Why do I run?

Photo booth at London Marathon – our reason the run? we blamed each other…

It’s not a question I ask myself very often, because I miss running so badly when I’m injured that I know I want to do it. But my motivation has changed over time and given the commitment involved in running longer distances I have been thinking carefully about what I want to get from running in 2021.

When – after a glittering career as a junior cross-country runner at country level in the 1980s – I started running again as adult it was initially for health reasons. Before my kids were born I was into road cycling, but the opportunities to go out for long bike rides when you’re breast feeding, or have toddlers and a demanding job, are limited. I’d been fit before having kids but gained weight with both pregnancies so when I started running shortly after my daughter was born it was primarily to get back into shape. I didn’t really enjoy running much at this time. 

I entered the occasional 10km race from time to time to motivate me to train – because without a target to aim for I’d not get around to training (this motivational technique is called ‘accountability’ – holding yourself to account by committing to things). There’s always a lot to do when you have small kids – and you don’t have a lot of spare energy.  And to be honest I could rock up and run 10km without training – which was fortunate as I used to enter races then accidentally forget about them until the number came through a week before and then just turn up! This led to quite a few un-enjoyable 10kms where I tried to keep up with the fast people for the for 5km and then suffered a slow painful next 5km!

Throughout this time my husband Tim was still competing regularly, mainly in triathlons. And – frankly – I used to get a bit frustrated spectating when I’d rather have been competing. But I wasn’t ready to commit to training properly when the kids were so little. Eventually, when they were maybe 3&4, I decided to enter Keswick half marathon – something I’d always wanted to do and I set myself the target of going sub 2:00 hrs in my first race – I think I came in around 1:56. I was also only a few minutes behind Tim – I thought he’d be miles ahead of me.

A year later I stepped up to try my first marathon – Paris in 1993 – it was the year Alex started school. I’d always wanted to run one and even the training felt exciting – each week the long run became longer than I had every run before. And I started losing toenails like a real marathon runner! Again I set myself the target of going sub 4 hrs but told myself once would be enough – I just wanted to do one marathon (famous last words!). Paris was a good choice – a glamourous route around a city I love and know well. And here started my tradition of racing in fabulous places! Again, I was pleasantly surprised to find I was only a few minutes behind Tim – and it occurred to me that maybe I could beat him one day… In terms of motivation my old friend competition was starting to kick in.

Julie didn’t always come out for a LSR in faceprint; but I usually dressed as Wonder Woman…

I didn’t run regularly for a few years then because of work, but when my youngest child started school I met two other mums who sometimes I joined for a run after school drop off: Julie and Miyako. They had entered the York Marathon that autumn and were training for it – it was Miyako’s first marathon and she was nervous. I joined them for some of their long runs and offered tips/ advice from my own experience – long slow training runs are much more fun when you’re chatting to your friends.

Cheering Julie and Miyako on race day I wished I was racing. So next year I entered and raced. I set off a bit too fast and after banging out sub-8 min miles comfortably I suddenly hit a wall at mile 20 – watching my pace drop as my effort increased was galling. I reached my lowest point around mile 24 when someone in a Bat Man costume overtook me and something in me snapped (pride, I think) so I dug in to beat the caped-crusader and realised that it I just kept moving at this pace I’d go sub 3:45. There’s a small hill just before the finish of York marathon and as I sprinted downhill to the line it felt like my legs would fall off – but 3:44 was worth it, and meant I qualified for London… That was a big milestone because it meant I was actually good at this and that I was getting faster. In terms of motivation, this is ‘mastery’ coming into play – the sense of achievement we get from doing something well and improving. 

But before I raced London, I ended up running Paris again. I entered on whim when my friend Marianne entered and I fancied a weekend with her in Paris. That’s another important motivator for me – doing races in nice places and with my friends.

Not Paris – but running with Marianne in Keswick half marathon one year when she was very hungover… so we were taking it steady!

Despite getting burgled during our trip, and having to run a marathon, we had a great weekend away and managed to see the sites and catch up with an old university friend who lives in Lyon. I didn’t take the race very seriously at all – I was there to pace Marianne to a sub 4hr run but managed to lose her in the massive crowd (she’d set off too fast and dropped me – I passed her at some point but didn’t realise). I clocked up a steady 3:45 comfortably – very evenly paced and without hitting a wall this time.

Paris Marathon Expo – we all know why marianne runs… for the sweets!

I had to defer London marathon due to injury, and in the meantime ran York again – this time going sub 3:40 for the first time. By this stage I felt I was becoming a bit of a marathon and half marathon specialist – my times were improving, my confidence growing race by race. I’d use the Hal Higdon training programmes – each time stepping up my training and pushing my ambition. I smashed the Antrobus family half-marathon record and baked a pie with my new PB on to celebrate – sorry Tim (for the record – I currently hold the Antrobus family marathon record too).

Half Marathon PB pie – no idea what was in it!

