The Spine Race. “Part 2” It’s all about those 34 miles!
“The Spine Race should be hard and glorious. And it was.”
The Spine Race, for those who don’t know is a 268 mile non stop foot-race from Edale in Derbyshire to Kirk Yetholm in the Scottish Borders along the entirety of the Pennine Way. Its described as Britains most brutal race & the 2015 race very probably was…
The 2014 Spine race left me a broken man with just 34 miles left to go until the finish. 2014 Blog Cellulitis in both my feet finished my race & just about finished me off as well. Learning from my mistakes I made my plans for the assault on the Pennine Way in 2015.
New kit & lots of extra foot care was the order of the day for me. I talked over my change of regime & my race plan with a couple of my running buddies but as with all plans, they have to remain fluid on a race such as this.
I stayed at some friends (Liz Greg & Simon Edwards) house the night before the race, the wind was certainly howling & I was hoping it was going to calm down a bit before the race started. It wasn’t to be & on our drive over to the start, my wife phoned me to say that she had seen we were going to have a 2hour delay to the start due to, well, adverse conditions…. I phoned through to HQ & queried it only for it to be confirmed by Scott the RD, race start will now be 11:30am. That’s a bugger, Simon quickly span the car around & off we went to the nearest café for a coffee. Sitting there & discussing the weather with them, we realised that it was in for the foreseeable future & that I & the rest of the racers would have to make the best of it.
Finally arriving at Edale Village Hall, we all milled around for ages as the news was trickling through that the Mountain Safety Team (MST) had already been deployed to assist a runner from the Challenger race which had started at 6:30am. Crikey, they must be tough conditions if people are having trouble already. Catching up with some old buddies, we all discussed how our race tactics could change due to the weather although the one thing we all agreed on was just to get the race started as we were all chomping on the bit & raring to go.
And we’re off
Starting just after 11:30am, we were away. Take it steady Allan & stick to your plan. I found myself walking up the Hill with Rob Coleman who’s taking on the 6633 in a few weeks time & we chatted about our expectations in the race. (The night before we talked in the pub & a bet was made with Andrew (Fergie) Ferguson who was doing the Challenger. If I made it to Hawes before him & finished the Spine, I would win a free Arc of Attrition place in February. If not I would have to pay for it)
15minutes into the race & I had my first kit malfunction with my pack cover coming off & I didn’t notice. Happily though a young lady who was out walking caught me up & handed it back. We all walked the hill & just before Jacobs Ladder I popped into the INFO hut to sort the pack out. Coming out of the hut I found myself in last place & even behind the sweeper. Hmmm, I seem to have been in this situation before. Ah well, never mind, head down & carry on. Climbing Jacobs Ladder I started to catch up the other racers & quickly passed a few. The pack cover was again problematic & kept coming off, I stopped again to adjust it but with the wind being so strong it kept coming off. Stopping one last time I clipped it to a couple of points on my pack & hoped that would keep it safe.(It didn’t) Moving on now, I was approaching Kinder Scout & the wind was really picking up & coming in very hard from the West. Heading towards Kinder Downfall & I could see the waterfall defying gravity & going up rather than down. This is where I took the 1st of hopefully many photographs, (actually it was the only photo I took).
Crossing the rocks to the right I had my 2nd kit malfunction when my pack cover came undone again & the wind caught it throwing me over the rocks in a near somersault. Picking myself up I saw the cover flying off into the distance, I think it ended up in Holland…. I dusted myself down & moved on. I wasn’t overly bothered about the cover as all my equipment was in dry bags so it wouldn’t get wet, just the pack would soak up some water if it rained. I didn’t realise it at the time but in doing my circus stunt I had lost my food (Still had my emergency rations) & a water bottle which held half of my water supply, they’re probably still lying up there so if you find it, feel free to keep it.
