A cool and bright start on Saturday morning was pretty much the best you could hope for a 32 mile race across the moors and lanes of Bronte country. After an unceremonious start 300 odd runners made their way through the cobbled streets of Haworth and onto the Wuthering Heights of Top Withens. “Don’t go giddy at the start” had been the words of advice I’d received from an experienced hobbler and I trotted out keeping pace with Rachel Hill and Mark Rogerson just in view. Single file over the stone flags to the first of many reservoirs was fine by me at this point.
Checkpoint 1 came up after an hour and not needing to take on any supplies I left Mark and his mate Michael and carried on up to Gorple Stones catching up with Rachel. There is a great descent down a gravelly track here and feeling good, and a need to crack on, opened up a bit and it wasn’t long before I found myself on the ‘Long Causeway’, a horrible drag of exposed main road. The route then takes a turn through some farms where, after squeezing through a stuck gate and clambering over a fence, it is clear that the landowners would rather not have anyone on their land!
Checkpoint 4 for reasons unclear, provided hot-dogs. Neither having the time nor inclination to ask if they provided a vegetarian alternative, I grabbed some broken biscuits and went on.
The route now follows the Calderdale Way to Todmorden. The combination of wet weather, more wet weather and many pairs of feet had dissolved the path into a slippery soupy swamp. A couple of runners in front of me came to grief, including John Oz who was nursing a bloodied knee as I passed him into Todmorden. After a brief chat I learned Tony Thornton was up ahead and I wondered if I’d catch him.
The YHA at Mankinholes hosted checkpoint 5 and the much rumoured whisky made an appearance. Despite it being a single malt Dalwhinnie I declined, and made my way up to the monument.
It’s a stiff climb up Stoodley Pike and here I got the first niggles of cramp. A quick stretch and refuelling at the top helped to put it at bay but I knew it would be back soon.
The steep tarmac road down to Hebden Bridge is not pleasant on the quads but fortunately this is soon replaced by the lung busting stone steps and steep road up to Heptonstall. The cramp was really kicking in as I descended at an annoyingly slow pace to New Bridge and checkpoint 8. I was with a group of five or so runners whose collective wheels had fallen off and we to and fro-ed as each of us had a burst of energy or relapsed into pain.
Now in survival mode I was getting through water fast so had to refill at checkpoint 9 before ‘Top of Stairs’. Washing down a gel and some more broken biscuits I felt a little better and pushed on down the lanes to the ‘welcome’ sight of Penistone Hill.
On the last climb up Moorside Lane a distant figure appeared and, closing in revealed itself as Tony! After a flying start he’d absolutely smashed it, but was now paying the penalty in cramp. We hobbled along together across Penistone Hill and managed to accelerate down the hill into Haworth. Past the church and then time to play ‘dodge the tourist’ as I clattered down the high street to the finish at the school. Tony came in just seconds behind.
A cracking day out and very pleased to have completed my first official ‘ultra’!
31 Mark Wildsmith 5:19:18
32 Tony Thornton 5:19:25
76 Rachel Hill 5:48:03 (7th F)
78 John Osborne 5:48:36
160 Brian Stallwood 6:23:56
212 Mark Rogerson 6:56:30