Pennine 39 Race Report

I’m eating a leftover sausage roll as I write this.

Yesterday was a funny old day. I put my shoes on and realised that there was a massive hole in the left one, I’d been running on the road this week and I’d completely forgotten that it was that bad… I had a couple of old pairs but they had the same problem. After close examination, the left shoe of one of my old pairs seemed reasonable so I wore that one and kept my newer right one. Soooo odd shoes- good start.

After swerving pigeons, hares and lambs we arrived in Alston to register for the race. As we parked, Ed hit a bollard. No damage but maybe a sign of things to come.

After inspecting the car and feeling relieved that there was no damage (to the car or bollard) we walked up to the Youth Hostel and collected our little numbers. 21 for me ‘I’ve got the key to the door, never been 21 before.’  One of the residents used to sing that to me in a care home I worked in, yes 8 years ago now.

The bus collected us at 8 and I slept the whole way.

The start was at Bowlees, we picked a quiet corner to wait for the final few minutes. I couldn’t help but laugh at Ed, he is so careful to keep his feet as dry as possible when running, a few steps off the bus and he’d planted his foot in a dog bowl full of water.

The weather was good for running, dry and cloudy. I’d tried to learn a bit of the route beforehand but it didn’t really pan out as I imagined. It was grassy and flat to start with, I felt good and we were moving fast. Around one mile in, Ed was chatting away, I was still half asleep. I caught my foot and when stumbling forward, it felt like slow motion. I hit the ground hard, taking the skin off my arm and leg, catching my hands. It really hurt and if I hadn’t been wearing a jacket, could have been much worse. Ed pulled me up and we just kept going- albeit p*ssed off and feeling sorry for myself.

The route crossed fields and tracks, this was good underfoot and the scenery was just lovely. 

We then followed the river up to High Force. This was a really rocky and slippery section, at times I might as well have been on roller skates. After falling earlier I felt a little unsteady on my feet and a lack of confidence in my footing slowed me down.

There was a rather steep rocky climb, an all fours job, made me want to go bouldering again.

Then we hit CP1 Cauldron Snout. From there, a steady descent over tracks and grassy paths led up to the stunningly beautiful view from High Cup Nick. The GoPro decided to strike and after a brief exchange of expletives (Ed to GoPro – me to Ed – Ed to me – me to GoPro…not quite as family friendly as the Chuckle Brothers…) we got it going again. 

A runnable descent brought us to Dufton, a surprise, the first half was a joy (take the fall out of the equation).

CP2 Dufton- Handful of cashew nuts, some cheese and water refill. We were both feeling pretty good. Now the work was going to begin. I got my poles out and off we went up the very steep and achingly long grind up to Green Fell. Had our Cranston’s sausage roll on the way, really good meat to pastry ratio, just what I needed after a couple of hours of sweet ZipVit Bars.

We passed a few people and made steady progress, my arm and hip were stiffening up but I put it to the back of my mind. Eventually, we made it to Green Fell CP3. We had a quick chat with the marshal- posed for a photo (trying to appear OK) and headed off.

I like the section towards Great Dun Fell- the golf ball. It’s partly paved and that means I can work on getting into a steady stride. We made light work of it and soon we were over Little Dun Fell and grafting up the final significant climb up to Cross Fell. The descent off here was a dream. We took a short cut off piste down to Greg’s Hut. Bounding over bog and bouncy moss. The water stop here was a pipe that emerged from the ground- it tasted amazing….but to be fair I was pretty thirsty. In fact we were both fantasising about quenching our thirst when usually our thoughts are focused on ‘what’s for tea?’ Ed was all over a Magners with ice, I was thinking Aperol Spritz.

At this point, despite the various earlier mishaps, we were feeling pretty happy with ourselves. Moving well, enjoying the route, feeling good. We’d planned another little sneak to Garrigill, cut a corner to save .5 of a km. We found the turn off but it didn’t go well. The path was vague and overgrown. I got a thorn in my foot and had to stop and take my gaiters, shoe and sock off so that Ed could pull it out. We wasted time, we lost A LOT of places, I had a tantrum, Ed was p*ssed off…..

What could be worse? Arriving at the CP to see people who you were ahead of by quite a margin looking at you surprised saying ‘I thought you were ahead of us! Take a wrong turn?’ I didn’t think there could be anything worse. But I was wrong, bear with me.

So, we made light work of Garrigill CP 5, disheartened by seeing people in the distance who we were ahead of…our fault but frustrating! We pulled it together and vowed to make the best of it and press on to the finish. To be honest, I was feeling pretty spent, my arm and leg were stinging and the thorn in my foot had not done me any favours. We tried to see the funny side as we jogged the final riverside section. It was quite muddy in parts and we were trying to avoid slippy bits, last thing I needed was another fall. A narrow bit of footpath was quite difficult to negotiate and there was a fence close by that, if we just skirted by, would have made footing a little easier. ‘Ha, you don’t think it’s electrified do you?’ I asked Ed, ‘Don’t be silly!’ He replied.

When you’re tired, hurting, searching for a bit of support, you tend to grasp things, tightly, with purpose, with heart. I grasped that damn fence. AND YES IT WAS #%^@ING ELECTRIFIED!!!!

The final section was existential.

We reached Alston, the finish, and I enjoyed my finishing prize- a bottle of Cumberland Ale. 8hrs 18. Another superb event by Nav4, stunning route, challenging terrain, excellent marshals.

I can’t help but wonder if we’re in some sort of Final Destination situation here though… Watch this space!



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s