Ultra Great Britain – 200 Mile
DNF. Not something I have ever had to say before. But this was a whole new experience, I’ve ran marathons and baby ultras, even spent 10 and 11 hours running, but being on the go almost constantly for 38 hours with a quick 2 hour restless nap for recovery was new territory.
I covered 120 something miles,probably 7 or 8 of them due to missed turnings and still had over 80 to go when heading into the second night of bad weather, reduced to a 2 mph walk, I decided to pull out for my own safety.
Maybe I should have done a hundred mile race first, or maybe the idea of finishing in Hornsea had proved too tempting, either way I was a broken man and if anyone had seen me wrapped in a survival blanket and wearing all my warm kit, having not showered or slept for a few days they would have probably thought I was a tramp getting bedded down for the night under a bridge!
I had made it past Barnsley and was only 15 miles or so from the next checkpoint, but as it was 8 pm the chances of me getting to it before next morning looked slim.
It hadn’t all been bad though. My brother Adam and myself had set off from southport on the Irish Sea coast, along with 25 other runners at 6 the previous morning. We coasted along nicely through the industrial north west cities, Liverpool, Widnes, Warrington, southport, Manchester, and by the late evening we were hoping to be at Broadbottom and the Pennines. We had kept steady for 14 hours but the first mistakes started to creep in with the early fatigue and missed a couple of turns which resulted in us reaching our destination at 5am, only 6 hours later than we expected!!
Tired and grumpy we checked in, had a brew and some food and had a power nap. Before long our crew woke us to say the checkpoint ( which was also the 24 hour cut off at mile 81) had to be cleaned out by 8 am, which gave us an hour to eat, drink and get going. Still pretty groggy we marched off into the Peak District and to our next destination, a checkpoint 10 miles away. We shuffled the majority of this on stiff legs, Adams feet were crippled with blisters and when we eventually got there in torrential rain he decided to end his race after 91 miles officially (but with the last nights shenanigans probably closer to 100). Gutted for him but determined to get to the next checkpoint and into Yorkshire I then committed ultrarunning suicide.
If I could blast out this next leg quickly, catch a quick nap, then March until night fall I reckoned on getting to Doncaster. Ambitious but like Del Boy said “He who dares Rodney”… After a brisk climb it was gently rolling, then Tarmac downhill, then groomed railway trail. My pace went from 12 min miles which was great, to sub 10 which felt quick, then before long I was holding 7:40 pace for 10k along the best surface I ever ran on! The rail trail felt like race track after the sheep trails I had just been on, but my haste was ultimately my demise!
I checked in before my tracker had registered I was in Penistone. Fed, watered, phone and watch charged and fresh clothes on I felt indestructible, best crack on then.
I ran on.
I was about 3 miles down the track when a phone call from one of the race directors told me I’d missed my turn a couple of miles back, what was a marathon section had now turned into an ultra section and to top it off my coffee buzz was wearing off! This was actually the most scenic and enjoyable part of the experience for me, anyone who has been on the transpennine trail at Penistone on a warm sunny August day will know what I mean. Great trails, beautiful scenery and friendly Yorkshire folk make this a lovely part of the country!
I had hoped to be at Doncaster before 9 pm, about 6 hours after leaving Penistone, my haste had cost me nearly an hour in missing the turning and now I had dropped to 4 mph. This soon turned to 3 mph. My target time was creeping up. 10pm, 11 pm, shit! Another night out!
It started raining again.
By 7pm I was feeling pretty sorry for myself, knowing that hypothermia was a real threat, and ultimately lacking the experience of running through 2 nights and compounded by the fatigue and stressed my legs had accumulated , I found a suitable place under a bridge near a main road and phoned my support crew to come and get me. Game over.
It was 8pm Sunday and I had ran more than 70 miles further than I had done before and had about 5 hours sleep since getting up for work at 5:30 Friday morning. I was knackered but ultimately it was the right thing to stop.
On reflection I’m still a bit gutted not to make it to the finish, but proud to have got as far as I did. The organisers will be doing it in England again in 4 years time (Scotland, Wales and N.I each get a turn) and when they do I’ll sign up again and finish!
Darren here – to highlight how tough the course was, only 11 out of 27 starters finished. First man was Neil Rutherford in 61 hours and 35 minutes. First woman Cat D’Ascendis