The Wall Run 70 mile Ultramarathon
Powered by Rat Race www.thewallrun.com
22nd and 23rd June 2013
Background to the Event
The Wall run passes through inspirational countryside on paths and tracks where many thousands of Romans have gone before. This is Hadrian’s Wall Country.
The Challenger event is a back to back ultra distance event travelling the 70 miles over two days with some 1000 ft of climbing to the highest point.
DAY 1 Started on Saturday at 8am from Carlisle Castle where you make your way on foot to Vindolanda, the halfway point some 32.5 miles away.
DAY 2 Starts on Sunday between 8am and 10am from Vindolanda and finishes in Newcastle some 37.54 miles away, a total of 70 miles.
Originally Richard and I who I completed the G2E 56 mile ultra with in April, had signed up to this event as a team pair. (This means we had to complete it together, both covering the entire distance sharing one timing chip. The pro’s to this are that you have company along the way, and it was cheaper…but the cons are that if say one of us got injured during the event, then we wouldn’t be able to complete it solo…)
About 8 weeks before the event, due to unforeseen circumstances Richard had to pull out and I was left with a dilemma, who could I ask to run 70 miles with me, and let’s face it… who would be stupid enough to consider it… I could count on a just few fingers the people I knew who would be capable of having a go at it…
…And Luck would have it I managed to persuade Alan Darby to take on the challenge with me. This would be his first Ultra distance event, and back to back ultras too… But Alan is a 2:40 marathon runner and had finished The Edinburgh marathon just 6 weeks before the Wall run in 14th position overall A fantastic achievement and so well capable of going longer at a slower pace!
On the lead up to this event, I suffered with some lower back niggles and a tight right calf which really ate into the training I had planned to do, and meant that the longest run after the G2E 56 mile run I managed to do was a 15 miler… No where near what I had planned, but hey I had the experience of previous events in the bank… and I was really banking on that to get me through!
Race registration for the event opened on Friday 21st June at Carlisle Castle, So both Darb’s and I headed by train to Carlisle where I had pre booked a twin room hotel stay at the Ibis Hotel in Carlisle.
The Hotel was just a short 15 minute walk to the Race registration point and the race start on Saturday Morning. The Hotel is next to several pubs and nightclubs so I wouldn’t recommend staying here if you want a good night’s sleep before a huge distance event! ( you wont find this information on their website!)
At Race registration we picked up our Race numbers, lucky number 7, timing chip, maps, info sheets and signed our life’s away in a disclaimer that should we die on the event, it’s nothing to do with Rat Race!
We then headed off to find a Tesco’s to grab some ‘just add water’ porridge pots and banana’s for the mornings breakfast!
We then had our pre run dinner at a local Italian restaurant right next to the train station which was cracking value for money and provided us with much needed pasta! It’s certainly worth booking a table here once you’re off the train and many runners got turned away due to being too busy!
Food for thought!
So we didn’t get a great night’s sleep as it was a Friday night and our hotel was smack in the middle of Carlisle’s night lift hot spot… GGGRRRRR very frustrating but at least Id pre packed ear defenders just in case either of us snored, and these proved very valuable to block out the booming music and smokers outside the clubs in the courtyard under our Window! (After complaining a full refund was issued)
Breakfast was had, kit packed, blister plasters applied to hot spots and body glide rubbed in all the right places! And we were off, we walked the 15 minutes to Carlisle Castle with our bags to dropped at the star so they would be taken to the half way point which we would collect at the end of the first days 32 miles!
As we enter Carlisle Castle there is a buzz of both excitement and worry about the grounds from Ultra runners and their family members alike… the 69 miles ahead to cover on foot would be a huge achievement for all… yet we were some 69 miles away from that goal…
30 minutes to the start the queues for the toilets began to get longer as nerves begin to take over for many. Alan and I take some pre race photos and join those queues..
10 minutes until the start of The Wall Run Ultra marathon and the race director and officials ask all runners to make there way to the start line and pen, swiping their timing chips on the scanners marshals had with them as you entered the pit.
