Thursday, 8 April 2010
Wuthering Hike 2009
Wuthering Hike – Haworth Hobble – 32 miles of pennine trails / roads with 4400ft of ascent/ descent.
Why am I on a start line at 8.00am fully packed with map / compass and waterproofs on a cold grey morning in Haworth with the ultramarathon fraternity? – I don’t belong here, have I trained enough, am I able to finish, will I live through the day?. Brett the organiser from Keighley & Craven A C sends us off through the Vasque series start flags opposite The Fleece Pub with a casual “off you go then” and we’re away up the cobbled street of Haworth out onto the moors towards Top Withens; the ruined farmstead where heathcliffe was supposed to hang out the upper lattice windows most winter evenings howling “Cathy!” into the darkness. I’m howling now as the quads complain and we`re only a few miles up, with the first watercheck 7 miles distant and a screaming gale into our faces keeping us upright.
The pennine way snakes away and we’re Lancashire bound on a mixture of calf- deep peat and stone slabs before a great tarmac stretch to the Widdop reservoir water stop and then more climbing of stoney roads over the top to Cam reservoir and onto checkpoint 2 near Burnley before heading south and, for a yorkshireman thankfully back east.
The track climbs the road before turning downhill through a mire of a field and then the very welcome hotdog- providing checkpoint 3 with the first of the teas on offer before a causeway full of rocks and cow muck heads slowly downhill towards Todmorden thro a typically west yorkshire setting of high walls, interminable ginnels and back streets. These are suicidal descents down stone flagstone stairs but once in the valley bottom the “grass wall” (sorry field) in front of us signifies the start of the 400m climb through the tiny village of mankinholes (checkpoint and hot cross buns / jam doughnuts) and onwards and upwards what seems like step ladders to Stoodley Pike – a huge dark monument that’s been on everyones horizon for the last ten miles or so. This climb is so steep I can barely breathe and am unable to drink water for gasping “only a half marathon to go now” i’m reliably informed before it’s down from Stoodley Pike. I now look like the mummy – so stiff legged with cramp that the steep downhill rocky track behind callis wood into Hebden Bridge finally does for me and I shuffle back up a cruel set of stone steps up into the village of Heptonstall – getting lost doesn’t help in t’village! Before it’s down to the penultimate checkpoint at Horse Bridge and then off up the final 8 miles of hill aiming for the aptly named Top o’ The Stairs. This is the final definite climb that goes ever on and on but miraculously I’m at the top and with Leeshaw reservoir bathed in sunlight in front of me I leg the mile or so downhill with the end in sight! – No wait, yes it’s another hill and i’m back to the shuffle. Keep pushing Amanda says, bugger off! I think and shake an imaginary fist at her, finally turning right across Pennine Hill then back down towards Haworth.
Lo! Haworth church in sight and i’m across the heather round the graveyard and down the cobbled street –frightening the tourists with our wild men appearance - we manage a good dash towards the community centre to cross the line... I’m chatting casually with the marshall before realising I have to go into the centre to confirm my return and finishing time!
I’m shot to pieces and hurting everywhere but its over and I dive into the compimentary bowl of stew at the end. Even though the winner finished this in 4.13, my Garmin says 7.24 but I`ve just completed my Everest and met some pretty great people along the way. I’ve loved it and all thanks to Brett and the crew of Keighley and Craven A.C. for organising and marshalling a great event. I’ve done enough to get round but you can’t blag a good time and its a big reality check for me to see what it takes to be good at this stuff. Come on over with me to the Dark Side! Join the Ultramarathon trail runners – you know you want to.