Saturday, 3 March 2012

Bog Warriors take on the High Peak Marathon

Julien and Ian, pre-race
An MEP, and IT consultant, a construction consultant and a massage therapist go for a run in the fog and bog.
Sounds like the beginning to a very bad joke, but that was basically last night. Having been drafted into a team, pretty much at last minute, (though it was actually more like 2 teams that had been amalgamated together, with me tacked on at the end), I had not had the chance to neurotically worry about the weather, conditions underfoot, navigational problems, and all the other things that can make a long run go from challenging to downright unpleasant.
As it turns out I spent most of Friday day poring over a map and google earth, looking at lines that I had no idea if they were still on the ground, and trying to memorise key bits of the route which I had never done. Packed up all my stuff (I took far too much food, but thats another story), poked my head out the window and realised I could see a few planets and stars and thought, "oh, we've been lucky, a kind of clear night".

I then got a lift over to Edale with Sue, another late entrant, (though she had at LEAST 2 and a half weeks notice!) and as soon as we started driving, the clag came in. And it stayed in. Over the hill and into Edale it was approaching peasouper conditions. So much for a clear night then. This could make navigation a bit amusing.

race HQ
Once at the race HQ I had my first problem of the evening, finding out who my team were. Never met them before and only knew one of their names. A quick text to Ben to tell him I was there and was wandering about in a turquoise helly (maybe I should have been wearing a carnation as well...) we soon met up and had a brief chat about potential route choice. Howard was next, a veteran of HPM's, having a number of them under his belt. When I met him I saw he had a Lowe Alpine Contour runner bag- anyone who has one of those is alright in my book, so we sat down (or rather, stood up, considering the mass of bodies in the HQ and chatted about the slightly less obvious lines in the race).
Kit Check
Chris turned up soon after, and by 2230 we had registered, and got our kit checked, there wasn't long before we started, and people were gathering by the door. Being the 3rd running team off was a little daunting (not many lights to follow), but all too soon we were out of the door, away from the bright lights, and off down the road on our way up to Edale Cross.

The key to our plan for the run was to keep it nice and steady for the first half, so that we had enough in the tank to be able to run the last few miles as well. It took us 15 mins to get up to Hollins Cross, with Chris spending much of the time trying to work out how his new headtorch worked, and by the time we reached the checkpoint we had been overtaken by a couple of teams, and had overtaken a couple as well. We then dropped over the back and took a lower line on the South side of the hill, while all the other teams elected to go over the top. We jogged through, and got to the top of Lose hill before any of the teams that passed us, and they ended up going past again as we trundled down the hill into the to the outskirts of Hope. Which was nice, mainly because they were young and excited about running around like idiots, and having to pass the same team twice in about 30 mins when they were going as hard as they could is always going to be amusing.

Up Winhill, past Twitchhill, and we were doing well, keeping it steady, and not having too much trouble in any way shape or form. We hit the trig point check point, dibbed, and then shot off down through the woods. Thankfully, as one of the teams who started first, we had the advantage of not having a mass of teams on the descent to get past, or who were attempting to get past us. Down to the bottom, and straight up the other side, staying on the road up and over into High Neb. Legs were still feeling good, I wasn't wearing gloves as it was still fairly mild, and it was still clagged out, so we couldn't see more than about 10 metres in any direction. This looked like being a theme for the evening. We passed one of the walking teams just as we crossed the cattlegrid before heading up onto the moor.

Despite the low visibility we made our way to the checkpoint, dibbed and got out of there, continuing up and over to Moscar. Along this stretch we were overtaken by what looked like a very strong team, recognising this wasn't going to be the first time this evening that was going to happen. We jogged along under the edge, which you couldn't see unless you were standing directly underneath it, it was like being enclosed in a fog bubble that contained just us and our lights. Along and down into Moscar, the first food station, and the first opportunity to pull out if you were really feeling bad. As we walked in a voice piped up out of the gloom "is there a Tim Budd in this team"?
Oh no, who has been spreading rumours about me? I warily replied to the affirmative.
"Oh, Hi!" comes the answer, "Caroline McCann says hello!" Nice. Thanks Caroline!

