Pennine Journey North 52 miles,
#ultrarunning #trailrunning #penninejourney #runner
Tuesday 11th April 2023
Last weekend I had the amazing opportunity to take part of the 52-mile race covering part of the historic Wainwright which is a challenging 247 circular route based on Alfred Wainwright’s 1938 expedition to Hadrian’s Wall and back from Settle in the Yorkshire Dales.
The point-to-point race covered the segment from Alston to Blanchland and was very well organized by Greener Miles Running.
I started my journey driving 2.5 hrs from Glasgow to The Derwent Arms hotel, located 10 min away from the finish line at Blanchland. The hotel was great, has a pub and restaurant on the ground floor which came very handy, I was able to pre-arrange meals for before and after the race. After check-in, I drove to race HQ at Blanchland, they did a very detailed bag check, making sure all runners had the min kit requested. It is not very common to get a full check but I feel this should be reinforced, as it makes everyone feel safe.
With the race number, maps, and tracker, is time to return to the hotel, rest, fuel, and get ready for an early morning start.
A point-to-point race is always challenging if you are planning in going alone, but Green Miles Running had a bus scheduled for taking us from the finish ( Blanchland ) right to the start in Alston, which it was great to not worry about that part of the planning and it was definitely a point to consider when looking up for races. Arrived Saturday at 6:45 am to take the bus with fellow runners up to the start line. Sharing the bus with the other runners taking part is also, a great way to calm the pre-race nerves, chat, share stories and experiences with new friends.
Arrived at Alston , it was a very cold and misty morning, so sadly no views. At Alston there was another registration point for the runners that preferred arriving to the start directly. The start was in a beautiful train station, with proper toilets -yay!- and a wee coffee shop for the last minute caffeine boost.
It was really cold, but forecasting a really hot/sunny day ahead, no rain on in sight ! . The race started right on time… 3-2-1- and off we go 33 runners ( 24 M / 9 F ).
The first stretch was mostly packed single trail, the sun started to come out, the hills started to appear and I started to boil. I love this weather, it did seem some runners struggled with the heat but I feel quite comfortable ( maybe my Mexican heritage, lol) .
The first half was hot and fast , I do have to say, navigation was extremely challenging, at times we pared up some runners along the way to manoeuvre around the tricky navigation. My objective was always to get to Checkpoint 3 with some light, trying to cover as much ground before darkness sets it and makes navigation even harder!
Checkpoint 2 came fast- drop bags were there all nicely laid on the floor of the town hall, even it wasn’t a wet route I was sweating so much ! I changed socks. I am a very salty sweater so I had a quick clean with baby wipes ( to avoid chaffing) , everywhere -haha- change top, normal toilets again – yay!- and the volunteers were absolutely amazing! They fed me pasta, refilled my water bottles and that was me off again.
At this point I lost all track of time, so I had no idea about time and space. I knew the next stretch was 20+ kms away, that was going to be a long stretch with no water on a very hot day.
Again, tricky navigation, but beautiful views, sun shining and enjoying my audiobook, I managed to finished my water just before getting checkpoint 3. ( Tap in the back for me, that was good fluid management) .
Checkpoint 3, was along the motorway, volunteers where phenomenal, filled my water bottles, fed me some wee snacks and very encouraging told me that the next stretch was “difficult underfoot”, and promised pizza on checkpoint 4.
I will do ANYTHING for pizza, up we go again, it was time for a bit of reality check, make some numbers , figure out how we were doing time wise. I realised if I moved well I could definitely make it to next check point with sunlight. So between that and pizza on my mind, we got moving.
As promised , “ difficult underfoot” was correct, long grass , boggy , wet, navigation hell… the sun starting to come down… panic mode!. After what felt time an eternity, I was back into tarmac trail, yes, time to make up some time. Arrived to checkpoint 4 with the last bit of sunlight – me screaming where is my pizza! –
PIZZA my love! That thought was the one that kept me going for a while and finally, I was devouring the most delicious pizza ever. The volunteers where sooooo nice again, I mean they were making pizzas ! I needed good , real food, as the fun times where finished. The sun was away, so with that , scary dark, lonely hours ahead.
Got my headltorch on and fuelled with pizza and probably a gallon of coke, off we go again. Last stretch! I knew from studying the map , if I made it ok until there, the last stretch wasn’t that trick in navigation wise, even if it was.. there was no option really, was it ! haha.
Headphones on, kept listening to my audiobook , until the last kilometres, when I know I’m safe with phone battery and all, I woke up my phone and called my eyes in the sky – hubby Andy- He has probably has been following the dot on his computer all day, so we chat about how the race going, I can moan a bit about my legs being broken, he can laugh at my crying, and scream at me when I’m going off route (lol) . It was useful in the last couple of kms as the navigation got tricky again and he was able to help and letting me know what was ahead. Until he said,.. that’s you, you should be starting to see the town lights now, I looked up – and there it was! Some lights came out of the forest bit , off to the street and sprint to the finish!!!
I arrived at Blanchland, open the door of the village hall, half zombie feeling, to be greeting with a massive cheer ( I wished I recorded this moment, it will always live in my memory) from volunteers and other fellow runners having dinner.
What a ride !! After 15 hrs and 39 minutes and +- 3,000 mtr climbed and 8,000 calories burned, we have arrived. The race finished again with wonderful volunteers, cooking delicious pasta and feeding us, while we rested and shared stories about the day. While once in a while we cheered another finisher coming through that door 😊 The race awards you with a patch, diploma, coffee mug and even a beer !
Finishers 25 (19 M/ 6 F )
Drove 10 min really carefully back to the hotel to rest and drive back next day. I ran the route mostly alone, crossing paths with fellow runners, didn't catch the name or can't remember but, thank you for sharing some kms with me. Thank you volunteers and organization.
I recommend this route for mid-beginners, as it is a very friendly route ( depending on the weather, I guess we were lucky) and has very nice 24 hr cut off , just practice your navigation plenty.
Shoes used: HOKA Stinson ATR 6
Headtorch: Fenix HM65R- T 1500 Lumes
Leggins: Lululemon Fast and Free
GPS used for navigation and watch used: COROS Vertix 2
Incredible battery, plenty of juice left even after finishing.
End note: Apologies for any grammar or spelling mistakes along, as English isn't my first language.