By the time London came around I was gunning for sub 3:30 but it’s a tough course for a PB – just too many people around – and I’d run a whole extra half-mile by the time I’d crossed the line in 3:37, due to weaving round people. But again a new PB. Not my favourite course – seriously most of the course is dull as dishwasher to run round –  but the support was awesome and I was waving at the crowd and celebrating each mile as they passed.

London Marathon start – my nemesis was Bat Man, Miyako once got beat by a Hot Dog!

A month later I took a whole 4 minutes off my 10km time – I set off at 5km pace and kept going wondering when I’d run out of steam. At around 9km it started to hurt like hell but I just pushed on and was delighted with such a big improvement.

Up until this point everything had been about getting faster and better. But something shifted and my appetite for another 16-week marathon training schedule where success or failure on race day rested on fine-tuning my pace by a few seconds here or there started to wane… And there were only so many road races that appealed – slogging around ring roads of cities and towns in huge groups; queuing for loos at the start; the hassle of turning up a day before to register – none of this appealed. Having to be really careful for weeks leading up to the race and being really beaten up for several weeks after… It started getting boring.

So I got more and more into smaller races and off-road running – this reminded me of the amateur races I’d competed in as a kid. So after doing a few 10km and 15km trail races I entered my first trail Ultra – a 55km loop around the Lakes.

Lakeland Trails Helvellyn 15km one autumn…

I’d even come 3rd in a trail race – my first podium as adult – the year before and I thought maybe I’d be quite good at it, as well as enjoy a weekend away in the Lakes. 

3rd place – Coniston 10km trail race 2016

Increasingly running became about the places I went and the people I went with – both for training runs and events. Tim got into ultra racing and as preparation for his UTMB race we talked my parents into looking after the kids so we could run the CCC route over 3 days as a training race. The next year we ran the TDS course together, again over 3 days. Frankly I’d volunteer to recce any part of the UTMB just for fun – it’s such a great place to visit. And Miyako (and sometimes Marianne) and I had many weekends away racing in the Lakes over the next few years. It was never really about the running – the running was just the medium for getting into the hills with my mates.

I managed my first ultra in 2017 – and to be honest I thought it’d be my last. I enjoyed it, but I didn’t feel the need to do another. Lots of people around me – including friends/ family – were doing longer and longer races, but I was quite happy doing shorter races. But then achilles tendonitis struck and for 18 months I could do very little anyway.

Support crew – running part of the Hardcore 60 in the dark with Miyako in 2018

When I finally got back to running in 2019 I entered the Montane Lakeland 50, mainly because it took in part of the Lakes I hadn’t yet visited and it seemed a good way to explore new places. It rained almost solidly for the 12 hours it took to complete that course – but I enjoyed it and it never got too hard that I wasn’t having fun. I surprised myself by coming in 20th lady – but I didn’t plan on running any more ultras.

The glamour of ultrarunning – portaloos and bin bags before the start of the Montane 50

The other thing that happened in 2019 – in terms of running – was my Coast-to-Coast. That was probably the most enjoyable run I’ve done and also the biggest challenge – covering 191 miles in 7 days meant averaging 25-30 miles a day. And being solo for most of this time was a challenge too – but one I relished. After that highlight I wasn’t quite sure what to do next in 2020 – ultras didn’t really appeal; a bit of cross country in the autumn and a few fell races maybe. Tim was due to be racing in the Dolomites so I entered a marathon-length trail run as an excuse to tag along  – but then CV19 made sure all races were cancelled.

So quite why I found myself entering the 2021 Montane Lakeland 100 I do not entirely know. I just noticed the lottery for places was open and thought I probably wouldn’t get in – so I decided to have a go. I suspect had there not been a lottery I wouldn’t have entered!

But when I got the email offering me a place I had a gut feeling that I wanted to do it – and so entered. I’m not really sure yet whether I’ll be able to due to recurrent injuries, or whether I want it badly enough to do the training required to make it possible. I suppose with CV19 I have more time than usual as I’m travelling a lot less for work, so it’s as good time to take on a bigger challenge. But there’s also something about the challenge – and the excuse to spend lots of time training in the Lakes – that appeals…

The real reason I often run the Cleveland Way – the fish and chips at Robin Hoods Bay as ‘recovery food’

(Nearly) Completing the Wainwrights

Lank Rigg – the last fell (for me) in Book 7: The Western Fells (with Miyako – Sep, 2020)_

For work I’ve been experimenting with visual facilitation techniques recently and early in 2020 I did a sketch of some ideas I had for the year ahead; climbing Mont Blanc, trekking with my buddy Marianne through the Vanoise; going wild camping with the kids; bird-watching; doing a sub 21 min 5km; racing the 3 peaks; living more sustainably; growing veg down my allotment and having a second crack at the Abraham’s Tea Round (mental note: don’t lose Miyako this time). 

