Tag Archives: Montane

The Lakeland 50, a race report

Reuben_Tabner_Lakeland50_0270Sweat is pouring from me. The air is thick and sticky… My shirt clings to my skin, soaked, unable to absorb any more moisture… I try to shut my mind to the heat, that is slowly cooking me as I struggle to maintain my pace climbing out of Fusedale Valley. It’s like running in to the center of the earth, the further I go, the hotter it seems to get… I long to be on the fell tops, where it must be cooler… It can’t be hotter than here..!

Reuben_Tabner_Lakeland50_4452 Reuben_Tabner_Lakeland50_4459Reuben_Tabner_Lakeland50_4460It had all been going so well, a short four mile loop around Dalemain had seen us spread out nicely and the pace had seemed easy, even it the heat… I settled in to a steady rhythm, and before a moment had passed, I was through the first checkpoint at Howtown, a fist full of fig rolls in my hand as I headed towards hell…

Behind and as well as in front, hundreds of runners are strung out over the mountainside, all of us are heading towards Coniston, 40 miles away. We won’t all make it… We struggle on this climb, the first major one of the day, and it’s slowly picking us off…

Reuben_Tabner_Lakeland50_0278Finally I stop climbing, the ground easies out, and I can breath again… I pick up speed and allow my legs to carry me forward… Haweswater eventually appears from behind High Kop, shimmering in the heat as I start to descend. The air thickens once again, sweat runs free from my brow… We run and then walk, before running again along the lake side… I flew this section when I reccied the course a few months back, today I struggle to maintain any pace, in the heat… I fill my bottle from streams, and drink hungrily, but the water isn’t satisfying, its warm, like that from a tap that just won’t run cold…  I try to eat a gel, forcing  it down, but it won’t go and I wash the stickiness from my fingers…

Reuben_Tabner_Lakeland50_0260I’ve been running less than 4 hours and the wheels have fallen well and truly off… I’m melting slowly in the sun. I can’t seem to eat, and yet I know I must… I haul myself up from the ground where I’ve been sitting and drink TORQ Energy from my platy-pus, it’s sweet and warm in this heat, but it seems to do the trick, providing me with the kick I need…

Finally, the checkpoint at Mardale Head appears, I drink flat coke, hot soup and scoff cheese and pickle sarnies. It’s an oasis in the desert, I fill my face with “free” food, before shouting my thanks as I head towards Gatesgarth Pass. It’s steep and hot again, I know for many Gatesgarth is a demon waiting in hell, but for me, it’s been a target for most of the morning. I know when I’m at the top, the hard part is behind me. I’ve been looking forward to the climb.  I relish the steepness, knowing its the fastest way to the top. I bump into a friend and we chat about races and adventures past and planned as we fly up the hill, over taking as we go…

Reuben_Tabner_Lakeland50_4462Reaching the top, I slow for a few moments to take in the view, looking down Longsleddale, before dropping like a stone down the rough concrete path which leads us to Sadgill and the next climb… It passes in a distant haze, as I fly above my body, like a helium ballon, looking down as the slow torture takes place…

Reuben_Tabner_Lakeland50_4463I wake up collapsed on the road outside the Kentmere Checkpoint. A Strawberry and Blueberrie smoothy is in my hand and it tastes amazing… It’s finished at record speed and I instantly want another, but daren’t risk too much fruit… As it previous Checkpoints, my water bottle is filled without asking, five star service befitting the best restaurants… But I’m not hanging around to enjoy it too long… my watch beeps and It’s time to start running again… Only another 23 miles now, almost there…

Reuben_Tabner_Lakeland50_4464 Reuben_Tabner_Lakeland50_4465The rain starts just as I approach Ambleside, I love running in the rain, and it increases the spring in my step, but I have to fight to keep it there. As I run through the streets, people stop and cheer, clapping and raising glasses in the beer gardens… I want to stop and absorb it all, but it pushes me forward, lifts my spirt as I search down the Checkpoint, a mug of hot soup awaits…

Time is flying now, the light is fading with the dark clouds as I run along Langdale. I stop only briefly at Chapel Stile, more soup to warm my gut and to stoke the fire. I resist the chimineas outside the gazebo and I run on, in to the evening glom. I find it very comforting and resist switching on my head torch straightaway. But as I climb up towards Blea Tarn, dusk finally turns to dark and the drizzle returns but I know the way…

