> 2010 race reports
08/05/10 Haltwhistle Challenge - from Howard Jones

This is part of a walking festival that takes place over 3 weeks and the highlight is the Challenge, a 26 mile route over tracks foot paths and road taking in Hadrians Wall and the Pennine way en route. More undulating than hilly. Entries were restricted to 200 walkers and 100 runners, the walkers setting off two hours before the runners. I always find this useful as it means you start picking them up in the second half and it makes route finding easier. A route map was issued and 4 checkpoints had to be visited on the way round, all of which had water too.

Being new to the area I thought this a good way to start to get to know it. I try to do 5 or 6 of these events each year, and this was the first one in 2010 that I could find anywhere near Jedburgh.

A cold easterly wind blowing out of a sunny sky meant lively discusion about choice of clothing, but I settled for hats, gloves and a long sleeve thermal. Seemed to do the trick except my hat blew off a few times in the early miles.

Turned up at registration and a Marshall asked if I was a runner or child swimmer. As I am over 50 and swim like a breezeblock I assured him of the former and recommended a visit to Specsavers on Monday! The elderly lady at race reception told me she “wanted me over here “ which turned out to be the best offer I would get all day!

A 5-minute stroll to the start and then we set off straight into the wind. First hill I felt a small tear in my right calf but knew from experience if it did not get worse I would be ok and was a great excuse to walk up the inclines. Turning east along Hadrians Wall was pleasant and I made up a few places on folk who made a route finding error at Caw Gap. (When you are a plodder like me that always brings some satisfaction).

Through the first check point we turned west and had the wind behind us for the first time, but also hit some tarmac which my legs are allergic too. We saw a group coming back to us from another error, a small smile. Across the first boggy bit, but the recent dry weather had made that ok and then onto a bit more road!

The second check point at Greenhead was where we started picking up the walkers a large group of whom had stopped to enjoy the stew on offer. Never have been able to run on a stomach of stew so kept going and was feeling smug as just after we crossed the railway line the crossing bleeped and shut. However pride comes etc and we got lost for a short while trying to locate the Pennine way. Once on it was a pleasant jog south for 6 miles with route finding made easier by the string of walkers and plenty of red and white tape. In the middle of the moor a guy made us detour around a lapwing nest.

The third check point was at Lambley viaduct, which is well worth a visit and was spectacular to run over. We then dropped down to the Tyne for what seemed like a long trudge before hitting the last tarmac stretch home. Crossing the final stile I lifted my left leg and got hit by my first ever bout of cramp during a race. No idea why as I had drunk almost a litre of Gatorade on the way round. We knew we were close to the finish as we were entering the outskirts of Haltwhistle though my left thigh kept cramping up. I remember Wendy Dodds once telling me running backwards was a good relief from cramp and sure enough it helps.

Just I started to cross the railway again a guy grabbed me and said remember these numbers 4,25,12. Thought I had stumbled upon the village idiot but in fact that was the finishing line and my time and a novelty after over 100 marathons. Time was ok and apparently came 12th, which was acceptable too.

Back at the school we were offered showers but when the winner came out and said they were Baltic I took that to be geordie for “not as hot as you may want” so went off to gobble down my pie and peas (very good) then home for a shower. Apart from a black toenail and sore left thigh not too much the worse for wear.

I would give the event 8 out of 10, pleasant course, well marked and the only downside really being about 4 miles of tarmac along the way

Howard Jones

results and photos on Haltwhistle site

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