Written by Darren Hunt - http://www.mountainsinmind.com

Saturday 9th March 2103, witnessed me ( Darren) and Clare out in the wilds again. This time it would be different!!  We would be trail running the ‘Howarth Hobble‘….

Friday –  I prepared all my home made veggie juices ( care of Jason Vale ) for the weekend.  These would help replenish the bodies good stuff post race.  I also packed Oats, Blueberries, Banana  Gluten Free nutty bread, free range eggs, Chia seed, Flax seed, I’m sure there’s more but I forget.   6:30pm  we set from South Cheshire for the 2 or so hour drive to Yorkshire and the Howarth YHA.

After a nice drive with through thick fog, and a bizzare route choice by the sat nav we arrived at the Hostel.  A big house overlooking Howarth, we were allocated a very large room for the princely sum of £19 for 2, this persuaded us to book an extra night for Saturday so to save the long drive home with sore legs.

After an early wake up alarm call at 6am , we headed to the kitchen for breakfast and put the final touches to getting ready.  I suffer from a condition I’ve called ‘pointy toe syndrome’, which kills my socks with my big toe wearing the sock after only short races.  So I wrap my big toe in a strip plaster and Zinc oxide tape, I also had to strap up a blister on my heal with Zinc oxide tape.

Loo Q

We drove the short distance to the registration at 7:45am, picked up our number and soaked up the pre-race  atmosphere.  The Loo queues were huge, pre-race nerves i think!!!  We headed to the high street for the 8am start outside the Fleece pub with 500 other runners.  Then we were off..

Howarth Hobble

The course is very runable, but still, I’d plotted the route on printed out mas from OS getamap, highlighted the route on the maps. We headed up towards Top Withens of Wuthering Heights fame, passed the derelict building in thick mist, wind rain and snow.  Following other runners, we manged a steady pace.  Under foot was a mixture of re-claimed  flaggs from mills of the past, track and muddy paths across streams and styles.

After 8 ish miles we hit the first Control (check) point Widdop Reservoir. It was a nice sight in the rain and cold day.  We grabbed a handful of biscuits, topped up our 1/2 litre water bottle, wished the marshals well and headed off across the dam wall.

A few runners around today

Following the pennine way for a while we focused on the running, placing one foot in front of the other. I wasn’t very sociable during this particular race, I wanted to achieve a target time I’d secretly set before the start of 7:30 ( 1hr 30 minutes faster than my first and only to this point, 32 mile race), so i was ‘in the zone’.

The next control point was on a top of ‘Long Causeway’, the marshals here must have been cold, with no shelter and horizontal easterly wind, rain and snow. A couple of biscuits and off we trotted, past very active wind turbines on Cole Clough, for a short 1 mile road section.

Trail running around the Howarth Hobble

We headed off road again and through a very, very muddy path behind Stiperden House farm, then on to the Stoney Lane control point. The control was busy, providing Donuts, Hot Cross buns, hot water, biscuits and ‘Hot Dogs!’.  I resisted the hot dogs, but couldn’t resist the Donuts :) .  Clare had been challenged for the first section of the race with an unusual lack of energy. After taking on board a hot cross bun, the engine was stoked and it wasn’t long before she was back to her normal mountain goat fitness.

With a short navigation test, we revisted the map and with a ‘it this way’ shout from fellow runners we headed down to Todmorden.  Crossing a busy main street, a very steep, but short climb towards the control point at Mankinholes.  Now this control point had a bottle of whiskey, next to water and biscuits!  We resisted this and opted for a few biscuits and walked for the next 1/2 mile eating scones, Oh I forgot to mention these :)  Then a short run then a steep climb towards a misty top of ‘Stoodley Pike‘  with its monument hidden in the mist.  A fast muddy downhill run followed ( this was fun) to Hebden Bridge.

Stoodley Pike

The next control point involved a steep work/run to the lovely cobbled village of Heptonstall, then down (again) to the last but one control point at Horse Bridge.  The pack we were running with divided at this point and along with another runner, me and Clare headed off first.  We were around mile 22-24 and the wall was hit!!  I took on my first and only Gel, which helped and restored my energy, carrying on along the old pack horse route passed Hollins hall and below Shackleton Moor to the last checkpoint at ‘Top O’t Stairs.  We spent a little too long here and we set of up the short sharp tarmac section of the road to Lane End, picking up the track again.

I suffer from a touch of Raynauds syndrome, which is a reduction in circulation to the fingers. With this in mind I try and buy the best, waterproof cloves, so i bought a pair of Seal skin gloves prior to an aborted attempt on the Tour du Helevellyn ( another story ).  For whatever reason , and only appears to be me, these gloves fill up with water, which they did at mile 10.  I just put a pair of liner gloves on.  Now at mile 28(ish) the feeling my fingers had gone.  I shouted to Clare that she’d have to help me (like  a baby) put a dry pair of mitts on.  This was amusing as Clare had to unzip my bag, I managed to take my wet gloves off with my teeth and Clare shoe horned on my 15 year old mitts under my water proof cuffs and we were off with drying and warmer hands.

After a couple of miles we dropped out of the clag and things got a little warmer. We passed other runners by the small reservoir below Windle House farm. At this point i tried to un-zip my water proof as things were starting to heat up and I was getting little claustrophobic in my zipped up hood.  This was even more amusing as I couldn’t grab the zip in my mitts and wasn’t prepared to stop or even walk to take my gloves off.  Panic started to set in, like when somebody used to sit on you when you were at school ( this is the main reason I didn’t play Rugby :) ) the zip un-zipped..

We were now only a few miles away, possible 2, or may be less from the finish and it was at this point I took the first look at my Garmin in the whole race and was amazed that it showed 6:58 – I thought to myself ‘we can do this’!!!

We picked up the pace with tired, but strong legs and ran with determination to get within my target time. Running over Pennistone Hill, we had the last cold shower of snow of the race and  it was down hill.  Before I knew it we were back in the centre of Howarth popping out from behind the church.  Down some slippy steps to the school and the finish line.  The Marshall’s took our number and I’d already taken my gloves off to stop my Garmin…..

7:14 – we’d done it…!!!!  33 Miles – 4400ft

Now it was here we could feel good and proud, replace my wet and cold base layer.  Have a nice home made Veggie stew, cup of Tea and some home made Cakes ( all donations going to the school).

Howarth Hobble Done

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