Monday, 27 August 2012

Hadrian's Wall 2012 - Carlisle to Newcastle

Inspired by a similar race that was organised along a similar route in June (but not by its £250 price tag ), we'd originally planned to run it early that month, but my ankle injury  put it on the back burner until the 18th/19th August.
Beforehand there were plenty of unknowns - how would our bodies react to back to back 30 and 40 mile days? how fast should we go on day 1 so we could still have something in the tank for Sunday? would we get blisters? would we keep pace with each other for the whole 2 days? How much food could I physically eat on the train up to Carlisle?

We booked the train well in advance and it cost us £9 to get to Carlisle from New Mills - bargain. We hit the trail round the back of the leisure centre and were on our way. The Wall has been built on, demolished and long forgotten in the immediate vicinity of Carlisle and it would be 3 hours until we caught our first glimpse of what we'd come all this way to see.
Along this first stretch of the trail there were a couple of honesty boxes where you could get water, chocolate and crisps in return for leaving some money. We were carrying plenty of gear and I wanted to be as self sufficient as possible so didn't bother with anything but it was a nice touch.

Despite having known each other for over 3 years, we've only run together once before at last year's Snowdonia Marathon, so 2 days of running side by side was going to be interesting. I was allocated map reading duties (head East!) whilst Nick kept us on pace with his garmin.

The terrain on Saturday was fairly flat with perhaps 2000' of climb, but in a lot of places the mud was ankle deep and even the high ground was waterlogged after weeks of rain. I struggled in a pair of trail shoes and Nick seemed to be having fun too in his road/trail numbers.
Hadrians Wall Path sign
We made it to the pub just in time for last orders on food (steak and ale pie apiece) and plan our approach to Sunday.

After the day's slog over muddy ground we opted to take the road option as early as possible on Sunday to get some traction going and bash out a few quick miles.

Having being tipped off that the first few miles of the second day were pretty hilly, we decided to power walk the first 5 miles to get our legs going again. The section featured some of the best preserved bits of the Wall so it was good to be able to take it all in and admire the views over the moorland.

With our legs nicely warmed up we broke into a trot after 3 miles along a nice grassy stretch of ground leading off the moorland.
Nick came into his own on this section and we were soon doing 7:30 minute miles down the alarmingly hilly road - a sign of things to come!
Seeing this sign below really brought the scale of things home - having an end destination to aim for made things feel like they were drawing to an end, even though that end was a good few hours away!
only around a marathon to go!
The contours on the Harvey's map belied the hilliness of the roads outside Chollerford and Brunton. We'd hashed out a strategy for the rest of the run - get some quick miles under the belt, we were nearly on the last section of the map and could sense the end - when a whacking great 1 in 3 hill loomed into view up the road. This section was really hilly and soon after the heavens opened.

The next few miles were a case of plodding down the side of the road through a contstant stream of water with our heads down, over unrelenting hills with traffic constantly showering us with water from the puddles. We had a quick pit stop in the lobby of a cafe to sort our clothes out, fill up our water bottles and have some of our food - I was starting to get a bit ratty at this point; I could feel the effects of the cold and rain starting to set in so the fact we got some shelter was key to how the rest of the day would progress.

By this stage we had about 10 miles to go and were approaching the outskirts of Newcastle. After running to the end of the main road and over the flyover, we were into the last village before the city limits. Although there were a few signposts, navigation was a bit fiddly round this section and we had to stop and ask for directions.

Having being put on the right course we were grateful of a long downhill stretch, which took us round a corner where the Tyne Bridge loomed into view - the scale of what we'd done was starting to sink in now.

By this stage we'd covered about 60 miles over 2 days and were starting to feel the effects of our running. I was aware of a dull ache in my left leg that would prove to keep me awake for the next 2 nights, and Nick was starting to wobble a bit.

We downed the last of our energy gels and plodded on. By now the Hadrian's Wall Path had become Hadrian's Way and we were in suburbia.

This last section was flat and allowed us to get up a good head of steam. The rain was relentless now and we were both soaked to the bone.
We were still bashing out 8 minute miles during the final run along the quayside in Newcastle, but when the wall path fizzled out and we found ourselves running down the back of a housing estate past kids on bikes and empty pizza boxes, we decided to call it a day.

After 17 hours and 24 minutes of running over 2 days, covering 68 miles, we were at Journey's End - a terraced house in Byker.

Back at the train station we attracted a few funny looks as we:

stripped off in the pub toilets and tried to dry ourselves off - a geordie bloke walked in and asked 'what's going on here like?!'
ordered 2 pints of water at the bar and poured recovery powder into them whilst dripping water all over the floor
boarded the train dressed in bin bags provided from Burger King and shaking uncontrollably (me)


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  2. Great story, I've been thinking of doing the same myself. I need to get the mileage up first though