November saw me heading back to the Chilterns to take part in the three day 84mile (135km) Druids Challenge, this time with Wendy who had broken her ankle just before the event last year. This time we had opted for the luxury option and we stayed with Wendy’s friends in Wendover the first night and a hotel the second night, rather than the gym floor option I had taken last year! As well as being very much more comfortable, this also meant we could celebrate Wendy’s birthday in nice surroundings and with friends.
It was grey, damp and foggy as we were dropped off at the start of the run on Ivinghoe Beacon – I wasn’t feeling ready for this at all and by Wendover, just a few miles in I was feeling completely worn out, no energy in my legs and a niggle in my thigh that had been there since summer was really bothering me. Despite this I kept going, spirits lifted when Wendy’s friend appeared in Wendover to cheer us on. Towards the end of the run Wendy started getting cramp in her calf and despite trying various things to resolve it, eventually is seized and sent her flat to the floor, her head-torch hitting the ground and saving her face. Luckily, she was able to get moving again and eventually we made it to the finish where her husband met us and took us back to Wendover for a very welcome meal and rest.
Day two was long and hard for me and I was disappointed not to be enjoying it more than I was, it started raining as we climbed back up on to the ridge and the rain became torrential – Wendy reached the last checkpoint before me and I told her not to wait as it was now cold and wet, I would see her at the overnight base. As it turned out, I finished just three minutes behind Wendy, but as she finished a minibus was waiting to go to base, I had a very long wait for the next minibus and then a very very cold journey as the driver insisted on having the windows open despite us being soaked to the skin. At base we gathered our things and were very quickly taken to the overnight hotel… I opened my room door, dropped everything, took all my wet clothes off and stood under the hot shower for ages getting warmed through. It was certainly more luxurious than the leisure centre showers back at base!
The third day I again found tough, this time with 10 miles to go I asked Wendy to go on and I would see her at the end. I was struggling to keep running and so spent some sections doing ‘scouts pace’ just to keep moving faster than a walk. Again, at the finish I wasn’t many minutes behind Wendy and I was pleased to finish and sit down with a drink and sandwich! We had a shower and a photo at the finish before we got in the car and headed home. Surprisingly, despite struggling from the start, I completed each day faster than I had last year and I was very pleased to have kept going and made it to the end of the challenge.
24 Hour Race - 10k off road lap
This was to be my third time taking part in Equinox, first time completely unsupported. Having had mixed weather previously and having read about how wet it had been last year, I decided to upgrade my camping gear and I invested in a larger tent with enough room to stand and hang wet gear. In the event I needn’t have worried, the bigger problem for me was that it was way too sunny and hot!
I eventually got my tent pitched, after having to ask neighbouring campers to help and got all my gear set out ready, and got to bed in the hope of maximising sleep before the race started at midday the next day. I had pitched my tent as close to the start/finish as possible to allow me to return to it during the race without adding too much extra mileage… this also meant I was very close to the arena and the music and noise that went on late, however, this was a small price to pay for the convenience the during the race.
The race started with the sun blazing down and the midday temperature soaring – I struggled through the first lap forcing myself to take it steady and all the time thinking I should pack up and go home. At the end of the lap I filled up my drink and headed back out again battling with the heat, part way through the lap I lay down on the grass under a tree to try to cool down a bit. By 30km I decided I would give up, so I lay down and went to sleep. 3 hours later I woke up and decided that, as I couldn’t get my tent down to go home (I was blocked in by other campers) I would get back out and carry on until I’d done 70km, then I would call it a day as that seemed like it would have been worth turning out for.
The temperature started to drop as night fell and after 70km I decided I would do ‘just one more lap’, then again next time round… as I approached 90km I decided that I would definitely do another lap as this would equal the 100km I had done on my last two attempts at this race… then I decided I would do another so that I had beaten my previous… during this lap there was a sudden heavy downpour and I arrived back at the start/finish soaked, but thinking I had plenty of time for another lap and as my PT Phil never goes for odd numbers, I changed my t-shirt, put on my waterproof and headed out on my 12th and final lap.
