Well, yesterday was the biggie in terms of training runs – a 7-hour dress rehearsal. This meant running with my pack at 12kg in an off-road environment non-stop and then afterwards reviewing how things went and what I needed to tweak before the real thing. With my pack filled quite literally with weights, drink made up (Trailwind), nutrition ready (a bag of milk bottles) and a lift to Wessenden Head I was off. A gentle jog down the track towards the reservoir and things felt good. My pack felt survivable, the weather was just right, the views were already stunning, and I was on my way to Hebden Bridge along the Pennine Way. A downhill start is always a great way to build up confidence on a run but at half a mile came the first of many stops to check the route. Given that I had run the route before as part of the Spine Sprint and given that the route is a major national trail, I had thought that navigation would be straight forwards but there were still quite a few points where I had to stop and check the map.
What a stunning route with endless spectacular views to make you so happy to be alive, even with a 12kg pack on your back. I can’t really say I ran the route because for most of it I was walking but where there was an easy flat or downhill on smoother ground, I was able to pick up a bit of speed that might have looked to some as if I was running. Poles were in use most of the route and particularly in the more rocky, muddy and uphill sections. Being overtaken by a walker at one point was somewhat embarrassing but I did tell him the weight of my pack to explain my lack of speed and to try and gain some credibility out of the situation. At the M62 crossing I got chatting to another runner going in the same direction, John, who provided a distraction from the increasingly long run I was doing before he disappeared off into the distance, never to be seen again. Good luck to John, who is racing at the Bluebell next weekend!
Once I had reached the White House, I felt I was on the homewards stretch. By this point everything was complaining but mind over matter kept me going, plus the single milk bottle I gave myself every 15 minutes and a big boost from The Archers Omnibus with the latest update on events in Ambridge. The run from the White House to Stoodly Pike always feels much longer than it is, and the weather didn’t help by getting cold enough for hat and gloves – not quite jungle conditions for a rehearsal! But once I had reached Stoodly Pike it was all downhill and the end was quite literally in sight. My left knee by this point was complaining loudly so the descent wasn’t quite the joyful finish it should have been, but I kept going and finally hit the canal and then Hebden Bridge. Rehearsal finished.