The Wolds Way Relay
With the greatest respect to those that do it every day, getting up at 6am is thankfully something I’m no longer used to, so to be getting up at 6am to run the 1st leg of the Wolds Way Challenge and kick off the race for the East Hull Harriers mens team, was to say the least a tad nerve wracking.
I’d breakfasted lightly with tea and jammy toast and thanks to the afore mentioned nerves, had an extra toilet visit (less said the better), before setting off to meet up with team captain Matty, the other starters and event dignitaries at Hessle foreshore. Even at that early hour of the morning it was hot and I couldn’t help but think how fortunate I was, that I’d be getting my race out of the way before the sun got really fierce.
I had no idea who I would be up against in my stage of the race, which was probably a good thing, as I’d have been checking their form on Power of 10 etc. all night and adding to the pressure, so it was quite a surprise to find myself in second place, just behind a Beverley runner, as we ran out the opening stages, after event organiser Andy Tate set us off as the speaking clock confirmed it was 7:30. All the talk pre-race suggested that Beverley would be the biggest rivals so I was pleased to be hanging on just behind a Beverley runner, as we reached the chalk riverside path, in a pace that didn’t feel too uncomfortable. After half a mile or so I actually found myself in the lead and started whimsically thinking that the much faster lads following me would have the race won before they’d even started. This was short lived though as Barton’s opening runner became the new leader after about a mile.
We were taking the high tide route, but this itself gave several options for which was the correct route, I’d elected to hug the coastal path, while others took the route through the brickyard. This proved to have mixed fortunes as my Barton rival stopped at the “no entry to general public” sign and turned to follow me. Back in first place now, I ran on to the Road section, only to see the Beverley runner ahead of me, bugger, he’d ignored the sign and now was in the lead. Things got worse as I started the ascent through Ferriby and was passed again by the Barton runner. Now in third spot I resolved to just push on best I could, knowing that our fast lads where yet to come and my job would be to make sure they didn’t start with too catastrophic a deficit.
As we crossed over the A63 and started to head up towards the Scout camp, I surprisingly found myself back in second place, mainly due to the Beverley runner taking a call on his mobile whilst running. As I passed him I heard him say “I’ll have to go, I’m in a race”. I ran on through what was a long slog in the woods and I felt sure that I’d soon be back in 3rd spot, however the challenge still hadn’t come. I even managed to trip over a tree root in the woods with nobody near enough to be offended by my extreme use of Anglo-Saxon language.
This changed however when I reached the gateway to Welton Wold and looked back to see two runners right on my shoulder, I was really tired now and could feel my good position slipping away as I carried on through the long grass and inquisitive cows. It felt like I was now going at walking pace, but to my surprise, as I reached the gate at the end of the field, I looked back to see that I had managed to reopen the gap.
This along with the constant mantra of “doing it for the team” and “don’t let the others down” that was going through my head, managed to see me through the remainder of the course. I can’t tell you how many times my brain told me to stop, but the great responsibility of being in a team somehow gave me the strength to get through, still in second place, knowing that I couldn’t have done any more and relieved that it was now someone elses responsibility to carry the burden (over to you Nige)
The dawn was just breaking on a sunny Sunday morn when Debbie woke me up to look after her child whilst she went for a 12 miler. It was 9 o clock and Conks had already finished his sterling effort on leg one and Nige was busy getting his arse whipped by the Antipodean version of Jimmy Sommerville on leg 2. It was that early Danny hadn’t even got lost yet.
By midday I was dressed, ready, and waiting for Keith who was busy banging on my neighbours door. When we got to the change over point for the start of leg 8 it was still a bit early so we had a wander down to the pub for a bit. Back at the change over point we still had time to kill so we just sat around reminiscing about Keith’s great performance and being kept up to date by Matty on facebook. Then Keith’s phone ran out of battery so were incommunicado. The last we had heard was that it was close so every second counts.
Eventually Nippy came flying out of the bushes like a red vested sasquatch lunging towards me. Initially I feared for my life but then realised he was passing me the green armband. This was it, I was off, pelting down the road far too fast. I had no idea how big our lead was but was determined to hand over that green plastic in 1st place. Once off the road I settled down to a less stupid pace but was still giving it everything. The previous weeks recce meant I knew which way go but I was still checking at every turn as I didn’t want to f*** it up like Danny.