Nobody but a few were brave enough to go the front of the start line and were hanging back or to the middle of the pack, so Alan and I thought what the hell… I’m certainly not going to get much opportunity to be right at the front of a race so we headed to the front, right in the middle wearing number 7’s on our front and backs we took our places.
5 minutes until the gun the race director gave the Rat Race briefing on the 69 mile event, read out the weather report which suggested heavy rain was on its way but the wind could assist in moving it away from us, fingers crossed and wished us all luck on the enormous challenge ahead of running the length of Hadrian’s Wall from Carlisle to Newcastle covering 69 miles…
..like we needed reminding!
10..9..8.. 3..2..1 and the gun sounds, the cheers go up and we are off, I shot off to Alan’s surprise right to the very front – leading the pack of some few hundred runners all behind me, leading them through the tunnel and out of Carlisle Castle down the cobbled streets and on our way to Wall Country.
Today’s run would be a 32 miles from Carlisle Castle to Vinolanda, the half way point.
We joked about me heading off at the front and then set into a jog running between 8 and 10 minute mile pace. The run started off flat through parkland, onto paths and trails and then old country lanes which became undulated but nothing too hilly. Countryside all around us but no sign of Hadrian’s Wall… this was the Wall Run…Hmmm .
The day was warm and humid, and we had both worn t-shirts and shorts but Darb’s choice to wear his Gore jacket as it was looking more and more as if the skies were going to open up anytime…Both of us wearing hydration packs with 1.5L of fluid in, I went for water and electrolytes. I had a random mix of different branded gels and Gu chews stuffed into pockets I could reach on my front, along with the mandatory kit list of basic first aid kit, jacket, survival blanket, whistle, mobile phone and money stuffed in the back of the hydration pack as I didn’t need it to hand.
The Miles ticked away as we chatted and enjoyed banter with other runners, one of the great things about taking part in Ultra marathon’s is the comradery it brings between you and other Ultra runners, something rare in any other distance run.
Miles 7, 8, 9, 10 went by and still no Wall… 11, 12 and still no wall.. it became a running joke, literally with all the runners alike that we had lost the wall on what was The Wall Run!
As Mile 13 arrived we were 200 yards from our first Pit stop and check point and still no sign of Hadrian’s Wall!
As we arrived we scanned in our timing chip with the Rat race marshal and were both looking forward to refilling our hydration packs, using the toilet, getting some proper food in our systems and a break from being on our feet.
On offer was Water, Hi 5 fluid, squash, sandwiches, pretzels, bananas, sweets, nuts, chocolate crisps and tea.
We spent just short of 20 minutes at LANERCOST PITSTOP enjoying some jelly sweets, crisps and fluid… Darb’s had a cup of tea and got a sandwich down but that 20 minutes went so quickly and to be honest we hadn’t planned on spending that much time at the pit stop.
We had covered 13 miles along trails and now had another 19 miles until the Half way overnight camp at Vindolanda to conquer with just two checkpoints in between which would have water and sweets to stock up on.
From here on in the rest of the day became climb after climb, hill after hill with no down hill at the top of any hills to give those quads a well earned rest.
We broke up this part of the day with continuing to run 8-10 minute mile pace, now closer to 10 minute pace on the flatter undulating parts of the course but walked the steep hills and climbs which seemed to be most of the ultra runners out on the courses tactics.
It was tough during this section, as you couldn’t get into any kind of rhythm with all the hills and I had clearly not done enough hill work!
We finally saw some of Hadrians wall around 15 miles and it would stay by our side or in close by for the remaining 17 miles of the day.
The scenery was breathtaking, rolling hills, low clouds, surrounded by countryside and running on trails, it really was perfect…. if only my quads were not burning so much. It was clear the lack of training coming into this Ultra due to injury was showing as my body was hurting.
We continued on, Ticking off the miles and continuing to overtake runners who were feeling worse than me. Darb’s was feeling comfortable at the easier pace and was using the distance as training for high hopes of getting on the podium for the Adidas Thunder 24 hour run in a few weeks after this Run!
