Sunday, 13 March 2011

Wuthering Hike 2011

32 mile circular from Haworth

Consider and contrast two runners approaching the final checkpoint before the climb to the Top O` The Stairs towards the end of this Wuthering Hike; one of my favourite races in the year. For the first time that day a flash of sunlight falls on them as they exchange words. “One of the worst times I've done for this race” confirms the lady at my side, and with whom I'm losing the battle to keep pace with. No shuffler here, she's one of the best ever to grace off road running and is only back with me in the long grass due to a lack of mileage training although she ominously admits to still being “ok” at climbing. Still as competitive as ever, proved by casually remarking that two girls in front of us were easily bested by her only last week on a 9 miler that had over 4000ft of ascent. The other conversationalist IS the shuffler and is secretly on his way to a Personal Best by a country mile, the pb is mine, the other is Wendy Dodds.

Earlier I'd exchange words with several other runners and gained much insight into these events, still being only a couple of years into this distance lark I'm like a magpie! Pinching as many hints and tips as possible from all the people who have so much experience. I shamelessly plod after Amanda Calvert who demonstrates that you can keep a decent pace going, even up hill and through boggy ground. I'm also on the look out for Nick Ham who will surely overtake me long before the finish.

To the minutiae of today. I'm aiming to get under 6 hours 30 minutes – against my 6.47 last year and have a sneaking suspicion that I can do it. Had a half decent training year so far – getting mileage in: generally having at least three good days out per week but, and its a biggy, the elephant in the room remains my shortage of hill work. Living south of Doncaster, we get dizzy on a thick carpet so this will prove my weakness: I know it, everyone else does and Wendy confirms this to me prior to disappearing up the hill.

As always, the start climb to Top Withins is into a headwind and the stone slabs that make up the path across being as slippery as soap have me over far too early in the race and not totally unscathed. My waist bag then loosens and I have to step off the path to redress and tighten all up - as runners including Nick stream down passed me on the descent to the path by Walshaw Dean Reservoir.

© Oomens
Without further mishap, my group then makes Widdop in good order.

I don't stop for any refills, preferring up and over to Long Causeway in one and with very little to note: hydration OK, gels OK and I'm trying to monitor my progress, making mental notes for further “improvement”.

All the way back down the rocky byways towards Todmorden I get, once again, the nagging pain in my right knee that seems to bedevil my downhills, caused no doubt this time by the bang on Withins Height. Facing upwards to Stoodley Pike things are on track but the climb to Mankinholes tests me, and the knee, and I'm blowing hard at the checkpoint.

Glancing up at the Pike, I realise that here at the 20 mile marker in 3 hours 40 would mean the next 12 miles home would take about the same time so mindful of my aim, I`m straight off to scale the climb to the top. Always does for me and no exception today and I must stand for a minute to catch my breath. The views from here are stunning. Where we've come from but also where we still have to go and a big downhill is immediately in the offing.

Legs are hurting and a stab of cramp in the right calf hints at dehydration? Lack of electrolyes? Another lesson for next time which I shalln't forget as the descent to Hebden Bridge is murder – all sorts of stabs of pain in the right knee and cramps again have me concerned for actually reaching the finish.

These last few miles encompass what the second half of this great race is all about: Flat fields, stiff climbs on tussocky grass, descents on wet grass and then calf deep bogs followed by a stony woodland path with finally a stiff descent on a perfect cobbled road before crossing a main street. Then, yet again climbing up stairs and a tarmac road to Heptonstall village.

Through the village and down the tracks to horse bridge, I hope to simply repeat last years “run the flats – count to 50 strides, once with the right foot, then the left and don't waver - walk as fast as possible up the inclines” and I should get home!.

I realise now that you absolutely cannot neglect:

a) time on your feet for the long training runs i.e a minimum of 4 – 5 hours per go
b) to do your hill work
c)to take electrolytes along with water

So pleased to crest the moor and lookdown on Leeshaw Reservoir and, trundling down towards it, I notice that my Garmin tells me 6 hours has passed – I've 30 minutes to get back. So, managing a decent hobble towards Penistone Hill at 6.18 I must press on and get through these ramblers who are hacking along the path. With a shattered knee, I'm down the final path and turning left towards the church I daren't now look at my watch.

Onto the cobbles, immediate left, passing quizzical looking day trippers, and through the short-cut across the car park, I hare across the road and into the finish, stopping my Garmin at 6.26.

Not exactly a walk in the park or a time of note but realising the shortcomings in my training routines then I'm well chuffed with that. I'm even in time for the awards ceremony!. I recall two years ago when I first fronted up here that the flags were coming down when I returned. I've knocked 1 hour 1 minute off that time but I'm fully aware that to keep improving at that rate then I've an awful amount of work to do. Thanks Brett and KCAC, you pulled off another cracker, see you next year.

As a footnote I include the proof that I wore the shirt awarded to me at the Tickhill Christmas “do” in honour of my travails over the long stuff. Here you go and thanks!.


  1. Great report, Mike. I've just discovered your blog via Runfurther. You will be bookmarked (followed sounds too much like stalking).

  2. Great write up Mike, very well done on knocking an hour off. You must be doing something right. No mean feat (or "feet" !) in itself. The snaps of open moorland bring it all back to me now.

    Happy running and hope the knee recovers soon.