Tuesday, 18 March 2014

February Challenge: Round Hull - 43 miles

Same weather, but another month has passed and come the end of February it was time for challenge two. And my quite well planned/recce’d Round Hull Run. It may seem odd that I’ll run an non-local event/race without seeing the course, yet want to know a lot about a route in my own back yard. But when you enter an event/race a certain amount of route marking or at least route checking/writing is done for you.  Plotting the route also revealed to me how little I know about off-road paths east of Hull – I’m pretty “au fait” West and getting there with north. And considering the length of the undertaking I didn’t want to make a poor route choice that would cause extra miles if the path on the map wasn’t a reflection of reality.

Back to the task in hand, about 43 miles of varying terrain around, and at some points through, Hull. To run a loop around – preferably outside of built-up areas where at all possible – the city. My friend and companion for many a long run over the past 5 years Mark Dalton was able to make it down to join me for this one, company which would be a big bonus. He arrived before 8 and I’d already been up nearly two hours getting breakfast and last minute kit packing/checks. I said good bye to Clare and Isaac, then Mark and I took a short drive north to Wawne – a village north of the city of Hull on the east bank of the River Hull.

Parked up, we got bags and gear ready, I realised I’d forgot my chia drink bottle so would have to rely on water in my packs bladder till about half-way when Clare would meet us. Mark provided some last minute energy in the form of chocolate he’d got at clearance from his work as it was on (or just passed) date – a useful job perk for a long-distance runner. And at 8:47 we were off – heading east (clockwise) back through the village from where I’d parked by the river.

Nothing too scary was weather forecasted, light cloud and only a small chance of rain. But, as forecasted the wind-machine had turned on, but was helping us initially as it blew from the south-west (SSW to be exact). We made quick progress on tracks and paths, which had dried nicely over the last few weeks to Fairholme house Bridge where we started to zig-zag south-east getting a taster of the wind challenge to come on this exposed stretch. We were soon in Swine and much faster than I’d thought, we were running a decent pace for a road long run at this point!

Towards and through Swine we made good on a few miles of minor roads before crossing the A165 at Coniston. About 100 metres down Thirtleby lane we swerved left on a path through a field and made our way to pass just east of Bilton on field-edge paths. Turning east we followed the road to Wyton and then back into the fields and a challenging stretch across a ploughed field due south into the teeth of the wind. Once over the field a small nav error as I missed the bridge over the ditch and we had to track a few hundred yards west. We continued south over a few more fields, with more shelter from hedgerows for bits before we closed in on Preston. Here is was a west turn to experience the wind furthermore down the long-straight Neat marsh Road that would bring us close to Hull.

The path alongside Alexandra dock, complete with superferry
It had warmed up a bit and our fast start had continued so we stopped to take on some energy. Half a Clif bar seemed good for me as mark tucked in to peanut butter sarnies. I had already reached for energy on the move earlier – apple, half a 9-bar - as trying to keep my levels as topped up as possible as we kept a good pace up. As I really didn’t want to burn out too early today and face a long walk to the end.

Hull loomed into view, firstly Saltend Chemical works, and the top of the big north sea ferry in the docks. The road, now a rutted track, hit the suburbs of Hull near Marfleet and we followed the edge of a field south to join the long, now tarmacked, ex-railway line path as it burrowed into Hull. Passing Craven Park I attempted to explain the east-west rugby rivalry to Mark. After just over a mile we took the railway bridge path south, over the goods railroad and we then crossed Hedon road and followed the road to the river-front between King George and Alexandra Dock.

This was the bit I’d feared, seeing the forecasted wind and now I was here could see we were in for a challenging stretch along the riverfront path. I run this path to work and back regularly, but rarely when there’s such a strong wind and with 15m already in my legs. I stopped to picture the waves, it was quite a low tide, but seeing the waves bashing the river defences beside path you’d think this were a seafront not a river (I know,  tidal estuary to be precise). We now faced potentially the next 10 miles on exposed river-front paths being buffeted by a south westerly building up momentum over the river. Head down time and luckily plenty to see along the river section – I could do a bit of a Hull tourist guide thing for Mark :)

I’m not sure what it is about this path, but I don’t tire of running between the docks and river and then along the “prom” of the Victoria dock village. Sometimes you get great sunrise and sunsets and on a sunny day I think the views along river are great. Although I love running countryside trails, hills and mountains the most, I think what highlights this section for me is the old dock warehouses. Timbers left to rot and fall into the river, industrial skeletons, now detached from the riverside, the graffiti remaining on them will never be cleaned off. Maybe I’m a biast local? As I also find the huge abandoned mills alongside the River Hull somewhat spellbinding – a remnant of the past industrial heritage, the city has moved on, but it’s still there, silent and slightly foreboding.