After a very difficult start to the race, I was very pleased to have beaten my previous attempts and completed 120km (74.6miles).
While out on a damp run one evening Edwina and I decided we needed a challenge, we came up initially with the Limestone Way – something I had walked with my parents as a teenager and fancied doing again – then this evolved in to the Limey Way, the John Merrill version which takes you right down in to each of the 20 dales.
Jon volunteered to support us, dropping off, setting up checkpoints and picking up at the end, all we needed was a date. I sent Edwina all the dates I was available for the next 10 weeks and there was only one that matched hers and Jons availability… so we would do the run in two weeks time!
Our biggest concern was that being early August, the weather would be too warm for us, neither of us do well in warm weather. On the day we were lucky, it was about as warm as we could manage, but it was overcast almost all day which although humid meant we could keep moving.
The route itself was really lovely and very mixed a lot of the dales were very hard and slow going – a lot of either broken limestone or big limestone boulders all of which were hard, uneven and very slippery. Some of the dales were damp and mossy with woodland, others were light and airy with hillside meadows, everyone had its own character.
We did well manage to stay on our feet until just before half way when Edwina fell on the rocks, grazing, cutting and bruising her leg and elbow. After washing it down in the river (using a good old multi-purpose Buff!), we continued to the half way checkpoint, where we were greeted with a tea pot on the back shelf of the car and Jon pouring us each a mug! Edwina pushed on despite injuries and we made it to the next checkpoint… only one more to go, we can’t stop now!
On we went and eventually, exhausted and with sore feet we made it Dovedale… the last of the dales, only three miles to go! It was a long three miles and the route finished with one last push up the hill and round the base of Thorpe Cloud – Jon cheering us on from further up the hill as we headed for the end.
A fantastic day out and as it turned out 2019 is the 50th Anniversary of the Limey Way, so we sent our details off to John Merrill and received a certificate and badge acknowledging our efforts – an unexpected bonus!
The Spire Ultra is a 33 (or 34) mile loop round Chesterfield with the towns church with its crooked spire in the centre. When Wendy suggested we take part in the event which is held in early May, I thought it would be a good way of getting going again after the MYAU.
We decided we would ‘recce’ the route in three sections, over a number of weeks prior to the event. Each of our ‘recce’ runs was a little further than the last, but we were very pleasantly surprised by the nature of the route – some lovely footpaths through countryside and woodland that we hadn’t been through before. The first run we found hard – it was a lot hillier than expected and this was the first proper run I had done since returning from the Yukon. For the last run we had an unseasonably warm and sunny day and we suffered through the last few miles.
On the day of the race it was good to know that we were familiar with the route, but with the recce’s in mind we decided that we should make sure we start slowly in order to keep going for the full 33 miles. The race start was friendly and welcoming and soon we were walked to the start of the run and we were off.
Luckily for us the first section of the race went more quickly and easily than expected and wasn’t as hard as we had found it a few weeks earlier, this gave us a little boost and we were able to enjoy the trail and surroundings as we went.
The trail went though a property about 10 miles in and the owner had set up a table with drinks for the runners – she was topping up as we got there, so we stopped for a drink and a chat and thanked her for the unexpected hospitality.
About half way through the run Wendy started to get cramp in her leg and wasn’t sure if she would be able to make it to the end, however, with determination and effort (and some very welcome fresh fruit at the final checkpoint) she kept going and we made it to the end with time to spare.
My overall impressions were that the route itself was very much more enjoyable than expected, with more footpaths and trails and lovely surroundings. The checkpoints varied, but were all as described, that is, some were water stations, others had a variety of food as well – I particularly enjoyed the bananas. The people at the checkpoints and all the marshals were very friendly, helpful and encouraging, we were cheered in to the finish despite the rain and welcomed in to the hall for hot drinks and food. All in all a really enjoyable day out and one I would definitely consider taking part in again!
