Last Sunday I decided to run the Gritstone Trail in Cheshire with a couple of friends. I had recently suffered a training setback when it was confirmed that I’ve worn away cartilage in my knees. Since then my running mileage fell to zero, and slowly back up… One mile. Two miles. Three. Then a ten mile trail run. But I’ve got ultramarathons to train for, so running the 34 or so miles of the Gritstone Trail seemed like a good idea, even if not in keeping with most training plans.
The day saw an early start for us, and we dropped one car at the finish (a pub in Scholar’s Green, avoiding the final boring road section) before driving back up to the station car park at the start of the trail in Disley. I had chosen trail shoes – Saucony Peregrine 5’s to be exact. I’d later regret this decision, when I realised just how much running through muddy fields was involved. Fell shoes would have been much more appropriate.
From Disley train station, through the picturesque Lyme Park at the height of lambing season. It takes me three miles just for my leg muscles to ease into the run. The weather alternates between short sleeve and long sleeve territory, so I decide to start a bit cooler in short sleeve.
Teggs Nose car park and a lovely little teashop that I don’t get to see as the queues are too long. Instead, a chance to top up water bottles at the bathroom sinks. On we go, with the promise of lunch in 6-8 miles. Bits of the trail are really muddy underfoot and I slip a couple of times, getting muddy in the process.
“Not far to go till lunch, just over there, over there and over there, then a half. mile off the route”. I’m hungry and thirsty.
Third slip of the day. This time descending on mud and loose gravel. I graze the side of a leg, a hand and rip off about 3″ x 3″ of skin from my right knee, right down to the underlying layers. Loose bits of tissue flap about as I wash mud and grit out in a stream. It doesn’t hurt too much, so I continue.
Lunch stop at last! But the pub does not do food, not even sandwiches. They conjure up a bowl of peanuts as we drink cola outside, which is better than nothing. We decide to move on sharpish, before the will to move disappears.
We’re on the move again, over the Cloud and down into Timbersbrook. I wolf down a pack of Ella’s organic baby food; it tastes delicious despite me not being the target audience. The route is flatter now, though the canal path is little more than mud. Despite the lack of a proper lunch, we’ve put a dent into this run.
I take a moment to ponder how my friends doing the Paris Marathon are getting on. We’re approaching Mow Cop, the final hill on the route.
We’re almost atop Mow Cop. I’m dehydrated and low on electrolytes. The final stretch up is long and progress is slow, but it’s not like I’m going to stop, or turn back!
We’ve decsended Mow Cop. Further downhill through fields, but still no sign of Scholars Green and the car.
Finally, down the canal and out to the main road, then the pub car park. I eat the last morcels of emergency millionaire’s shortbread- I feel fortified as soon as a chew it. I drink pints of soft drinks in the pub, then settle into a well earned pub dinner with my friends. Apart from my knee being a major mess and generally being exhausted, I feel good. No hot spots or blisters on my feet, no chafing anywhere, no cramps.
Please note, all distances quoted in this post are approximate, from memory (i.e. do not use them as verbatim!). We ran this route armed with previous knowledge, with emergency kit, digital maps and sat nav as backup.