Wednesday, 1 June 2011


In attempting to run 70 miles along the Pennine Way my hope has been to support HelpforHeroes a fundraising organisation dedicated to helping members of the armed forces injured on active service

If this expedition prompts you to make a donation in support of our service personnel injured in the line of duty, go to

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Gargrave to Edale, how the day went

Standing on the bridge over the River Aire in Gargrave at 3 am on Saturday morning I wondered why on earth I had got myself into this situation. While there was a personal agenda, a self imposed challenge, I focused on the many people who had given donations and pledged support for the Help for Heroes charity and it was for the sake of all our soldiers injured on active service that I had to complete the run

It was dark, it was drizzling and there was a fresh breeze that I knew from experience would multiply many times in strength once we were on the higher, more exposed sections of the run.

Ian Charters, very experienced in both running and supporting long distance challenges, was with me on the first leg and we decided that full, heavy weather waterproofs would be the best choice early on. It was a decision that we were to be thankful for later in the run.

Initially I had split the route into four equal length sections, but Ian had opted for a longer first leg so that the changeover of support could be located at a more convenient spot.

While Ian’s wife Pauline drove round to meet us at a pre-arranged rendezvous we picked our way through fields and disturbed the cows and sheep from their early morning ruminations en route for the Bronte Country, Top Withins and the Widdop area where the first changeover of support was to take place after seven hours and 23 miles of running.

Along the way the wind speed increased and the rain got heavier. They were conditions in which it was hard to keep the pace up yet we arrived at Widdop a few minutes ahead of schedule.

Ian and Pauline swapped roles and my brother Ed, who has been a constant support in planning and training, took over roadside duties. Completing the support team for this section was Julie Laverock who assumed navigational duties as well as sharing other support tasks such as carrying spare clothing and high energy food and drink. On any ultra distance run it is vital to take on regular food and drink and the support team must have the experience to make sure the runner doesn’t neglect this aspect.

By now the rain had stopped leaving behind a strong, cold wind and we traversed Heptonstall Moor heading for Calderdale before crossing the valley and heading up to the monument on Stoodley Pike. For the first time physical problems began to appear in form of a thigh strain that I feared would jeopardise the attempt. In a bid to keep the problem at bay Ibuprofen and a few stretching exercises were tried. The climb up to Stoodley Pike was inevitably slow and a chance to take on more engery food and drink.

Across the top of the ridge heading for the White House Inn on the A58 the pain had gone. The wind was head on and energy sapping but by now the sun was out save for a few squally showers Across Blackstone Moss we reached the M62 and the next changeover where the ladies were replaced by Ed, John Parker and Nicole Kirkham. Road duties were taken over by John Coope who has helped me on many of my long distance challenges. So far 40 miles had been covered and we were still making good progress.

We made good time across Standedge and Black Moss to Wessenden and the long climb up to the A635. From there we had one of the longest between road sections, nearly nine miles, to Torside reservoir near Glossop, where again the strong head winds were making their presence felt to the extent that at times it was hard to keep running. We made it to the Torside rendezvous about an hour late which was a major disappointment as it made a mess of the strategy for the later stages.

The plan had been to reach Kinder Scout before nightfall and hopefully reach the descent before darkness. It was now obvious this was not going to happen and in the company of my daughter Sally and son Eden and their travelling companion from the South, who answers to the name of Spud, we set off up the last major climb of the day to Bleaklow Head and then on to the Snake Pass road, where Julie emerged from one of the support cars to take on the onerous task of navigating over Kinder in the gathering gloom.

Crossing Kinder in the light can often be a challenge even in good weather but in strongly gusting winds and in the dark it became a question of safety first. With head torches now on we were very much down to a walk over the rocks and peat groughs of Kinder and time was passing slowly as we made towards Edale Rocks with the lights of the Manchester conurbation well below us. It was with relief that we saw the jagged teeth of the rocks against the night sky and knew that the final descent was not far ahead of us.

By now there was not much energy left in me and balance was affected by tiredness. I was ably supported, often physically, by one or other members of the team as my gait became more unsteady. The rocky descent of Jacob’s Ladder was much of an ordeal for everyone in the dark and we were all glad to reach more level ground on the track to Upper Booth.

