I’d been looking forward to the Montane Trail 26 Rivington trail run for a while and with it being on my local stomping ground I’d run most of the route before, admittedly not all at once.
My training had been going to plan until a few weeks ago, getting out of the car after a parkrun I felt a sharp pain in my heal, I panicked a bit but after seeing Heather at Summit Physiotherapy it was soon sorted with a bit of not so gentle poking at my calves. So all was well except I missed out a few runs, nothing serious and back on track.
A few days in Snowdonia a couple of weekends before the race to throw myself up and down some stupidly steep hills and and some medium runs at home and I was as fit as I could be. With no real problems except those your body produces when it knows your about to do something silly we arrived at Rivington and Blackrod School about an hour before the start where we met up with some friends from Sweatshop SRC Chorley who we ran and trained with on a fairly regular basis. Wendy was there as support us as she’d run the Rivington Half Trail Marathon a couple of weeks earlier where the weather, and mud, were somewhat autumnal to say the least. I got soaked cheering Wendy and my friends on, they got drenched and in places the mud was calf deep.
Everything was set up and after picking up my number and T-shirt from registration it was a case of a quick warm up, chat to a few people, listen to the run briefing in case of any changes and then we were off. The front runners dashing out of the school and up the hill to the Pike, the rest of us taking it somewhat easier.
The run started with a long drag up to Rivington Pike, an exhausting run I’d done before and I was happy with my progress and even happier once I’d reached that landmark and stretched out with a bit of downhill until another uphill slog to the radio mast on top of Winter Hill. The weather, thankfully was kind to us and the views across the Lancashire moors were magnificent but there was no time for sight seeing as the best bit was to come. The decent onto Belmont Road from Winter hill was great, hard work on the legs but still great and I managed to pass a few people on the way down.
Over the road we went and made our way down and up a steep valley to Delp Reservoir where the 1st of the check points and feed stations was laden with all sorts, I grabbed a piece of chocolate marshmallowy thing as I refilled my water bottles then made my way round the reservoir to eventually join the Witton Weavers Way as it headed towards Darwen Tower. This slow climb was gruelling and even though I’d done it before it was still a bit of a shocker. After a while we turned right and hit the hill properly to end up on top of Darwen Moor where we were to cross the aptly named (by the Trail 26 team) “The Bog of Eternal Stench”.
This was the point where it went a bit wrong for me as this time the bog tried to eat both legs at once as I sank past the knees, deep into the gloopy, stinky mud. I wasn’t particularly bothered by the mud but both legs cramped as I went down, both Calves and both Hamstrings, it hurt… a lot. But the only way to end is to finish so I gingerly made my way to Darwen Tower and made my way down (thankfully) a very windy track to the 2nd check point at mile 16 where Wendy was waiting to cheer us on. I refilled my water again, ate a few pretzels, did a bit of stretching and set off for the final 10 miles, knowing that at least in theory, all the hard work was done.
Well that was the theory, I’d done all of this section before so knew what to expect, what I hadn’t anticipated was constantly having to fight against my legs cramping after going down in the bog. Every uphill was far more of a struggle than it should have been. I passed, ran with or was passed myself by lots of runners around that time, all giving it everything to get to the finish, all willing each other on, I’m sure it was these people in the later third that helped me finish. The hill through the forest at Brinscall was particularly unpleasant but by now I was in very familiar territory and although I wasn’t as fast as I’d hoped I felt OK.
Check point three was at the top end of Anglezarke Reservoir and just as I was about to leave Craig, one of my friends from SRC Chorley, arrived so I stretched a little bit while he resupplied and we both set of on the final quarter together. We were a mess, Craig’s legs wouldn’t let him run down hill with any speed and my calves were complaining as soon as I hit any type of up hill, we resorted to talking absolute rubbish and generally moaning about all things hilly until we hit the finish. It’s a good job we weren’t bugged, our language was quite colourful whenever anything larger than a molehill came into view.
And then we hit Rivington Country Park and we knew it was just over a mile to go. Over the road at the bottom of the School and with no energy for a sprint finish but still smiling we crossed the finish, Wendy cheering us on, in just over 4 hours 52 minutes.
Medal in hand I then proceeded to eat anything and everything in sight as we waited for our friends and cheered them through the finish.
We stayed until the end as we knew, or our friends knew, a lot of the organisers and marshals but it was soon time to go so after a post run massage from Paul Sanderson which was great and a few thank you’s we made our way home after a great day out running over the Lancashire moors.
In conclusion Rivington Trail Marathon was certainly tougher than I expected, and I expected it to be tough. I think I may have given myself a false sense of security by running it in pieces, forgetting of course that’s it a different matter when it’s all joined up into one race. The weather was great, the footing OK apart from the top of Darwen Moor and my fueling / food worked well using a Torq Gel and a Torq Bar per hour for food and taking a Saltstick capsule every hour to help with electrolyte balance which in theory should help stop the cramp I tend to get after about three hours. I think this worked as I had no issue of cramp until the bog swallowed my legs and I’m fairly sure this was just due to the shock of of going down and the muscles cramping to protect everything, that and the bog was fairly cold.
Overall I’m pleased with how it went and enjoyed the event thoroughly, but next year I’ll be faster… I have a score to settle with “The Bog of Eternal Stench”.