We continued to chat with other runners as we climbed the hills that were being thrown at us, one of the guys we met was Andrew Mowatt @andy_mowatt who was running well as part of a team pair with another chap, it was their second time of doing the event and they were hoping to beat last years event time…. They had the added pressure of wearing number 1 as their race number attached to their chests! GULP!
We went through both Birdoswald checkpoint and Walltown Quarry Checkpoints, only stopping for a few minutes at each to try and keep some sort of forward movement going in the legs as they became more tired as I reached the end of day 1 taking on water and jelly sweets for carbs.
As we approached mile 31, in the distance down into a valley we could see a huge campsite and the Rat Race yellow and black colours we were just a mile away and the sight of the finish in the distance helped find some speed in the legs and was able to push a little more along the gravel and lose stone trails through trees and bridal paths.
As we got closer we had one last short steep climb up to the finish line and we were Finished. We had completed Day 1.
32 miles in the bank arriving at Vindolanda!
I wasn’t feeling too great and my mind wasn’t even on the great achievement of completing Day 1’s Ultra of 32 miles of very Hilly mixed terrain, but on how the devil will I muster up the energy in my legs to run 37 miles in the morning? Hmmmm….
Darbs and I enjoyed some hot soup, rolls and drinks put on for all finishers by Rat Race. I also helped myself to a sandwich and many of the other delights they have on tables for runners to help themselves too. Rat Race really do know how to put on a spread!
After a brief sit down to enjoy the above comfort foods we called our taxi driver ( mobile 07712321064) from Halt whistle, a nearby town to come and collect us, as I had pre booked us into a bed and breakfast in Halt whistle to get a proper shower, big dinner and a goodnights comfortable sleep in a bed!
We collected our bags and our taxi driver took us 5 miles up the road to Halt whistle where we stayed in The Manor House t01434 322588. www.themanorhousehaltwhistle.co.uk What a lovely little town, and a great little B&B, I would 100% recommend the B&B to anyone doing this event, rather than staying in a tent on the Vindolanda (NE47 7JP) overnight campsite!
End of Day One Stats
Brad Barber / Alan Darby
Team Run Happy NO.7
32 Miles – Total Time 06:26:42 including checkpoint stops.
Finish Position 69th out of 297.
Full stats on http://connect.garmin.com/activity/332637623
That evening I had a good shower, big stretch, popped some anti inflammatory tablets, applied deep freeze to the legs and put the compression socks on.
Then it was time for a few cold beers and a steak dinner. In hindsight we probably didn’t need the chocolate brownie and ice cream.
Over dinner we got chatting to another few of the Ultra Runners attempting the run, one of which was Stephen Thackray who had come in shortly after us.
After an early night, and a great nights sleep I woke up wondering how stiff the legs were going to be… well they felt better than i expected so that was a bonus!
We had breakfast – eggs on toast, whilst Stephen went for the big full fry up I wondered if that would be a bit of a mistake…. Our taxi arrived around 08.30am and the three of us shared it to the start line of day two. Just 37 or so miles to Gateshead and the finish line.
We off loaded our bags, filled up our hydration packs with 1000ml of fluid, last minute use of the toilets and we were at the start line ready to go!
As we finished Day 1 in the first third of finishers we had the option of starting Day 2 from 0800 till 10am. We opted to get longer in our beds and start later! It turns out we were the only three who had opted to start late, everyone else had set off at 8am and they were just waiting on us before taking the site apart and deflate the Start line banner!
Stephen set off shortly before us, but we wanted to make time for a quick photo.
We scanned our timing chip and we were off on the final part of our 70 mile Ultra marathon journey the entire Length of Hadrians Wall from Carlisle to Gateshead, Newcastle with shouts of good luck from Rat Race marshals and loud music playing in the background.
As we set off the route felt good, slight downhill and it remained dry which was a bonus as Rain was forecast. Just a few miles in we looked up and came across a monster of a vertical hillside which the direction arrows put out was pointing towards!
It was blowing a gale as we scrambled up the Hill through bracken and ferns grabbing onto any rock or long grass to pull us up, it was certainly a tough scramble on all fours up the hill side and it ticked the box in getting your legs warmed up!
