Swept along by the tide of the local Fell Running community, I had entered earlier in the year without really thinking what the consequences may be!
It was my first year as a runner and by mid August I had upped my mileage of a single run to a whacking 14 miles on the Sedbergh Hills ( :-D ). September I completed my first marathon distance in the Wistanstow Challenge and it hurt!!! Therefore the idea of 50 miles quite frankly scared the **** out of me....
I managed to recce most of the "Dark Side"albeit only once, and so with an open mind yet a stubborn disdain for a DNF I turned up on that beautiful sunny Saturday, to test my limits..... The atmosphere was buzzing, the weather was scorching! Then "CHARGE!" we were off...
Jim and I took the Caradoc and Lawley very steadily, some advice from an experienced pal was "Don't get out of puff before Pole Bank!" High fives and cheers as the leaders careered back down the Lawley as we were ambling up. The climb up to Pole Bank was draining in the heat... and so long! Then as it started to cool down, we pushed on, picking our way over Stiper's and down into Habberley.
Habberley, now this was definitely one of my highlights. It took some strength to resist a quick pint and the atmosphere there was fantastic! The gorgeous, refreshing apple and mango pieces from the Newport crew gave us such a boost and we took Earls Hill in our stride, flying back down at Fell Race Pace.
So then on to Bank Farm where we were grouped and it was nice to become part of a bigger team in this crazy adventure I was living... After a re-group at Shelve we really started to fly. I couldn't quite believe I wasn't in pain and still felt so strong... Spirits were high!
Then came the mighty Corndon Hill where our friend Matt succumbed to terrible cramps. The noises he made reminded me of noises I once made... when I was in labour! The pain he was feeling must have been truly awful. We stayed with him on the hillside giving him salts and waiting for the pain to pass, in the end Jim and Geoff virtually carried him up to the checkpoint, where his screams continued. Eventually we plodded on down to Woodgate where Matt stayed back to re-group.
A note on grouping.... Yes, it's very frustrating when you feel so strong and want to push on but can't, yes we lost lots of time. But I sure as hell would have hated being stuck on the side of a hill in the cold and dark, on my own.... In labour!!! So from Woodgate we kept getting stronger and faster. What a beautiful clear night it was, I turned my head torch off a couple of times to look at the sky that was strewn with stars, and the hills were alive with flickering head torches.
We shot off down to Bridges where this time I indulged in half a pint of strong lager. The beer gave me wings and I ran ahead for gate duty as we climbed to Pole Cottage. So only one climb up Ragleth left... wow! But descending down to Minton was where my knee started to really hurt: nothing to do but grin and bear it. Ragleth Hill... what a ***** that was to climb that night! It was all I could do to stop myself falling backwards! But was a lovely sight the Checkpoint was, all lit up with flashing LED's and cheery faces. My final descent in the Longmynd Hike was described by Andy as a "Pure Grit Side Step". It was the only forward/lateral motion I could muster that didn't hurt like hell. It was actually quite effective and not all that slow! Through the town and into the finish... We did it!!!
My overall time was 13hrs 4 mins which put me 40th overall, 5th Lady and I won the Mercia Police Trophy for fastest lady novice. (2012 would see me run the Hike in 11hrs 20 mins, I wonder what 2013 will bring?) So the answer to my question "Could I do it?" was yes!!! But not without the help and support I received throughout the whole adventure... The checkpoint folk were fantastic, as were the people cheering along the way. BIG gratitude to Jim, Geoff and Andy for navigation, I hope to remember the route for next year and to pass it on to any newbies I may find myself running with :-)