Months ago my running club set ourselves a running challenge to raise money for Macmillan. Earlier in the year the cycling group at my club planned a Marsden to Marsden cycle challenge, and the runners needed a tough challenge to match. So Saturday 8th September saw a group of us run from Malham in the Yorkshire Dales back to Marsden on the edge of the Peak District. A team of 9 runners set off from Malham early in the morning, with others joining at checkpoints along the way, with 16 of us finishing in Marsden.
Our route mainly followed the Pennine Way, winding it’s way south over bleak moorland and across many bogs, covering a distance of almost 50 miles for those who started at Malham. The Pennine Way is tough running terrain. Swamps, rocks, narrow paths through cloughs, and riverside woodland trails. Large sections are paved with stone slabs however these are not as friendly to run on as they sound. Better than the swamps they cover up though. Other sections, such as Blackstone Edge are rocky and almost impossible to run across. Our route also had some slippery downhill sections. There is probably a very good reason why most Pennine Way walkers attempt the route from South to North, and at times I definitely wished I was making my way upwards rather than clinging on for my life trying to get down. Let’s just say I never want to do the slippery path down to Charlestown at Hebden Bridge ever again.
I joined the run at Ponden Reservior, which is near Howarth, in Bronte country. Imagine the windswept moors of Wuthering Heights, and add buckets of cold rain and a lot of mud. The runners were behind schedule but thankfully an amazing team of supporters were following the route to keep everyone fed and watered along the way. So I had company, and plenty of biscuits to distract from the cold rainy conditions whilst waiting for their arrival.
The run was hard. Beforehand I didn’t know what to expect, or how well I would cope with the run. I knew it would be tough, especially as I hadn’t trained for a long run, but I coped with it.
My first section was 10.5 miles from Ponden to Charlestown near Hebden Bridge. It was wet and windy, and the first 3 miles involved a tough climb up to Withens Height. The conditions on the moors were relentless during this section with no beautiful views to enjoy. The weather eased off however I was soaked through and getting very cold during the slow sections. The final descent into the valley at Hebden was stressful. I was already feeling unsteady on the slippery Pennine Way flagstones so almost cried when faced with a mile of wet rock and cobbles going steeply downhill. Surely it is never a good sign if a footpath has a very rickety handrail.
My first checkpoint was greatly needed. I took the opportunity to change my running shoes into my Hoka Speedgoats knowing I would feel more confident on wet flagstones. I also put on another dry long sleeve t-shirt and ate some cake. The problem with stopping for a while at a checkpoint is getting going again. Getting to Hebden Bridge was a mental milestone for me as I had run the rest of the route. Once the big climb to Stoodley Pike was done it was going to be a case of putting one foot in front of another.
At my second checkpoint I was suffering but a pork pie and a cup of tea saved me. Definitely the best cup of tea I have ever had. It gave me the energy to get to my next personal milestone which was crossing over the M62. My logic was that once we were on the right side of the motorway we were practically home. In reality once over the motorway there is still a way to go. This section felt tough and the light was fading. Eventually we made it back before darkness fell, arriving at the village pub around 8pm.