Updated: May 4
PENNINE BARRIER 50 MILES 2022
I’m writing this on the eve of the one year’s anniversary after completing Pennine Barrier 50. Being my second race with the amazing organisers GB Ultras I knew it was going to be well planned and an epic ride!
At the previous race Chester 50 , someone mentioned about the Grand Slam, if I was doing it, I laughed at the thought of having to do 5 , 50 milers within months ! but the seed was planted. Started playing with the idea of it, so decided to join the next 50 , Pennine Barrier and see how it goes and decide after.
I was able to convince a friend to kindly be my support driver on this adventure, as I had to drive straight after the race back to catch an early flight from Edinburgh to Mexico. After driving 3 hrs from Glasgow to the beautiful town of Malham, we arrived mid afternoon to a cozy Guest House booked through Airbnb just minutes drive from the start.
I usually like to do the registration on the day before just to make sure I know where I’m going on the morning of the race. Picked up my number ( trackers are given until the morning) , and seen very friendly and familiar faces around which helps to calm my pre-race nerves.
Personally I don’t recce the routes or look into the maps previous the race too much, so I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to see the very famous Malham Cove, which was around the corner, so we grabbed a coffee and decided to do a bit of sightseeing. I spotted a massive trail of stairs going up to the top , I remember telling my friend. Oh I hope we don’t need to go up there tomorrow, looks brutal! -I should have known -
Went back to the cozy room, got all sorted , packed away and ready so my friend could just do an easy check out next morning and enjoy the day. She was able to book a very interesting tour to some local caves, she really enjoyed it, so it’s a great place to bring family / friends as there is plenty to do out and about while you are out there trying to survive the day.
Race day ! I was able to manage to have a fantastic night sleep , feeling energized, prepared coffee , quick bite and woke up my friend to ask her to drive me to the start. It was a foggy , cold morning, I wasn’t brave enough with the outfit and decided to wear long leggings. Picked up my race tracker, visited the toilets and just wait for the start.
Race started on time... and off we gooooo… we started coming around, right where I went to walk with my friend the previous day … and there was the tallest trail of stairs I spotted the day before, which I was hoping not to be part of the route.. as we got closer, I started seeing runners starting to climb up those stairs…. OH NO! After a bit of OH NO moment, within the first 30 min of the race, I knew this was gonna be one of those days.
I was very excited to see that part of the country, I have seen photos of the Yorkshire three peaks and I was definitely looking forward to see it all. The first bit of the route was very VERY rocky and challenging underfoot, a true ankle breaker, you could not take your eyes away for a minute, or get even a little distracted. The route is a bit of a loop taking some of the same route out and back. So I knew I was going to see that terrain on my way back… yay! Can’t wait, for that I thought.
As the day progressed the day got warmer and the clouds opened, I wished I wore shorts – I kept thinking- I had to snap out of that thought multiple times as I was getting quite annoyed at myself ( lol!) and taking away from the experience. The trail is well signed and clear, mostly packed trail, most of the climbs are stone stairs… lots and lots of them. Thank god for my poles!
The day hot really hot , I even seen a fellow runner on the top of a climb totally lying down, struggling with the heat. I asked if he was ok, but he just need a minute to cool down ( shout out to Ryan) . Kept moving on enjoying the beautiful views and hating myself for wearing long leggings ( lol!)
The checkpoints are well-stocked and always full of enthusiastic volunteers. Always counting the kilometers till next checkpoint to see some happy faces and eat good food.
This route is one of my absolute favorites I’ve ever done!, it features the beauty of the country , without being extremely difficult to navigate. You have the perfect balance between challenging climbs , technical terrain and runnable stretches. I do have to point out that it was a bit tricky to pass so many walkers along the three peaks as it is a busy route with families and big groups doing the challenge but understandable as is such an iconic thing to do, and here I was a Mexican gal just running around , 80 kms in the Yorkshire Dales.
Suddenly, later on the race I realized I needed to pee … oh no… no toilets in sight of course, so off route we go, finding the perfect hidden spot, the moment I tried to squat down...but I fell right in my bum miserably, yep… no legs left for that!. I decided just to do what I needed to do there seated down. Managing to pull up and down my very sweaty leggings was a miracle at that point.
After endless climbs, I started to recognize the rocky path again and I knew that was the coming back to the last leg, the tough climbs ( -+ 2,700 mtrs elevation) and the technical downhills were definitely starting to take my legs. I was so concentrated on those rocky downhill technical stretches that I even dreamed about them a couple of nights after the race! Waking up in a scared jump after feeling like I tripped over the rocks. I have never experienced PTSD from a race before ( lol) .
The last stretch felt soooo long, but I was determined to make it to the finish line before sunset. So took the last downhills fast and furious, turned the corner and there It was! .
After 14 hrs The finish line was on sight , my friend and the car , ready to take me directly to the hotel airport, where hubby ( Andy) was already awaiting with pizza and beer- yay! Received my amazing medal
and jumped in the car almost immediately ( big mistake), my friend started the drive, shortly after I couldn’t stop screaming from all the spasm and cramps all over my body. She looked at me so scared ( first time she has ever been the support driver ) and asked me if I needed to go to the hospital ( lol!, which I just laughed and said it was "normal"), I can’t imagine how terrible I looked rolling around in my seat, I must have passed out cause suddenly we were in the Airport Hotel in Edinburgh. Probably my friend was so relieved putting me back into the hands of Andy and off duties.
But struggle no. 2 just started, trying to move was so painful, I stopped and went streaight to sitting for hours right after that long and hard effort! . I needed to get out of very stinky, sweaty tight clothes, impossible doing that alone, so I had to ask Andy to help me to literally peel my clothes off. Slowly he placed my sore body into the shower to only notice a huge amount of mud, grass, and small debris come out of me… Yeah, remember the time I tried to pee and fell in my bum. Well yeah … you can imagine, both laughed so much! While I was trying to explain how all that got in there.
Anyways… quick shower, a quick nap and ready for my 12 hr flight home to Mexico. The struggle through the airport was real , a lot of fun to see, I bet , but in less than 24 hrs from finishing The Pennine Barrier 50 I was sipping cold micheladas, and having a massage next to the beach ... that’s the right way to recover and celebrate.
I recommend any of the GB ultra races, top organization, top volunteers and TOP medals. This route is ideal for mid- beginners, as it has the perfect amount of hikeable climbs and runnable bits, with friendly cut off times , I advise using poles and working on proprioception/ankle stability – strength.
The race had 183 M / 73 W finishers (2022) edition.
Massive shoutout to all volunteers, and photographers around the route, capturing these moments that forever will always be part of my memories.
After recovering and soreness was gone within days and considering that I have never done so many ultras in a year, not alone within 6 months, I thought to myself, what if I can actually do 3 more, I mean I have 2 in the bank already, how hard 3 more can be ... What if I can actually pull this off... and my Grand Slam journey began.
Check out all the GB ULTRAS races and events here