After 5 miles I reached the next change over point and passed the waiting masses, there were only 3 miles to go but I knew it was a tough 3. I had a good view behind me and couldn’t see anyone coming so I knew we had a decent lead so started feeling confident. Then I shut a gate on my leg and fell on my face. Berating myself for being such a tit I leapt up and limped on. With about 2 miles to go I was on the long straight to the finish which was in sight. It might have been straight but it certainly was not flat. I flew down and staggered up the hills until finally I was at the top of that last evil b****** of a hill and could pass on the band to Tony who I didn’t even see leave as I was face down in the grass.
Turns out we had a massive lead and I could have enjoyed a nice pleasant jog in the country.
When word went around the clubhouse about the Wolds Way Relay Challenge, I thought to myself I’d really
like to do something like this, something a little out of my comfort zone. I heard Jan Suddaby was interested in sorting out a team, and as someone who’s already done the full 79 miles herself; I thought she’d be the ideal captain to run for. I told her about my interest and a team was put together. The team consisted of Jan Suddaby (capt.), Shirley Oglesby, Mandy Davison, Linda Huart, Laura and Matt Pinder, Steve Poulsom, Martin Howman, Chris Chestney and myself. Firstly the legs were allocated between us all. I was happy to take a tougher leg so I was given Leg 6 from Thixendale to High Bellmanear, an 8.7 mile route with 1071 ft. of elevation. We all decided on the name ‘Red Arriers’ for our team, as a spin off from the famous Red Arrows.
The following weeks were dedicated to learning and carrying out recces of our leg routes, to familiarize ourselves with what lied ahead. Jan, who went on every recce with us, took me one Sunday morning to foot my route. When we got there, the first thing I noticed was the size of the hills that surrounded the village. I then saw the size of the hill that was my route out of there (looked smaller on Google Earth Street View). As she left me to my own devices, I made my way to the hill and took a leisurely stroll up it. Once at the top I surveyed the amazing view and carried on my way. The first valley wasn’t too far from that point. The hill that led down into it however, was so steep I wish I’d have gone for my anti-gravity boots. Mainly falling, I made it to the bottom and started the inevitable task of fighting my way back out. It was at this point I saw my first living creature on the route as a deer caught my glance and subsequently shot off into the trees. 2 miles of open fields then greeted me; this was a nice and even surprise that was needed after the hills. I then hit the road that passes the medieval ghost town of Wharram Percy and then takes a steady descent into Wharram Le Street. Another hill then welcomed me out of Wharram Le Street, all the way up to the scariest sight of the full leg. A gate with not only a ‘BEWARE OF BULL’ sign on it but a ‘COWS WITH CALVES can be aggressive’ sign too. I entered cautiously. I was happy to say I didn’t see either as I navigated the challenging valley these vicious beasts where supposed to be. After the valley, I made my way along a winding road through a farmyard and then into a steady incline beside a wooded area up to the start of Leg 7. I believed just the one recce would be enough to get me through.
With just weeks until the day, we had our first casualty. Chris had to withdraw due to injury and as he had the longest leg, we thought it would be a hard task to fill the void he left. It wasn’t that hard at all as Richard Stanton accepted the invitation immediately. Once in, he got himself out on a recce of his leg and got ready for when race day came.
I woke up with the sound of Messenger pings from my phone. These were notifications from Jan, that Steve had set the team on its way. I then got up, prepared for the long day and arrived at Golf Club car park for a 09:45 pick-up from Sue Beever. She was escorting Linda, Matt and myself to our starting points at Leg 4, 5 and 6 respectively, while Paul Reed followed behind in his car, to take over the duties once Sue came home.
