Race Date: 28th September 2019
Report by Andy Sheppard
Never having done an ultra before, I looked out for something around marathon distance and without too much serious climbing – a 28m tour of some reservoirs north of Otley seemed to fit the bill. With less than a hundred starters, the registration ‘headquarters’ were a brilliantly low-key affair but the organisation was fantastic.
After a quick lap of a field to string us out before a pinch-point, we were off proper. Following the route marked with flashes of yellow ribbon was easy enough, making navigation something not to have to worry about, even with long periods with no-one around. That I only went off course once was testament to the organisation and that instance was totally my fault as I was completely distracted by how amazing Jelly Babies taste six hours into a race.
Checkpoints came and went every 10k or so – well stocked tables of snacks and drinks and marshals so friendly you have to remind yourself not to just stop for a chat. A good proportion of the route was on hard-packed trail but as soon as we strayed off that, the recent torrential rain meant conditions were awful underfoot. Paths through fields left you the choice of grass so sodden your feet sank in ankle-deep or a path so muddy it was impossible to run on. On one particular stretch the chap in front of me went over 5-6 times in about 200 yards – it looked like something off You’ve Been Framed!
Having dithered about choice of shoe before the event and opting for trail shoes, it was clear that even full fell shoes would have had little chance of grip in these conditions and would have had the disadvantage of being very uncomfortable on some significant sections of road.
The event had a choice of routes, the one I was intending to do at 28m and another at 36m so when you get to the checkpoint at mile 24 they ask you which one you’re going for. The trouble is, they’re not really asking you which route you’d like to do – what they’re really asking is ‘how stubborn are you to want to keep going’? The answer in my case is: very stubborn. So, being 4m from my intended finish I found myself turning left to make it around another half marathon to the finish.
I was regretting the decision during a bad patch at around mile 30 but the additional route through Harewood house was fantastic and worth the extra slog. In fact, the only bad thing about the whole route was that the last two miles were along a relatively busy road, removing all the distraction of the scenery and only leaving a huge awareness of how your legs were feeling.
I’d thoroughly recommend the event and likely others by Punk Panther as most people I spoke to seemed to be repeat entrants. One of the nice touches was that, once you’d sat down in the hall after the finish, volunteers kept coming and asking you if you wanted anything to eat or drink as they clearly understood that standing up again and making it the 20yards to the teapot and back was now bordering on the impossible.
The winner of both the women’s race and the overall race was Caroline Turner with a time of 5:19:18, beating the first man by over seven minutes. I was the first, last and only Strider, coming in 15th with a time of 7:05:05.
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