Tuesday, 22 July 2014

May Challenge: The Centenary Way - 83 miles: part 2


Passing through Birdsall, which is less a village and more a large farmyard for a country estate with quite a grand church, approaching 40m I make two small navigational errors, adding perhaps a few hundred yards back-tracking and this gives me a keenness to make good progress. So into a very wet field I try to push hard over soft ground and mud. Then through a succession of fields I have to take a line along the lower edge of fields through very soft often tussocky ground, which is very hard work on the legs. Why.... well cows in these fields are showing too much interest on the higher ground at the other side of the fields, following me at a distance, making aggressive movements and noises. It all sounds quite ridiculous now, but was quite worrying at the time.

I'm glad to get into North Grimston away from wet fields and cows for the minute. 9hrs 33mins run / 5:04am. I text Clare my progress, "over 42m done, all ok here xx" and I'm onwards across more fields to and through Settrington. After my efforts descending to Birdsall and through the fields I'm in need of a boost as I follow field-edge tracks and emerge onto a road outside Norton. I run and walk into the town hoping I can find somewhere in Malton/Norton that I can buy some food or drink for a more substantial feed after surviving so far on flapjack, biscuits, chocolate, energy bars and sandwiches. I'm in luck - there's a One Stop open from 6am. I figured I might be an unusual sight walking in covered in mud and sweat with a backpack at such an early hour, but nobody passes comment.

I feel that little bit happier walking into town drinking a capri sun and eating a cheese and ham slice. I have half of both and stash the rest for later. Malton is just waking up as I pass through the middle of town, some people walking dogs, going to work. I'm moving slow, digesting food and trying to track the route through the town, eventually joining a grassy path along the River Derwent, heading out of town south-west. I'm past half way and can soon look forward to some company.


Ruins of Kirkham priory
 Although there are no food checkpoints as in organised challenge events I can't claim this was a fully unsupported venture. As my good friend Mark Dalton would be joining me not long from now, off the back of a night shift too, so we could share in running through sleep deprivation. In fact Mark would also be working this evening so would only have a small window to get some rest today. But he didn't mind as it was all good sleep deprivation training for the upcoming, inaugural, Hardmoors 160 that he would be running in - and I thought 83m was tough!

But I couldn't wish away the miles between Malton and Kirkham Priory where I'd be meeting Mark at 8.15am. Though, with hindsight, if I could wish away a chunk of mileage this would be it! The rain returned for an hour or so and these miles along the riverbank were on wet, muddy, almost flooded grass paths at times. and the foliage was well grown in places too and soaking me as I whipped past. These were slow miles, but I could afford to do a slow run/walk and still arrived down the Hill into Kirkham (53.5m) on time to meet Mark driving into the village. After he parked up he offered me some water to top up on and some donuts from his work, fresh(-ly defrosted) this morning, still tasted good.

We crossed the Derwent and walked through the riverbank woods before climbing up to Crambeck and crossing the A64 (where cars seemed to be driving past all at 100mph). It was nice to walk, run and have a chat rather than just listen to what was in my head for awhile. The sun even came out for awhile around about the time we started to round the Castle Howard estate, which was an unexpected bonus.

Howardian Hills

We were now in the midst of the Howardian Hills 'Area of outstanding natural beauty' so we started to pick up a few hills again climbing in the woods north of Coneysthorpe. Heading just north of east we picked up a succession of woods along ridge with views to our left of the North York Moors and White Horse at KilburnWith the trees trapping warmed air and lots of water and mud on the ground it started to feel a bit sticky in the woods.
More ruins at Sheriff Hutton, maybe they thought the same of me?

After a few miles we dropped out back on to farm land at Hollin Hill, and through a grassy valley before climbing to and through Terrington. A long lane followed to Mowthorpe on this undulating stretch of the route, before a trudge uphill to High Stiffenham (70m). About this time is started to feel quite sleepy and lethargic so took onboard a caffiene gel and water to wake me up. This may explain why on the way down we missed a path through a field as I lazed in navigation. This meant go around the large field, or through it. I figured I'd tackled some pretty sodden terrain already this day so we may as well go through the thigh high crops, giving us a good soaking after drying up in the last few hours.

More was to come, on the way into Sheriff Hutton the variable weather of our journey added another factor, a cooling of the air and a sudden blast of hail and sleet. We decided this was enough to don waterproof top and bottoms and I rapidly cooled as I struggled to unzip a crystalised zip on a leg of my montrail overtrousers. The hail only lasted about as long as my efforts to get the trousers on - but after this I kept them on throughout the rest of the journey. Partly becacuse of the unpredictable weather, partly as I knew getting them off again would be hard work.

