Living as we do by the long distance path we’re used to seeing walkers pass by. Sometimes they’re doing the whole 268 miles north/south or south/north along the backbone of northern England, just clocking up a section, or simply taking a stroll like with or without dogs or little ones. Imagine then if one were to run that great distance. This year 137 people did just that, starting from the southern end, at Edale in Derbyshire. The seven day non-stop endurance race is billed by its organiser/sponsor Montane as one of the world’s toughest. The website warns that “tiredness, fatigue, sleep deprivation and exposure to the extremes of winter weather are to be expected”. Our neighbour at Oldstead tells me that last time around he had found a runner in their garden, obviously disorientated and hallucinating; he spoke to him, reassuring, giving time to come back in and start again. Another neighbour – a veteran of long distance trail walker – was out with a torch to guide the exhausted runners at night as they navigated the steep sided gorge below her farm (above). Southridge’s patriarch opined that this was the first year in ages that the three day race had proved good underfoot, with no torrential rain or severe snowfall to contend with!
Noticing a camper van parked outside early in the morning and chatting to the driver we discover he’s the support for a friend who’s competing. Both men live near Barnoldswick in Lancashire and are members of the same running club. John, the runner, is doing well and like all the competitors can be tracked live with GPS. Paul, the support, is managing a Facebook group set up for their man. At lunchtime we free Paul from his van – where he’s been sleeping and doing day job work on line and over the phone – inviting him in from the cold to share our homemade soup and bread. He’s very grateful and we enjoy his company and unfolding of strands of back story that helps us understand the reasons these mad folk do what they do. (137 started this year, but many do not finish). A couple days later we learn via Twitter that John has made it to Kirk Yetholm in time. Hurray! The overall winner is Jasmin Paris, a young vet and recent first time mother living and working in Edinburgh. A first time entrant this truly remarkable athlete broke the record by 12 hours and is the first female to win this most prestigious of ultra races. She confessed to suffering hallucinations at one point, seeing non existent animals popping out from behind every rock she sped past. Pity we couldn’t catch her zipping by our place but our admiration and respect for Jasmin and the rest of the field is heartfelt.