Back to things running, after crossing the marina at the lockgates – glad they were shut, saves a half mile round trip – it was onto the elevated section of path which runs over the roofs of Albert dock warehouses. A bit of a novel route I’ve always thought, I explained to Mark that I think it was built for people to view a “royal arrival” by boat to this dock a long time ago, but wasn’t really sure. For completeness of my rugby league brief started in the east, I also pointed out the KC stadium from this elevated viewpoint. Tourism aside, the effect of running into the wind was tiring me so I opted we take a more sheltered route from St Andrews Quay down Hessle road to our halfway food stop in Hessle square. The original planned route being the path running along the south of the A63 close to the river. The combo of more wind-blasted miles combined with the traffic roaring past didn’t enthral me.

It was now early afternoon and it was starting to feel warm. Maybe a trick of the wind, but I was also thirsty and glad when we trotted into Hessle square just inside of four hours and just over 22m. Clare had passed us on the way in as we took a ‘rare’ walk-break – honest – and I was glad to see her, Isaac and my bottle of chia charge mix – which would be welcome in the second half. The excitement was lost on my 1 year old who was mid-nap.

The Real Sandwich shop was still open and the massive choice on offer must have been too much for my brain. So I just went for a cheese and spring onion and a bottle of coke and we sat down on a bench in the square to eat. Ten minutes later, onwards again and we headed down station road and then took the path under the Humber bridge and dipped down the steps into the Country park and out again onto the shore.

Passing the - still shut after “Storm surge” flooding – Country Park Inn we were confronted by a confusing array of signs at the start of the shoreline path to Ferriby. On one hand very large “path entry / no access” signs on the other a sign saying this path will be closed for works until “21/02/2014”, i.e. yesterday. Was it finished or would we find an impassable section of path collapsed into the river? We took a chance, went down the path, and it paid off. There was just a short section of closed path with works vehicles around it and nothing going on today (a Sunday). We were able to get around this and run on a new piece of defence wall that had been built, before re-joining the path and running into Ferriby.

Ferriby Church
We passed through the village up Church Rd, High street and passed the pub, before an upward turn to climb Woodgates Lane and the start of the day’s undulations-cum-hills. Near the top we cut through the plantation and crossed the field passed the ‘radio mast tree’ and into the next plantation, which I always knew when young as Scout Wood. Down the hill past the small campsite and we carefully negotiated Melton Bottom road before heading uphill on the track through Bow Plantation with the large chalk quarry to our right. At the path junction we made a left following the Wolds Way route as it visited the edge of pretty Welton village and then headed through scenic Welton Dale. With its grassy bank to the west and tall tree covered bank east, one of the most scenic parts of the county.

We followed the Wolds way as it undulated along paths to the hamlet of Waudby and then on tracks through ‘muddy cross roads’, York Grounds Farm and on to cross Riplingham Rd. North of the road we picked up a field edge path that led north-east tick up the eastward bound track then road into Skidby – munching mini-jaffa cakes as we went. We were more run-walking now than in the urban sections, tiring but enjoying the going, especially with the wind now behind us. Leaving Skidby – our second-to-last village on route – we tracked north to Risby Parks and took the road east to cross the A164.

Now on narrow woodland/crop-field tracks – ‘Jillywoods’ – the light turned golden as the sun lowered in the sky and behind thin cloud, lighting up the area in a warm, comforting way. Time to eat again and we shared a peanut butter sandwich as we moved along wriggling paths towards the electrical substation ahead. Beyond the quite scary substation we crossed the railway line and the route felt more suburban again. Under the A1079 we picked up a green lane into Dunswell as the sky darkened with clouds, the sun now setting.

A last brief negotiation of a muddy track and we came to the Beverley-Hull road and crossed, heading down a road to pick-up the river Hull. The next section had frustrated me in route planning, I’d really wanted to cross the river near Wawne, but the nearest bridge is a few miles south at Kingswood or a few miles north at Beverley (how inconvenient). So we’d have to head south along the west bank of the river here, cross the bridge, and head back north up the other river bank to get to Wawne. I’d even considered planting a dirigible boat here at one stage to save some running – but then sanity prevailed, running 40 miles and then drowning in a muddy river to save a miles running wouldn’t be good.
The River Hull, in evening colours.

It was running into the wind time down towards the bridge and Mark was flying, I’d got a slight energy return, but couldn’t keep up at this stage until he stopped for a walk. Over the bridge and we made quick work of the final mile and a half – wind now behind us – up the meandering river bank to return to my car parked by the river. A good days running - as we completed the loop of Hull and nearby countryside on a varied and interesting route.

The final scores on the doors were 43.6 miles in 8 hours-and-38 minutes. Now for possibly the highlight of the day the return home to feast and replace the 4500 or so calories burned. In fact there was no chance of doing this in one go, so I would get to help myself to “seconds” guilt-free till at least Tuesday. A curry takeaway from Raj Pavilion was the choice this evening. And that’s 2 down and 10 to go! Next up, the 10 miles+ longer and considerably hillier Hardmoors 55 in the North York Moors on the 22nd March.

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