Fitness Magazine

Cheviot Goat

By Jamesrichardadams @jamesradams

I lost my sense of humour pretty quickly with this (and a shoe a couple more times). When I saw a course map with a red dotted line on I thought there would be a delicious path to jog along. I should have learned from exploring the red lines of Bedfordshire that the redness of the line in no way corresponds to the shitness of the trail. The months and months of rain had taken their toll.

Three hours in we were at the top of the Cheviot, the biggest climb and there were slabs to run on! Excellent. All downhill from here! It was a bit breezy on top, and there was a bit where the runners were going in both directions on a path that only really fits one.

I am quite submissive in these situations. I'll stand aside to let people past. But here you risk a 50/50 chance of doing that Vicar of Dibley puddle jump.

After the Cheviot, there was a gentle downhill on the slabs where I made up some time and places. My watch was being a bit generous. 8 min miles? Hmmmm I'm not so sure but I'll be happy for the route to stay like this all the way to the finish. At least that's the bogs bit done.

I overtook quite a few people here, ha ha pussies! Don't handle a bit of solid running surface! Go back to your swamps, you hedgehog eating chumpazoids!

The sun did finally come up and painted the hills a lovely yellow and green, like being at Carrow Road. Unfortunately, it was short-lived as we went higher and higher into the cloud and everything turned Rotherham again.

I knew my watch was taking the piss. I should have asked more questions in forums about it. When we got to the first water stop at 15 miles my Garmin said 18.5 miles. I tried to negotiate. Not going full-on Apprentictard and yelling "THIS IS 18.5 MILES INNIT MATE?" whilst jabbing him in the chest. I asked a little hesitantly, "This is a bit more than 15 isn't it?"

Two people looked at their watches as said "I've got 15 pretty much bang on".


I was brave. Very brave. Like I tell my kids to be when they need to have their jabs. I didn't have any stickers to give myself but I managed not to cry about the 3.5 miles that were so cruelly taken away from me.

The next section was fairly nice. Mostly downhill in fields. I did a bit of poo-spotting, inspired by this highly educational book about a dog pooing on a moles head. (Sorry, gave the story away there). We descended into a small town and had a fair bit of road to run on before getting to the halfway stage.

I didn't want to hang around too much. It took 7 hours to do just over half the race and I figured (as the hard bit was out of the way) I should be able to do the remaining in 7 hours. So that's 14 hours, 8pm finish. Back in town before the chip shop closes. I grabbed some soup and took it up the next hill with me.

A chap did approach me and said I looked familiar. I think I said I used to write blogs about ultra running and then he mentioned the Barkley film. Yeah I was in that. "I don't want to be an epic failure, I just want to be a regular failure like everyone else". He asked how it was and I said I felt like I was in the documentary all over again.

I enjoyed the next miles much more, nice hills, open trails, forests and cows. This section seemed to go quicker, even accounting for my watch spazzing out miles every kilometer. My watch presumably got into that hippy "everyone should be so supportive and tell everyone they are awesome Man" mode that you see on some facebook pages. Even though I was twaddling along like a Londoner who has confused Crib Goch with the Northern Line my watch took it upon itself to tell me "yeah! Man, you are totally Jim Fucking Walmeslying this bastard!"

We were all pretty spread out now and given I was cheating at the nav I wanted to stay within sight of others. The previous night there was an almost full moon basking the hills in a light blue glow and I said to the guys this is going to be lovely. Running out in the wilderness to moonlight sounds like a wonderful way to spend a Saturday night.

In reality, as soon as the sun went down, the ground got squelchy again and the moon disappeared behind thick clouds. It was almost perfect timing, lights out - ground disappears.

Back in the days when I had more mental resolve than Sam Smith during lockdown I had a few mental tricks to get me through the tough times. One was to always assume that external things will get worse but internal things will get better. Hills, rain, wind, terrain, conversation with other runners are external. Always assume that these things will get worse. Every ditch I assumed you be followed by another bigger ditch. That the #brutal wind will blow harder and the Biblical rain will turn into Quoranical rain. That a guy who talks constantly about his Keto diet will be replaced by a guy talking about getting UTMB points.

I was doing quite well at this, but having been treated to some nice running for hours, I got complacent and forgot to assume it was going to get shitter, and shitter it got. As soon as the sun fell off the earth the path seemed to disappear. No longer were we running on flattened grass, we were back in the bogs and wading through the bracken. Surely there was a path somewhere? It might be right next to it, but we just could not see it. I was just following a line of people who were, in turn, following their fancy pants watches and I was in no position to say (out loud) "can you please stick to a fucking path please?"

I could not keep up with the train in front of me. I looked around to see how long I'd have to wait to tag onto someone else and saw complete darkness. Shit.

It wasn't forecast to rain, that's why I packed a Saloman Bonetti as my "waterproof". It's good for straining loose leaf tea but fuck all else. I put it on anyway as the hood does a good job of telling me how windy it is.

I wondered whether Chris and Greg had finished yet. I reminisced about the time when everyone thought I was the greatest ultra runner to ever live. Now I struggle to make it into the top ten ultra runners in the county parish of Kempston Rural. Such a fall from grace, coinciding nicely with another fall into a bog.

Shit and unnecessary.

I never really had any desire to do the Spine Race and I think today has vaccinated me against any future threat of desire to walk through bogs for a week.

The race is well organised. I'm only writing like a many pretentious prick in the hope of a job at The Guardian. As far as bleak wilderness and challenging terrain go this is a fantastic event, everyone is tracked and as many marshalls and safety people as can be realistically put out there. But I was having none of it. I really wasn't liking this.

Possibly the most exciting thing that happened was that I saw a Twix on the floor. I didn't pick it up. Then a mile later a man came bounding past saying " my word, I just found a twix on the floor, are it and now I'm buzzing!" As he flew into the distance. Bastard.

But when a chap said, just as we turned off the last ridge and went downhill that it was all pretty rocky ground from here on in I could have kissed him.

It still took soooooo long though. I thought 10 miles in two hours should be a doddle, but somehow the easy bit felt just as hard. I should have put the route into my watch like everyone else, then I would not have to constantly guess how far I had left. A 55 mile race my watch was well into the 60s. At least my pace would look a bit more generous on Strava.

Eventually, there were enough lights in the distance to suggest that there was some sort of building there and that I might be able to finish. Having been overtaken about 100 times in the last few hours I managed at least to pick up to a run through the farmland and look like I was finishing properly.

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