The suffering of so long ago, is quickly forgotten as the rain washes away the pain. I eat a Rhubarb and Custard gel and remember the hard boiled sweets I used to love as child… they maybe explain the fillings in my mouth… The next checkpoint at Tilberthwaite is not far now, but it never seems to arrive… And then there in the distance I spy fairy lights… I arrive to find Christmas well underway. Presents under the tent consist of more flat coke, sweets and cookies… There’s a chair, but as the rain fills the roof with water it cascades down my back, forcing me back on my feet… We sing happy birthday for a runners who birthday it probably isn’t, then we sing it again for a runner, who’s birthday it is… I leave as We wish you a merry Christmas  fills the air…

Bazar… I’m in the Lake District, it’s July, it’s pouring with rain, it’s dark… We are sing Christmas Songs…

I set off up the steepest of steep steps, and the take the lower path, down to Crook Beck… but it’s dark, and you can’t see much, and its the wrong way… I turn back and find the right path. I see frogs in the beam of my torch, it’s good weather for frogs…

2 miles to go…

I fall in with a L100 runner for a few minutes as we pick our way over the fell top. The path is faint, and our lights are the only ones in the dark… As we round a corner, I see path dropping off all the way to Coniston, to the warmth, to the dry…

I hit the boost button on my SEO5 Head torch and focus the beam. The rest is muscle memory as I take my brain and put it in my pocket. Its wet, its dark, its downhill, its a roller coaster ride…

I’m grinning from ear to ear, as I fly, passing other runners in the dark, bouncing from rock to rock, feet only glancing. I’ve been dreaming about the for months… Ahead I see Rob and Amanda, who I’ve run with at various points of the day… We chat briefly, but now my legs are no longer mine… and they head towards Coniston…

The streets are quiet at this early hour, until I pass the Black Bull, and the clapping comes from nowhere, I stare into the dark and see two figures, I pass the garage, and there are people there, sheltering from the rain, cheering… I’m chocked…

The final left turn, the final downhill… There’s the gate, more people… The finish arch, the medal… the lights, the t-shirt, it’s all over… Really it’s only just begun…

50 miles: 12 Hours 53 Minutes…

Reuben_Tabner_Lakeland50_0307Powered by TORQ, Carried by Mammut, Light by LEDLenser, Inspired by Life…

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Ankle deep and alone in the Welsh mountains

I’m in North Wales for a week of running up and over mountains. The idea is to get fit for the Lakeland 50 in June, get some miles and hours in my legs and generally escape from work and find the smiles…

Reuben_Tabner_Running_Wales_3279Today was day one, and as I pulled the van in to the car park at Capel Curig it was lashing with rain… big droplets ran down the windscreen as I changed… I waited and made a bacon sarnie, at least it would provide me with some fuel… then I made a mug of coffee, but still it rained… It didn’t matter how long I sat and waited, I was going to get wet… So I slid the van door fully open, pulled on my muddy shoes and said goodbye to the cosy dry van.

Reuben_Tabner_Running_Wales_3299I set off a gentle trot, ignoring the rain, feeling the ground pass beneath my feet, the track was running like a river. I was looking for the sharp right, that was meant to be so obvious, but I turned to early and contoured round the hillside, sure I was going the wrong way, yet convinced this was the path… Common sense prevailed, I back tracked to find the right path, the one that rose steeply up the hillside, working my lungs and quads to burning point.

Reuben_Tabner_Running_Wales_3309The hillside was like a river, water running over every surface, my feet sank ankle deep, with every step water flushed through my shoes. I climbed higher, into the cloud and driving rain… I ran to my compass, passing no-one, or at least seeing no-one, the mist was so thick, I could just about see twenty paces in front…

Reuben_Tabner_Running_Wales_3306To day there is no view. A steady wind blows sheets of rain at me. I huddle in a rock shelter to eat some flapjack and quaff a TORQ Rhubarb and Custard gel (I could get addicted to these) before heading onwards.