Pre-Pandemic Plans 2020

That drawing included a question-mark about completing my Wainwrights – it looks from the drawing like I had only 44 to go at the point but I wasn’t sure I really wanted to invest the time required to complete that challenge. The ones I had left were not glamourous or interesting, definitely ‘B-side’ mountains. I mean, who lists Grike among their favourite fells or Dodd? Wainwright refuses to even illustrate routes up Mungrisdale Common claiming its ‘natural attractions are of the type that appeal only to sheep […] There is little point in providing diagrams of ascent that will never be used.’ This wasn’t really ‘selling’ it to me…

But then CV19 hit and all those exotic plans had to be shelved, and my work dried up almost completely for 4-5 months. So with time on my hands I focussed on what I could do and decided to pick a few fells off over the summer when our family trip to the alps turned into a wet week by Ullswater and to spend a solo week in September ‘mopping up’ those hitherto overlooked mounds.  

Me up Cat Bells in 1979

It took Paul Tierney 6 days to run all the 214 summits listed in the 7 volumes of Wainwright’s Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells. My first Wainwright was Cat Bells in 1979, and my final one will hopefully be in November 2020 (pending CV19). Some might say that taking 41 years is a bit lazy in comparison, but I like to think I’ve savoured them. And to be fair, there was a 20+ year gap when I did no hiking in the Lakes and I have also climbed many of those 214 many, many times. 

I climbed the first 90 or so between the ages of 5 and 16, walking with my parents and brother. My Dad completed his Wainwrights about 10 years ago and invited the whole family (which by then had expanded to include my two kids) to climb his final fell – Binsey – with him. I’m planning to invite the same crew to climb my 214th later this Autumn if CV19 allows us to stay overnight in the Lakes. 

Dad posting to Binsey whilst somewhere in the Northern Fells a few weeks ago

You are supposed to choose a significant one to leave to last – lots of people chose Yewbarrow as it’s the final fell in the final volume. Or ‘Great End’ because of its name; or Scafell Pike because it’s the highest. I had never really planned doing the Wainwrights so there wasn’t much left to choose from by the stage I thought about a grand finale – so I chose Arnison Crag which is:

  1. Small and accessible so the family can come along
  2. Has lovely views
  3. Is the first fell in book one – so is suitably contrary to do last
  4. I also know a nice bunk-bank nearby where we can stay when we go to climb it

It was only when I started climbing hills with my own kids – and my Dad started keeping a tally on an epic spreadsheet of which fells each family member had conquered – that the idea of completing them all even occurred to me. I remember reaching the 100 milestone a few years ago when I took Miyako up Pike O Blisco before a race we were doing the following day (our first Ultra I think – the Lakeland 55km in 2017). 

Since then I’d half-heartedly do a few new ones when I was in the Lakes, but I didn’t really like the idea of ‘ticking them off’. Why go to Mungrisdale Common when you could climb Pillar, I tended to think.  

Mungrisdale Common – a good place for sheep and headstands

Fleetwith Pike might have been the turning point – I remember climbing it on a long hot June day in 2018 when I’d walked the entire length of the Ennerdale-Buttermere ridge from Great Borne. I’d not done Fleetwith Pike before and so continued onto what looked (from Haystacks) like a bit of a runty fell. But it was a little cracker – and the view from the top is one of my favourites – plus the views as you descend the ‘nose’ back to Buttermere. I don’t think I’d have bothered with it, had it not been a new one – so I decided to keep trying new ones in the hope I’d find some more gems. 

Ullscarf – enough said

Ullscarf was not one of those gems.  To be fair, I didn’t have high expectations. I’d done a jigsaw of the Harvey Map of the Lakes during LockDown and noticed Ullscarf was a large featureless lump. When we reached the summit plateau in low cloud and read the book for guidance on how to find the true summit, Wainwright wasn’t very helpful either claiming the summit is ‘utterly bleak even on a fine summer’s day’. On a wet and windy Autumn one, in low cloud, it’s drab. But the best part of that day was still to come – when the faint ‘path’ we were following down Ullscarf towards Dock Tarn disappeared into knee-deep heather and bogs. A few peat hags too. My Dad – who’d bravely tagged along – kept muttering something about last having been here in 1975 and feeling no need to come back for another 40 years. 

Is this really the summit? (turns out later – reviewing Strava – that it wasn’t quite, but we’re not going back)

But for every Ullscarf there’s been a Bannerdale Crags or Great Calva – maybe not as dramatic as Fleetwith Pike or the real A-listers like Great Gable or Blencathra but a decent little fell and definitely worth a visit – at least once. I also, accidentally, became the Queen of Strava for Great Mell Fell which I scrambled up quickly one morning whilst on holiday recently.

And – just between us – Mungrisdale Common wasn’t as bad as they said. Yes, we got our feet wet and yes, there’s not much to see in terms of a ‘summit’, but so long as you approach via Hall’s Ridge on Blencathra (which I admit is a bit of a long-way round) it’s a lovely walk. And it has nice views onto other fells. And it’s soft and grassy should you fancy doing a bit of yoga.

Lank Rigg was another much maligned fell – but we quite liked it. Quiet, grassy and remote. I’m not saying I’d chose it over Pillar as my favourite Western Fell, but it was a nice day out.

