For a while now, there have been a few of the club’s “plus 40” gang debating whether to make the leap into the murky and sordid world of the ultra-marathon. Perhaps this is due to the threat of the young, new (and quick) talent that seem to have arrived at the club, signalling our retirement. Or perhaps just a midlife crisis. Next up then, the leggy blond and the sports car. But first of all, I had to complete the Long Mynd Hike. A gruelling 50 mile event over the stunning Shropshire countryside, with over 500 other runners/hikers, but I think most present tried to run this one.
Starting at 1pm on Saturday, meant that even the quick ones would be running a good chunk of this race at night. The list of kit required was extensive, and the pre-race check thorough. I failed at this first hurdle, spending a few moments trying to find the right sized triangular bandage. However, luck was on my side in the form of the weather. A beautiful clear day, with fair temperatures, meant conditions were perfect, better than last year’s heatwave. I was also lucky in that I had god support in the form of my brother (a vicar? – Guy), and the company and experience of Matt Moffatt.
The first few climbs made the initial 10 miles tough (Caer Carodoc, Lawley & Pole bank) and we did go off with a little too much enthusiasm. Ian Prentice ( Ludlow Runners) was with us, and we carried on over Stiperstones to Earls hill. Some of the ascents were too hard to run, but some determined marching ensured we made good progress past the 20 mile point. Things then started to bite, and the next section to the pub at Stiperstones was the hardest part of the race. Matt however, seemed to get stronger as the race went on and was very supportive over this section. Soon it was dark, but the view of the sun setting over the Long Mynd made it all worth while. At night fall we arrived at the Shelve, where we had to don our headlamps and join up with three other runners from Shrewsbury, who seemed strangely unenthusiastic to run with us!
This was new territory for me, and we still had 20miles to go. I did however, start feeling a lot better, and the trek over Corndon, Black Rhaddley and up to the Stiperstones car park, was probably my most enjoyable part of the race. Finally through Bridges and the long pull up to Pole cottage. We did get a little lost on this section, and the haul through waist deep heather had a negative effect on my left knee. We still had 8 miles to go. Long (and now quite painful) descent to the A49 with the final pull up to the top of Ragleth. The organisers of the race had put beacons on top of all the hills, and it was great to turn round to see a trail of headlamps moving miles away.
The final drop to Church Stretton was a real relief. 1.20am, no crowds of spectators cheering you in, just two smiling dinner ladies there to give you a cup of tea. It had taken Matt and me 12hrs and 19minutes, 48th & 49th place. I do owe Matt a big thank you for this one. He somehow managed to keep his sense of humour for the whole 50 miles. The winning time by the way was an impressive 8hrs 40 mins.
No regrets in doing this wonderfully organised event. I’d have no problem recommending it to any of the plus 40s. Now I’ve got my energy back, I’m off to find that leggy blond!