Champs Committee assessed the matter in great detail, finally concluding, “whatever!”.

Another brilliant turnout, with 65 Harriers completing the June challenge, spending a cumulative 43 hours on the route. Updated Champs tables are now on the website (including you pesky late submitters!).

For July its Glossop Skyline. Details here!

For the Dairy…..

Sunday 18th July, 2pm – Monthly Mashup – SWIMRUN AT MANVERS LAKE

For July, we are going on a trip! We have the opportunity to visit Manvers Lake, in Wath upon Deane near Rotherham, to try out Swimrun course 😃 The course is 5km long (although those who want to can do a couple of laps) and has you constantly in and out of the water with 6 running legs and 6 swimming legs per loop. Those who want to go at full pelt on the day are welcome to, but I will be doing a very socially paced loop, regrouping after every swimming/running section.
Manvers Lake is an open water swimming venue and safety cover will be provided by qualified open water lifeguards.
For this event, there will be a small charge – a donation to the Manvers Lake & Dearne Valley Trust – of £5 per person to take part.
We have access from 2pm and the journey is just under an hour by car. There are changing rooms, toilets, and a cafe onsite.
Please note, it is compulsory to wear a wetsuit to swim in the lake – these are the venue’s rules, not ours. A shorty wetsuit is fine, but it does need to be a wetsuit, not a tri-suit or rash vest. They have a limited supply available to hire for £5. Please indicate on the form if you’d like to do this, and we’ll allocate what’s available on a first come, first serve basis.
Please sign up here:

Thursday 29th July, 7 – 8pm – Positive Runner Seminar

Via the Harrier UK Club Support Programme we have an exclusive virtual session with ultra runner and mindset coach Ronnie Staton. You can find out more about Ronnie on his website and blog:
This will be his Positive Runner Seminar (more info here:

Well, that’s about it for this week, but keep your eye on the GDH Facebook page and please, please keep posting what you’re up to, and we really like pictures too! Stay sensible and stay safe!

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