There we were met by Ed and yet another brother, Bob, who had been drafted in as a support driver. Our navigator Julie who had done such a magnificent job guiding us over Kinder, opted to drive to the finish.

From that point it was simply a matter of crossing a few fields to the finish by the Nags Head Inn at Edale. But it was not as simple as that, being the only section that had not had a recent recce. Uncertainty over the route for the last mile meant much wasted time, almost within sight of the lights of Edale.

With that final problem solved we made it into the small square in Edale in a time of 22 hours 50 minutes, well within the time I had allowed but outside the time I had hoped for.

The whole day had been a great team effort and would not have been possible without the support of so many people, working in many different capacities to give me a day to remember.

I have always felt we do not sometimes use enough of the abilities we have to help others and I hope that in completing this run the money donated from a wide variety of sources will go in some small part to help the soldiers, sometimes horrifically injured in the line of duty on our behalf, to have a chance of a better life.

My heartfelt thanks to all who helped to get me through this challenge and to all who have made or pledged donations.

Postscript: The estimation of the distance run was taken from two sources. The Wainwright Pennine Way guide calculates the distance as 70 miles and there is a sign in Gargrave indicating the distance to Edale as 70 miles. However over the years there have been a number of variations to the initial route and Paddy Dillon in the Cicerone guide to the Pennine Way calculates the distance as nearer 75 miles. Whoever is right it did seem a very long way.

A photographic record can be seen by clicking here to go to the regular blog relating to activities of my support team who train and race regularly together.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

The team completed

The final two members of my support team are Ian and Pauline Charters who both have a background in long distance walking and running.

Ian joined our Saturday group a few years ago and soon progressed beyond our capabilities, going on to complete both the Bob Graham round and the Joss Naylor traverse and even longer challenges. He has helped me on other ultra distance runs and his experience is a welcome addition to any team. Ian has the questionable privilege of helping me on the first leg, starting at Gargrave at 0300 on Saturday morning.

When Ian moved on from our training squad he kindly provided a substitute in the form of Pauline who initially denied being a runner but eventually could no longer hide the fact that she is a very able runner with limitless stamina.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Meet the team - two more Johns

A relatively new recruit to our Saturday morning training squad is John Parker who joined us after a lapse of several years from serious competitive fell running to train for an attempt on this year's Winter Hill fell race.

His performance there showed he had not lost any of his previous ability and he followed up his appearance on Winter Hill with an attempt on the English fell championship where after two races he is in joint first place for the over 70 title.

Adding further experience to the team will be John Coope who with my brother Ed been the has mainstay of our Saturday squad for many years and is much the senior of my helpers. He has supported me on all my Lakeland long distance challenges where his experience and encouragement have been invaluable.

Unfortunately knee trouble has affected his fell running for the past 12 months and he is only now making a cautious return to the fells. In the inaugural years of the Joss Naylor traverse he took on the 48 mile Lakeland challenge and became one of the early winners of the coveted tankard.

His role on Saturday will principally be as a driver for the support team but hopefully he will be encouraged to don his fell shoes and run a few miles with me.

Friday, 20 May 2011

More training, more miles

The 25 miles taking me to Darwen Tower, detailed in the last training update, left me with little energy the next day and 2 miles was all I could manage, very slowly. But if recovery times are a good guide to fitness the two six mile runs on the Friday showed some progress has been made.

Saturday was a repeat of the previous Saturday, but somewhat faster, and was followed the next day with an eight miler, and then 12.5 miles on the Monday which was very close to a personal best for that particular route.

Having missed a swimming session because of the fall of the previous week, Tuesday saw me back in the pool for a few easy lengths followed later in the day with a four mile run - another minor energy crisis.

The shortage of energy was short lived as the Wednesday, back to Darwen Tower for another 25 mile run, saw me back on form with a nine minute improvement over the previous Wednesday followed by six miles on the Thursday.