Reuben_Tabner_Running_Wales_3302As the mist thickens, I make the executive decision, and turn for that warm dry van… But as I quickly drop height the World opens up below me, to a brighter dryer day, I stop in the lee of wind to take in the view… it’s all so worth it…

Reuben_Tabner_Running_Wales_3324Reuben_Tabner_Running_Wales_3342Reuben_Tabner_Running_Wales_3331A brief mountain drink and quickly now I skip from stone to stone, over dryer ground, making for the valley floor…

Reuben_Tabner_Running_Wales_3354Reuben_Tabner_Running_Wales_3353But again I’m forced to pause on a stile to admire those views… Views you can never get running in the city, feelings which just aren’t there when you pound the concrete…

Reuben_Tabner_Running_Wales_3375Reuben_Tabner_Running_Wales_3378Almost home now… as tired legs turn the miles, this track seems to stretch further and further away… I leave the Devil behind me, alone in his kitchen… One last stile, one last muddy puddle and theres the van… slide open the door… Job done… Smile..!

Friday Stoke: MONTANE® Lakeland 100

I have two main aims for summer 2013. To compete in the Lakeland 50 at the end of July and then the UTMB-TDS at the end of August. The first is part of the Lakeland 100, which is sponsored by Montane. They have made a short video to explain what its all about… See you there..?

Lakeland 50 Recce – Ambleside to Coniston

You know its going to be a good day, when it starts with scraping a half inch of ice from the inside of the van windscreen… The alarm buzzing at 6:30am is nothing unusual, but with the clocks change, is a little more brutal this morning. I struggle out of bed and change into my running kit… spoon in porridge and golden syrup and head to Ambleside. Today is a short recce run of the last section of the Lakeland 100/50 course, Ambleside to Coniston about 16 miles all in. It’s my first official recce of the course, and I’m not quite sure what to expect.

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I arrive outside Lakes Runner to find about 60 other runners ready for the days run.

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We set off at a collectively quick pace through Ambleside, trying to warm up in the frosty morning air. The town is quiet apart from our quick footsteps, but its not long before we turn uphill and slow to a quick walk, our lungs sucking in the cold air.

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Our breath is taken away by the stunning views as we climb up round the side of Loughrigg Fell and views over the Fells open out in front of us. The climbing has warmed cold limbs and runners are pulling jackets off and stuffing them in to packs… It’s hot running in the sun, but still we are breathing, cold crisp air.

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Soon we are back on the valley floor, running quickly up through Great Langdale, dominated by views of the Langdale Pikes. Lost in a world of dreams and wonderment at the incredible views, I’m taken by surprise to find myself at Chapel Stile the first of todays checkpoints.

Reuben_Tabner_2996On race day, we are told there will be a large marquee here, but today its a car and a table of juice. I grab some flapjack and continue moving, still lost in mountain dreams.

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As the path winds up hill we encounter patches of snow. The ground is still mostly frozen, but a miss placed foot will break through the frozen crust in to wet moss below, waking you quickly to avoid freezing the next foot the same way.

Reuben_Tabner_3003I’m still lost in the views, no longer even aware that I’m running, climbing or descending…

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We cross Bleamoss, trying to stick to the higher ground to avoid the worst of the semi-frozen bog. A unmanned check point will be here in July, but I’m confused for a moment as the gate should be on the other side of a road… There is no road..! I turn down hill, still confused, running on snow, my feet brushing the capping stones of a dry stone wall. As I stubble down a drift side, I suddenly find the missing road, buried… will this snow still be here in July..?

Reuben_Tabner_3015We continue on down the road, through Tilberthwaite Farm and to the second checkpoint. I grab some water, a chunk of ginger bread and keep going.

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We are greeted by a set of steep steps and a tough final climb up past a deep ravine. A snow slope needs crossing before a small scramble through a mini gulley needs all hands and feet.

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Finally the climbing is behind us, and its a long steep decent down in to Coniston and a short jog to the final check point and what will be the Lakeland 50 and 100 finish.Reuben_Tabner_3026

It’s been good to run this final stage and think how I will feel after the full 50 miles in July. Will the snow still be there? Or will it be the hottest July on record? My legs won’t feel as fresh as they do finishing today, but hopefully they will still be running!

***

After topping up on water and eating a handful of jelly babies, I join the Delamere Spartans for what they promise is a slow run back to Ambleside along the Cumbria Way… I was fooled! It was anything but slow..! But the Tea and cakes tasted so much better sat in Bilbo’s Cafe..!