Thankfully, there were no more dramas for a while & I ploughed on as best I could, passing other racers & keeping up a fairly decent pace. The wind was still relentless & driving in hard from the West, I was starting to struggle a little as the wind was whipping through my glasses & causing a few problems with my left eye which eventually led to wind blindness or a frozen cornea although I didn’t realise it at the time. Moving through & across the roadhead to go over the M62, I saw a couple of runners in the MST vehicle who looked to be in a bit of distress. Not wanting to stop in case I started to get cold I gave the MST my race number, said thanks for being there & cracked on & over the road-bridge towards the White House Pub. Walking across Blackstone edge the weather really took a turn for the worse with the 80-100+mph winds coming in from the west, the snow decided to show up. A complete whiteout & it was the type of snow that was dry & hard & battered you into submission. This is where my GPS decided to die with low battery power. Bugger, there I was, stuck on the side of the hill, dead GPS, almost blind in one eye so I couldn’t focus on my map when the wind was whipping it around.(it was fairly easy to keep focusing on the arrow on the GPS as I kept scrolling in & out & it highlighted my route) Don’t panic! Never panic, even though I couldn’t see more than 10ft in front of me, I thought through my options, either stop & bivvy to wait until the storm passes or take a heading from my compass & keep moving forward. Compass it was! Crouching down, I took 2 minutes to check the map & take a rough bearing as to my direction. Treading carefully now, I moved on as fast as I could but was still probably a snails pace but at least I was moving. Checking the compass every minute or so to make sure I was still heading in the right direction, the snow was still hitting me horizontally & making what vision remained in my left eye pretty much useless. Thankfully after about 15 minutes, I picked up what looked like a trail, following it for a while I made out the distinctive footprint of an Adidas Kanadia trainer. That has to be one of the racers just in front of me, fairly fresh as the snow had hardly covered it. It was pointed in the same direction as I was travelling so I followed it. Thankfully it was heading in the right direction & although I lost it just before the trail towards the Pub, the snow storm had blown itself out & I could see the pub in the distance. The one good thing about such a strong wind is that even though a weather front can hit you in moments, it can disappear just as quickly. Down into the pub & I gave my number to the marshal who sensibly was well wrapped up in her car & only just wound her window down to check if I was ok & if I needed anything. Dipping into the shelter of the pub I took stock, changed my batteries in my GPS, cracked open my emergency rations & moved off as quickly as possible. Looking at the racers in the pub grounds, I don’t think I was the only one who got caught up in the storm as we all looked a little shell shocked.
Next stop was the CP at Hebden Bridge, no further dramas, until I was on the approach to the CP when for some reason I thought I knew the way & veered off track ignoring the map & the GPS & headed towards the town. Still can’t figure out why, I just thought that I recognised the way & took that. I ended up in the town & realised I’d made a major cock-up. Out with the map & the GPS again & I plotted a route towards the CP. I only added a couple of miles on but was a little disappointed with myself for being such an idiot. Walking through the town a lady stopped her car to check if I was ok & told me I was on the wrong route, “It’s ok, I know, I’m just coming into it arse about face”. Amazingly, even though it was about 4am I also bumped into some local teenagers who were gobsmacked to see a dishevelled looking chap striding through their village in the early hours. They walked with me for a while chatting about what the heck I was doing. I told them & they asked if I was winning, “Nah, I’m just a little lost” I replied. “No shit mate” was the reply back & we had a laugh about it. Wishing me well, they walked back down the hill probably talking about how daft we all were.
Finally arriving at the CP, I asked the marshal if Race mum, Nici Griffin was about. If I’m honest I didn’t really want to see her but having had the news earlier in the week that my dad had been rushed into hospital & may not come out I’d talked to Nici & asked her that if he did go, then would she tell me the news. Nici was an absolute star about this & insisted that I give my sisters her own personal phone number as well as the race contact details for any news. Just for this I am forever grateful to her. (Oh, he did make it & came out, we popped in to see him on our way home & told him to stop scaring me like that)
Best laid plans & all that….