Lank Rigg – gets a bad press but the views are decent and at least it’s not too boggy or busy

So there’s one left, and I suspect it might be a while before I am able to climb it with the whole family – what with the pandemic – but what’s another few months when it’s taken 41 years so far… 

Coast to Coast: in Wainwright’s footsteps (but he’s turning in his grave)

Women lack genuine enthusiasm, are intellectually inferior and if prone to nagging should be left to wait at Sty Head Tarn whilst you climb Great Gable in peace. I’m paraphrasing slightly, but that’s a fairly accurate summary of the views of the late-great-but-definitely-very-misogynistic Alfred Wainwright. He also believed in savouring the hills, not running through them, and he whilst he admits that a ‘strong athlete could walk it in a week’ he advises spending a fortnight over the 191-mile Coast to Coast route. Well, whilst I can see his point, and there are wonderful variants in the Lakes over ridges (Red Pike-Haystacks; Calf Crag-Gibson Knott-Helm Crag; St Sunday Crag or Striding Edge) that I skipped this time, I could only take a week off work. Also, I didn’t want to be away from the kids for too long either; that’s the problem of being a working woman, not that Alfred would understand that. So C2C in a week it was to be for me.

Taking a week over the route is nothing special – it’s a challenge – but when Damian Hall contacted me to do a short feature in Trail Running magazine about my adventure I suspected he’d got the wrong end of the stick and assumed I’d run it in one fell swoop. We’d bumped into (OK slightly stalked) Damian at the start of the Lakeland Ultra Trail 55km earlier that year and had a lovely chat with him about running and he asked us about our goals for the season and Miyako mentioned I’d been inspired by Jasmin Paris’s Spine Race to tackle the C2C.

Once we’d told Damo I was doing it there was no backing out.

I’d also bought a second hand copy of a very old edition on the Wainwright guide which is a real gem – I love the front cover with his illustration of the simple map drawn across the country West to East and I wanted to run that line from my beloved Lakes to another favourite spot: Robin Hoods Bay. The inside cover also has a beautifully simple map – and there was something about the symmetry of a route running through the three National Parks – Lakes, Dales and NY Moores – that appealed.

He might have been a bit of a crackpot, but he draws a lovely map

And to cross the whole country on foot felt like it would be an achievement – I’d cycled it twice before, and cycled across France via the Pyrenees so I assume something draws me to these sea to sea via the summits routes… I’d decided I wanted to make some big changes in my worklife in 2019 which would take some courage and ‘going solo’ and running a line across the country seemed an appropriate way to reflect that ambition on the ground.

Also I wanted to challenge myself to do something solo. I’d always been a bit afraid of being alone in the countryside, I wasn’t ever scared of the hills but rather of ‘stranger danger’. Having been bombarded with images of women joggers getting jumped on in the woods I always preferred to venture out with others. But this time I was going to do most of the run solo…

So I hatched a plan that involved me taking a train to St Bees and running solo through the Lakes in two days, then meeting up with my Dad as support crew (in the car) for the legs through the Pennines which were particularly bleak and wild (and to me unknown) territory and into the more familiar Dales. My Dad would then drop me home to York at the end the leg out of the Dales – so I got a night on my own bed, chance to wash my kit and get a massage before heading back to tackle the final two stages over the NY Moors with Miyako in tow. Unfortunately accommodation on the Moors is very limited and we couldn’t get into the Lion Inn so my Dad stepped in again to transfer us the hour back from the NY Moors to my parent’s flat in Filey for the night and ferry us back the following morning. Tim and the kids were planning to meet us at the end – and celebrate with a dip in the sea and fish and chips. Or that was the plan, at least…

Day 1: St Bees to Borrowdale YHA – 29 miles

I was up early as it was a big day by any standards, and I didn’t want to push too hard too early and not make it to the finish. I wasn’t entirely sure how fast I’d be travelling and there were a few days when I’d calculated getting to my destination in daylight might be touch and go… I knew the section through the Lakes pretty well after Ennerdale Bridge so only this first section and the final bit of Day 2 after Kidsty Pike were new to me. The first hour along the coast was lovely – but the mountains were calling and I was keen to arrive into the hills proper.

Cheeky grin at the panel that marks the start to make AW turn in his grave at someone running his route instead of savouring it – and a woman at that!

By early morning I was skirting Ennerdale Water in sunshine – last time I’d been here with the kids we’d had one of their worst ever hikes in sleet. I popped into Ennerdale YHA to top up my water and found to my delight they were running an honesty cafe (I’d planned to top up here but thought I might need to sneak in the kitchen as it’s usually closed in the day). I enjoyed a slice of cake and cuppa and a 10 min break drinking in their unparalleled view of Pillar from the back terrace.

Around the side of Ennerdale Water – I love this valley, so quiet!
Tea and Pillar – thanks Ennerdale YHA

I was sorely tempted to take the high route – over Red Pike and onto Haystacks as that’s one of my favourite ridges – but I was sensible and followed the valley path through moraine to the head of Ennerdale. Little did I know Black Sail YHA – just a few miles up the trail – was also running an honesty cafe, so I stopped for another cup of tea this time with Great Gable for company, before slogging up the side of a stream to emerge round the back of Haystacks and join the path towards Honister.