Its now six weeks since I returned home from the MYAU and it has been an interesting time! I was amazed that so many people wanted to hear about my MYUA adventure and success and I have now added some links to the MYAU page of this site, of some of the podcast interviews that I did following my return home. I have also added links to a few video clips that I made while out on the trail – I had completely forgotten about these until several weeks after I got home – I think I probably made them at times when I wanted to distract myself and telling the camera all about it was one way of doing this!
It took me a while to get back to running, though having the dog at home while Mike was away meant I did at least start going out walking a couple of times a day! I had started a new job just before heading to the MYAU and so getting up to speed and settling in to that has taken a lot of energy. I’m now back enjoying walking and running locally and gradually building the running up in terms of distance. It’s a great time to be out and about here in Derbyshire – Spring is definitely here and the wild garlic is in full growth mode along with the first of the bluebells, cowslips and primroses. In addition, the leaves on the trees are starting to burst open and the birds and wildlife are busy getting ready for the season ahead, making for lovely times out on the trails.
You can see my experience of the 300 mile race by clicking on the MYAU 2019 tab at the top of the page - it was an incredible challenge with a result that was better than I ever could have dreamed!
My entry to this event came about after a summer run with good running friend Wendy who was looking for an event later in the year and suggested we have a go at a multi-day staged race. For me, this would be a new challenge too – I have done long non-stop runs, but not ones with a set stage each day and an overnight stay in between, so I agreed and we got our entries in. This wold also be an opportunity to get some extra miles and hours in my legs in preparation for the MYAU in February.
We set about training with some longer runs and some running on consecutive days. My training consisted of a mix of runs and walks in order to fit in with life and, as usual, I fell a little behind on the plan I had initially drawn up. As the event drew closer I started to plan running kit and overnight gear to take with me (overnights would be on school hall floors) as well as food to carry on the run and things I might like to eat after completing each run.
Two weeks before the event we went out for a run and Wendy went over on her ankle badly spraining it. Initially she was posititve and thought it would be repaired enough for the race weekend, but then just a week before the event, she went on an orienteering event and again went over on her ankle, this time it was confirmed it was broken and she had to withdraw from the Druid Challenge. We were both hugely disappointed, but after giving it some thought I decided to go along on my own and have a go at the run, so I set about booking accommodation for before and after the event and revising my event plans.
I drove to the finish of the race at Swindon on the Thursday afternoon and checked in to the hotel there. A bus was provided the following morning to get to the start and I was ready and waiting nervously in the hotel foyer at 6:45 the next morning. Eventually, everyone was ticked off the list and we got all our overnight bags in the bus and got on ready for the journey to the registration point at Tring cricket club. Having arrived at registration at about 8:30am, there was a long time hanging around waiting there – I met a couple of other ladies who were there on their own and we chatted while we waited, one of these, Stephanie, finished just ahead of me each day and so we met at the overnigh and got set up together. By the time we were called for the briefing and mini-bus to the start it already seemed like it had been a long day… and there was still 29miles of running to do!
Day 1 – 29.3 miles
The start got underway at 11:15am from Ivinghoe Beacon, the weather was grey with a bit of drizzle which seemed to match my mood! The first checkpoint was 11miles in and I arrived in brighter weather having cheered myself up a little. I took some bits of food from the checkpoint and topped up my water and kept moving, walking as I ate. Soon I was jogging up the main road in Wendover and a familiar silhouette came in to view up ahead… Wendy had come to cheer me on! After a big hug and a few tears she handed over some chocolate and waved me off… what a great boost to my mood.
I ran most of the day on my own and often between checkpoints 1 and 3 I couldn’t see anyone ahead or behind, at one point I did take the wrong track and ran off down a hill the wrong direction, however, I soon realised I was wrong as I saw an unexpected road ahead so I checked the map and turned round and retraced my steps. On arriving back at the last junction, I realised I must have been dreaming, because the sign was quite clear… I suspect I just glanced and saw the style and colour of writing without reading the words (it was another named path crossing). I set off again this time on the correct path and started passing one or two people who had overtaken while I was on the wrong path, I arrived at checkpoint 2 at 16.8miles feeling good and quite jolly – I was further cheered up by the cheese and savoury crackers on offer at the checkpoint! Off again… some time later I hit a tough patch, this time struggling to push myself on and stay positive and starting to feel nauseous. I reached checkpoint 3 at 22.9miles feeling quite low and uncomfortable and I sat on the ground by the checkpoint feeling sorry for myself, however, the checkpoint team were soon there checking I was OK and giving me a big cup of warm coffee which was fantastic! In no time, I was back on my feet and off again, heading for the finish.