Before the race, my plan was to hit each CP, eat some food, sort out my kit & get out as fast as possible sleeping on the trail, but the weather was so bad & I made the decision to crash out for an hour or so. I ate some food, meatballs & cheesy mash I think it was, then had a quick chat to the medics.
“I have a problem with my eye”
Tom : “Left eye”
Tom: “There’s a few with this already”
“Ok, I’ll have a kip then come along & see you in a bit”
I grabbed an hours sleep on one of the bunks then headed down to the kitchen for some more food, eating some breakfast I chatted to a couple of other runners, some who were heading out again & others who had DNF’d. I told them about my eye problem & they said that some of the racers were being stopped because of this. Bugger that I thought, I’ll just keep it covered & it’ll be alright.
Back into the medical room, it was the only place with space to sort my kit. One of the medics asked if I was ok.
“Yes” I replied, “all good thanks”
Lydia “Do you have a problem with your eye?”
“Me, I did but its ok now thanks”
Lydia “Are you sure?”
“Yes, it was a little troublesome but its fine now”
Lydia “Have you heard that we’ve pulled racers because of this?”
“I’ve heard a rumour that you may have yes”
Lydia “So you’ve no problems with your eyes then”
“No, they’re fine thanks, I’m just a little short-sighted”
Lydia “I see, are you one of those really stubborn types?”
“Who me, no I’m never stubborn”…
Lydia “Ok, but any issues at all make sure you come to see us straight away”
I know, that was very probably stupid of me but I had my race head on & was determined to get to Kirk Yetholm no matter what the cost & I always had another eye. The disclaimer here is that the medics were absolutely amazing & catered for all of our medical needs, coming up against a stubborn old bugger like myself, they knew I had a problem but also knew I wasn’t going to stop so allowances were being made.
Onwards & upwards
Leaving the CP, there seemed to be a lull in the weather & I took full advantage of it. Striding out, I was looking forward to getting to Gargrave & the hot pasties in the Co-Op. I joined up with a couple of other racers & we all made good progress towards Lothersdale, I stopped here in the shelter of a house for a couple of minutes & got my night gear on. The weather had turned again & it was now sleeting, it was around this time that I started to get a little cold. So cold that I actually wondered what the hell I was doing there & wondering if I could justify a DNF to myself. Thankfully after about an hour I shook these thoughts off & the DNF monster never entered my mind again. Moving across the moors, through Thornton & finally hitting the Leeds-Liverpool canal. Being a Narrowboat owner, I’m always glad to see a canal & was heartened to see a few boats out on the “Cut” braving the winter weather. I caught up with another racer here, Spencer Laine & we ran together for a few miles until we got to Gargrave when he pushed on & I hit the Co-Op. It was a great chance to re-fuel & make a couple of kit adjustments. The weather was still pretty poor & I felt ridiculously cold when I stopped so after a couple of minutes I pressed on as quickly as possible. Passing the marshals back onto the Pennine Way & I gave them my number & said I was ok, my teeth were chattering again but I quickly warmed up walking up the hill. Next stop was CP 1.5 at the Malham Centre. Approaching Malham cove I caught up with several other racers & formed up with them. They had all reccied the route before so I switched off & just plodded along with them. Bit of a mistake as they navigated by committee & after the 3rd bit of pilot error I pulled out my map & GPS & moved on. No disrespect to the chaps but I was tired & needed a coffee at the CP. Taking it steady over the “Moonscape” of the cove I pushed on hard after I crossed it. I was soon joined by another runner, I think it was Roberto & he was asking me if this was the way to the coffee. “I bloody well hope so” I replied. We quickly made it to the CP where the legendary John Bamber was on duty. Getting us in & brewing up he told us of the race update in that due to the conditions we weren’t going to go up Pen-Y-Ghent. The wind was gusting upto 100mph & the MST had made the right decision in making us detour. I was quite glad about this as I’m no good with heights & struggled going up it last year when the weather was good!
