I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air…
Up, up the long, delirious blue – John Gillespie Magee
No matter how hard you train, the miles you cover in training, and the hours you spend preparing for an event, you can never factor what the weather is going to be like on race day especially in January.
What was it like? – it was just like the forecast!
Strong hurricane winds and driving rain are not ideal running conditions, in fact not ideal going outside conditions! The gales came in just as we started off in the early morning darkness from Edale and then the driving rain began. I was briefly waterboarded for a moment before Jacobs Ladder, having to turn my back on the wind so I was able to breath.
I could hear the powerful gusts of wind coming before they hit me, the wind roared and then SMACK, I was blown sideways off the path wrestling to stay upright. Three times l was blown off my feet, bouncing off rock, grazing my elbow, and on the final time spraining my ankle.
I got disorientated at Kinder Downfall as the water was being blown back up to the trail, and in the early morning light, ended up following the river east. ‘What? There’s water on my left! Where’s the edge of a Kinder gone!’ I quickly realised my mistake and turned around and got back to Kinder Downfall which I could now see how dramatic it looked being blown back up!
Then it all went horribly wrong, I was running again as the trail began to slowly descend, I heard the wind howl, my jacket rustled violently, smack, I was blown off my feet for the third time. I landed heavily and awkwardly, pain shot up the outside of my right ankle and up my shin, as I moved forward pain radiated from the ankle. ‘I can run this off’ I thought.
It became evident very quickly that I couldn’t, I had sprained my ankle after only 7miles of running. I realised that I was not going to complete the remaining 100 miles as I descended off Kinder to Mill Hill, the ankle burned and was painful, especially when it was turned in or my toes were pointed down.
I was getting colder and colder as my pace was slowing down, thankfully I knew that Terry Stephenson and Paul Cosgrove from MONTANE were going to be at Snake Pass taking some photos. I had an escape plan.
My race finished at Snake Pass, as Terry gave me a lift round to Torside to meet Jen with the van.
I’m sure the question will be asked should have the race started? Should I have put myself in such a risky situation? I had considered during Friday and during the night as I lay listening to wind howling outside that I should maybe not start the race, as I knew the weather would make it very dangerous and I feared I could break something, which would be so detrimental to the rest of this year’s racing plans.
When I got Snake Pass one of the marshals told me the race was being stopped due to the weather and that I could wait in a bus, I also found out that runners had been stopped by marshals before Jacob Ladders and waited in a barn but unfortunately I had already passed. Had I waited I would have probably missed the strong turbulent wind which forcefully blew me about.
Thankfully my ankle sprain isn’t too severe and shouldn’t take too long to recover from. Mentally it hasn’t been too big a disappointment not to finish this year’s Spine Challenger after clocking 900 miles in training for the event as I endeavoured to see how quickly I could complete the Spine Challenger. However it was not meant to be and instead I spent a cozy Saturday evening in front of the wood burner rather than battling with the wild elements along the Pennine Way. I don’t know if I will ever go back to the race, as it lives up to its reputation as Britain’s most ‘Brutal Race’.
Well done to all those legends who started both the Spine Challenger and Spine Race, and are still battling on to Hawes or Kirk Yetholm, they are truly inspiring athletes.
I will be back training and racing shortly, thank you for the messages of support I’ve received on Twitter and Facebook – they have been greatly appreciated.
And remember…There is not telling how many miles you will have to run chasing a dream.