Thursday, 17 July 2014

Golden Jubilee Lyke Wake Race - 12th July 2014

“When you go in with a silent swish, you know it’s going to be deep …”

This quote could only relate to the Lyke Wake Walk – the 42 mile trek along the North Yorkshire Moorland paths and trails between Osmotherley, on the western edge of the moors, and Ravenscar away on the coast - and it has to be my favourite of all relating to this event. It’s found in the Lyke Wake Walk booklet* and is contained within an eventful crossing description of many years ago. Another favourite, courtesy of an East West traverse, and relating to the wildlife of the Moors came from a lady who, upon being asked what the going was like, replied “Fine, never been better, but watch out for bears! “**

No chance of those bears being Polar on race Day. With the annual Race Day always landing on the nearest Saturday to July the 10th, and, for what seems like forever now, the race day has appeared to have landed again on the hottest day of the year. This heat is starting to finish me off! … Is it just me? 

My fifth, and final, Lyke Wake Race happened to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Race and with me now reaching 50 years of age; well it seemed logical and contained a certain symmetry for me to bow out of a fantastic event and head out onto newly discovered alternative long distance trails.

I’ll never be a stranger to running out on these Moors; there remains so many new trails, paths and trods to be explored upon the tabular tops that it could take a lifetime to get to know them all as intimately as I’ve come to know the LWR over the last few years, and I’m only a novice scratching at the surface, but I’m not sure that the relentless heat of those heady mid-summer July race crossings can be sustained. Give me a good thunderstorm and a heady tumult any day of the week.I fancy a first dip at both the Hambleton Hobble and the Shepherd`s Round, possibly later on this year, when hopefully it’ll be cooler in these parts; watch this space for a moorland crosses round.

The Lyke Wake Race: What to say of an event I’ve enthused about quite a few times before? … For example, another couple of crossings here in 2012 and 2013 even back in 2010.

The Golden Jubilee race was a hot affair, but the help and support provided by the teams all the way from Sheepwash to the penultimate check at Jugger Howe was never anything less than perfect; only bettered by the cheering of our patient families as we broke into the finishing dash, through the trees and out onto the short sloping field towards the tent at Raven Hall in the late afternoon.

The scenery to my mind is the best of any long distance trail race:
From the start overlooking the miles of northern patchwork flats away to Teesdale and Roseberry Topping, it is breathtaking looking both westwards towards the Dales and then back South from where we’ve come up from. These views are stunning.

I did manage a continued run this time along the disused train track via Bloworth to the Lion where our “fab four” of Dave Burke, Joe Williams, Kevin Hughes and I climbed up the hill to get to the Lion in what was a good time for me: 3.26 for these first 18 miles.

It was already packed under the awning of the checkpoint in the Car Park as the sun beat down upon us.

We then hit the moors and the lonely boundary markers to guide us eastwards.

Bogs, flowers, dry tracks, wet tracks … and the looked for, and eagerly anticipated, isolation of wild moorland:

Blow winds! blow fiercely: it is good to feel
Thy bite again! The long, long torpid days
Of pent-up agony and pain: the ways –
of Helplessness are dead! I feel my heel
Plunge deep into the bracken and the turf,
The moorish wine intoxicates my head:
And I do feel with happiness full-fed,
Like one who deeply breathes the breath o` the surf!

The Sky`s the bluest ever I did see:
The grass the greenest ever kist the dew:
My heart is melting in an ecstasy

I will go far over the waste-lands,
                To the lonely moorland tarn,
With only the sky for company
                And the wind-swept mountain cairn

(Moors Again and The Waste-Lands … from Alfred Brown (Poems & Songs 1949))

Then, in the middle of this expanse of nothingness, seemingly from nowhere, a clutch of motor vehicles; the chatter of supporters, the laughter of children, the blue tent of the marshals and the hubbub of the checkpoint is upon us: Fresh water, juice, jelly babies, jaffa cakes, “Hows it going?”

Couldn’t even get a seat at Hamer Road what with Dave Burke taking a leisurely break in the sun then with Kevin Hughes next in the queue, well I just had to press on – away east towards the Blue man i` the Moss.
Then, just after taking a picture at 26.2 miles, and my pack making steady progress, I kicked a rock that never moved and went head over ears, luckily landing in the bracken at the path side, narrowly avoiding the hard dry sandstone rock strewn track.

The leg stiffened and I couldn’t bend my knees to dip the kerchief into the beck at Wheeldale Stones ...

and at Simon Howe I tripped again – losing a contact lens in the process. Things had been blurred before but this was a whole new view. Just as well that the camera was self focusing as it really was point and shoot from now on.

Black Houe and Blakey Houe
Two Houes and Three Houes
Widow Houe and Foster Houes
Silhoue and Shunner Houe
Pen Houe and Trattle Houe
Robbed Houe and Wheeldale Houe
Louven Houe and Lilla Houe.

And the ghostly shades foregather now
On Simon Houe

(On Simon Houe … Alfred Brown (Poems & Songs 1949)

Couldn’t believe how hot the day had become at Ellerbeck and the heat slowed us dreadfully but, with the penultimate stage upon us, the normal spent grind resumed and we sighted, for the second successive year, fog at Robin Hoods Bay! Then, passing the ever impassive Lilla Cross at the top of the rise we had a slight breeze for the next half hour downhill.

The chalky dry track on the way down towards Jugger Howe almost gave me snow blindness and with nearly one eye working I took the inevitable fall going down into the ravine at Jugger – three falls but no submission and we were nearly home.

Joe Williams snatched a place from me by snaffling a can of coke from somewhere at the Car Park and therefore suitably refreshed strode on ahead – I saw no sign of those legal highs and rightly berated him for keeping that a secret. Dave Burke caught Kevin  Hughes and I back up at the hill atop Ravenscar and our shambling pack tumbled back down the back field, along the lane then turning left and down, down to the finish – joined in the end by an impressive and fit looking mob from Chapel Allerton Runners.

9 hours 34 by my watch, as I was a bit late setting out from Sheepwash that morning; a time I was more than happy with. I have done two quicker crossings and two slower ones in the past and so today's’ will do just fine.

How good to see the finishing field full of supporters mingling with marshals and runners and to meet friends old and new who finished in various states from seemingly fresh top notch runners to somewhat ordinary looking mid-pack shufflers like me. Grimy, tired, slightly nauseous or downright sick with the heat and humidity and effort or just simply peat stained, we all shared a common smugness of having completed the challenge.

Always a big thank you to Paul Sherwood who has been organising this for so long with his team of fine helpers that he clearly is nearly as old as Lilla Cross! Only joking Paul. Fifty years service to the race along with the cantakerous and autocratic ways eh? The event would never have been the same - sir, take a bow. Personally, a huge thank you from me for giving me the chance to pootle along and write these notes over the years. To all competitors both old and new – good to see you and good luck next year for a great crossing – the new organisers must be quaking in their shoes!

* Lyke Wake Walk and the Lyke Wake Way - Bill Cowley Dalesman Books 1983
** Lyke Wake Report by J.M.  Robertson from Lyke Wake Lamentations - The Bog-side Book - Bill Cowley & Phil Morgan Dalesman Books 1979


  1. Bet its not your last. Its given rain next year, honest!!

    1. Hi Joe, Are you sure about that weather forecast??? .... we'll see and next time you must share that can of Coke!!

      Best Wishes and see ya soon - Mike

  2. Great to see you en route, Mike and I enjoyed your company on the crossing. I especially like the photo from Simon Howe; nice!

    1. Same to you Dave and well done on a great crossing .... it must have been all that sitting at the checkpoints that helped you along :) Best Wishes to Cathy