Firstly, a massive thank you to Tom Whittington, our brilliant fell leader who orchestrated this fabulous weekend, bringing together so many plucky strings – we all know what a brilliant leader he is with the ability to bring together so many people in such a kind and organised way. Being the other end of the spectrum, the mind boggles. There were several WhatsApp groups, each with it’s own colour coded spreadsheet, stating who was doing what and where. This was no mean feet, with quite so many people to organise and with myself, Steph and Barrie being on quite different schedules 🙂. There was even a Nav WhatsApp which I loved 🙂.
The WhatsApp groups had some great build up, culminating in Steph saying she was crapping it on the Friday morning. I also shared that I had shed a tear over the hotel breakfast when a nice song came on- hopefully the other guests thought it was suncream. I believe this was the build up of emotions over the week – where I’d been haunted in waking hours and in all my dreams of what was afoot. I think this was my mind getting ready for the big job it had to do of making sure that I kept the body going 🙂.
I had some words and thoughts ready to keep in my mind throughout – I had started reading (too late) ‘Feet in the Clouds’ and already had been smiling at all of the depictions and feelings which I’d felt myself – there was a suggestion of screaming down mountains, thump thump thump of adrenaline helping you, the desire of man to master mountains, against all odds and descriptions of some wonderful fell legends like Joss Naylor. I am not alone, 1000s of people have done this, I can do it 🙂.
I have been loving my training plan on AlbonApp and Jonathan Albon and his wife Henriette kindly answer questions on his Social Wall on there. I had sent a panic question the night before about tips for rocky descending (and being appalling at it). The part of his answer that stuck in my mind throughout was ‘a slow moving, efficient train that keeps chugging, without stopping’ and Henriette’s ‘no stopping’ and ‘Goosey Loosey’ for descending. Also, I’d learned from the great advice on the App to keep in the moment and appreciate the simple act of running 🙂. A peloton lady that Emma Lord kindly quoted would also stick ‘I can, I am, I will, I do’. Every brilliant Harrier who has completed this challenge told me it was one foot in front of the other. The faces and inspiration of our wonderful Barry, Terry and Sarah would be smiling down throughout, pulling me up and leading me down:). I imprinted all of this carefully at the forefront.
The day passed peacefully – I liked seeing Trevor having a cream scone in the centre of Keswick and Moot Hall decorated in Himalayan flags ready to welcome us 🙂. Later on, it became more fraught with people arriving and crates having to be transported to Tom – I paced around Keswick Hostel waiting for Andy who’d been very kind to bring me there and who I was going to the start line with. I took deep breaths – listened to the other people arriving all for long outdoor pursuits this weekend – if they can do it, I can do it 🙂.
We arrived at Moot Hall as Steph strode off confidently to great cheers from our lovely Harriers and onlookers. Allez Allez Madame! Chapeau!!!
There was more excited fiddlery at the start line as Tom attached trackers to us and the contents of my Leg 1 bag of starters were shared out to the very kind Mark, Andy and Dan. More lovely cheers from our fab Harriers – this meant so much and gave us a real lift.
Off we went – good God, the pace is too fast 😅.
Leg 1 – fresh as a daisy, swaying at the lakeside 🙂
After our reccy in frightful weather of Leg 1 and 2, it was such a delight to mount Skiddaw this evening. The weather was just slightly cooling down and we could see everything, whereas on the reccy, all we could see was the grey, freezing, swirling rain and no scenery. Mark was so reassuring with us – he encouraged us to walk on all of the ups, use the poles, advised on sweat running into eyes etc. He told us we were doing great and on time 🙂. Andy and Dan were brilliant – great, happy chat and making sure we were eating our starters every half hour. Such an important role and difficult that the Mules have – the faff of having to get out our stuff from their backpacks alongside the stuff that they needed along the way doesn’t go unnoticed. They also kept us in great spirits and likened themselves to Everest Sherpas – what a job indeed. Lovely to see Julian and Allen up there too cheering us on 🙂.
Barrie and I then separated for the descent to Threlkeld and I hoped I’d see him again in the distance – I did on Leg 2 passing down Fairfield, many lights in the dark, which was lovely 🙂. I would like to look like her, I thought, as a confidently running lady passed me skimming down the rocky path.
We arrived in Threlkeld and I felt really overwhelmed by the kind support. There were a couple of other groups cheering us on and then I saw the faces of our group. A flurry of kind activity – ‘please sit down’ (in this lovely chair with lights all over it – I loved that chair)’ ‘would you like your cuppa soup?’ ‘Rice pudding?’ It was a really great atmosphere and my brain was trying to process all the kind faces and chug the soup in. A lot going on 🙂.
