This week sees Ewan go on… Let’s call it an adventure?
As my foot sank another inch into the boggy grass I looked up and told the sheep blocking my path to fuck off. The sheep stood its ground so I pulled my foot out, climbed over a wall and edged my way past the it. 50 yards further the ‘trail’ I had been following for a mile completely disappeared. It was at this point I genuinely got a bit worried.
Rewind a few hours to 6am and I was just getting out of bed. The plan was to get up nice and early and head over to The Peaks to get a few miles in my legs. I was simply going to head out into the hills for 4-or-so miles, turn around and come back. But, inevitably, it all went to shit.
I drove out, parked up, got my trainers on and set off. A few hundred yards down the trail I spotted a sheep path winding up the hill. ‘Well, I’m a fell runner, aren’t I?’ so I turned off the track and headed straight up the hill. It was good going until I got to the top and the sheep path completely disappeared. It was glorious up at the top. The sun was just clearing the morning mist and there was rolling hills covered in wildlife for as far as I could see.
After plodding across open moorland for a mile or so I stumbled across a concrete slab path which I hopped on and followed until I found a white thing that must have marked the summit of the hill. A quick selfie later and I was back off following the slab path.
I started getting a bit annoyed as the slabbed path just kept on going and going and going. I didn’t get up at 6am and drive to the peaks to run on fucking concrete, I wanted trails! I kept looking either side for a trail leading into the hills, but nothing appeared.
Then, eventually, the slabs stopped and the most perfect ribbon of trail lead off into the hills. For the next few miles I just tanked along this wonderful trail climbing higher and higher out of the valley I was in. I was concentrating so hard on my feet and moving well that when I did look up the entire valley was laid out below me for miles. I could see the trail I was on continued all the way to the bottom of the valley and so I carried on.
It was only when I got to the bottom of the valley that I looked at my watch to check my miles. 6 miles… shit. I only wanted to run 9 in total (equal to the furthest I’ve run to date). I stopped a hiker who was coming past, ‘if I follow this trail to the end where will I end up?’
‘Down at the Tor Resevoir campsite’
‘Oh aye’ I said, pretending I know where that was. ‘How far off Holmfirth is that?’
‘… are you fucking kidding me?’
‘You’re a-ways off.’ Shit.
‘Ah. I just started running… and now I’m here’
‘Well, you could go down here and trek back up the A6024, which is really boring, or you could horseshoe back up this next valley and reach the top of Black Hill’
This is when I realised that the summit I reached before was Black Hill, the highest point in the Peaks at 582 metres. Shit.
‘Yeah that sounds good, I’ll do that.’ And off I set.
However, by this point I’d eaten both my energy gels, both my packs of Haribo and my water was running low. I became conscious of the effort I was putting in and the distance back to the car.
I started up the next valley and that’s where I bumped into the sheep and the path just disappeared completely. I slogged on for a bit longer, but I soon realised that there was no way back out and the only thing was to go back down to the bottom of the valley.
When I was there I stopped and took stock. The safe, and boring, thing to do might be to head to the main road and just trek back to the car. However, I didn’t know the distance, or even if there was a path to walk on. However, I did know the distance of the route I had just done. It was long, difficult, hot and steep, but I knew what to expect. I weighed up my options and set off back up the trail.
At the foot of the first big climb I swallowed my pride and begged some water off a group of hikers. I would have been a bit fucked without it, and I accepted the chastising I got with humility.
By this point my feet were a real problem. I kept having to stop and became very conscious of where I placed my feet, not because I was tired, but because my feet really fucking hurt. Then, just to rub salt in the wound, in an attempt to pull my socks up I ripped the fuckers and they disappeared into my shoe. Shit.
I had stopped checking my watch a while ago, I knew the high mileage would get into my head and make the effort much worse. I just kept on plodding, soaking my buff in streams and wrapping it around my head to cool myself, stopping me sweating and getting more dehydrated.
By now I was back to the concrete slabs and was massively grateful for them. They gave my haggard feet some time off from the trail and I knew I was nearing the end of the run. I followed them back to the summit of Black Hill and had the last of my water. I then had another dilemma: do I cut back across country, which is less distance as the crow flies, but is harder on the feet. I opted to follow the concrete slabs hoping that they started to curve to the right, back toward the car.
The path curved to the left. But I followed it regardless, because stopping was more effort than carrying on. The path got steeper and my feet were properly unhappy but then I saw a dirt trail lead off to the right which joined up with the road that I parked on. This lit a fire under me and I slogged on. Getting toward the car doing a proper fat lad shuffle (all out of shape runners know the shuffle I mean) when an old hiker walks past me ‘tha’s too late, the last bus has gone!’ Funny old bastard.
I got back to the car, flopped down in the seat and checked my watch – I’d been out 4 hours and had covered 15 miles. Shit. I took my shoes off and my feet were just ruined. There was a huge blood blister on my big toe and the skin on my little toe was just gone. Shit. Fresh socks have never felt so good. After my stomach had settled, and the world stopped spinning, I drove home, via Burger King.
As a last insult my right arm got sunburned on the drive back. Shit.