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Thanks to the Lakeland 100 crew for organising a brilliant day of running, perfect weather and the challenge of the odd snow drift. Thanks also to the Delamere Spartans for the added 10 miles back to Ambleside!

Strathpuffer a Race Report

Mountain Biking in ScotlandIt had all started well enough. At 10am on Saturday morning, whenever that was, to the sound of bag pipes the race kicked off, with several hundred mountain bikers running 500 or so yards, skating in SPD shoes along the frozen road to our waiting bikes. From there it was a battle of wits as we thought our way up hill, trying to pick the best lines between other riders and ice… It was tough not to go off flying, racing against the guys in teams. As every rider passed me I had to check myself, remembering I was racing solo not as a pair or quad. All being said, the first lap was over relatively quick … And now I had seen the course, I know what to expect… So out I went again, and again….Reuben_Tabner_Strathpuffer_0012Reuben_Tabner_Strathpuffer_0053Reuben_Tabner_Strathpuffer_0117

It went well for at least twelve hours. At least it seemed to be… But each lap, I was eating less and less. At first I didn’t notice, by the time I did, it was to late. Eating was an effort, an effort I didn’t want. Eventually I ground to a halt. Insufficient food, meant there was no fuel to keep the engine driving my legs going.

Reuben_Tabner_Strathpuffer_0227I crumble in to a heap in the back of the van… I pull off wet, soggy clothes and crawl in to my sleeping bag… Fortunately my brother arrives and passes me a pork sandwich from his hotel… I eat what I can, is it too late..? I can’t get warm, worse I can’t get my clean clothes on, I can’t get back out, I’m not peddling, this isn’t meant to be happening… I’m alone once again. I shiver, I’m tormented by visions of hot baths, of warm beds, about being dry and warm… I know I can have these, I just need to quit. But I can not quit… I don’t know how… Eventually I dress for war again… I open the door in to the cold night, allowing it to come flooding in, as I prepare once again to peddle…

Reuben_Tabner_Strathpuffer_0187It’s 2am, I shiver uncontrollably as I fight to strive off the cold. My tyres crunch on the ice of the frozen fire road. I’m freezing, I shouldn’t have stopped, but I needed to eat. The van was warm, inviting, dry… The cold, icy fire road is anything but inviting. Yet I must defeat her, do battle and win. It had taken all my mental strength to force myself out of the warmth of the van, from sleeping, from quitting. I wanted to curl up in my sleeping bag, call the whole thing off as a stupid idea and sleep. Stop peddling and warm up. Now, as I slowly grind up this road, I pass other vans and tents… Most have team members, stoking fires and fettling bikes… I long for the warmth of a fire to thaw my bones… I ride past, head down, these are not my fires…Reuben_Tabner_Strathpuffer_0177I fight on, as gingerly I climb this frozen road, even my ice tires are slipping on the thick sheet ice, my senses are numbing, slowing, why am I here..?

Reuben_Tabner_Strathpuffer_0132 Reuben_Tabner_Strathpuffer_0135 Reuben_Tabner_Strathpuffer_0073What am I doing..? Hum, well that’s the thing… A year ago, I had been told about this small town in the North of Scotland and how in January they held this 24 hour mountain bike race called the Strathpuffer. Through the midst of winter, riders competed, not just against each other, but against the weather, themselves and all their inner demons. It happens to be the only winter 24 hour mountain bike event in the World. For some reason I was sold! It became my focus through those long summer riding days, when our backs are warm and faces brown. It became a reason to get out and ride when rain lashed the windows and friends suggested there were better things to do. So really I only have myself to blame.

Reuben_Tabner_Strathpuffer_2308Yesterday or was it the day before, I’m losing track of the simple things, I loaded the van with bikes, warm riding clothes and loads of food and set of on the long drive from Newcastle, to this frozen remote corner of the World of Mountain Biking. Now I’m peddling, it’s all I’ve done for hours… peddle, peddle and peddle some more, occasionally I stop to eat, but not long enough to get cold or to rest.

