> 2012 race reports
23/06/12 Durham Dales Challenge - from Frank Shillitoe

There was a big turn out for the Durham Dales Challenge organised by the Northumbria LDWA. There seemed to be a decent turnout of runners at the start in Wolsingham, and when the starting horn was blown there was quite a charge of about fifteen runners down through the streets of the town and up onto the fell. With 30 miles ahead of me I was quite taken a back by the pace up the hill with about ten runners ahead of me. After a couple of miles and 180m of ascent later, we were up onto Sunnyside Edge and my smart phone notified me I was running 9 mins / mile, much faster than I intended. All soon became clear when nine of the ten runners seemed to miss a left turn at the first check point ahead and on reaching it I saw a sign: “16 miles straight on”, “30 miles turn left”. For some reason I’d completely forgot there were two different courses that day. Now I was in second position and slightly regretting the earlier faster pace; a salutary lesson to not go off too fast at the start of these long runs, even if others do. The next section across the fell to Hamsterley Forest was very pleasant indeed with some taped sections taking us through tiny tracks in the deep heather. I took a wrong turn at a stream junction but fortunately soon realised this, and relocated back onto the proper route. I was surprised to see the chap who was ahead of me come up from behind; he too had taken a wrong turn albeit a different one. We ploughed down to the stream junction in the first valley where the second checkpoint was located and was pleasantly surprised to be offered cake by the marshals. There was a long slog out of the valley and the forest and back onto the fell, then more pleasant running down into the Tees Valley. More cake was served at the third checkpoint before running up the river to Middleton-in-Teesdale. This turned out to be a real ‘treat’. The river had burst its banks and in several places was flooding across the footpath. There was one place where I was almost waist high in the water. On arriving at the fifth checkpoint in Middleton and having described the conditions to the marshals they contemplated rerouting that section before the walkers arrived. The spread laid on at Middleton was fantastic and a big thank you to the volunteers who put this on. I headed off with a couple of tuna sandwiches in my hand and a golf ball sized very dense and heavy sweet which one of the ladies insisted I took due to it being ‘high energy’. It was delicious and was what I needed for the slog back up onto the fell. Coming up Hudes Hope I made a navigation error and ended up on the wrong side of the valley. If I had had my compass out, rather than leaving it in the rucksack, or even just looked at the map more carefully, I would have quickly realised this. It cost about a mile in extra distance to get back on route. On reaching the sixth checkpoint I discovered I was still in second place, so wasn’t too disheartened. The next leg involved an up and over into Great Eggles Hope. There was a climb up Wire Gill on a footpath which was soon lost in the heather. This time I wasn’t taking any chances and got the compass out. There was a long rise ahead which I couldn’t see over, but the bearing got me to the reservoir and then onto the track to checkpoint seven. The next section was along a public footpath for about a mile and then onto a track. Although marked as a footpath, there didn’t seem to be any discernable path on the ground and the navigation was far from obvious. This section was about 23 miles in and hopping through the heathery hell was strenuous. I later found out that the chap behind me went seriously off route here, descended into the wrong valley, and had to retreat to the finish missing the last few checkpoints. Despite the last section being downhill off the fell and down the Wear back to the finish at Wolsingham, I was very fatigued and my pace reduced to 10.5 min/mile finishing in second place at 5 hours 24 minutes. My lessons for the day were: don’t go off too fast at the start (how many times have I heard myself say that before), and don’t ever think that the navigation is easy. This was a really enjoyable and quite fast run, with few steep sections where you are reduced to a walking pace. It was extremely pleasant being fed the whole way around (pie and peas at the finish by the way), and I’ll be putting this one in the calendar for next year. Thank you very much to the organisers at the Northumbria LDWA and all the volunteers for putting this event on.

Frank Shillitoe

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