The instructions list this slog-fest from Guiseley as a 23-miler, but Tracklogs tells me it’s 22 miles. Sorry to disappoint all those who got beaten up by this one because you ran less than you thought. It is renowned for chewing you up so you have nothing left by the time you get to Menston.
This was the 3rd running of this new route with the steeper, more direct climb all the way up The Chevin for that nice little sting in the tail. It also happened to be my 12th consecutive running of the event, having first jogged it in 2000 in a time of 5:24. This year gave us the worst conditions by far for this new route and for many years. The frozen conditions and firm footing that are more familiar gave way in 2011 to bogs; swilling, flowing, pouring, standing water; bogs; a strong head wind; bottomless puddles; and bogs. I had been feeling quite strong in the week leading up to it and had been fondly imagining a first sub-4-hour completion for the new route. In the event, the conditions helped me to a Personal Worst of 4:19:20; perhaps next year (if it’s frozen again).
This event is extremely popular with the runners as well as the walkers. It always fills to capacity (close on 500 finished) and there are always some awesome performances. This year was no exception, despite the conditions. The winning time of 2:37:55 by one Graham Pearce leaves me speechless. How anyone can move so fast over such terrain in such conditions defies all logical reasoning. Levitation and time travel seem as logical as any other explanation.
After filing out along the passage to the starting area, we were set off at 9am by the ringing of the hand bell. The route took us via many checkpoints over Baildon Hill and across the horse gallops to Lanshaw Lad and Ilkley Moor. This is where the wind, water and bogs were at their fiercest. The effort of maintaining forward momentum into a strong wind while dodging and leaping from side to side to clear the bottomless puddles and bogs was quite draining. Whetstone Gate is aptly named, coming as it does in the middle of the wet boggy section. The right turn and descent past the forest on Rombald’s Moor provided welcome shelter from the wind and allowed me to warm up again. The next right turn at Piper’s Gate spelled an end to any further head-on wind. I always have to coast the next gently descending section to Ilkley Bottom to recover from the exertions of the first 11+ miles.
After Ilkley Bottom comes the stiff climb up past White Wells and into Rocky Valley. The walk provides welcome recovery from all the running, such that by Rocky Valley there’s some jog / shuffle returning to the legs for the next section along the edge of Burley Moor. This is one section where my well-practised route allows me to gain on others who may not be so familiar with the multitude of paths on the ground. My full sugar Coke was giving me the energy spurt I needed too. I forked left at the allotted place at Coldstone Ghyl but could not see the self clip. It was much further down than usual. I hope it didn’t cause runners to miss the turn-off. The grassy run down the hill to Burley Woodhead was a blast as usual.
After many years of slowing down and getting overtaken in the second half, I instinctively gauge my effort now such that I am able to do the overtaking instead. Menston was always the place where I really suffered and began to drag myself. Now when I observe it in others I know exactly how they feel, but I can’t deny feeling pleased to be doing the overtaking these days. In Menston, at the left turn down the passage just after Fairfax Gardens (the turn that many people miss, including the pair of runners just ahead that I called back), I overtook a runner who had been reduced to a plod. He stepped aside, head bowed, to let me pass without turning or saying a word. He was obviously feeling very sorry for himself. I’ve been there and done that so many times at that point. I thanked him as I passed.
The downhill road section to the bottom of The Chevin takes the Mickey somewhat because we lose all that height to get delivered to the very bottom just so we can climb all the way to the very top. Lovely, another chance for a walk break. As soon as the gradient began to ease after the self clip, I found myself jogging again. The strange urge overtook me. That continued up through the woods and over the top to the final checkpoint at Yorkgate Quarry. I wasted no time in setting off on the final downhill road – track – road section to the finish. With little more than half a mile to go I could hear someone bearing down upon me, then Madeleine came blasting past, seemingly with boundless energy in her legs, to finish 2 minutes ahead of me. I was most impressed. Well done Mad.
I spent the usual 2 hours afterwards chatting and eating the wonderful post-race dinner, which was quality, as was the checkpoint food and so were the marshals. This is a superb event. I will be back for a 13th running in 2012 and hope that I’m not too far over the hill for a sub-4 finish (please!).
I started off taking a few pictures but that dried up after Weecher (~6 miles). I had the letter ‘P’ etched on my left eyeball and ‘B’ etched on the right, so snapping fell by the wayside once again. Sorry for the anticlimax. On hindsight I should have snapped away.
On my westward journey home I was quickly reminded of how lucky we had been as I returned to the wind-blown deluge I had left behind in the morning. It may have been a tad moist underfoot but at least it only spat a bit of drizzle from above.