E re visum fuerit, tempore
.... or ‘It seemed a good idea at the time’ - this is going to be engraved on my tombstone! This particular ‘good idea’ was to prepare for the Chevy Chase (20 miles with 4900 feet of climbing) by doing the Durham Dales Challenge (30 miles with 5200 feet of climbing).
Not sure now why I thought it was a good idea but the first stage of the master plan found me lining up with fellow runners and 16 mile walkers on the start line at Wolsingham on a bright but breezy morning. As you can see, this run is anything but flat! Up the first hill, onto the moors, crashing down through the heather before climbing back up through Hamsterley forest and soon it was into Middleton-in-Teesdale for a quick stop, jam sandwich and 3 cups of tea before tackling the climb out and up onto the lonely moors. It is important on events like this to take the time to admire the views – it’s what makes the pain worthwhile. The good weather helped and through the sweat you could see acres of open, empty moors with not a car in sight and just the sound of you own panting to disturb the silence.
This event is superbly run with food and drinks available at all checkpoints – apparently hot dogs were on offer at half-way for the 16 milers. Must be the only long distance event where you could put on weight!
This, however, was just the precursor to the main event – the Chevy Chase. I was joined on the start line by Steve Walker on what promised to be (and was) a hot day. Gary Jones was running and had declared his intent to ‘go for it’ so our race plan was to stick with him and try to outsprint him at the finish. Off we set and after only about ˝ mile we got the first glimpse of the first target, The Cheviot, looming in the distance. Soon we rounded a corner and for the first time both climbs (Cheviot and Hedgehope) were seen together. The temptation to turn round and spend the rest of the day in the pub was strong! Soon trotting down Hells Path – not sure why its called that, it was a nice downhill run. Cheviot was our constant companion (as was our own personal fan club – or swarm of flies as they are otherwise known as) and, as the final climb approached, it was quite a sight to see a long line of runners and walkers stretched out up the hill. After 7 ˝ miles and 1hr 46, the summit was reached. A quick look round before plummeting down the steep side loosing nearly 1500ft of hard earned height. Rediscovered the joys of ‘bum sliding’ down the grassy bank. Whoops of pleasure could be heard from my fellow grown up children (or adults) which soon turned into silence as we started the plod up Hedgehope. After 10 miles and with 2hr 38 on the clock, the summit was reached. Tremendous views to be had – in the words of the song, you can see for miles and miles and miles....
All that’s left is 10 miles of undulation back to the YHA in Wooler. However this is where the error in the ‘good idea’ kicked in and the legs were not happy! However Langlee Crags and Brands Corner were eventually ticked off. A wade through the beck and along a beautiful little valley and Hells Path awaits. Now I know why it got its name! What was a ‘nice downhill run’ at 2 miles becomes a nightmare climb at 18 miles with ‘inspirational’ messages every few yards to help us along (where else could you see a quote from Churchill followed by one from Bob Marley). Even this eventually comes to an end and its a downhill jog back through the fields to a great reception at finish, lots of food and even more cups of tea. I was also reunited with my running partner who had buggered off after about 4 miles!
The race plan – well we ran Gary close. That is if you consider getting back nearly 2 hours after him as close! He finished in 2hrs 53, Steve in 4hrs 28 and I fell through the door in 4hrs 36.
Although it is a hard run, the camaraderie, views and support from all the marshals on route make this an enjoyable event and it easy to see why it fills up so quickly every year. Give it a try – but I would recommend that you don’t do the Durham Dales the week before.
Will I be back? Probably because I’ve got this really good idea.............................
If anyone is interested, Wooler Running Club, who host this event, have a CHEVY CHASE website where all the information, including results and photos can be found.