We grabbed a little sustenance, a cup of tea, banana etc, and I refilled my water bladder, and off we trotted down the road with Howard recounting how this was a new part of the run, with the original route taking more of a scenic route through the fields, but it's had to be re-routed due to various issues.
Check point. In the Clag.
Bottom of the road, and hang a right, up onto the moor. This is where things could begin to get interesting. We haven't been lost yet, but this could be our chance, especially in the continuing zero visibility.
Not much of a problem getting up there, though there was a moment of doubt as we couldn't find a very obvious path. Then we found it, which led us directly to the Checkpoint, then up and onto the edge, getting a little confused and wayward around Saltcellar. I've never been up this way before, and I can say now, that considering the view (next to nothing), I still haven't really been up there!
A couple of teams came hurtling past us, as we got to the really quite massive path, which we followed along to Back tor. Its a long way along that path, and there was a map stop to make sure that we had not missed it, and just as we hit the turn off, another team passed- I recognised the voice, and it was Julien, Mark, John and Jasmine from High Peak Roller Bladers, bouncing along and doing well, not even checking to map read. We followed their lights across to Lost Lad, and had a minor navigational faff working out exactly which direction to head in to hit Shepards clough, but it was worth it, as we beelined in perfectly, hit the CP and turned to head up the route I had seen on Google Earth the day before.

Still minimal visibility and working from memory to a trod that I wasn't sure was going to be there worked perfectly. Up the side, and over foul clough, and a team came up behind us. I figured we were going in vaguely the right direction if there was someone following us, and as they passed, lo and behold, it was Julien and the High Peak Rollerbladers- again. No idea how we got in front of them, but we did.
First teams at Snake Summit
Directionally I now got a bit muddleheaded and have no idea how we really reached the next CP, but reach it we did, and then some. Ian Winterburn and Tiggers Brown Vests passed us just as we were getting to it, and we started out on the long horrendous bog monster patch that just seems to go on forever.
We walked. I couldnt see anything for mist except lights around us. At times, I couldn't even see the ground in front of me for the mist, and at several points after crossing massive groughs we lost the path completely, only to find it again a little later on.
It carried on like this for, oh, about a year or so.
Teams passed us, yet there wasn't anything we could really do. The path wasn't what you could call runnable, and my legs were beginning to burn. I was constantly on the look out for massive bogs which could swallow you whole, and at one point, Ben stepped into a puddle, that ended up coming up to his waist. The only reason he didn't sink further was because he threw his arms out. He got out, commenting that he didn't even touch the bottom.
Flipping heck.

Later, much later the path began to swing West, and underfoot began to take on a slightly different character. Less bog monster, and more will sapping nightmare that can only be described as the terrain leading up to Swains Head. We hit the navigational point of the mushroom stone dead on, (a stone which I hadn't heard about until yesterday, and has only seen 1 photo of), and then carried on up to Swains Head.

It was getting cold. Even with my Mitts on, my hands were cold, I was beginning to shiver, I hadn't eaten for ages, but didn't want to get any food out because it would chill my hands even more. It can't be to much further. Another team passes us, and I'm stumbling through the groughs. Right. Action.
We stopped to put on waterproofs, and in the meantime I grabbed food and started to nibble. Couldn't eat any faster or I would have come to a dead stop, but at least I was getting food into my system.
The drag up to Swains Head, which I have only done once before, in relatively good weather was as bad as I remembered. It took and indeterminable amount of time. We lost the path, we gained it, and lost it again, and ended up hitting it by instinct.

A quick stop and then carry on through groughy wasteland. The original plan being to work our way up the ridge, (not something I was looking forward to in my windchilled state). Going across to, and beyond Swains head was definitely the worst point of the whole race. I was questioning why I was there, questioning why I wasn't tucked up in bed somewhere, why I decided to even do this race at all, and how nice it would be to just stop. If there was a Minibus there that could have taken me home, I'd have got in it without hesitation at that point.
It was light by the time we hit Snake summit
On and on through the groughs, and eventually we hit a path heading south. Take this one.
I had an inkling that we had gone far too far to the West and that we had actually hit Far Black. As we continued up the hill, in the shelter of the grough, I was convinced. Brilliant. A chance to conserve some energy by not shivering and make good time by going up the "path". Which by now had been pretty churned up. The mud wasn't quite bog monster status, but it had a lot of Gloop factor.
Up the grough, and (eventually) bang onto Bleaklow stones.

From there, there are a couple of interesting and exciting navigational ways you can take to get to Bleaklow Head and Wainstones. I know them, but not all that well, and it was decided that we would follow the stakes. A safe option under the circumstances. It was just getting light, and by the time we were mid Bleaklow, head torches were finally off, and instead of seeing nothing but darkness and fog, we could just see fog. Nice to have a change.
To Bleaklow head. good navigation by Ben, and then to Wainstones, and a steady jog down to Snake summit. It was fantastic to finally get proper running again after a few hours of trudging endlessly through ankle/knee/waist deep bog.