Bloody hell fire
Leaving the CP, I was joined by Andy “Fergie” Ferguson. The bet was still on & I was surprised I had caught him up. By now the weather was really giving it to us in spades & on the crossing of Fountains Fell we felt the full force of the wind, Fergie was struggling a little here & needed a pit stop for a kit adjustment but we were totally exposed for ages until we got to the descent & I found a small hollow where he managed to sort himself out, I’m not saying I wasn’t unhappy about having to stop but those were about 5minutes when I was wishing he would hurry the heck up. After he was ready we cracked on but my concentration had slipped a little & we missed the path, only realising a few minutes later. Stupidly, we instead of cutting back the 200yards or so, we made our way across the fell to try to get back to the track. We finally made it but it took a while & we were certainly glad to see the trail again. Reaching the base of Pen-Y-Ghent we came across the MST who were safely ensconced in a 4X4 at the base of the Mountain. They gave us the news that the race was being held at Horton & that we were to detour round the front & down the hill towards the café where we were bivvying out. The route had been glowsticked & they warned us that the wind was even worse than what we had encountered already. They weren’t wrong! Marching up the hill, Fergie told me that he had lost his bivvy off his pack when he fell over earlier in the race.
“K’ing hell mate, this is serious, this is no place to lose your bivvy, we need to contact your mate Sharon”
Making it to the emergency tents the MST had put up, we clambered into one & Fergie made the call to Sharon to meet him in Horton. Thankfully Sharon agreed to meet him & we prepared to go through THE GATE!
Steve Baker captured the sheer brutality of the wind in a short video
Bloody hell fire, that wind tore into us with a vengeance & it took all of our strength to open the gate leading down the hill. Piling through we made a relatively fast descent although we missed the turn halfway down & just carried on to the bottom. We made it to the Café & checked into the marshal there. We were told that we would be on hold for at least another hour. Grabbing another coffee, we both agreed that was one journey we would tell the grandchildren!
8am & we were off again, now moving as a threesome as Colin Searle a Spine finisher I ran with a bit last year joined up with us to make the journey to Hawes. Colin had arrived at Horton a couple of hours earlier than us & grabbed 40 winks although he said it was a fitful sleep. Not really surprised after running through those conditions on Fountain Fell, I was way too wired to even contemplate sleeping. Hawes wasn’t too far away & despite the still very strong winds we made good progress although the stretch on the trail by Dodd Fell & Sleedale was pretty damn horrendous with all three of us being blown off our feet several times. Rounding the corner & making the descent into Hawes I slipped & twisted my knee. Feeling something give, I lay there for a minute thinking “bugger, hope this isn’t a game over tumble”, thankfully I walked/limped it off by the time we made it into the CP.
Quick chat with Nici & she gave me the “No news about your Dad” statement I’d hoped for. With that off my mind, I threw my wet kit on a radiator & grabbed some food. We only stayed here for a couple of hours & I managed about 45 minutes sleep before seeing the medics to get my feet & my knee taped up. The feet for a couple of blisters & the knee was mainly precautionary as they thought I may have stretched/torn a few fibres in one of my ligaments.
Getting ready to leave, I managed to get a video message off to Jill via Darren Barnes from the MST.
Leaving Hawes, we said cheerio to Fergie as he was basking in the glow of the Challenger finish & Colin & myself cracked on putting in a good pace towards Thwaite & the rocky path at Kisdon. I was pretty much dreading this as the Kisdon Trail tore my feet to shreds last year. Surprisingly though, we made it through without any twists, strains or sprains. Just the bog at Tan Hill to go & we were through what I thought were two of the worst parts of last years race. Approaching Tan Hill pub, I was seriously flagging & told Colin that I was going to bivvy for a couple of hours as I wanted to cross the bog feeling fairly refreshed. He agreed & we found a barn with a lean-to & crashed out in that for two hours. It’s amazing how comfy a pile of old sheep shit & straw is when you’re really tired. Up, a quick cup of very strong coffee & we were on our way again. Making our way through the bog I did end up going in up to my waist again but other than that we navigated our way through remarkably smoothly.