Reuben_Tabner_Strathpuffer_0122I reach the top of the fireroad and wobble over a small log bridge. I know what’s coming… the first of the rock gardens. There isn’t a clean line through, it’s almost perfectly designed to tire you out. To beat you into submission, to grind the last of your resolve away… I dig deep and embrace the discomfort, before the trail takes a dive down in to the trees, mud and night…

Reuben_Tabner_Strathpuffer_0196I reach the top of the next climb, and stop for a quick breather, I’m knackered… I switch my lights off and stare in to the dark night… lights twinkle in the distance, the air is still again, just a little snow drifting down… I clear my head of thoughts, just allowing myself to think about the next small section, it’s fast and flows with a couple of small jumps, and then opens out in to a muddy motorway section, which will leave my face mud splattered and grinning, before the final decent to the finish, to the lights, fires and the mad crowds awake at this crazy hour to cheer us on… Reuben_Tabner_Strathpuffer_0220And then… it’s back out, back up hill, back peddling, another lap… praying for the dawn, for real light, waiting on that final lap… after which I can finally stop.

Reuben_Tabner_Strathpuffer_0224Hours later, I slowly push my bike back up hill towards my van. I no longer need to peddle, the race is over and the clock has stopped its ticking. I’m covered in mud, in every place you can imagine… Now it’s over, I don’t want it to be… Before the engine of the van even warms, as crazy as it may seem I’m planning next year…Reuben_Tabner_Strathpuffer_2334

I would like to say a massive thank you to all who helped me get through this event, namely the people who were still out cheering riders on at 4am, my brother Thomas for acting as driver, general support and photographer, Square Wheels for putting this fabulous event on, Colin Henderson for his amazing photographs, Montane for keeping me dry and the Coul House Hotel for allowing me back in the doors looking like a swamp monster and for feeding me throughout the event. Thanks Guys…

Friday stoke: MONTANE® Yukon Arctic Ultra

Maybe a race for the future..? It sure looks fun… If a little cold…

Racing through the night…

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The cold of the frosty, frozen road is slowly creeping through my thin running tights, I munch angrily on another caffeinated energy chew and squirt water in to my mouth. I sit facing down hill, my back to the evil climb that is still in front of me. I’ve been climbing for what seems ages, the map shows many more contour lines that are yet to be overcome. It’s stopped raining, the temperature has dropped, I’m cold and alone. My ankle is screaming in agony. Why am I here..? It’s 4 o’clock in the morning, I’ve been running for over 10 hours, I’m exhausted but  must go on, I still have another 12 miles until I can rest… I must be crazy…

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Why am I here..? I’ve asked that already. The truth is, I thought it would be a good idea! But then I’m not known for my good ideas. But back some time before the pain started, months ago, I heard about this race, this race through the night, in the heart of the Peak District… The Dusk ’til Dawn 50 mile ultra, a qualifying event for the UTMB… I was in before the ink had even dried… I’ve wanted to do an ultra for ages, but more so to do the UTMB. To do one at night, just made it sound even more fun… And I guess in mid June 50 miles, on a dark, cold October night sounds easy right… I thought so too…

So that’s how I got here… Well actually I’m sat on the road, a broken man, I’ve run 38 miles so far tonight, I’ve another 12 to go, my ankle at best is sprained. I’ve run out of energy, I’m tired and cold and low… The night started well, and got better, so long ago!

We drove down to the Peak District from Newcastle on Friday night, I wanted a good nights sleep, followed by an easy morning with no driving, just loads of good food and plenty of extra sleep. We woke to a stiff breeze but clear skies, perfect running conditions, 9 hours until the start of the race, plenty of time for a good breakfast and more sleep… I like this life…

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Chief whip, personal Doctor, time keeper, and all round support crew Katie headed out for a long bike ride, as I curled up asleep in the back of the van, just round the corner from the race start. 15:30 soon came and it was time for the kit check, time to sign the dotted line, I was fit and healthy, ready to run 50 miles through the night…

Signed in, finale preparations made, bag packed and it’s time for the pre race briefing…. where we got the delight of meeting the Grim Sweeper. To finish the race, collect the UTMB Qualifying Points and beat the Dawn we have to run faster than 3.55mph, if we don’t the Grim Sweeper will catch us and claim our souls….