And so, with eight days left to go the serious training has been completed and a winding down of the mileage will hopefully leave me in peak form. With this in mind a short recce was planned for Friday to re-aquaint myself with final leg from Colden over Bleaklow to the Snake Pass road.

The intention was to check the line off Bleaklow and then return to Colden, but the best laid plans (of mice and men.....) don't always work out. The obvious path from the summit cairn soon petered out into a maze of peat groughs and certainly no Pennine Way. So it was a case of retracing steps to Bleaklow and following a less obvious route which eventually proved to be the way down to the road. This turned out to be a worthwhile recce as valuable time could have been lost on the day of the challenge if the same mistake had been made.
Meet more of the team

Travelling up from the South of England specially to help on the last section of my Pennine Way challenge will be my daughter Sally and son Eden, both of them successful marathon runners, Sally in the London marathon and Eden in the inaugural Brighton marathon last year.

Both of them know the sort of terrain they will have to cope with having accompanied me on last year's abortive attempt at this challenge. Sally, who lives in Fleet, Hampshire, and Eden, from Hove, have been training hard to build up the stamina to run up to 17 miles through the northern moorlands.

They are both keen martial arts enthusiasts, Sally being a black belt, second dan, at Karate and a veteran of the Karate world championships held in Manchester a couple of years ago, while Eden is a black belt at Kendo. So
no problem with team security.

They will be accompanied by triathalon ironman Spud who learned a bit about the north while working in Lancashire for a number of years and took part in the Bolton ironman event. I'm told that unlike The Stig he has a first and last name but has been known universally since childhood as Spud

The pictures above show Eden and myself on our last visit to Edale and Sally ready for the Fleet Half Marathon.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Running commentary

Due to internet problems updating the Blog was not possible for a few days last week so updating progress has been delayed. However, the training did continue with high mileages.

With three weeks to go to my Pennine Way challenge on 7th May saw a group outing on the section of the run from the A672 by the M62 to the B6105 near Colden. John Coope who will be supporting the team at the road crossings on this section was using the outing to check his route and timing and it also gave the quartet of runners, brother Ed, John Parker, Julie and myself a chance to familiarise ourselves with this part of the Way.

Having a car at all the road crossings enabled us to travel light and we made good progress as far as the A635, experiencing a little rain and increasing head winds. Julie must had known what was coming as she took the opportunity to leave us for the comfort of the car, having an outing on the Calderdale Relay race the following day.

As the three of us headed over Black Moss the rain increased and by Laddow Rocks above Colden Great Brook conditions had deteriorated and the combination of wind, wet rocks and coldness was slowing us down.

We dropped down to the reservoirs and across the valley to where the car was waiting on the B6105. We had covered 18 miles in a little over four and a half hours.

A fast six mile run the following day took my total for the week to 87.5 miles.

Thankfully, the Saturday outing had not set my progress back and following Sunday’s lively run Monday’s early morning 12.5 mile run was again encouragingly fast.

Tuesday morning saw me back at the baths for a few lengths followed by a 10 mile run later in the day.

Wednesdays have developed as a good day for a long mid-week run and so the next day saw me again out on the West Pennine Moors, starting at Rivington and following the previous Wednesday’s route via Healey Nab, White Coppice, Abbey Village and round the Roddleworth Reservoirs. At this point last week I had opted for the shorter return to Rivington but today felt that a trip to Darwen Tower was a good addition to the route even though I was beginning to tire.

At the Tower, now looking strange without the top that was removed by storms last year, I encountered Katy Thompson of Clayton-le-Moors Harriers who had read about my run in the Lancashire Evening Telegraph. We ran together for a short while until our routes diverged.

The earlier tiredness had reduced and a good pace along the Belmont road took me to the Ramp and then over Winter Hill, Two Lads and down to Horwich via George’s Lanes and Gingham Brow. Unfortunately the rough descent off George’s Lane caught me out for the first time in a couple of years and the resulting tumble left me bruised and a little bloody. As falls go it was not a bad one but the abrasions to the left left leg would keep me from the baths the next day.

Back at Rivington the Garmin (GPS device) showed an average pace of just under 12 mins per mile marginally faster than last week but with the addition of Darwen Moor the pace was encouraging.