Thanks very much to Mark, Dan and Andy – I loved this one 🙂
Leg 2 – free and breezy, I am running with friends at night through the fells 🙂
I could then see Gill, Marc and Steve ready to go and we were off. I was really reassured to run with them – Gill is a wonderful runner and has a very strong senses of calm. Marc is always so smiley and chatty and Steve is a fell running rock. We started up Clough Head, in twilight. This, like Skiddaw, had been really tough for me on the reccy but tonight I really liked it! Maybe because I’d seen it before in much worse conditions, without poles. It started to go dark around the flattish, runnable top, crossing a number of, I think, Dodds. My favourite being Dolly Wagon, for no apparent reason. It was now dark and I recall someone saying it was midnight – I had never run past 10pm before, nor shoved in 60g sticky carbs per hour while doing so. I was a bit worried about how my body and mind would react to this night running bit and my stomach thinking what on earth are you giving me – so that was when once again, my brain had to tell my body that it was OK. Gill and Marc helped me so much here – just chatting away- I loved the cat chat. Steve was a brilliant nav, setting the pace and path with ease and keeping us motivated saying we were close to schedule along the way.
A favourite part of this leg was when we reached Fairfield – the night was still and dark but you could see little chains of lights, literally all around, of the other people having a go. This gave me a great sense of camaraderie and togetherness. We were able to wish each other well in passing 🙂. We saw Steph already peaks ahead – go on Steph! we could also see Barrie coming down Fairfield when we were going up – go on Barrie! There was a lovely, peaceful Tarn at the bottom – where it was nice to see Gary. We then pushed on to Dunmail and got there I think not too far behind time – between 2.30- 3 in the morning.
Thanks very much to Steve, Gill and Marc – I loved this one too 🙂
Leg 3: a kettle of pilchards – floundering over the rocks – Scree-ming down it 😉
Arriving at Dunmail, once more I was overwhelmed by all of the happy commotion. It was no mean feet for all our kind Harriers to be standing here in God knows what car park at 3am, boiling kettles, fiddling with packets of minestrone cuppa soup and my 6 flasks with their vacuum suctioned tubes. The chair with lights was there again 🙂.
Nathanael, Laura and Rebecca stepped forward – I felt very reassured. Nathanael had kindly led Rebecca, Barrie, Dennis, Richard and I on a recce of the tough part of Leg 3 a couple of weeks ago – he knew we had to see it in advance of the day, by Christ I did. What was lovely about this leg was that it had been dark only since around 11 I think and while we ‘marched’ up Steel Fell, you could see dawn coming in the distance – what luck to see the sun fall and rise in the beautiful lakes. Some time later, the sun really was rising in the distance and beautiful bird song started. I had got through the night, which I’d been worried about and now my mind and body could wake up naturally. However, it is at this point that my sole started to flag 😅. We were jogging along and I tried to use the ‘keep in the moment’ technique wherever I could – appreciating that I was jogging through absolutely beautiful fells at 5am and I was nearly half way through 🙂. I was finding the pace quite tough now – it was the pace that was needed to keep on schedule though – I knew that but I found the terrain very tough now and couldn’t push through it – there were lots of rocks and bumpy grassy descents. Laura and Rebecca were so lovely to run with as always, cheery chatter, encouraging, fiddling happily with the flasks (I wanted them to be ‘on the rocks’😉 ) and passing the next grams of carbs to try to keep the legs chugging. Nathanael was a calm and kind rock. He is so knowledgeable and a great leader – I remember him hanging back with me on a night time fell handicap run one Wednesday night just after Covid when I was totally dying 🙂. I was meant to be getting to Wasdale in time for a lovely porridge and pain au chocolat breakfast around 9 but I could see time was ticking on, fast and furiously. My legs however were not turning like the clock – more like the old cuckoo springing in and out.
My favourite line (of all those so deftly navigated) on this leg was when Nathanael said ‘let me just give Mark your times so he can work out an algorithm to see if you can still make 24 hours’ – I don’t know why but I found that so funny – how on earth could you manage to fiddle with such rhythms – my left brain makes no such connection to the probability of anyone being able to do that. Mark and Nathanael actuary can do stuff like that! it was around now that Nathanael kindly reported back that we wouldn’t make 24 hours (although he mentioned there had been a suggestion that people had got to Wasdale 1 hr 30 behind before and still made it). I had to think then what to do – I worried about Swatts and Ian having to wait too long for me at Wasdale and also me taking too long to get round Leg 4 so feeling unfair for them – I was also upset to think of Dan, Abi and Rob who were kindly going to support me on Leg 5. I knew now in my heart of hearts that I wouldn’t get to do that leg, as much as I also knew they would have kindly accompanied me as long as it took.