We made good time down to Snake, where Lynne and Matt Dawson were cheering on all and sundry who passed. They had been there since some ridiculous time in the morning, and they were a welcome sight. Lynne took a load of photos, and they are going to be taking up a large portion of the photos in this blog.
mmm. "food"
We stuffed a load of food into our mouths, I replenished my water, and looked forward to the rest of the flagstones across Bleaklow. Cross the road, with a longing look at my car which Lynne had driven up to Snake Summit- and across the flags. A shuffle over the stones was the next order of the day, over to Mill hill. I knew it was a long way, and I knew it would take a while, so I kept up what I hoped was a decent pace and we played yoyo with a couple of other teams as they walked and ran, and we walked and ran. It was complete purgatory. Legs hurting, muscles just about working and causing grimaces at every step. It was just time to grit the teeth and keep on keeping on.
off into the clag
After another couple of years later and we finally, finally, finally reached Mill hill. Across and up to Kinder, where we passed Andy Howie from Pennine.
The climb to Kinder was horrible, and I can honestly say I have never felt such heavy legs on a climb. My adductors and vastus medialis were beginning to really hurt, as were my feet. Across the top we were just shuffling, and there was nothing more to it than that. Along past Red Brook 2 figures popped out of the mist, John and Charlie, who were out for a run. Apparently they had taken an "interesting" line and just happened upon the path as we appeared out of the mist, (I would love to say that we ran past, but really, it was much less than a run).

Coming off Kinder is a bit of a blur, and we hit Edale Cross, where Carl was camping out, taking photos- another delightful surprise. I could barely believe how many Glossopdalers were out, and it was a great morale boost. The Haribo came out at this point, and I knew I'd be surviving on sugar up to the end of this now. Passed Brown Knoll, and I fished around for another haribo packet. I came out with some Kendal Mint cake. Well, its not haribo, but it will definitely do.
Across and over the bog to the North East of the trig, checking a bearing we slushed through the mud, now pretty much immune to anything.
Just in case you were wondering, yes, the clag was still down, and no, the visibility was no more than 20 metres at best. Still clagged in, after 10 hours or so. Off the hill, and across Lords seat. About 300 metres before the next checkpoint there were a kindly couple doling out haribo and coffee. More sugar. Excellent. Just what I need.
The wind was blowing across the edge, sending hard mist into our heads. (thats rain). Last check point, and we are still running. Fantastic, making pretty good time at the end. So glad that we are still running instead of walking this last part of the grind.
A little further ahead, who should we bump into, but Becky, Alison, Lindsay and John Stephensen. Another uplifting moment as we toiled on to the final point at Edale Cross.
Legs really hurting now. I can see that Ben is also suffering, wheras Howard and Chris seem to be not all that much worse for wear.
Its the superhuman old man syndrome. Once you start them running, they just don't stop.

Final downhill into Edale and a "sprint" up the road to the end.
Yes, its still misty and claggy, and we stopped the clock at 11:18:51. Not too shabby at all, considering we were an amalgamated team with very little preparation. In the end we were very well matched as a team, running together all the way around, never with anyone lagging behind or shooting off ahead. A brilliant effort.

Discussing tactics, post race
Julien with the Mixed team trophy.
High Peak Rollerbladers- 1st mixed team in 9:18 or so. Mark, Jasmine, John and Julien
Lots of things hurt now, and I think I may take a couple of days rest from running, but it was a fantastic experience. The only thing that annoyed me was that we ran through crappy weather for the entire thing. I'm sure that there are some fantastic views to be had across the entire route. I suspect that I'll be doing it again in the summer when I can actually see what is going on, so that I can appreciate what is out there, rather than running on what is essentially a boggy, treacherous, clag filled treadmill.

Thanks to all the marshalls who stood out in the bog for hours for us lot to come past and dib, and for the great organisation. Well done to High Peak Rollerbladers, who finally won a prize after a number of years in perpetual 2nd and 3rd place. (ok, they were still 2nd overall, but only by about 15 mins), its one heck of a trophy as well.
And of course thanks to Ben, Chris and Howard for the camaradarie and the trot around the hills. It was (mostly) a pleasure. For a team that was put together at the last minute we hung together well, and ran well. A great night out, but next time... its going to be in the daylight.

If you're interested, here is the track.


  1. Nice one Tim!

    Top post too. I feel knackered just reading it.

  2. Thanks sbrt, I'm still feeling the effects in that one knee isn't yet working properly.
    Turns out that we came 21st of 47 teams.

  3. I'm the person in the purple top in the third picture! Great blog ... our story, which is very similar, is here: