I was sat at home when Chell’s post appeared on Facebook looking for names for the Calderdale Way Relay. After checking last year’s results and seeing how well they had done I was initially wary of putting my name down, I wasn’t the fastest and definitely not the most experienced runner but I was told it was a team effort and to put my name down.
A few weeks came and went and then confirmation I was in “WTF HAVE I DONE!” This had just got real. Looking at Leg 4 I could see it was going to be hard and I didn’t have much time to get ready. There were three other experienced fell runners on this leg, Mick Dobson, Adam Wallwork and Matt Wilcock, what was I doing alongside them? Why have I been given this leg? Would I be able to keep up with these guys? These were just some of the questions I asked myself. Never mind, if I back out now I will never do it.
The build up to the relays was going really well, I had my trusty mentor Dale to give me pointers on what to do and where to go on the fells. I had done a few training runs with him and also did a recce of Leg 4 and Leg 2 just for fun. After the recce of Leg 4 I thought “Christ, this is going to kill me!” Dale’s idea was to throw me into a few fell races to build me up for the big day.
I always said I never wanted to do fells or trails but there is something about them, I don’t know what it is but I seem to like them. Liver Hill, Orchan Rocks and Mearley Clough. These three were good, fun short races and, although I was blowing hard on Mearley Clough going up, I loved coming down.
Race day came and I was picked up by Adam where we soon met up with Mick. I have only been nervous on a race once and that was before I joined Trawden and did the Trawden 7 route for the first time. This time it felt worse, my stomach was all over the place, I felt sick, and in the back of my mind I kept thinking I can’t let the team down or if I perform badly the team would suffer.
Pulled up at the start to register and were joined by Matt, all three looked up for this while there I was stood watching everyone still wondering “What am I doing here?” Over to registration and kit check, that went well, I had everything and even had a map for Adam. Nerves started to settle.
We went over to pick up the numbers and make jokes about how someone had mixed up the team numbers (apparently Leg 2 were to blame) – quick photo to wind Chell up and send it to her. I don’t know what response Mick got with that one! Just time to visit the loo for a nervous pit stop then quick team photo before heading to the start ready for the teams to hand over.
We were joined by other teams all waiting anxiously for their team mates to come in and off they went. Still nervous I stood waiting, then we heard 97 which was Mick and Adam off, Lucy and Kerrie-Anne had just come round the corner. Looking at the pair of them they had given all their best. Just as they were coming we heard 96, oh my, that was us! Then we got cancelled! But then John and Paul appeared! “Ooops,” said the marshal, “Sorry, 96” John looked as though someone had thrown a bucket of water of him, again another fine effort by the pair. Baton handed over and we were off.
1-3 miles. Downhill, yes, let’s make a bit of time up here. I heard Matt saying he hadn’t started his watch and had visions of him waving his arms as we went through the first stile to pick up the GPS signal. Yes, it’s picked it up, let’s go! Over the fields and downhill, I didn’t want to make the first mistake I always do and set off too fast, so I just let myself run down steady, nothing stupid.
Onto the short climb through trees and rocks trying to keep up with Matt who was flying over these making easy work of them. I kept him in sight and was pushing to keep up with him. We were passed by a couple of teams but I had in my head to just keep going. The descent then came through a couple of villages and just as I was getting to the bottom I rolled my ankle on a rock, bugger, just keep going it’s not that bad.
4-6 miles. The dreaded climb, this I was not looking forward to, all the way to the top about 800ft. I had told Matt I couldn’t get up there without walking and off we went. I did try to run but didn’t have the power in my legs. I kept looking at Matt and thinking what he must be thinking of me “look at this idiot what is he doing”. Matt was again making light work of the hill and seemed to float up.
As we reached the three-quarter way point we crossed a road, I managed to get running on the Tarmac but was hampered again by the uphill into a farm. Onto the top we went and I knew where we were then.
6-8 miles. Right, this is it, I know this is flat and slightly downhill, c’mon lets have it, let’s pick it up! I had this in my mind but my legs decided not to pay attention, I set off and wanted to open up but my legs didn’t want to work, this was frustrating and at some point I had rolled my ankle again causing slight pain but I could still run, well when I say run I mean move a little faster than the average snail.
I set off hoping the legs would come to and for a short time they did, I picked up more speed but then slowed down, I kept thinking to myself “what is going on” stop and start was the order for the next mile, grumbling to myself, not happy one bit.
I carried on and caught up with Matt who informed me that he didn’t know where he was going as when he did the recce he had stopped the car where we were. I told him I knew the way, something positive I suppose, at this point we were passed by two male runners who kept taking the wrong turns, being very supportive and sportsman like we kept shouting them and pointing them in the right direction. Two ladies were also behind us and I am sure if they knew the way they would have gone past but again I think they were unsure.
9 miles to the finish. Who in their right mind puts a massive climb at the end of the race, I mean come on I’ve just run 8.5 miles and you want me to go up there?! Leg 4 has a climb at the end, runners were flying past me giving it their best and all I could do was stride out and try and catch up to the floating Matt.
I saw a chance for a run on the flat this came and went too quickly and we then passed Jerusalem farm. Onto the road and more climb, around the corner and I could hear little Chloe shouting “come on Paul” and usually this would have got me going. Not today I thought, head down, let’s just get finished. Up the hill a couple more Trawdeners at the top cheering us on, the first and last bit of encouragement from Matt came “Right Paul, there are three teams behind us!” I took this to mean we are nearly there don’t let them pass us. As the road levelled off I started to run, I could see the finish and just kept going, across the line Matt and Adam were there. I slumped onto the mountain rescue van and took loads of water, I was absolutely tired out.
Pats on the back and handshakes all round, I knew I had performed badly, I knew in my mind I had let the team down by having a bad run. I had kidded myself I would be fine but I clearly wasn’t. I do not know why I felt this way all the way round but I had finished, this had been one of the hardest runs I had done. Looking back on it now I know I need hill work, Adam, Mick and Matt all suggested Pendle, this is where some of you may see me in the next few months.
I am now building up to Hendon Brook and Yorkshireman Half in September, I will be asking Captain Chell for this leg again next year if selected for the team as I want to prove to myself that I can do it without having a rubbish run.
Although I went through a lot of emotions on the run I thoroughly enjoyed myself, being part of a team like Trawden is brilliant, they pick you up when you are down and are the best supportive team I know.
Thank you to Matt Wilcock for being so patient, understanding and supportive, and to Chell who put me in the team.
For all those who haven’t tried fell running give it a go, it’s fun – honestly I am loving it – and it’s good to mix it up.