Ability to eat well on a run is a key ultra running skill (I kid you not) and it’s one of the few running skills I excel at. So I grabbed a spot of lunch at Honister Slate mine before gently jogging down the path to Borrowdale – being treated to a glimpse of a kingfisher along the river Derwent. Couldn’t have been happier to arrive at one of my favourite spots, grab a shower, pull on the compression tights and put up my legs to rest until dinner on the comfy sofa of the lounge.

resting like a pro in the bar (apologies for my toes – I didn’t have room in my pack for spare shoes)

Day 2: Borrowdale to Burnbanks – 28 miles

Today involved crossing 3 high passes including the highest point on the route (Kidsty Pike – a new Wainwright for me) and Greenup Edge where I knew from previous experience in misty weather the path is very hard to find (and the opportunity to end up in the wrong valley quite high). So not the best day for low cloud and rain – but reassured by having done at least 2 courses on how to read a compass in the previous 12 months and having largely done most of this route before (and having hastily downloaded some GPS mapping software to my iPhone for emergencies) I headed up the valley with a spring in my step. Worse case scenario, I reasoned, I’d end up in Langdale or Thirlmere and whilst it’d be a detour I know the way back from there to where I’m meant to be.

Eagle Crag looms in the mist as I leave Borrowdale

Up and up I climbed, into the low cloud and soon I could barely see 10 metres ahead. The path dwindled to a boggy mess with only the occasional footprint to follow. I could just about make out the next cairn ahead in the mist – so one cairn at a time I carefully navigated over the top and dropped into Far Easedale. ‘So long as I know how to use my compass, and can see at least one cairn ahead of me, I’m going to be fine’ I decided – and I was.

Wandering in mist on Greenup Edge – better conditions than last time I was here with the Mum-venturers!

I rolled down into Far Easdale (the right valley!) ahead of schedule and into a pub carpark outside Grasmere where the support team (aka my Dad) had insisted on meeting me, rather than in Burnbanks at the end of Day 2 as we’d originally agreed. He was – at this was to set the tone for his ‘style’ of support for the next few days – not exactly where we’d agreed to meet, out of phone range and not on time. He was also eating my supply of food that he was meant to be carrying. But it was good to see him.

Support crew caught eating the snap at Grasmere

No time for a chat, I was off up Grisedale Hause – with 3 passes to climb today was going to be a long one. I’d done this pass twice before in the other direction in races (Ultra 55km comes that way) and it always drags so I’d not been looking forward to it, although I was relieved to know the route well in those conditions. But it was a much shorter and easier climb in this direction and again I was quickly heading towards Patterdale where I’d next planned to eat lunch and meet my Dad.

But a few miles before the village around the bottom of Birks (a fell) what do I see but a grey-haired chap wandering around the hills and I recognise ‘my support crew’ having a stroll. I relieve him of the car key and have my lunch in the car, just finishing as he catches me up. Next up the final big effort of the day – over the Angletarn Pikes to Kidsty Pike and along the never ending shores of Haweswater. I’d reccied this section in May (when it had rained) and I’d also been round Haweswater twice earlier that year; once in training for the Montane 50 and then in the race itself. Both times it rained and today was no different. I’ve since been back to Haweswater for a hike and have seen it in sunshine – it’s much nicer – but if I never have to run that path around that body reservoir again I’ll be happy.

Finally after a long wet day – and several bags of M&S gelatine free Colin the Caterpillars – I arrived at the end of the reservoir at Burnbanks. I’d wanted to stay at the Haweswater hotel but it was full – hence needing my Dad to transfer me to Shap where we’d booked into a lovely hostel. Ensuite with a bath and double bed. I was shivering from cold as we arrived and drank 3 cups of tea in the bath before I was warm again.

Day 3: Burnbanks to Kirby Stephen – 25 miles

I often schedule my long runs to end near a fish and chip shop – Miyako and I usually celebrate a successful 3 Peaks in Hawes chippy or a long run on the Cleveland Way at Robin Hoods Bay – and today was no exception. I’d realised Kirby Stephen was only 10 mins drive from one of my favourite eateries – Brough Chippy (I hadn’t counted on it being closed on Wednesday though). So I set off from Kirby Stephen after a hearty and delicious cooked breakfast already thinking about my tea. Shortly after Shap I had to cross the M6 and run round a grim quarry, so the brief distraction of being called by school to ask where my son was at least took my mind off the crappy landscape. (He was fine, my Mum was looking after him and had forgotten to tell school he was ill).

With the M6 behind me (and several days away from the thrilling crossing of the A19 dual carriageway and a railway line) I enjoyed the limestone country of Westmoreland – finding some sections of limestone pavement and enjoying the walls. A lot of paths for the next two days seem to follow these walls… The grandeur of the Lakes was gone and not ever to be surpassed – that’s the problem with the route you get the best bits first – but the gentler charms of the Pennines and Yorkshire Dales beckoned, and the walls told me I was nearing my home county of Yorkshire.

