Swaledale Marathon – Circular 23 odd miles of moors and trods from Reeth, up and around Punchard Head then back via Gunnerside.
And, once again with a dozen or so of my Tickhill clubmates, here`s me Phil & Adrian in the start field.
Looking up Fremington I realised that I hadn’t managed anywhere near enough hill training to add to the required mileage and, as the edge towered above us, we kicked off out of the field at 9.30am.
Determined to make amends for three months out of action, I made a decent fist of the climb, glanced across at the fantastic view of Reeth, snapped the image, and cracked on.
Last year, my first Swaledale, I managed a time of 4.51 but today I felt stronger for my lay-off and mentally pushed myself hard at this early part of the race – determined to better that previous time. Up and along, over and down the edge then along the riverside path through Storthwaite to Langthwaite felt great: I was blowing hard but amongst a good pack of runners who gave me a bit of a tow towards, and then through, the first checkpoint. All's well.
Out along the back lane heading towards Arkengarthdale, I tried to keep a steady pace which worked wonders and the fields by the lane sped by. Once, across left, the first views of Great Punchard became clear and I was amazed to see the snake of fluorescent shirts winding their way up! They were miles ahead … however, nothing to do with me! Their race wasn't mine. Today it was me and the clock, so I ground the miles out and hey presto checkpoint 2.
Fresh water, a couple of jelly babies and onwards, I even got in a few trots up to Great Punchard and at the checkpoint (3) at 10 miles I still felt strong and was enjoying every step.
The section from Great Punchard Head, across and down through Friarfold Rake however, was possibly the worse section. I do love this scenery, cotton flowers, larks, skies – the whole bit but it was very wet underfoot and I managed to step out of my boot once! Didn't lose it though and through the checkpoints and self clippers unscathed I felt that I was on for a better time than last year. Then the lunar landscapes of the rakes above the Gill and a time for refreshments, refuelling on the steady climb through this strange scape of tracks and spoil heaps, blindingly bright in the sun.
Then through the self clip;
And down, down, once again, happily alone along Winterings with more spectacular views. At Gunnerside Gill I noticed my clock said 3 hours as I clipped the latch onto the stream path, delighted with that I dashed into the village where, once again the support was terrific. No time now for snacks and a rest – time is of the essence.
Then, a nasty little climb heading back east reduced me to a proper walk but I was conscious to keep going. I know I'm on for the pb but it's still an effort on the interminable climb before a great flat runnable stretch of grass, a self clip and then through Blades. I glance across the dale and am rewarded by a shaft of sunlight on an old stone barn – this is sensational country, you just don't get this in many places.
Back onto the job in hand and the wheels fell off!!. Suddenly feeling very sick; have I eaten enough, drank enough? Dunno but it's a big effort to make the final bridge checkpoint: 3.45 into the race and now I'm on reserves. Just a case of grit it out now and I actually gain a few places before the pell mell down Skelgate Lane into Reeth.
Never thought I'd be involved in a sprint finish let alone win one but it's too near now to fail and as we're cheered on by the great supportive crowds, I'm through the village hall in 4.24.
I can only put this success down to a good preparation and time spent in training. I'm enjoying the cup of tea and a quiet reflection when Phil and then Adrian come through at 4.57 and 4.59 respectively. Both pleased: Phil having managed with a very limited training schedule and Adrian amazed at all this off road stuff. So good to see such enthusiasm from him, he says this knocks the London Marathon into a cocked hat! But then we all knew that anyway – never in question.
The Tickhill ladies also had a grand day out: Christine back in 5.52, Karen and Paula in 5.53, Louise in 6.26 with Diane & Nick sub 8 hours along with Sue just after this.
Thanks Swaledale Outdoor Club! You've done it again for me – hope to see you next year.