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17:40… It’s time to get ready to leave… a bunch of nervous men and women gather at the end of a remote lane, on the edge of Castleton… waiting for starters orders… Photos are taken… Hugs with loved ones… Good lucks exchanged, nervous laughs and then at 17:42 as the sun sets, we are off…

The first mile is a brutal up hill warm up, climbing steeply up Bak Tor and then along the ridge to the summit of Losehill where we make our first token drop. The views from up here are amazing, I wish I had a camera, I had debated long and hard about carrying a small compact with me, but knowing 95% of the route would be in the dark, I had opted to save the weight, I wished I hadn’t. From Bak Tor it is mostly down hill, in to the village of Hope. It’s now finally dark enough to warrant switching on the head torch. Back through Casleton at mile 5 and almost an hour of running, we are cheered through the village by supporters and get strange looks from those who aren’t quite sure why 70 odd lycra clad individuals are running past in the dark…

Out of Castleton we climb again, up through a rocky gorge, if it was light, if we could see I’m sure would be a spectacular route. The gorge even in the dark is impressive, lights from dozens of head torches bounce of the walls, as we race ever onwards…

Checkpoint 1, mile 9, is suddenly there, in front of us… chocolate, cake, squash, water… A quick stamp on the number card, a handful of jelly sweets and we are on our way, the night is still young, no time for hanging around….

We race down the road, into and through Millers Dale, past Richard the race organiser who assures us the next bit is the best… we cross a footbridge and there in the glum of the dark we can just make out another hill, a steep hill, a muddy steep hill… At least there’s a handrail… I pull a gel from my pack, slow the legs and eat my way up… at least everyone else is groaning…

Checkpoint 2 is approaching, I can’t wait, my feet are muddy and cold, there are clean dry socks in my drop bag. I have an urge to eat Jaffa Cakes and Katie will be there with the van, which is full of Jaffa Cakes… We climb another stile, they are starting to get a little harder, every one is a new challenge to face… but I turn into the village of Earl Sterndale, pounding pavement, I look for the van as I approach the school, CP2… It’s not there… A marshal point’s the way, I call out my number, 091… They are expecting me, bad news, the van has broken down, no dropbag, no Katie, no jaffa cakes… At least I packed a spare pair of socks… I eat soup, fill my water bottles and try and phone Katie… no reception… the race must go on…

Fresh socks, add a spring to my step, something so simple speeds me on, up and over another big hill. I can’t quite work out how they have managed to find so many steep hills… But the views, even in the dark night are spectacular as I run along a muddy ridge, skipping through puddles, past a quarry, then a Stock Car Circuit, over more fields and past a lab where they make explosives…

Eventually I come out on a little road, running on my own now, its starting to snow, as I work up hill, yes another uphill… I can make out the sodium glow of lights at the Cat and Fiddle pub, which is checkpoint 3… Images of steak and chips flash momentarily through my brain, washed down with a nice pint of local ale… I dig out another gel, and squeeze the sweet gloop into my mouth…

It’s stops snowing as I jog in to CP3, hot coffee is handed over, a jeep with its tailgate up offers up a feast of sweets and crisps, I dig in, before moving on. Its getting cold and windy, and wet… I don’t notice the inevitable, I run along the road before turning onto a muddy bridleway. My hand’s are thrust deep into my armpits, I’m shivering uncontrollably, eventually I realise my body is shutting down, its raining and I’m cold…

I stop, and pull my Montane jacket from my pack… I pull it over my head, not bothering to unzip it… immediately I feel more secure, safer from the cold outside… Next I slip on a pair of Feather Lite Pants they’re not waterproof, but cut out the wind and drizzle as I jog along the track leading up to token drop 2, arriving at the same time as another runner, I stop to gaze at the view for a  few moments.

The next section is mostly paved moorland path, my legs come to life and I’m flying again… secure with the extra layer of protection, and with it bringing a new energy… restoring my will to go on. The joy of running in the rain, speeds me onwards, through the mud, puddles and night… I catch up with a couple of other runners and slow for a chat, before heading on alone again… There’s a fun little descent, through some trees and across a river, followed by a tricky, slippery uphill section. I slow to a walk as I climb through the trees.

Initially I don’t notice the sharp pain shooting up my left leg, spasming, radiating out from my ankle, as my foot slips off a root or rock, I’m not quite sure, but as I put my left foot out again I stop. Agony. Race over. Night over. It hurts. No it doesn’t, you just think it does. You can still run. No you can’t. I try again, this time more gingerly, no its definitly not good… I walk, its dark, cold and wet… At the top of the bank I find a marshal point, I lean against the warm car bonnet, putting thoughts of my ankle out of my mind, warming myself from the engine below. My fingers are cold as I struggle with zips in my search for food, the marshal helps, points the way and I trot away, trying to hide the pain of every step… If I don’t tell anyone, I can run on… it doesn’t hurt, if no-one knows!