Soon after leaving checkpoint 3 it got dark and head torches were needed for the remainder of the run. The organisers had put glow-sticks out along the route which was great – I had a little smile at every one as it felt like I was getting closer to the finish. I was really happy to see the school and the finish line and again the team were so helpful and friendly showing where hot drinks and cake were available, then helping with my overnight bag and showing me where the hall for sleeping and the showers were.
I set up my bed, went and got showered and then had a lie down before going for dinner – a delicious chicken casserole with rice followed by berry cheesecake. Drinks and food were available at all times at the overnight stops which was fantastic, there was also speakers to listen to if you wanted to, though I opted to have a relax and read my book instead. At lights out we lay in our sleeping bags listening to the torrential rain clattering on the gym roof and hoping it would pass over in the night.
Day 2 – 26.6 miles
The start for day 2 was from the school and I was in the main start at 8am, I had sorted everything and packed my rucksack the night before so felt comfortable having a relaxed breakfast and being ready to go when the time came. Generally, the run went well – it took a little while for my legs to get going and they let me know that they were not entirely happy about what I was asking them to do! The first checkpoint was 7.5miles in and again I moved through, topping up water and picking up some bits of food. Soon after this the route came down to the river and there was a long flat section which my legs and my head really did not like at all, but with much arguing with myself, I managed to keep trotting and eventually came to the end of the flat section and started to climb through Goring. Once again, to my surprise, Wendy appeared and after another hug, she gave me some grapes and a pre-peeled Satsuma to keep me going… it did that and kept me smiling!
Back up on the exposed Ridgeway path, just before checkpoint 3 at 22.8 miles, the sky grew dark and we were pelted with hailstones head on, this then turned to torrential rain and by the time the checkpoint arrived the rain had poured down my legs and filled my shoes! The checkpoint was protected by an event shelter and we managed to squeeze a good number of soggy runners under there with the checkpoint team… who remained so welcoming and upbeat handing out coffee and snacks and topping up water bottles, despite us all being in their way! I headed off again in to the rain, knowing that the finish was now only a few miles away. The flags of the finish could be seen from some distance away up on top of the Ridgeway Path and with some effort I managed to put one leg go in front of the other until I finally crossed the finish line for the day, feeling soggy and tired but very happy!
This time we were bussed to the overnight stay, but there was shelter and hot drinks available at the finish just in case there was a wait for a bus. Again, everyone was very friendly and helpful on arrival and we were even provided with newspaper to stuff in to our shoes to help them dry out. Again I set up my bed and got showered before relaxing with hot drinks and food before dinner which was a very tasty lasagne and salad and a variety of puddings to choose from.
Day 3 – 28.3 miles
I got up on day three after another night of very little sleep (no complaints, just a fact of sleeping on gym floors with lots of other people, all with aching muscles and joints!) and feeling quite grumpy. I went through the process of getting breakfast, getting ready, putting my overnight bag on the van and getting on to the minibus to the start. There had been more rain overnight and it finally stopped just before we arrived at the start line, I stood for the briefing feeling miserable, legs aching and wondering what I was doing and why… at the end of briefing the last instruction was…’and smile!’, so I’m guessing it wasn’t just me who was grumpy that morning!!
On setting off I was pleasantly surprised to find that my legs eventually co-operated and allowed me to trot along the flat and downhill sections and walk strongly on the up hills… I can’t say it was comfortable, but it was manageable! Checkpoint 1 at 7.7 miles, came sooner than expected and this cheered me up and kept me moving… only 2 more checkpoints before the final finish line! There were a number of people who were moving at a similar pace to me and we kept passing each other throughout the day having short conversations and helping the miles to pass. On the exposed sections all day, the wind was strong and often head on and I grumbled to myself about how this made progress so much harder than it needed to be, often stopping to walk before telling myself to stop moaning and get running!
