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I got to ST. Edmund’s Church Hall at 07:15 ready to go at 08:00 only to be told my start time was 09:00. Quickly changed that to 08:00! I did not want to hang around given today’s weather especially the 45 mph winds.
By chance, one of the Punk Panther Ultra regulars was there too so Helen (forget her surname!) dragged me through Roundhay Park and onto the Temple Newsam cycle route and through Temple Newsam. Helen had recced the route, so we were flying along, although I have to say the route description (compulsory kit as is the OS map) was spot on.
We got separated then after the motorway bridge and I didn’t see her for the rest of the day. Not a problem though except that now came the muddy fields! Never mind the strong westerly winds (40+mph) not to worry though the mud held your feet in place! I felt like a Subbuteo player at times. The going was slow: I was down to 4mph. There were quite a few muddy fields still to cross, although if you’ve done the LCW you would recognise the route into Garforth and the 1st checkpoint. Where like an idiot I tried desperately to make a cup of strong tea and failed miserably twice. I was so distracted I passed on the cold sandwiches and stuck to the jelly babies and bananas, completely forgetting to top up my water bottle! After Garforth main street you turn left along Barrowby Lane into the headwind, I could not run in that. Across the motorway and towards Barwick in Elmet. Familiar territory again for me. More seriously muddy fields and a self-clip for your ‘tally card’.
It was about here that I got chatting to Ben Cooley, with whom I walked the rest of the route. Grateful for the company too if I’m honest.
Over the A64 back into the woods and you are in Thorner, lovely little village. Still on the Leeds Country Way, so following the route is easy on the OS map and into Bardsey village hall. Checkpoint 2. Here there were 2 volunteers putting blue plastic shoe covers on everyone’s boots! We stopped for our 1st hot meal, beans on toast, didn’t touch the sides. One cup of tea and a refill of my water bottle and we were off. 21 miles done.
Keeping up a 4mph speed is quite hard into a head wind and across muddy fields. There was tarmac through the villages but not much. We were now on the home leg back to the Church hall and another hot meal and heading towards Wike & Shadwell. Only we weren’t prepared for the serious amount of ankle deep mud, just praying at times not to lose your shoes! This return section is also included on Loop 2, so it was going to be worse the second time round, given the amount of people in front/behind that were going to churn up the mud. 29.38 miles in 7hrs 39 mins
Ben & I agreed to have a 30 mins break to have some hot food (baked potato, beans & cheese) and prep our torches for the night section. We knew that the second leg was going to be slower, but we also had a secret weapon: my local knowledge. That proved a huge help – we only checked the map a couple of times. Loop 2 sets you off towards Gledhow and over onto Potternewton lane to Scott Hall Road down into Meanwood Valley and then into the Park to the second ‘self-clip’ on your tally card. Sounds easy when you hear familiar route names, that’s what I thought too. Filled with confidence we were able to push on and up onto Woodhouse ridge and Far Headingley, then back onto the Meanwood Valley Trail to pass under the Ring Road and into the woods. It was torches on now because these woods had barely any decent paths, just mud and rocks to scramble over. We passed the seven arches bridge on the way to Alwoodley Cricket Club (Checkpoint 3). And yet another hot meal, I had a large bowl of vegetable stew, some biscuits and tea. We were 7 miles in with 8 miles to the next checkpoint at Harewood Village Hall, with a lovely tour of Eccup reservoir. The wind was still strong and getting on my nerves now. If you’ve done the Harewood Half you would recognise the next section around the reservoir and turn right into more muddy fields. We saw signs for the British Heart Foundation Half Marathon set up for Sunday: I hope they got round ok in that wind.
We even saw lights still on in ‘Emmerdale Village’ – they must have been filming a night scene. We made the Harewood Village Hall, sadly just cold food and hot drinks now but only 7 miles to go. We got onto the ‘permissive path’ just after the Harewood House gates and through the woods and back out to cross the A61 and on into Wike & Shadwell and back to familiar territory and all that mud! It was much worse than we expected and deeper, but we made it with no lost shoes.
Then it was a quick trip around the Lake through Roundhay Park for the last time and return to the hall for yet another hot meal, veg pie and beans.
I got a taxi and arrived home at 01:00. tired and ready for a bath then bed. Plenty of time tomorrow to sort my kit out.
I have got to say of all the Ultras I’ve run, even given the conditions of 40+mph winds and all that mud, this was one of the best ones I have done. Familiarity of the route helped a lot but the 3 hot meals on the way round were amazing. The route planning and description were spot on. The organisation as always by the LDWA (Long Distance Walkers Association) is slick and well-practised and for a £25 entry fee what’s not to like?
We covered 52.5 miles in 15hrs 37mins, including the meal breaks.