We cross over fields, up more hills, past sheep, eyes glowing in the dark like glow worms. Over walls and through a broken wooden gate, eventually footpaths turn on to roads and I’m climbing slowly up Milton Lane… running has all but stopped, putting one foot in front of the other is a mind game, knowing every other step results in pain, at least there is no one around to see… as I give up and sit angrily on the road, munching caffeinated energy chews, my back to the evil climb that remains before me…

I don’t know how long I sat there for, I had lost all track of time ages ago. The cold crept in to my bones. I couldn’t do it any more. It was too far and I was broken. I might have cried. I dared not look behind me at the uphill struggle I faced, as first I had to deal with another one, a mental one. Below in the depths of doom, I saw a light flicker, there it was again, I realised it must be another runner approaching, further down the hill, around the corner… I couldn’t let them see me like this, I couldn’t show my weakness, not out here alone in the dark… I rose to my feet, turned and slowly worked my way up hill…

Ages later, I’m caught by two runners. We shared tales of the night and then Paul (I think he was called) dug into his bag and produced an anti-inflammatory for my now swollen ankle, which was quickly washed down before he could withdraw his offer. As they slowly disappeared into the distance, I shifted all thoughts of finishing, to just getting me to check point 4. 40 miles is still a respectable distance I tell myself. I would at least then be warm, safe, dry and I could eat and rest, I would come back another day and complete the race. I plodded on, one foot in front of the other, in my own dark world.

I sit in the tent at CP4, it looks horrid outside, but you don’t notice until you get out of it. Its warm and dry in here, I don’t complain as I’m passed another cup of soup. I look at my map, suddenly as the soup warms me I don’t want to quit. I’ve got this far, I can get further. The warmth of a dry car beckons, but the stone arch at Losehill Hall and glory also beckons. I hear tails of the Grim Sweeper, slowly catching up and claiming souls. Its now or never, I force myself out into the cold night.

I jog slowly along the ridge with another runner, we try to make conversation, but neither of us are in the right place for chit chat, so I move slowly on, soon disappearing in to a thick mist. Gradually as the mist envelops me, my speed increases, my legs come back to life. Its as if I’ve woken from a bad dream, as the agony of the last couple of hours slips slowly away. I run down a hill, and out along a rutted Land Rover track. I catch up with Paul and his friend, I thank him again for the pain relief and carry on. I pass more racers, I’m alive and loving running in the thick mist and dark night. Through gates, the track is like a stream as water pours off the moors, it reminds me of running at home in North Yorkshire. Without realising, I’m suddenly at the final vehicle checkpoint. As I’m handed cold pizza and vegetable samosas, I learn that the final leg has been altered due to the weather. From here we are to stick to the road back in to Castleton, avoiding the final leg up and over Lords Seat and Mam Tor, I set off slowly head down, hood up against the pouring rain, running in the gutter, splashing through the endless stream.

A car slows next to me and Richard sticks his head out shouting encouragement, it spurs me on as I head into the wind before tucking down through Winnats Pass. It is steep, and each step is hurting my ankle again, but a little over two miles away, there’s a dry room and cooked breakfast waiting…

Running through Castleton, its seems so long ago that I was last here, I fight myself to keep running, forcing out each step, every corner brings false hope that its the last. Foot steps behind me force me forward. I struggle to lift my head, but when I do, I see Katie waiting at the road end. She shouts at me, telling me to go faster, I can’t stop now. My mind played tricks, convincing me the drive to Losehill Hall was short, as I run those final yards, I feel every single one, and its by no means short.

I stand under the arch, confused. There are lots of lights, but no sign yet of the dawn. Its still raining and I no longer need to run. Katie is excited. I am tired. I wander in circles, trying to work out what I am meant to do now. I had planned the run, but never thought about the finish. Eventually I’m pushed and pulled towards the van, dry clothes, food and coffee… I have a new t-shirt, maybe a couple of new blisters and 50 miles of memories.

Dusk_til_Dawn_0050

50 Miles, 9000ft of ascent, Darkness, 13 Hours 57 Mins of Running, 41st place.

Now I can sleep.