Leaving behind two of my worst parts of the race from last year we made our way to Middleton & despite the stops & the weather, we arrived about 8hrs ahead of my schedule. Food & a couple of hours sleep were the order of the day for us here. After a couple of platefuls of food I cleaned & disinfected my feet & was going to crash in a dorm when one of the MST chaps said that his private room was empty & we could crash in there if we wanted. Result! Nice quiet room with an en-suite, how could we say no. Making the most of a comfy bed I was out like a light for a couple of hours. We woke to the news that unless we got to a makeshift CP before 10pm we would have to detour around Cross Fell as a massive storm was heading into the area & 10pm was going to be the cut-off. No worries, we thought, we’ll easily make that & prepped up ready to leave. Ten minutes before we went, the news came through that anybody who hadn’t left the CP already had to take the detour as the front had moved in a lot quicker than anticipated. The checkpoint crew & MST were bloody marvellous here as they relayed the instructions to each & every racer giving clear & concise instructions as to what we were going to expect.
Heading off, now we were a trio again with Colin Searle, Colin Fitzjohn & myself. Finding the diversion we followed the glowsticked route as it took us behind Cow Green reservoir, along the Tyne Trail & off the edge of our Harveys maps. We met up with a mobile CP crew out on the road & they pointed us in the right direction telling us to just keep going up the road for miles until we see the glowsticked turn. We did, it was.. The weather had deteriorated yet again with the wind increasing & the snow falling. We kept a steady pace up & eventually came across the great white beast or Daisy, Sean Powers campervan. Getting us aboard to take our numbers, Mark Caldwell (Spine Veteran) made us all a coffee whist he gave us some detailed directions to Garrigill where we would pick up the Pennine Way again. He emphasised the safety point & told us to keep pushing hard & to stay warm as quite frankly the weather had turned really bad by now, the wind was gusting to 80-100 & the snow was coming down so hard it was a complete whiteout in places. Despite this we all made good progress & followed the route that Mark had put into my GPS arriving at Garrigil a few hours later. We picked up the Pennine way again & pushed on towards CP4 at Alston. We got to the CP well ahead of schedule & I asked Nici if there was any “News”. No News again, all good as far as I was concerned. Getting us up into the common room, Nici told us the race was being “Held” here for a while & asked me to come down again when I had got a bit settled. Popping down after I’d tended my feet, Scott & Nici asked what our plans were for this Checkpoint, I told them that we were going for a six hour stop here. Two hours for faff & four hours sleep. Ok , they said, we’ll mark that down but it’s more than likely you’ll be held here for a fair few hours. As it goes, we were eventually held for twenty three hours.
Eating, sleeping & racing cars
These twenty three hours were put to good use as I showered, managed to dry out all of my kit & eat enough food to feed a small army. Many thanks to Lili & the rest of the volunteers in the kitchen who did an excellent job in feeding fifty or so racers plus the MST, the CP crew & the Medics who all ended up camping here. The best bit for me though was finding a Scalextric set & setting it up with the two Colins. I think I had more fun assembling it than I did playing with it. I clicked onto twitter for a quick catch up as although we as no phone signal, we did have some Wi-Fi. I had to chuckle when somebody posted about how tough it must be for me out there braving the storms as I headed up to Scotland. I did come clean though & replied that I was at that moment, drinking a coffee, chocolate & donuts & playing Scalextric. Hmmm, this race wasn’t supposed to be fun…
News came through that there would be a mass start at 8am but we would be updated with a weather report at 6am although the White Board told us what we would be expecting.
My pack was a little problematic this time out & was moving around on my shoulders & had cut into them a little, so getting them taped up was a priority. The medics taped them in the evening so that I would only have to get my feet taped just before we set off in the morning.
6am & we were told that we’d be off at 7am instead of 8am. Excellent, everyone was just glad for the race to be restarted & to get back on the course. There was a lull in the weather & we were all going to take advantage of it, but the race to beat the Storm was on.
