West Lancs LDWA. (Were it not for last year's broken foot, this would also have been my 12th consecutive completion like last week's Rombald's Stride.)
The overnight rain had abated in time for the 8am start, but the cloud still hung low. The temperature was well above freezing and there was no wind, making it feel quite clammy as soon as we were under way. We were soon enveloped as we climbed out of Rivington towards Rivington Pike. From the Pike we descended then climbed to Winter Hill, its transmitting ironwork completely hidden from view this year. Our descents and ascents then took us across field and moor to Checkpoint 3 and the bunk barn on the bank of Turton & Entwistle Reservoir. From there, the new, longer route (since 2005) took us past the Strawberry Duck pub (in business once again) on the Witton Weaver's Way towards Darwen Moor.
Darwen Tower looked naked and less like a lighthouse without its hat, which was blown off by a gale in November 2010. By now the sun was making brief appearances for the final 9 miles. Slipper Lowe was basking and looking quite inviting for a bit of a sit-down, but not today. The grass-covered Great Hill took on its usual pale orange glow in the sunlight. The descent towards Drinkwaters and Checkpoint 6 at White Coppice was noticeably more eroded than I've seen in the past 12 years. I added to that erosion as I ran with guilty pangs down the black mushy gash that now scars Great Hill. I was thankful for the cushioned footfalls, though.
After White Coppice came the undulating 3.6-mile slog to the finish. It is always a struggle to run all the final road sections. In the early years I wasn't able to do it, but better pacing allows me to do so these days. Despite pushing to the limit throughout, I was disappointed to finish 34 minutes slower than I did in 2009. Out of six completions of this route, only two have been slower than this year's 4:41. In 2009 I was running instead of cycling to work four days a week. It's amazing what an extra 16 miles per week in 8 short bursts can do for running fitness (more speed and reduced heart rate). I know what I shall be doing again from now on.
I took a few more pictures out there this time.