Pendle Way in a Day 45 mile Route

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Today was planned as something of a rest day following the epic Pendle Way in a Day 45-mile Ultra and that is pretty much how it had turned out. There’s been some hobbling and shuffling around on sore muscles and joints in between snoozes as I’ve attempted to process yesterday’s happenings.

I can’t recall the number of races I’ve run but this was my first DNF which was a bit of a disappointment when I had to admit to myself that this wasn’t going to be my day but I’ve thought it through today and considering the weather conditions coupled with being soaked to the skin and being freezing cold after being battered by the relentless wind for about 16 miles and the distance left I had to cover it would have been a major risk to myself and others to continue.

It all started so well, running at my pre-defined pace and thinking to myself just how well I was running with the right mix of run and walk. I was soon joined by Brian who had driven down from Scotland the day before. He didn’t really know the course and he was running the course at a similar pace to me so it wasn’t unreasonable to keep each other company and I can guide him. We reached CP1 in a reasonably good time and on plan. I was carrying a hip pack as well as my back pack and it was causing some discomfort in my hips particularly during the highly inspiring trot along the canal section. So that got ditched with my running buddy Andy at CP1 who was supposed as per instructions ‘to be sheltered under a gazebo we couldn’t miss’. We had some difficulty spotting it. The ever resourceful Andy found a haven under a wooden structure and informed us that the gazebo had been taken by the wind with its remnants located in a field some 250 metres away. At this CP Tracey from Warrington turned up. She had dropped off the pace of the group she was running with, looked cold and wanted to DNF as she didn’t know the way. If she was willing I offered to see her to the next CP which is as bout 12km away. I think she had her doubts but agreed to give it a go so then we were three.

It was going well until we hit the trail between Earby and Kelbrook. The conditions worsened with high winds driving icy rain into our faces. I kept an eye on Tracey as we quietly made our way over the moors chatting to her to take her mind off what we were having to endure. She was a trooper but I felt for her and a little guilty, for offering my support when she could have checked out at CP1. I could see she was struggling and my priority was to get her to CP2 as quickly as I could. Upon arriving she informed Sam Barnes she was retiring from the event. You could see Tracey was in a bad way and needed assistance. Surprisingly Brian also checked out at CP2. I respected his decision. Sam generously lent me one of her padded jackets; much to her shock it was a good fit on me and it provided instant warmth. I gave Brian and Tracey a hug and set off alone on the journey to CP3. I was about an hour behind my plan but thought I’d make it up on this leg. This proved not to be the case as the weather seemed to move up to the next level battering into me all the way along the Pendle Bridleway. Although my mind was in good shape my body was beginning to succumb to the effects of the elements. At this point I really needed to be with a fellow runner as as it’s much tougher going through this alone.

Arriving at CP3 I could see the concern for my welfare in Neil Taylor and Tracy Taylor’s faces. Following a couple of gratefully received hugs and what seemed like the best cup of coffee in the world accompanied by cake, painkillers and some caffeinated electrolytes I left the CP and soldiered on expecting to be transformed to a ‘higher’ level and take on the form of Bez from the Happy Mondays (if you in the know, you’ll know) but it quickly became apparent that this wasn’t going to end well.

I think I have a strong mind and a will to succeed and the heart of a lion but the words Clare Mead spoke as I set off on my journey came to me “I know you’re tough but be careful and safe”.
As I lay on the ground next to a barbed wire fence alone and in the dark with my left foot stuck in a deep bog, awaiting the appearance of a plague of frogs, with my only friends being a couple of trekking poles on the ground next to me those words took meaning.
I believed I’d prepared well in recce-ing every inch of the course and carried the right kit with changes of clothes but they’d all been used and my waterproofs had failed me so lesson learned.

After lying there for a while it was time to get up on my feet and get off the course and to get somewhere safe. This took a little while and there was some screaming involved as my left calf and abductor tightened but there was no-one there to hear me scream. Eventually back on my unsteady feet now using my trekking poles as walking sticks to stay any further damage to my leg it was time to navigate the stepping stones at Catlow Bottoms. This was challenging but it was managed along with the hobble up to the Shooters Arms. Couldn’t believe I was denied the warmth a good British pub offered (and perhaps a pint for medicinal reasons you understand) as it was closed; who in their right mind closes their pub on a Saturday evening? There’s always the chance some frozen, soaked, bruised and battered running fool could turn up!

Undeterred and finding shelter behind the pub I made the call for a taxi and text Jamie and let him know I was done. Informing the taxi company it was a bit of an emergency (after all the pub was shut) he promised he would arrive to rescue me in 5-10 minutes. It seemed like a long ten minutes and it took about four attempts to get myself into his taxi settling for lying down across his rear seats. He was a decent chap who did enquire as to why I was out running in the conditions as they are. He had a valid point and continued to tell me running was good for you (at times that’s questionable) and that 3-5km a few times a week was all that was needed, “how far have you run?”. While I wasn’t exactly sure and thinking for a moment before answering by just saying 5Km to save a long explanation I uttered “about 30 miles”. There was a momentary silence as he was probably trying to figure out which asylum the lunatic sat (lying down) in the back of his vehicle had escaped from. To be fair he got me back to Pendle Heritage Centre and was very helpful.

I entered the centre and could see I wasn’t the only person who’d got themselves into a bit of a pickle. Lots of withdrawals and others bravely pushing to the finish in the harshest of conditions. As groups runners came into the room with their experiences of the day etched into their faces there was no need to ask them what they’d been through. Anyone taking on either of the distances in those conditions deserves respect as they’re all warriors.

After a few minutes of sat shivering in my soaked clothes holding gratefully onto a hot coffee provided by Chris Atherton (how the hell do you run 45 miles that fast) a few of the ladies decided I needed warming up, stood me up and started stripping off my wet clothes. Now it’s quite reasonable to assume that this would on any other occasion be very pleasurable experience but this was different; the clothes had to come off and it didn’t matter about any objections I had, they were to do the job even if it was in a room full of other people. They were extremely efficient and went about their task with a certain vigour which did cause me some concern about just how far this ‘warming up’ process would go. Ladies you have to understand that extreme cold has certain effects upon the male body and the talk of years to come may not be confined to the harsh conditions of the 2022 PWIAD but do you remember when we stripped Mark Walsh off in the Pendle Heritage Centre….followed by a chorus of laughter...

Anyway, thank you for sticking with my long post. I can understand some saying that they’d never take on the winter 45-mile PWIAD again but as Jamie said to me upon leaving the Centre “there’s always next year”. It’s a bit soon to think about that right now but expect to see me there on the start line again for another adventure.

I didn’t get to you all but thank you to everyone involved yesterday. All the marshals were angels and I really appreciated the way you took care of us. You don’t just give your time up to support us you make the event special.

Everyone who made the start line yesterday no matter which route you did you’re all warriors and on reflection it doesn’t matter if you DNF, what matters you were there and you gave it your all. Well done to Jamie & Roxanne on delivering another fantastic event to challenge us - the weather conditions were nice touch!

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