Just past seven & we were off again. Just 40 miles to go to CP 5 at Bellingham with only the MUD ROAD in the way, well there were lots more than the Mud road, but that part of the race destroyed me last year & had given me nightmares for days after the race.
Putting in a good pace we made it to Hadrians Wall but looking to the West we could see the storm approaching fast, heads down & passing the Visitors centre, the wind really picked up & we had to battle a continuous 80mph windstorm all along the wall & the Military Way. We finally had a respite when we got to the forest & boy, although we were glad of it we knew that the Mud road was fast approaching. Finally making the turn into it, we were greeted by a completely different road from last year. It was fenced off at the end & that meant no lorries had recently been down there. I was grinning like a Gibbon walking up there. We made it through in about 5minutes & with absolutely no swearing from me this time. Now that the third and last part of my nightmare sections from last years race were behind me, I felt a great weight lifted from my shoulders & I knew that I was going to finish this race. A couple of hours later we got to Bellingham & the last CP.
Into Bellingham & it was quite the bunfight in the sleeping area! We dumped our gear & tried to get it dried as best as possible over the one little heater that was in the entrance. Tucking into omelette & beans we decided that the best course of action was to get straight out again & bivvy on the route. Talking with the marshals & looking at the maps, we thought we saw a barn a couple of miles up the road that we could sleep in so we packed up our gear & set off. Unfortunately, there was no barn so we cracked on & eventually came to the barn I DNF’d in last year. It was boarded up quite solidly! Damn, no sleeping in here either. I must of really shocked the farmer last year when he went past as I was brewing up waiting for my lift….
Right decision made, next stop Byrness where we could hopefully get some sleep. This was now unknown territory for me & this is where my race began. The last 34 miles of a 268mile race, I’d come this close last year & nothing was going to stop me now. Although ridiculously tired I was really enjoying myself & had a beaming smile on my face, but it has been suggested that we had lost the plot a little & insanity was creeping in. Yep & looking at Colin Fitzjohns Video of us on that section, we very probably were.
Making good time through Redesdale Forest we hit the forest road, this was such a treat for us after wading through bogs for the previous 240 or so miles. We would have loved another 30miles of this to the finish but although this wasn’t to be we made the most of it all the way into Byrness. Shortly before we got to the mini CP, Richard Lendon & Simon Beasley came powering past, both of them looking very strong. We had a quick chat & Richard berated us for not going into every cake shop we came across, saying that we should get an hours time penalty for every one we missed. I said that it would have played havoc with my diet if I started scoffing cakes at every opportunity.
Finally making it into Forest View B&B at Byrness, the owners Colin & Joyce fed us homemade soup &sausage & mash. Great food & they were perfect hosts. (A small donation has gone off to the Great North Air Ambulance Service that they support) Taking advantage of the comfy seats we crashed out for an hours sleep. Thankfully nobody took photos of us & put them on any social media sites, Oh wait……..
After a couple of hours, off we went again, this time into glorious sunshine. The weather was absolutely perfect & we were all smiles as we headed off up the road to re-join the Pennine Way & finish the race. Just 26miles to go, a mere Marathon distance, having already done nine of them in horrendous conditions, this was going to be a walk in the park.
Climbing Byrness Hill & heading towards the Cheviots it was so warm, the jackets came off & the suncream went on. Only kidding about the suncream, but it was the warmest it had been all week.
Splitting the final section into three 15km sections, Hut No1 was our first aim & we made good progress up to there where we met up with Mark Caldwell again. He was with MS Team 4 checking to make sure everyone was ok. We took advantage of the stop for a coffee & some Noodles. Mark was “Paying it forward” with the food & we were eating the previous racers noodles so we left him with whatever food we could spare so he could prepare it for the next racers. Great idea & we ate our fill before heading out again. The weather, was turning again & by the time we hit Windy Gyle, it was dark, snowing & blowing a gale again.
