Wharfedale Off Road Marathon
In the week preceding the W.O.R.M. I kept my fitness up with my usual daily short runs to work, plus an extra 7.1-mile /1:00 hour run eastwards into the hills on Wednesday evening to a country pub for a reunion dinner with some old work colleagues. There I topped up the fuel tank with some lovely food.
The arrival of Saturday was a shock to the system. Summer had turned back to winter, wind and rain had returned and temperatures, which had been in the mid 20s less than a week earlier, were now in single figures.
A large turnout of runners huddled in the shelter of the rugby club buildings for as long as possible, listening to the dulcet tones of the Master of Ceremonies until we were requested to proceed to the start line, where we stood shivering in the strong wind and sporadic rain, keen to get moving and generate some warmth. 'Flaming June'.
We were soon off and running along the rolling Dales Way on the right-hand side of the River Wharfe valley towards Kettlewell. Leaving Kettlewell, a new permissive path took us off-road earlier than usual, back in the opposite direction on the other side of the valley up the hill through Knipe Wood. The cold wind and rain were at their worst as we emerged onto the open fell. I involuntarily broke into a run (even though it was uphill) to keep warm and to get over the top and down the other side into shelter for the pleasant downhill run to checkpoint 3 at the river bridge.
A short hop through Littondale on the left-hand bank of the River Skirfare brought us to checkpoint 4 at Arncliffe. As we crossed the fields of cows towards Arncliffe, flocks of birds swooped back and forth very close and at high speed, searching for insects that we might have disturbed.
The section after Arncliffe on Monk's Road is extremely picturesque as it climbs into classic limestone country and heads for Malham Tarn. Although the rain had petered out, my camera finally succumbed to the dampness (not for the first time this year) and stopped working, but not before I'd grabbed a picture of Monk's Road with Cowside Beck below in the valley.
A left turn at Malham Tarn brought us to checkpoint 5 and into the teeth of a head-on wind, then came another left turn onto Mastiles Lane. As I shuffled my way upwards into the wind, I felt the need for a little energy boost. Out came the turbo juice - a 250ml bottle of full sugar Coke. By the right turn onto the very well marked and flagged route across the fields, turbo boost began to kick in and I began to reel in some of the runners who had overtaken me earlier. This continued over the six miles or so to the finish. (I do like gravity-assisted downhills, especially after a Coke.)
We used Sportident electronic timing this year. We had to insert our 'dibber' into the timing box at every checkpoint to record the times. The instant print-out of splits and race time at the finish was a nice touch. I was well chuffed to knock 1hr 7mins off last year's time, to finish in 4:13. It's not a very fair comparison though. Last year I went on the 'Ramble' start and did a lot more walking.
The food at the end had to be paid for, which came as a surprise, but it was brilliant as a result. After my roast pork, apple sauce and gravy in a big roll, with chips, I did not need a dinner after I got home!
It was good to see many old running flames and make some new acquaintances from the forums: Dave with Charlie the border collie (sorry Charlie was forbidden from running, Dave), Chris Brown, 'Clairster', 'Tussockface', 'Nurse Gladys' (great to finally meet you, Nurse), Mike Blamires (good to finally meet you too, Mike).
All my pictures are here.