We arrived at the Leg 4 starting point in Londesborough. The other teams were here, all waiting for the Wolds Way Relay Challenge wristband (the relay baton) from their team-mates still on Leg 3. Knowing we weren’t going to trouble the leaders, the pressure was off in a way, making the race at the front more fascinating for us. Beverley AC were leading into Leg 4 with Danny Wilson only 4 minutes behind for the EHH all male team. Matty Hayes took over from Danny on Leg 4, determined on closing the gap. We continued to watch the rest of the teams fight their way up the final climb of Leg 3 to the handover point, including the EHH all female team as Kadi Huart passed the baton on to Emily Wix. Our team-mate Martin came in just behind the team from Driffield Striders in last place. The effort etched on his face and the way he collapsed on all fours afterwards showed just how difficult the terrain and temperature actually was. Linda took on the wristband from there and the rest of our gang moved onto the next checkpoint.
We decided to stop just before the hill that ran beside Warrendale Plantation, about halfway through Leg 4. We arrived just as Emily Wix was passing by and making her way onto the hill. Not long after Emily, still looking quite strong was the Driffield Strider runner. Knowing we weren’t far behind, we all gazed towards the farm that the course ran straight through, about 400 metres away. We waited impatiently for about 5 minutes, then that unmistakable glimpse of EHH red shone brightly in the distance as Linda made her way towards us. After a fresh bottle of water and more words of encouragement, she was once again on her way.
Our entourage then made it to Millington Top and the start of Leg 5. Linda made it to the handover about 10 minutes adrift, when Matt took over. A few butterflies entered my stomach at this point as it was my turn next. We made our way to the village of Thixendale and the start of Leg 6, this was music to some of the team, as it meant a well earned tea and cake at the Village Hall café. For me however, it was preparation, stretching and steady hydration. As we travelled on the direct route from Fridaythorpe to Thixendale we came across a strange sight. The runner from Driffield Striders running almost flat-out down the steep road. As this was way off course, we knew they had made a bit of a mistake. When we arrived, we met up with some of the crew from the other 2 EHH teams, who had either finished their run or were still left to go. It was nice to catch up and hear their accounts of the day so far. It didn’t take long for the Driffield runner to arrive. Still looking quite fresh, yet confused, she handed over the wristband to send her next team-mate on his way. An honest mistake or not, she had taken her team up a place, passing the EHH all female team. We took refuge in the café out of the blazing afternoon sun while we waited for Matt. My nerves had picked up a bit knowing it wasn’t going to be long before it was my turn to do my bit for the team, so a toilet stop was needed. While I was in the toilet, I heard a load bang. I exited the toilet and café to find Paul Reed’s car had been bumped into by one of the clumsy locals.
With all the commotion about ‘mistakegate’ and ‘cargate’, it was a nice sight to see Matt enter the village. Congratulating him in, I took the wristband and started my watch. I was off! As the encouragement died down I hit the hill at the end of the village. I decided against power walking it, as I saw Alison Burnett run it some time before. A satisfying 9.45 for the tough first mile really got the blood pumping and the sweat pouring as the first of the two valleys on my leg came into view. I tried to relax and let gravity take its course as I descended into the valley. Easier said than done as I felt I could nosedive at any minute, so I held up and made sure I remained upright. Coming out the valley was a different story altogether as power walking came to the fore. The open fields were much easier however and even though the terrain was very uneven, they were fairly level in the terms of hills. This is where the sun started causing me some problems as there was no shade to hide from the baking heat. I still pushed myself on a bit here as I knew I had the steady sloping descent of the road into Wharram Le Street to come. I hit the road and picked up the pace, this was my chance to get some time back I’d lost on the climbs. An added bonus was that our team had organised to meet me at Wharram Le Street for refreshments and a good ol’ verbal pick-me-up. As I made my way towards the village, I was travelling at a pleasing pace of 7.30m/m. Taking the right turn and down towards the main road I saw the gang just before the left hander. A brief swig of fresh cold water and a nice cool drenching from the gang and I was on my way. Disappointingly, the downhill section didn’t last that much longer and ended at the start of another hill, one that directed me back into the rural countryside. Tiredness turned to nervousness as I approached the second valley on my run and the infamous ‘BEWARE OF BULL’ sign. After a quick scan of the valley, seeing nothing apart from sheep and lambs, I entered. On the steep descent I realised that I had another problem. Stopping yourself going arse over tit was probably more painful than going arse over tit itself. The beck at the bottom was very welcomed. It was here I took a brief respite to rest my burning thighs. Burning thighs turned to burning calves (muscle not animal) as I made my way slowly out of the steep valley. I made it to the single track road absolutely exhausted. Slowly but surely I picked up a reasonable pace as I navigated up the winding road through the farmyard and made it to the wooded area that adjoins the Leg 7 handover. The heat was really taking its toll now, but with only a steady inclined mile to go, I was happy about how things were going. I made the last turn before the long straight and immediately saw the gang waiting for me in the distance. I could hear the cheers as I got ever closer and despite my legs and lungs burning, I rewarded them by pushing myself for the last 300 metres or so. I’d done it, in a time of 1:26.33. I gave Richard the wristband and wished him good luck as I sank down trying to get my breath back. An ice-cold water soon had me sorted as we travelled to the next handover point.
