The Hebden is traditionally held on the first weekend of the year. In 2010 it was delayed by 3 weeks to avoid clashes with other events, yet it was still the first event of the year for most of us thanks to the exceptional snowfall this winter that resulted in most events having to be postponed. Only a week beforehand, the long route was impassable in many places. Organiser Alan Greenwood, a great stickler for detail, kept us well informed with status reports on his website up to the last minute. The snowdrifts only just cleared in time to allow the full event to take place with the exception of one small section after checkpoint 5, where gates remained half buried and the farmer did not want hundreds of walkers climbing over them (quite understandable really). That required a short cut along New Road, which shortened the route possibly by half a mile. No-one complained; we were too happy just to be out in the hills again.
And so it was, at 8am in Mytholmroyd, 350+ keen runners and walkers were led informally from the Community Centre round to the church for a safe rolling start of the short AND the long routes. I had chosen the long route of 21 miles (including diversion). That might not sound very long for a 'long route' but when it's in Calderdale with its sharp ups and downs and copious mud, 21 miles is quite demanding enough.
The long route meandered in & out and up & down the vales, moors and cloughs via checkpoints at Old Town, Slack, Eastwood, Broad Head Clough, New Road and Little Scout Farm. It never really ventured that far from Mytholmroyd but you would never have guessed, such were the frequent and dramatic changes in scenery. The weather was kind to us so we could appreciate the scenery in all its glory, and the paths were clear thanks to the volunteers' efforts. Yes, they do take their secateurs and garden shears with them on their route-proving reconnoitres. More than that, they take their courtesy notifications to post through residents' doors whose properties the route passes through. Public footpaths in Calderdale go up people's drives and across their front gardens and make you feel guilty as though you are trespassing on private property. Perhaps it's one reason for the high incidence of navigational errors in Calderdale. People don't want to trespass. The difficult parts on rarely-used footpaths where there is no obvious path to follow were marked with red tape, which was useful otherwise there may still be people wandering out there. The Hebden route is certainly quirky in places!
We enjoyed the usual welcome and support from the many willing and cheerful marshals, helpers and Raynet volunteers. And the food, oh the food. I reacquainted myself with Carole's heavenly chocolate cake at checkpoint 1. The dripping sandwiches and stollen at checkpoint 3 in the woodwork shop are always noteworthy and something to look forward to. The tuna sandwich at checkpoint 5 kept me going for the final 4 miles or so to the finish. There was more but I don't wish to come across as gluttonous.
The meal menu at the finish was naturally full and plentiful. It even commenced with an aperitif of mulled wine in its very own heated urn. WOW!
With such a spectacular route and such good organisation, no wonder this event fills to capacity. It has built something of a reputation among the runners as well as the walkers (it's all over the running forums for months leading up to the day). The reputation is well deserved. Many thanks to Alan, Carole and all the helpers. All your immense efforts are recognised and really appreciated. Bring on 2011!
Considering the shortened route, my time of 4:30 ranks as a Personal Worst in the 4 years of this event's existence. Upon my return, Race Organiser Alan Greenwood greeted me with: "Nick, what have you been doing?" Only dragging my sorry bottom around his event as fast as it would go and draining most of the life out of myself in the process. The extended layoff has done nothing for my fitness. All I wanted to do was lie down and go to sleep afterwards, but the post-event meal revived me for the drive home. May my completion of The Hebden be the start of my return to former fitness, Amen.
All the pictures I took are here.