This could be anywhere between Shap and Kirby Stephen frankly – looks very samey all day after the M6

It was shorter and far easier day (most of the climbing was behind me so my pace was faster) so we arrived into the tiny town of Kirby Stephen with far more time than you can reasonably spend there. The disappointment of Brough chippy being closed was compounded by the ‘Coast to Coast’ chippy also having its day off. Fortunately after some ranting on my part about why-don’t-they-coordinate-their-opening-times-better-like-boulangeries-in-France which-have-a-rota-for-days-off-so-there’s-always-one-open we found a chip shop that was open and I became a lot less hangry.

Day 4: Kirby Stephen to Reeth – 24 miles

Today involved crossing the wildest and least inhabited bits of the route including Nine Standards which was also – joy – notoriously boggy. The map looked like a lost world of peat hags and heather. Leaving the pub where we’d stayed last night I was hopeful – there was a bit on sun and a red squirrel followed me along a wall for a bit. But as I climbed up towards the spooky cairns of Nine Standards Rigg (which looks like the Knights Who say ‘Ni’ from Monty Python’s Holy Grail) the sky became darker and the wind picked up.

‘Cut down the tallest tree in the forest with a herring’

This summit marked the Pennine Watershed – from here on the rivers run out to my destination – the North Sea. A few minutes after the elation of reaching this fluvial half-way marker I had to shelter behind a cairn and pull on my waterproof as the sky began pelting me with cold, hard drops. Next stop the real half-way point of Keld – but many moorland miles to cross before then and the landscape was pretty featureless and bleak moors. At least the path was very clear and not boggy – or so I thought…

Here comes there rain! Just after Nine Standards Rigg it started to lash with wind and rain.. perfect weather for peat bogs

This also was the day the singing started to keep up my spirits as I was soon sliding up and down and around peat hags. First I got the tune Baby Shark stuck in my head and I was singing the words ‘Baby Swale’ to it as I traced the tiny river Swale from these highs moors into a churning brown river lower down in Keld (and later into Reeth).

Somewhere in the Pennines above Ravenseat

This is the section of the C2C which crosses the Pennine Way and as I slopped around in the muddy moors I made a mental note never to do that route. Wainwright was clear which route he preferred, he says in the introduction to the C2C book: ‘I finished the Coast to Coast with regret, the Pennine Way with relief; that is the difference’. He’s not right about everything, but I suspect he’s right about which of these routes is most pleasant.

I’d reccied this next section in the Summer holidays with the kids when we were camping art Grinton Lodge YHA – a family favourite and tonight’s destination. So I knew there was a cafe in the small hamlet of Keld – although the owner had been non-committal when I’d asked her in August whether she’d be open at lunchtime on a Thursday in September. Fingers-crossed, I sprinted into the half-way point hoping I’d be able to celebrate with a cuppa. Dad had said he was going to run the last few miles into Keld with me but he changed his mind when he saw the mud and was waiting in the car.

Halfway! I celebrated with cheese on toast and a cuppa in the cafe at Keld

The following section from Keld along the Swale and up Swinniside Gill is truly lovely on a nice day, in fact it’s one of my favourite walks in the Dales. But today it was not at it’s best – it wasn’t so bad that I took the low-level variant by the river to Reeth either. And it wasn’t as bad as that infamous time (on this same path on a family walk with my Dad) we had to rope-up my daughter Elsa to stop her blowing away in a storm… That episode, along with the wet slog round Ennerdale Water, is in my children’s top 3 worst walks (I’ll have to blog about the best/worst one ever – which also involved my Dad, lightning and inappropriate clothing – in the Dolomites another time). So in comparison today was a breeze – and at least nobody was whining – I was still singing though. Not seeing a soul all day (except at Keld) I’d started talking to sheep and singing On Ilka Moore Baht Tat to keep myself going.

Elsa ‘enjoying’ the Muker-Keld walk one October half-term…

Maybe because I’d spent much of my own childhood ‘enjoying’ the Dales in all weathers, I was in my element in the rain – which eventually stopped. The issue then became navigation – there were big trails across the moors but no signs and everything looked the same in ever direction. I will confess I largely navigate in the Lakes by knowing where I am pretty well and being able to recognise hills in the distance. All I could see here was heather, and the odd shooting butt.

Somehow I managed to find my way to Surrender Bridge where my dad was waiting in his original 1980s Ron Hill tracksters to check on me before the final section into Reeth. I was almost home, but in the maze of paths in that final section, tired after 4 long days on the trails and relaxing as I was back somewhere I recognised, I stopped checking the map and started just heading towards the youth hostel high on the hill. I ended up losing the official path for the first time and landed on the road between Reeth and Muker. Fortunately I knew vaguely where I was and decided to drop down along the Swale into Grinton rather than try and re-find the route via Reeth. And I arrived at Grinton Lodge YHA to a warm welcome – Chris the former manager of Borrowdale (and a keen fell runner) was working on reception.