A lovely uplift was to come in seeing Andy Haigh waving at a junction below – he had carried a massive crate of water and fancies up a very steep hill for us – what a kind thing to do – it was lovely to see his kind and welcoming face – I still don’t understand how he got it up there – maybe it had wheels – maybe mine that had long come off 😉, thank you Andy!
We got to Lord’s rake which we’d all recced well thanks to Tom and Nathanael – we got up it proudly and I think with panache ! The descent to Wasdale was another kettle of fish – a kettle of rancid Sour-dine, a wriggling pil-charred. Bump Bump Bump – adrenaline nowhere to be seen 🙂. I’d chatted with Nathanael and decided that if Swatts and Ian didn’t mind that I was so late and would take so long to get round Leg 4 that I would push on and do it and then hang up the sweaty shroud at the end of that Leg 🙂.
Thanks very much to Nathanael, Rebecca and Laura for your great support on this one – I was going downhill here, slowly and unsurely and you kindly kept me going, one foot in front of the other 🙂 – as did Barry, Terry and Sarah – High 5 and thank you!
Leg 4: bringing Back the Bacon – Smoked pls Sir
I arrived at Wasdale – bacon was sizzling – Swatts and Ian looked calm and hopeful – their wives were smiling and patiently offering me my porridge – it was now 11evenses – I apologised profusely for being so late and that the run ahead would certainly not take 5 hours as suggested and did they mind accompanying me for such a long time and the wives having to wait – all were very kind and assured me they didn’t. A fond farewell to Rebecca, Laura and Nathanael.
Off we went – I was very interested to hear more about Swatts and Ian – I hadn’t ever really had the chance to chat to Swatts much and had never clapped eyes on Ian – I thought it was very kind of them to accompany me, especially in this state 🙂. I knew that Swatts was a real legend and a great runner – it was Simon Harding who told me about his lines across Bleaklow which I found very impressive and that they’d been a formidable team on the High Peak 40 through the night.
Quizzing them about their exploits passed the time up Yewbarrow very well and so I quite liked it 🙂. They showed me all the peaks we were about to do and mentioned one place where we could bail out and go down to Honister early. But they wouldn’t countenance that and although by now every part of my body wanted to do that, they quietly encouraged my brain that this was not the right connecting train and to just cross all the platforms and join up the circle. They both took turns to lead or stumble with me – God bless them, it really had turned into a hike now – they taught me loads, about descending and the importance of practicing in lakes terrain. They regaled me with stories of their exploits and the famous people they had run with and I loved talking about Barry Blyth with them. There were some more really tough ascents but they kindly broke down each one for me so that I got up the b*ggers and banged down them.
I will never forget the most delicious avocado and cream cheese wraps and cheese and jam muffins that they shared with me 🙂.
Finally, Honister was over the next hill and down a really steep descent – the one that I remember the brilliant Carl Hanaghan indeed screaming and cursing down, with every step.
Around this point, I could hear church bells ringing, I think it was now about 5pm and I felt proud that I had managed to do 24 hrs even if I wasn’t going to ring any bell at Moot Hall – those bells were more than enough. I listened to the bells and thought, I should feel really good here, I am running the beautiful lakes with some leg-ends – stay in the moment – however at this point, finally, I couldn’t..and a very strong sentiment took over – ‘I am never running in the lakes again’ ..turned to ‘I am quitting running straight after this’. I really, really meant it and the beautiful echoing church bell really goaded me. I still however, somehow, managed to keep smiling – the smile was sort of just there – sort of smiling at pitifully at myself at how bad this bit was and a little bit I think my brain forcing my body to keep going.
Suddenly, I saw the car park at Honister and Fran and Steve walking up to meet me 🙂 – how kind of them 🙂. I loved this and it gave me that lift I needed.
Thank you very much Swatts and Ian – I learned so much from you and most importantly, to hell with quitting or taking the early road home – push on and you can get there!
Turn the flood lights on:
The arrival at Honister was very emotional for me – once again, all of those lovely kind faces were there smiling, cheering and I felt so happy that I was back to them and I had made it this far. Once again I felt overwhelmed and the seat was there again where they encouraged me to sit – the lights weren’t on it anymore, but instead, they were in the faces of those around me and in the faces of all those who had supported all of us throughout, whether it be the HeadTorch worn by Tom, leading this whole beautiful affair, or in the faces of our wonderful supporters, both en route and on or by roads.
Words can’t thank everyone enough for the wonderful support provided for us on this weekend – maybe we can do it with Algorithms – I am so proud to be a Macclesfield Harrier – now when I think of the Rocky Road, I think of the Mellow within.
A massive well done to Steph who rang that bell like the Notre Dame itself and to Barrie – he’s back in 4 weeks, charging at that bell wielding a big chicken drumstick!!