Monday, 7 March 2011

Trollers Trot; 25 miles with 3,000' of ascent. 05/03/2011.

In March 2010 I marshalled at Trollers Trot for a change while hobbling around on a recently broken foot. I was already looking forward to returning in 2011 as a runner again when long-standing organiser extraordinaire, John Sparshatt, announced in the school hall that he was retiring from event organisation. A round of well-deserved applause went up to thank him for all those years of pleasure he allowed us on his events. Nonetheless, most of us probably returned home with a very sad feeling over our loss.

Many months later, rumours and news began to filter through that a new organiser had stepped in to keep ‘Trollers’ going. I wasted no time in entering. Then business travel reared its head again. I would be in China and South Korea in the week leading up to it. My 24-hour return journey back through the nine-hour time shift would get me home in time for 5 hours of sleep before a 4am rise on Saturday to travel up to Threshfield. Excellent, I would not be denied my weekly pleasure after all.

New organiser Liam Dunne and his marshals brought a fresh young outlook to the event. At registration, more runners than ever before filled the hall. The route would be waymarked for easy navigation of runners who were pushing the limits to the point of brain frazzle, while the checkpoints offered minimal food to complete the new feeling of a true runners’ event. ‘Trollers’ used to be an LDWA event for walkers with a few runners tagging along. Now the situation seems to be reversed, which shows how popular trail running has become. I hope the walkers don’t feel too marginalised. Hopefully they feel the same as I do, thankful that the event is still on.

After a 5-minute delay for announcements (“no short-cutting”, etc.), we were off. It is no surprise that I did not feel race fit; the only thing racing was my heart, as usual. (A sedentary week with insufficient sleep, where the only exercise is walking to the next aircraft, train or taxi, does nothing for race fitness.) I settled into the familiar economical jog / shuffle / walk to keep the heart rate at 170bpm or below so that I could finish feeling human and be able to drive home afterwards. I got overtaken most of the way round as I ‘ran’. I paused every so often to take pictures and grab a few seconds rest. Somehow I enjoyed the change from the usual pushing every second without let-up. Accepting the situation and easing off the self-imposed pressure just a little when I know I cannot 'perform' keeps it enjoyable. The positive outcome is more views taken in and more photographs to reflect on.

The familiar route took us over three main climbs: Threshfield and Boss Moors, Sun Moor Hill and Rylstone Fell, and finally from Skyreholme up to New Road (near Trollers Gill) then Appletreewick Pasture. The cold wind really made itself felt on Rylstone Fell, so on went the gloves. On the descent from the second climb past the Barden Reservoirs we had the surprise of passing two Sportsunday photographers (another hint that this is a runners' event now). I thought they could have been a bit more imaginative and spread themselves out a bit better instead of standing 100 yards apart on the same track to take the same pictures with the same backdrop. Another surprise came at Skyreholme in the form of a pair of Camelids (camel-like creatures, the ones that spit) in a field. I only know of llamas but they may have been something else. From the final high point came a long, gentle descent to the River Wharfe for the right turn and 4-mile slog back to Threshfield via The Suspension Bridge. I didn't trust myself on the stepping stones.

The waymark arrows were a novelty. Navigation without map or route description was never a problem. As it was my 6th time it wouldn’t have been a problem anyway. The arrows also reinforced the need to take the full, official route, which comes out to exactly 25 miles as advertised. To attempt any short cut meant ignoring the arrows and would be 'taking the wii'. Without map and other paraphernalia (the weather was dry and the forecast was good) I had been able to travel light, with emergency rations (essential as it turned out), an extra layer, gloves, Buff and camera stuffed into the back pockets of my ‘bones’. I rolled into the finish in 4:30, which was bang on target for the best I could have hoped for. Not only that, the only walking I did after the New Road checkpoint was across the bouncy suspension footbridge. I had pushed just enough but not too much. I felt human and content.

The lack of food out on the course was corrected by a jacket potato and tasty dollop of chilli back at the school. Jason Dean of Movement Wisdom was giving post-race leg massages, sweat pouring, while identifying and discussing with great enthusiasm the possible causes of any injuries and niggles that we may be suffering. Muscle strength imbalance -> asymmetry -> poor running technique -> injury. I have a pronounced muscle weakness in my left hip I never knew I had. I also have a right knee tendon inflammation I definitely knew I had. The two may go hand in hand. To prevent the problem continuing / reoccurring, treat the cause (strengthen the weak muscle), not the effect only (the part that’s hurting). What a wealth of information that man is. If I lived in Leeds, that’s where I’d be going for my biomechanical advice and therapy. He earned a generous donation.


  1. waymarked now? its on my 2012 list nick!

  2. Hope the camelids wernt too a-lamma-ing

  3. You seem to be suggesting a lack of effort from the photographers. We were up a 7.00, drove 40 miles to be there shortly after 9.00 to find our spot ready (in the cold) for first runner through at approx 9.30.
    The only time we were 100 yds apart was as the last few went through, before that I had walked approx 1 mile up the track to use a alternative backdrop.
    Saying that hope you enjoyed the day as much as we did.
    Regards David & Laura at Sportsunday.

  4. Dear David and Laura. Not effort, imagination. My observation was not personal. One photographer could have gone up the track and the other down the road. As it was, both photographers returned similar images. I was not one of the last few runners. I have purchased every photograph that Sportsunday has ever taken of me (including at Trollers). That serves as appreciation of what you do.

  5. Great reading the report Nick - you even managed to get a photo of me on the climb to Howgill.