Saturday's Wuthering Hike race was an absolute cracker, probably all the more enjoyable because it was the first time I have taken part. I've been meaning to run it for a couple of years now, but for one reason or another it hasn't happened.
As with all these self-navigation events it is a good idea to recce the course before hand, not only to get to know the route, but also to work out how best to run the race, which I fortunately had the opportunity to do 8 days before the event. On the face of it the 'Hike' part of the race's title doesn't seem to do it justice, but like a number of similar events it tells the story of it's origin as more of a challenge event as opposed to a race. Over the years this has changed, it is now very much a competitive race (as well as a hike/ challenge), and previous times confirm that those at the sharp end don't tend to hang around. Also, being part of the Vasque UK Ultra Running series, competition is strong.
The first leg which heads roughly west from the event base in Haworth, Yorkshire, was all about fighting the wind demons. It was a westerly wind and on the exposed moors of Bronte country it made for tough conditions. Whilst I felt strong, there was extra effort being put in to counter the wind, it was unsettling and made it hard to find any good rhythm.
There was however some payback later on. As we turned south-east climbing up on to the Long Causeway at around 14miles we started to get blown gently along. It was like a hand gently pushing your back; very welcome, particularly on the climbs. Into the second half of the race the group of three I was running with - Mark Palmer, Jonathan Wright and myself - started to break clear from the chasing group who up to then had been within sight. We hadn't picked the pace up, but just ran evenly and consistently and continued to do so whilst the others may have started to slow. The three of us seem to develop a silent understanding, sharing the work of front running, chatting at times and generally helping the time and miles to pass by.
Down into 'Tod' and then the stiff climb up to 'Stoodley Pike' to re-join the Pennine Way, I started to get the feeling the race was about to get going. The next climb, out of Hebden Bridge up to Heptonstall, was where it all started to happen. Mark Palmer and myself pushed on the long road climb, running side-by-side, matching each other stride-for-stride. 'Evil hill' I commented. It was. On the trail descent from Heptonstall Mark was quicker than me, showing his strong fell running background, probably putting 20metres or so between us. But there was a long drawn out climb of three miles or so still to go to take us up to the top of 'the stairs' which was effectively the last pass across the moors before the final descent and run-in to Haworth. I reeled Mark in again and we ran the track climb together, then a brief downhill to the final checkpoint before a stiff road climb to 'the stairs'. It was tough, neither of us wanted to fall off the back, we both clearly matched each other for stubborness. The closer to the finish we got, the faster the pace got; up and up the pace went. Moor Side Lane was the final stretch of climb of the race, we still ran side by side up to the quarry, contouring round the far side. It was a mile to go. I decided it was now or never so I pushed the pace towards a sprint. It was a bit risky but thankfully it paid off, I managed to put 10 metres or so between us, or at least that's what it sounded like, but I couldn’t look back for fear of tumbling over! Finally on to the cobbled High Street of Haworth, I was all out sprinting down the hill before the steep turn-off back to the Community Centre, and with it the relief of a hard fought win.
There was a great atmosphere in the centre after the race with a real community feel about it. Events like this are what it's all about; sensible entry fees, a great route, raising money for charity and a great bunch of people to enjoy the experience with.
Thanks to the organisers, marshalls and fellow competitors for a great day out.
See here for results: http://www.keighleyandcravenac.co.uk/kc_races/pdf/hobble/09_haworth_hobble.html
- Jez Bragg
- Welcome to my blog which I hope to develop with some interesting material on ultra running both on the trails and road including reports on races and interesting training runs, views on kit and equipment as well as anything else I find of interest. I love running for adventure, opportunity and well being. Enjoy!