The gazebo was of the flimsy type, but that didn’t bother us. The rain was coming down heavily, and it was threatening to snow any time soon, so we were glad of any extra cover we could get. We had our mandatory kit strapped to us in our race vests, some wearing them on top of their waterproofs, others underneath, and we were ready for the off. Word had gotten round that people were already withdrawing owing to the threat of worsening conditions, but that was to be expected.
At 6 am we set off into the darkness from Liverpool’s Albert Dock, leaving our support angel Angie Clarke in the warmth of the hotel, safe in the knowledge that when we needed our spirits lifting, a change of kit, or something comforting (you never did crack open the hip flask Becky ) over the coming 10 – 12 hours, she would always be there – and she was. Rather unselfishly, my boss had come all the way from Doncaster to wave us off, but owing to the conditions, I only saw her for a second as we passed on the start-line, such were the conditions.
The route we encountered over the next 50.2 miles was a proper mish-mash of urban/ industrial / rural / (aren’t they rooms in The Crystal Maze ? )…and followed National Cycle Route 56 and then the Trans Pennine Trail , finishing at Didsbury Sports Ground in not so sunny Manchester, the home of real football, and en-route taking in the sights, sounds and smells of Liverpool, Widnes, Warrington, Dunham Massey, Altricham and finally Didsbury. Living the dream, eh.
The race had a strict 14 hour cut-off at the end, and each of the 7 checkpoints had their own individual cut-off times, so it wasn’t a case of being able to jump into the blow up Jacuzzi or sit down and light the disposable barby, and besides which we’d forgotten our flip flops. Checkpoints were staffed by enthusiastic staff who offered you everything you’d tell your kids not to eat / drink. The first one was at 8 miles, then they averaged out at about 6 to 7 miles.
The game was simple, forget its 50 miles, just complete the first 10k…and then the next…and then the next… you get the idea. And that was how we ran it. It rained, and snowed, and rained, and then it rained a lot more. It was a bit uncomfortable at times, but we supported one another. We never fell out, we laughed a lot, and, once we’d got the initial 20 miles out of the way and under our belts, we chatted the miles away and Becky kept me on track using all of her experience.
The marshalling was excellent, and the route was as clear as it could have been – taking into account the distance and the weather. At the checkpoints we had the bonus of being able to replenish our stocks of food, socks, shoes and whatever we needed, because Angie was always there with all we could need and more. She deserved a medal herself. Although we never spent more than 5 – 10 minutes with her, the effect she had on our morale was immeasurable, and we always left with a boost in our step and either a Costa or McDonalds coffee inside us. An amazing lady.
We maintained our hydration and fuelling via Tailwind. Its an excellent source of nutrients and I cant recommend it highly enough. My go-to snacks were Chia Charge bars, whilst Becky opted for Cliff Bars, both a proven source of carbs/salts/protein.
So, onwards and upwards. The route really went without incident for us. Regular sock changes, calls of nature, and a rub of Bodyglide / Vaseline in strategic areas (use your imagination), and apart from the aches, pains, moans and groans you’d expect, it really was a cracking event. The smiles on the photos weren’t faked, I assure you. The last 10k took us alongside a raging waterway on a track that was more ‘long distance hopscotch in ankle deep slosh’ than running, but that was par for the course.
We hit a rain sodden Didsbury just under 11 hours later in pouring rain, and after a quick trot round the sports ground in order to completely make sure that we were wet, we hit the magic 50 and crossed the finish line together in 163rd place, with Becky coming in as 40th female. Fantastic.
Because we came in the top 200, we received silver medals. Positions 0-100 got a gold, 100 -200 silver and 200+ the bronze. Technical issues meant that t shirts weren’t available on the day, but as a nice touch, the organisers had gone to the trouble of having some stand in’s printed with the promise of posting us the technical versions in due course.
In summary then, this was a great event and it would be easily achievable in dry conditions for many of our club members. I was only able to complete this run because of my partner on the day Becky HB and my support angel Angie Clarke, and that’s a fact. Thank you both.