A 50 mile ( or in my case, 51 mile ) "circle" route around Rotherham taking in the full gamut of conditions: Road, Track, Arable Fields, Golf Course, Incline, Trail, Suburbia, Industrial Estate, Villages, and Motorway Verges.
"Would you like a cup of tea whilst you're looking at that map?" said the lady at the church, "All the other runners went the other way, around and out of the village via the normal route".
A fine sentiment to make the heart sink and it had been going so well at that point: 4 hours 10 mins for 25 miles and I'd been half way round Rotherham, passed Rother Valley Country Park , Tinsley was a distant memory and the fantastic Henry Marston strip maps had been followed without a hitch. I had now reached the half way checkpoint and refuel spot at Harthill.
Here I took the opportunity to re-arrange my strip maps, grab a sandwich, a drink, mix half a Nuun tab with water (following my earlier disasters at electrolyte balancing) before leaving the hall. Problem being, I then scampered straight across the road, up the steps, rejoined the lane and headed off and away for half a mile before realising I was alone and had to backtrack to the church where the coffee morning was in full swing. Finally, extracating myself onto the normal route meant from arriving at Harthill to leaving covered some 25 minutes.
The next few hours were really enjoyable, probably because I was alone with my maps and just enjoying the views and changing landscapes of this - my longest event to date. We covered miles of arable landscapes...
Travelling through surprising little hamlets like Netherthorpe and Turnerwood (where we got surprise refreshment and encouragement) ...and the now ubiquitous giant wind turbines (just realised that they are featuring in most of my most recent posts, what does that portend? that they are really spreading around or we just like running through windy spots?).
But, at some point within the next few hours, I knew I was going to run out of steam and adopt the dreaded "living dead shuffle" of a spent runner. I can probably get sufficient training time to get round 30 - 40 mile trail runs but this tested me to the max and by the time I approched the ruins of Roche Abbey, outside Maltby, then I was pretty much on reserves.
But, the path - very familiar to all you KMRT runners - especially the M`s gave precious dappled light towards, and finally into, the churchyard at Maltby, providing a very welcome respite from what had been constant sunshine since dawn.
At Micklebring, after 69K, I decided to try and hobble the downhills and make an effort where I could - amazing to get to 43 miles in 8.33 and yet nearly take another two hours to complete the last 7 miles! however, it was good to exchange banter with a few likeminded souls - especially Dick Scroop who confirmed he too hadn't been able to put the mileage - he did however have an excuse: by being twice on the operating theatre this year.
Before all this, and way back to 7.00am, the start was followed by what was certainly for me a too - quick 54 minute first 10K followed by a 2.05 garmin reading for the 13 mile distance. I was on familiar ground - being born in these parts - and it took me back many years and very nostalgic it proved. From leaving Wath Upon Dearne, when Dearne Valley Parkway used to look like this:
(Who would have thought that when the last train over woodhead would leave this yard on the 17th July 1981, an outstanding area of wetland habitat would take its place so successfully giving us the track this morning) .... to the mists of Wentworth as they were this morning
then the clear blue skies when Kepples Column appeared on the crest of the rise ...
Where we beheld the first sighting of the day of the official photographer!
... and an enforced smile!, warm work even at this early hour on the climb up the field.
Then a chance to catch breath back, passing the column approx 16k into the trip and a welcome downhill towards checkpoint 1 at Grange Park. Promptly away around Hilltop and down to the canalside and the first sighting of Sheffield, and down and down ...... past the shopping metropolis of Meadowhall, then up ... then down ... then through Catcliffe and along the now flattened Orgreave area of south Sheffield towards Treeton, then continuing away and on, and on, and on.......
But it did all seem quite a long time ago when my pack finally rounded the final countryside hill above Old Denably and the Don, and ultimately Dearne Valley would be spread before us signifying the last few miles were ahead. 76K gone, 5K to go.
Jogging along the canal bank of my home town of Mexborough, which I left long ago, with the Church still there looking across the valley to where we've just come from ....
Passing the Old Bakery where I used to play about 35 years ago! ....
Re-enforced the many different aspects of the journey I'd just made. From meeting ultra friends again such as Nick Ham, who always writes great insightful missives and who must be congratulated yet again on a "slam" of all 12 Vasque races this year, to Dawn from Iowa who so revels in all this stuff - and actually didn't add around an extra ten miles or so this time! To Dick Scroop who has such experience in all this and who I quizzed for about an hour on training &c. And, to myself for revisiting my home patch, getting under 10 and a half hours notwithstanding my trip around Harthill and returning all in one piece.
All good stuff and I got exactly what I trained for, I've said before you can't blag a fast time and the longer you go the more training is needed. I was honest with myself that I hadn't prepared as best as possible but I was more than pleased with what I was given on the day. Oh, by the way ... got back in 10.29!
And finally, did manage a smile at the Abbey for the last portrait of the day ... or was it a grimace??
Terrific thanks to all at RHAC and the legion of supporters everywhere. I had a blast