Skirting the Scottish/English border for a while, we encountered the worst snow of the race so far & it was drifting up to 3 foot in places, it made for a tricky time if you stepped off the path & I ended up going up to my waist on a couple of occasions. Nothing too serious & a lot drier than the bogs I’d been in earlier in the race. I was really enjoying this section though & loved going through the snow, even getting a little “Skiing” in on the downhill sections. Unfortunately I was loving it so much I had pushed on quite far ahead of the two Colins & made it to Hut 2 about 20 minutes before them.
A couple were in the hut waiting & I mistook them for a safety team, I asked if they were making a brew & the chap said I was welcome to make my own. Fair enough, I took off my pack & made ready to get a brew on. The lady then said not to worry & that she would make it. She prepped her stove & after a few minutes, there was still nothing happening. “Hang on” I told her, “let’s use my Jetboil, it’ll be done in a couple of minutes”
Firing it up, she made a couple of coffees within minutes, always good to have decent kit. I used a Trangia last year & found it severely wanting in the conditions we encountered then let alone what we were encountering this year. Drinking the coffee & tucking into a pack of expedition food, the two Colins, arrived. Throwing some more water into the Jetboil, they quickly had a coffee each as we all warmed up, took photos & sorted out our kit for the final push towards Kirk Yetholm.
15Km to go & we would be there, first though we still had to navigate some pretty awful Icy conditions & climb The Schil, the last big hill before the finish. Climbing it, we all took plenty of tumbles as the ice was a couple of inches thick in places & with new snow sitting on top was pretty lethal. After about my 20th time of going on my arse, I remembered I had my microspikes in my pack. Tiredness was playing a major factor in my decision making & putting them on made a huge difference & I could stride out quite comfortably. I was cursing myself for not remembering about them earlier. Although I was fairly sure footed now, we still made slow progress as Colins spikes had broken earlier in the race & his replacements hadn’t turned up as promised.
The last leg.
Well, here we were. The last 6 miles & boy we were going to enjoy them. The mood had certainly lightened & although we were going slow, we were still making steady progress. The route was fairly easy to follow until we came to a farm. Here we ended up walking alongside a river, literally alongside a small river. We were bumping our heads on overhanging branches from a farmers garden. After a bit of a large whack on my head, I had a little bit of a meltdown & attacked every further branch with my poles, cursing the farmer for not being considerate to folk & trimming back his f**king trees. The two Colins had a little giggle at my expense & looking back I can certainly see the funny side of it. Pushing on now, my hissy fit over & done with, we made our way to the bridge over the river, crossing it & onto a metalled track. We soon went past a MS team, waiting by their vehicles in case anybody had any last minute problems. Saying thanks for being there we pressed on to the end of the track & onto the road. We knew that we were only about twenty minutes away & I turned & shook both their hands saying that it had been a pleasure to share such a great journey with two fantastic friends & that I wouldn’t have wanted to do it with anyone else.
Pretty soon, Kirk Yetholm hove into sight, grinning madly now we could see a welcoming committee just outside the Border Hotel. Resisting the urge to run in like madmen, we waved our sticks & strode, chins out upto the Hotel Wall, finally touching it after 131hours 30minutes of racing in the worst conditions I have ever experienced.
Greeted by the Scott, Phil & Nici along with a lot of the race crew, I got my medal, shook Scott & Phils hands & had a huge hug from Nici, telling her thanks for not being the bearer of bad news but also thanks for saying that she would if needed to. I then turned to my wife, gave her a huge kiss & a cuddle as she handed me a bottle of beer & a packet of TUC crackers. Ah, she knows me all too well does Jill. With that, Colin Searle, Colin Fitzjon & myself shook hands, said cheers & drank the beer. The race was over.
Relieved yes, elated NO! For some strange reason, I never felt the huge satisfactory feeling I normally get from finishing a massive race. There may have been a few reasons for this. My Dad being ill had been on my mind all week, the race being put on hold several times may have contributed or the fact that I still felt relatively fresh at the finish so could I have done more, been faster? Who knows…..