Here we met the final 3 from our team, Mandy, Laura and Shirley. Here I found a nice shaded area, relaxed and had something to eat. As we waited for Richard we saw the team from Beverley AC and Annaliese Tomlinson from the EHH all female team. We didn’t have to wait long for Richard, who managed a superb 1:21. This gave us a nice safety margin to complete the run in the allocated time. Mandy took the baton from here, but wouldn’t be alone as Linda, not intent on just running the tough Leg 4, joined her to keep her company. Our entourage, now without Sue, who had returned home after her great help and support during the day, were once again on its way.
At the Leg 9 handover, attention turned to our watches as we worked out what pace was needed from then on in. We were also joined by Janice Wilcock, who came to give her support. We looked nervously for the girls as we started to feel the pressure of time. We spotted a slither of bodies between some trees in the distance, and then a buzz went around as they emerged into the overgrown field that preceded the handover. It was Laura’s turn now to feel the pressure as the 20:30 deadline quickly approached.
After a quick drive to the final handover point I glanced at the time. I started playing with the idea that we might not make it on time. Then I saw the size of the hill that Laura had to climb at the end of her leg. I decided, along with Jan, to go down the hill and give her any extra support she needed. As she passed by, with Jan following closely behind, I realised that she had everything in hand as she flew up that hill without a second thought, leaving me to struggle my way back up. By the time I’d got to the top, Shirley had gone.
The final journey took me and Paul hastily to Filey Brigg to meet up with the other teams and more importantly wait for Shirley’s arrival. We arrived just in time to see Katie Seddon complete the challenge for the EHH all female team. We joined them at the plinth to congratulate their achievements. I soon noticed that the rest of our gang hadn’t turned up yet, so I got my phone and as I was just about to send them a message I found a photo of them all enjoying a well deserved alcoholic beverage in Muston, waiting for Shirley to pass.
As myself, Paul and most of the other EHH gang waited around Filey Brigg for the final competitor to come in, the rest of our gang arrived. They told us the news that Shirley was flying as she past them in the pub and was due in very soon. It was now 20:20, 10 minutes to go. Nerves were building as me and Jan looked over the cliff towards Filey beachfront for any sign of her. 2 minutes had passed when a loud cry of “She’s there!” echoed around the cliff top as Shirley made her entrance at the top of the steps. With about 200 metres to go, everyone headed once more to the plinth to see a fresh looking Shirley bring it home for The Arriers. We’d done it, with just over 6 minutes to spare. We congratulated Shirley and joined her for a team photo at the plinth. Richard then handed out some plastic glasses and popped open the Prosecco as we celebrated our achievement.
Stories were then shared between the 3 EHH teams as we collected our finisher’s prizes (2 bottles of Wolds Top Wolds Way beer and a limited edition wristband). Talk was then directed to the possibility of a Wolds Way Relay Challenge in reverse (forward was difficult enough), and as I enjoyed the day so much, I declared myself in!
All the team wanted now was a nice big fish ‘n’ chip supper. So we all made our way into Filey and completed our fantastic day by comically following each other the wrong way down a one-way street, to the disgruntled look of a very pissed off BMW driver.
FINAL RESULT: 12:53.53