Miles over the moors to Reeth

Day 5: Reeth-Danby Wiske – 25 miles

The less said about Danby Wiske and this stage the better. It’s the boring bit in between the Dales and the NY Moors. My Dad ran a few miles with me at the start of the day along the Swale as far as Marrick Abbey where it starts going uphill – not accusing him of stopping there for that reason, just saying I noticed he liked to join me on the downhill sections 😉

My ‘pacer’ running me into Surrender Bridge on Day 4 – downhill obviously!

After reaching Richmond at the bottom of Swaledale, which was pleasant enough, the path then followed fields and farms – passing briefly under the A1 motorway – and through tiny villages and along the occasional B road. I also ran past Kiplin Hall – a heritage venue I’d done some strategy work with a few months before. I decided not to pop in for a quick update but headed on.

Today’s highlight was bumping into a fellow runner, out for her daily jog with the dog, who kindly accompanied me for about 4-5 miles into Catterick, chatting as we ran along. It was a trickier section for navigation with lots of little paths and checking of the map so it was great to have a guide so I could relax and not need to check the map constantly. From here to just before the end would all be new to me too – but fortunately from tomorrow I had another guide lined-up who not only knew most of the route from her HardMoors races but also has every gadget and GPX thingumy going to keep us on track – Miyako. It was also good timing to have some company as I was running out of verses of On Ilka Moor Baht Tat to sing to the sheep.

Best of all, today the route finished about an hour from home – so rather than fork out for a hotel with true Yorkshire value for money we headed home to wash the wet kit, have a massage, see the kids and sleep in my own bed. We also needed to pick up my secret weapon for the final stages – Shimoji-san. The last two days were long ones and with 130 miles already in my legs I’d need some moral support to get to the seaside by teatime on Sunday especially given the weather forecast.

Day 6: Danby Wiske-Blakey Ridge – 30 miles

When Miyako and I do our long training runs together we chat, and with a week of gossip to catch up on I hardly noticed the first 6 miles of the day as we jogged round yet more bloody fields of turnips and sweetcorn on featureless flat plains until we arrived at Ingelby Cross where the route gets interesting again.

My secret weapon: Shimoji-san with her navigation gadgets and endless snacks (and good company)

A early highlight that day was the *fun* of crossing the A19 dual carriageway on foot, but otherwise the first thing I remember was the millions of pheasants on the paths as we climbed through some woods and came out onto the moors.

We were blessed with glorious weather for once (and not for long!) and the running was easy along the ridges – up and down, up and down, up and down. Miyako spotted Roseberry Topping in the background and we waved to our old friend. This is one of the few days with lots of photos of me running – given I was alone for so long, my Dad isn’t great with a camera and it was so wet on the final day. It wasn’t as stunning as the Lakes – what is though frankly – but the scenery was a big improvement on the past 2 days and I enjoyed the views as well as the company.

Wandering up and down the NY Moors
Queen of the mountains!

Day 7: Blakely Ridge – Robin Hood Bay – 30 miles (but we took a shortcut)

Must have used up all the good weather yesterday as we never even got a glimpse of the sun today. And such as shame as even in what was pretty grim weather you could still tell this stage would have been a cracker – we’ll definitely go back and do this again as soon as CV19 allows it. After following a ridge along the moors, we dropped into woods to follow the river to the sea – in Spring there would be wild garlic and bluebells, we’ll come back then. I believe this is the Esk Valley but it was too wet to check the map and bit his stage all I could think of was fish and chips at the end. I’d even gone off Colin the Caterpillars after eating 12 bags since St Bees.

So the final day turned into a bit of a grind – but we always knew we’d make it. There was a lot of this (in the photo above) – head down, tramping through wet heather. And a lot of singing On Ilka Moor Baht Tat – Miyako is probably the only Japanese person to know all verses. We passed two hikers on the trail (I think the only people we saw all day) and slightly freaked them out with our singing as we ran.

There was a lunch stop in Grosmont where we wrung out our wet clothes before going into a little cafe. Some ‘hilarious’ antics to keep our spirits up – posting for ironic photos next to ‘fire hazard’ signs and bales of wire (in-joke for my Dad who worked in the wire industry and has more interest in wire products than average). We even got to ford a river at one stage – wading up to our knees through a river. We couldn’t have been more wet – not even our mountain-grade full waterproofs could keep us dry in that rain for so long.

Humour kept us going – I’d have been amazed if anyone could have started a fire in those conditions

We know the area around Robin Hoods Bay very well – it’s one of our main training areas – so when the route takes a final twist North to take in the coastal path from Hawkser but Wainwright says there’s an option to stay straight on and save yourself 3-4 miles we decided to skip that last loop. It’s a path we’ve done many, many times before – but today wasn’t the day for scenic detours and you’d have seen nothing but sea spray.

Dad and Tim were waiting for us at the top of the last steep hill into RHB which I can reveal is murder on your quads after a week on your feet. It’s one of the steepest hills I know and I was worried my legs might actually fall off as I rolled into the tiny village by the sea to find my kids joining in for the last 10 metres or so. I ran into the the sea to dry off – the tide was in and waves crashing up the cobbles by the pub at the end of the route.

No I hadn’t jumped in the sea – that’s just rain!