Checkpoint 2 arrived 15.9 miles in… now over half way, another top up of water, a few more nibbles in my hand and off again. Having checked the profile I knew there was a climb following the checkpoint and then a flatter section before a steep descent to the third and final check point at 22.5 miles, I was able to let my legs go all the way down the descent to the final checkpoint… one last top up with coffee and snacks, then off… or rather a wait some time for a gap in the very fast traffic so I could cross the road (thanks to the marshall making sure we were all safe here)... and off again, climbing steadily, eventually coming to open fields where the path could be seen climbing in to the distance, this was a long stretch but knowing we were so close to the end pushed us on… then off the Ridgeway path and to a really cruel steep downhill on the road, thankfully short, but enough to cause some real pain in already aching legs. A stretch on the road followed and eventually it turned in to the hotel entrance and the final finish line – on the last stretch Tony, who I had seen regularly through the day suggested we stick together for the finish, so we ran in and across the line together, me with a huge smile on my face in complete contrast to my expression at the start of the day!
At the finish we were shown where to leave shoes and go in to the room where chairs, hot drinks and more cake were available (showers were also available, but as I had a room booked at the hotel I didn't need this). I sat here for some time in a bit of daze, with a strange feeling of being really happy to have completed the challenge, but a bit lost knowing there was no running tomorrow!
My overall experience of the event was really positive, I thought the organisation was great and the whole crew were fantastic, always happy, friendly and helpful, so a big thank you goes to the whole team - your enthusiasm and support makes the event what it is! The food, both in terms of quality and quantity was excellent as was the checkpoint food with loads of variety – I was a particular fan of the cheese and cheesy biscuits as well as having a coffee opportunity at the last checkpoint each day. I wouldn’t hesitate to do another multi-day stage race with XNRG and maybe I’ll be back next year – this time with Wendy!
It was around Christmas 2017 that I received an email from Nicole in Germany (friend from the YAU) suggesting that we might like to go over to Austria and run the Karwendelmarsch in August which she would be taking part in. The route is 32miles with 7500ft of climbing, we thought this would be a great way to catch up with friends and kick off our winter race training, so we entered the run and booked accommodation at the start.
Training didn’t go as planned, as the summer was so hot which doesn’t suit me for running at all, however, I was fairly confident that I could cover the distance and climb even if I had to walk more of it than planned. Before leaving home we received messages to bring extra kit as the weather forecast was showing a break in the summer weather and a wet weekend. We arrived in Scharnitz two days before the run in gentle rain and cooler temperatures, much better for me for running. We met up with Nicole and registered for the event, picking up numbers, bag tags and other information; then after coffee and cake we went back to our accommodation to get out rucksacks packed ready for the run the following day. The rain was heavy and steady through the night, but by the start at 6am it was just damp.
The run itself was great – tough but picturesque – we didn’t get the best of the views as we were in the cloud and drizzle at higher levels. We all got separated at the start as we thought we might, the plan being to find each other at the end if this happened, however, about an hour in I heard Nicole call my name and we ended up sticking together for the rest of the run. This was a real bonus for me – chatting and catching up the whole way. As often happens, I struggled to swallow any food during the first part of the race and managed to get half a banana and a bit of water down. At the top of the second climb I decided to stop for a few minutes and have a cup of warm mint tea and eat one of the bars I had brought with me – Nicole waited for me and we set off again, me now feeling much better than I had. I found the third climb quite challenging and a few people got in between myself and Nicole, however, we set off down the other side together and after a long flat section we came in to the finish, quicker than I was expecting… with an added bonus of being given wheat beer on crossing the finish line! A great day out and definitely worth travelling for!
The following day we were collected from Sharnitz and spent a couple of days catching up with Robert (MYAU Race Director) and walking in the mountains close to his home – an added bonus of the trip!