I stopped to take a few pictures of the castle in Sheriff Hutton, before we pushed on along long gravel lanes and tracks southwards. After a slowing for a few miles in the undulations of the Howardian Hills, we were now running more again, although now I could only run for 5-10 minutes before needing a walk break. Mark drove me on well on this section of long field edge tracks, running for longer at a time than I might have asked myself to had I been alone.

Snow in York ?!

The Foss walk

Just before Strensall we joined the River Foss, along the banks of which the majority of the rest of the journey would follow. This varied from 'improved' paths, to semi-solid paths, to wet and grown-up foliage. And as with most paths improved around urban areas. The minor-frustration during this section, whilst tired, was the large meandering curves of the river we had to follow. By now I just wanted to bash-on as straight as possible. 

Through Haxby and Huntington the green areas gave way to suburbs and then light industrial units as we hit the edge of York. The sun came out near to the end and I decided to risk changing out of my 20 hour worn and stinking running base-layer top into a nice airy t-shirt. Although the waterproof over-trousers stayed on. I must have made quite a fashion statement to those we passed from now on.

Our game of "spot the Minster" didn't deliver till surprisingly close to our destination. Once in York we had to find our way to the finish as my garmin battery had finally given way a few miles back, OS maps are difficult to follow in town and the Centenary Way signs again seemed to disappear, or we'd strayed off route. Luckily Mark was pretty astute on his York navigation and was able to guide us in as well as Clare to a car park (via me text messaging). 

There was still time for the weather to change once more and the rain came back within a mile of our destination prompting the jacket back out of the bag. we also came across the quite bizarre sight of snow on a path! I kid you not, I thought I was hallucinating at first, but it was very real and I pictured to prove it.

Leaving the Foss near Foss Islands we battled through Saturday afternoon York crowds along the famous York narrow, cobbled shopped lanes and arrived at the giant York landmark. 

With my garmin battery having ran out of juice in in the Huntington area and me not accurately remembering finishing time my estimate time/distance for completing this - probably accurate to a few minutes and tenths of a mile - was 21 hours and 85.4 miles. And although not a challenging hill route for the most part about 6150ft of ascent and descent.

Me at the Minster, probably
needing to lean on that post
Mark my run-companion, pace-setter, navigator
and sanity-keeper for the last 30 miles
'Normal' people and the Minster

All that now remained was for us to take some pictures and head back to Foss Islands where Clare and Isaac met us - afterall,what hardship is another half mile on such a day? After a quick catch up Mark and I ventured into Morrisons to grab food and drink. I'd been running low the last few hours so was glad of a 500ml bottle of fizzy drink and a couple of steak pies! Not ideal post-run food, but will do for now.

How not to implement your recovery strategy!

We then all crammed in Clare's car and gave Mark a lift back to his car. Clare and I stopped on the way back for fish and chips, which we took to our hotel. We were in the third floor of the hotel I booked, which wasn't ideal for my tired legs, but meant a nice big family suite with a separate room Isaac could sleep in so we could put him to bed before we went. 

A nice idea in theory.... in reality after what turned out to be disappointin fish and chips I was cold and got in the bath. As I struggled to keep awake Clare battled to set an over-excited Isaac down. I think I spent an hour-and-a-half in that bath in a pattern of fall asleep, wake-up, run more hot water to get washed, fall asleep again, repeat till wrinkly

I eventually crawled out of the bath, feeling quite nauseous and decided this might be a good time (or bad time) to have my post-run bottle of 'for goodness shake'. The vitamins and nuitrients in this must have been what I needed after the fried and baked food of the last few hours. And I was able to settle down to sleep.

In the morning I was able to patch up my feet, which weren't as battered as feared and stiffly get up and down the strairs to deliver bags back to car and enjoy a nice hotel breakfast or cereals, toast and full english.

The day was spent doing the normal weekend things, shopping in York at Clifton moor, me struggling to keep up with a toddler :) In many ways after a day spent doing the out-of-the-ordinary it was nice to get back to doing what would be considered by most as more the ordinary. But more than that it was a source of happiness, pride and some relief that I'd achieved what I set out to do. I often do long runs and races, but this was significantly longer than most challenges I'd taken on in the past year. I could now look forward to a holiday and then some peak bagging in just over a months time.


  1. Good stuff Dan. Great to see your still keeping keen with different challenges.

  2. Cheers Simon. Hope the Lakeland 100 went well?