I can’t remember now at what stage we were informed that the fish and chip shops had both closed early due to bad weather, but I do remember how adamant I was that I wasn’t leaving there coast until I’d had some – so we drive to Whitby to enjoy the full ‘Nicky Spinks’: fish, chips and curry sauce. We’d earned it!

Introduce Yourself (Example Post)

This is an example post, originally published as part of Blogging University. Enroll in one of our ten programs, and start your blog right.

You’re going to publish a post today. Don’t worry about how your blog looks. Don’t worry if you haven’t given it a name yet, or you’re feeling overwhelmed. Just click the “New Post” button, and tell us why you’re here.

Why do this?

  • Because it gives new readers context. What are you about? Why should they read your blog?
  • Because it will help you focus your own ideas about your blog and what you’d like to do with it.

The post can be short or long, a personal intro to your life or a bloggy mission statement, a manifesto for the future or a simple outline of your the types of things you hope to publish.

To help you get started, here are a few questions:

  • Why are you blogging publicly, rather than keeping a personal journal?
  • What topics do you think you’ll write about?
  • Who would you love to connect with via your blog?
  • If you blog successfully throughout the next year, what would you hope to have accomplished?

You’re not locked into any of this; one of the wonderful things about blogs is how they constantly evolve as we learn, grow, and interact with one another — but it’s good to know where and why you started, and articulating your goals may just give you a few other post ideas.

Can’t think how to get started? Just write the first thing that pops into your head. Anne Lamott, author of a book on writing we love, says that you need to give yourself permission to write a “crappy first draft”. Anne makes a great point — just start writing, and worry about editing it later.

When you’re ready to publish, give your post three to five tags that describe your blog’s focus — writing, photography, fiction, parenting, food, cars, movies, sports, whatever. These tags will help others who care about your topics find you in the Reader. Make sure one of the tags is “zerotohero,” so other new bloggers can find you, too.

Introduce Yourself (Example Post)

This is an example post, originally published as part of Blogging University. Enroll in one of our ten programs, and start your blog right.

You’re going to publish a post today. Don’t worry about how your blog looks. Don’t worry if you haven’t given it a name yet, or you’re feeling overwhelmed. Just click the “New Post” button, and tell us why you’re here.

Why do this?

  • Because it gives new readers context. What are you about? Why should they read your blog?
  • Because it will help you focus your own ideas about your blog and what you’d like to do with it.

The post can be short or long, a personal intro to your life or a bloggy mission statement, a manifesto for the future or a simple outline of your the types of things you hope to publish.

To help you get started, here are a few questions:

  • Why are you blogging publicly, rather than keeping a personal journal?
  • What topics do you think you’ll write about?
  • Who would you love to connect with via your blog?
  • If you blog successfully throughout the next year, what would you hope to have accomplished?

You’re not locked into any of this; one of the wonderful things about blogs is how they constantly evolve as we learn, grow, and interact with one another — but it’s good to know where and why you started, and articulating your goals may just give you a few other post ideas.

Can’t think how to get started? Just write the first thing that pops into your head. Anne Lamott, author of a book on writing we love, says that you need to give yourself permission to write a “crappy first draft”. Anne makes a great point — just start writing, and worry about editing it later.

When you’re ready to publish, give your post three to five tags that describe your blog’s focus — writing, photography, fiction, parenting, food, cars, movies, sports, whatever. These tags will help others who care about your topics find you in the Reader. Make sure one of the tags is “zerotohero,” so other new bloggers can find you, too.

Introduce Yourself (Example Post)

This is an example post, originally published as part of Blogging University. Enroll in one of our ten programs, and start your blog right.

You’re going to publish a post today. Don’t worry about how your blog looks. Don’t worry if you haven’t given it a name yet, or you’re feeling overwhelmed. Just click the “New Post” button, and tell us why you’re here.

Why do this?

  • Because it gives new readers context. What are you about? Why should they read your blog?
  • Because it will help you focus your own ideas about your blog and what you’d like to do with it.

The post can be short or long, a personal intro to your life or a bloggy mission statement, a manifesto for the future or a simple outline of your the types of things you hope to publish.

To help you get started, here are a few questions:

  • Why are you blogging publicly, rather than keeping a personal journal?
  • What topics do you think you’ll write about?
  • Who would you love to connect with via your blog?
  • If you blog successfully throughout the next year, what would you hope to have accomplished?

You’re not locked into any of this; one of the wonderful things about blogs is how they constantly evolve as we learn, grow, and interact with one another — but it’s good to know where and why you started, and articulating your goals may just give you a few other post ideas.

Can’t think how to get started? Just write the first thing that pops into your head. Anne Lamott, author of a book on writing we love, says that you need to give yourself permission to write a “crappy first draft”. Anne makes a great point — just start writing, and worry about editing it later.

When you’re ready to publish, give your post three to five tags that describe your blog’s focus — writing, photography, fiction, parenting, food, cars, movies, sports, whatever. These tags will help others who care about your topics find you in the Reader. Make sure one of the tags is “zerotohero,” so other new bloggers can find you, too.