Most of the last year has been spent ‘ticking over’ with no winter race planed in 2018 there was no big training push through the autumn and, in fact, we spent the first part of our autumn training season having a fantastic relaxing holiday in Mauritius! I did once again take part in the Equinox 24 in September 2017, once again with the aim of running 100k which I completed by 4am.
In both November and January we had long weekend breaks in Yorkshire – the first in a motorhome, which was successful despite the frosty weather! The second was in a cottage which was perfect for us with the dog – having a very wet start to the break made us realise how difficult and uncomfortable a small motorhome would be in such wet conditions, so despite a good trial we decided to stick with cottage breaks for now! Both of these trips provided some great walks and we noted the second cottage as being ideal for winter race training and have booked a break there in November 2018 for that purpose.
In March 2018 I once again took part in the Four Inns – the team from last year got back together having been running together many times since last years race. It was an eventful start to the event as we managed to miss the start altogether – we were turned around by roadworks and the alternative route took us so far round that when we arrived all the other teams had left. Luckily, we were allowed to start late, and we soon started to catch up with and overtake the slower teams. For the first time in a number of years I wasn’t nauseous or vomiting over Bleaklow, which was a bonus! I even managed to enjoy a hot-dog at the Doctors Gate checkpoint… where, rather embarrassingly, they remembered me throwing up the year before. It was a slow one this year taking almost an hour longer than the previous, but we made it to the end in good spirits and had another great day out.
While training for and taking part in the 4 Inns, the three of us decided we would like to have a go at the Lyke Wake Walk – a 41mile route across the North Yorkshire Moors to the coast. Unfortunately, we were not able to do it the weekend that the official run was organised in July, so instead, the three of us set out to do it in June, with Edwina’s partner Jon as our support and check points. We loaded up the boot of the car with a variety of food and drinks to tuck in to each checkpoint and set out early in the morning. We were extremely lucky with the weather and we had another great day out, finishing at the Lyke Wake stone at the coast where Jon met us with Prosecco and glasses to celebrate our finish – Wendy had been wanting to do the LLW for 40 years, so it really was worth celebrating!
I don't know where the time has gone since getting back from Alaska and the ITI, almost four months have passed and I haven't published my ITI report yet - I'll put that right very soon as its been ready to go for some time. The experience of the ITI was something I'll never forget, it is a unique event with some amazing (some legendary) and friendly peopleit was a great start to the year despite not having the outcome I was hoping for.
Soon after returning home I once again took part in the Four Inns (65K over the highest peaks in the Peak District), again with team captain Edwina and with another new team member, Wendy. As seems to have become a tradition now, I suffered with nausea and vomiting over Bleaklow and at Doctors Gate, but was able to keep going and by the time we reached Edale I was enjoying cheese sandwiches and various other goodies on offer. Despite being a little slower than last year, and again largely due to navigation and a lack of other all female teams, we won the Falcon trophy. Having got on well on the event we have kept in touch and Wendy and I have since had a go at a mini-mountain marathon which was something new to us and great fun.
We had a spring break in sunny Cyprus and found some fantastic and deserted walking trails right from our accomodation in the hills.
The rest of the time, I have simply been enjoying going out running and walking on the trails in Derbyshire with Mike and our dog, Tahra.
It will seem strange to approach Autumn without a big winter race to spend every weekend training for, however, it will be nice to have more time an to just enjoy being out and about on the trails keeping the fitness ticking over in readiness for the next big adventure…
Marianne Heading discovered winter endurance racing in 2007, while working as a volunteer for the Yukon Arctic Ultra. This experience inspired her to take up running and go back to the Yukon as a competitor. Since 2007 she has been back to the YAU 6 times, completing both the 100 and 300mile versions. In 2011 she became the first European female to complete the 300mile YAU! Events are not a regular feature, but other races she has taken part in, include the Semi-Raid Reunion, Roveaneimi150, Four Inns and a number of LDWA and other local events - recoding those taken part in since 2015 here. Being outdoors and enjoying the countryside and wildlife are a higher priority than being fast... luckily! Training runs and walks are often prolonged by a break to do some foraging or to take in the scenery!