Race Report

Wuthering Hike

March 2006

from Mick Loftus

Described as: '31 miles traversing gritstone moors around Haworth, Todmorden and Hebden Bridge 4,400 ft of ascent/descent maximum time allowed 12 hours. Luckily, I didn't need the full 12 hours. It can be entered as a team of two or on your own. I did the latter and was the only Strider there. After an early 8 o'clock start we set off up past Top Withins and onto the Pennine Way. It was a lovely day, dare I say a little too warm at times (for March anyway).

Now 31 miles is a long way, which no one in their right mind would want to race. However, if you think of it in terms of Rombalds, Blubberhouses or the Burley Bridge instead of the London Marathon then it isn't that far. It is not as if there are mile markers, it is more a case of watching the hours pass by. The atmosphere was relaxed, there were plenty of cakes at the feed stations and there is no embarrassment about walking or running very very slowly. Interestingly all the other runners I spoke to were all experienced ultra runners. To them this was a walk in the park (albeit a longish one). This was my first time at a 26+ race.

The course covered many West Yorkshire Pennine beauty spots; Bronte Falls, Top Withins, the Pennine Way, the open moors, Studely Pike, Heptonstall and Hardcastle Crags. There were around 200 starters, some of whom were planning to walk the course. After the start the field soon spread out and I found myself hanging on to the back of a lead group of about 12 runners. This remained the case for a further 25 miles or so. I had to hang on because I didn't know the route. Although I had a map and could have navigated my way around, it would have taken much longer. By the climb up to Studely Pike the miles were starting to take their toll on my legs. There was a descent to the edge of Hebden Bridge and a gruelling climb to Heptonstall. The front half of the lead group went wrong in Hebden Bridge and rejoined the group I was in on the climb. They soon passed me. After another descent to Hardcastle Crags car park we had covered around a marathon. Then there was a long steady climb to 'Top of Stairs'. This section finished me off. I lost contact with all of the others and was passed by a couple more runners.

At the final check point I asked them how far it was back. They said, in that infuriating way non-runners do, 'Oh about 4 or 5 miles I guess', instead of something like 'Approximately 2.7 miles with 240 ft of ascent'. Getting the map out I realised that it was infact about 1.5 miles, I pressed on with another runner who had caught me. We thought we might manage 4.5 hours. I finished very slowly in 4:33 in 15th place.

All the group I had been with finished in around 4:15 give or take 5 minutes. However, one Donald Naylor finished in 3:46, 26 minutes clear of the second runner. He must have been out of sight throughout the race.

It was an excellent event, a good route and there was a meal at the finish. A good introduction to a marathon+ distance. In my completely unrepresentative and anecdotal experience of such events, the recovery is much quicker than following shorter road events.