Once finally at the top we stopped for a brief photo next to a stone memorial, we were so pleased we started late as those all starting at 8am would of been struggling and queued up one behind the other to get up that hillside! We then ran along the dunes which felt great, the joys of ultra’s are that you are alone running in the countryside with hardly anyone else, everything you need on your back – water & food which is just the perfect situation in my eyes compared to running road marathons pounding tarmac surrounded by thousands doing the same thing.
Soon after Bardon Mills we were on and off road, mainly trail paths and single track roads but not a car insight and mostly down hill for sometime to Hexham our next checkpoint at the 45 mile point.
We started picking off and overtaking runners and walkers who were feeling the pains from day 1 and struggling already. We made sure each person was ok as we overtook them giving them encouragement to battle on…
We had arrived at the Pit stop at Hexham, a lovely location along the river for a nice cuppa tea, some crisps and other goodies to get in the system, real food really is a must on these events as relying on gel after gel will just gives the worst energy crashes and stomach aches.
We filled up our hydration packs once more and continued on our journey from Hexham to our next checkpoint at Pudhoe around another 10 miles away. The route continued along the river some more and then over a few bridges before then going across country, along tiny paths through woodlands, the ferns and brush against you, over flowing streams this was my favourite part of the entire run.. yes 50 odd miles in and still loving the event, don’t get me wrong the legs really were starting to feel tired now but my mind was winning the battle of wills in a good way, as the views were great, the trails were really scenic and we were still overtaking people all the time and they started nearly two hours earlier… we were winning the endurance battle.
As we passed Throckley at around the 60 mile mark there was a random village with lots of straw people displayed, interesting but just a little weird, still it took the mind off the fatigue and pain that was starting in the legs. Regardless, we were still picking off more and more runners as we pushed closer to the finish line, trying to run and then shuffle to a walk technique by now… just a few miles to our last Pit stop at Newburn mile 63!
The Rat Race marshals were there at Newburn clapping and cheering every single runner as they made there way into the tent, getting their timing chips scanned before stuffing more much needed food into there exhausted hungry bodies.
I enjoyed some ready salted crisps and a sandwich, Darbs I think had everything he could get he’s hands on, he could eat like a king! Once fuelled we had just 7 miles along the Tyne to the finish line, mentally we knew 7 miles wasn’t far and I was telling myself 7 miles is just a loop of Richmond park and I would be don’t in an hour… so we plodded on out of that last checkpoint and thats when the thunder storm and deep blue skies above opened up and chucked it down. I wasn’t too bothered, i was kinda happy to have the cool rain fall on me, it was somewhat refreshing.
Those last 7 miles seemed to go on forever as we went through stages of running strong and shuffling along. The odd hill or slope we walked to save the legs for the straight stuff but the tarmac although a faster surface to run on, was tough on the feet and knees at this stage in the race!
As we entered Newcastle with just a few miles along the Tyne to go we passed such an array of beautiful bridges crossing above us, but i was just looking for that bridge we run over, and there is was in view along with the Baltic Quay and finish area. The Announcer on the speaker shouting our names as we crossed that last bridge to Finish arms lofted in the air, it was over we had done it.
We collected our medals and discovered we had finished 66th overall out of 297 runners and 12th out of 60 team pairs.
We walked through to the finishers area where we slumped ourselves down on what seemed the most comfy chair in the world, tucked into some hot chicken curry and rice, drank full fat coke and chatted with other finishers.
It was a great 2 days, tough, really tough both mentally and physically but all in all I really enjoyed it and it was great to do it as a team along side darb’s who has a whole different level of ability.
We stayed at the Premier Inn Quayside which was only a 10 minute walk from the finish, and that evening as we enjoyed a cold beer and some filling food in the restaurant we watched runners hobbling in, great effort.
End of Day two Stats
Brad Barber / Alan Darby
Team Run Happy NO.7
37.54 Miles – Total Time 7:36.18 including checkpoint stops.
70.04 MILES TOTAL TIME 14:03.14 INCLUDING CHECKPOINT STOPS.
FINISH POSITION 66TH OUT OF 297
12TH OUT OF 60 TEAM PAIRS.
Friends we met along the way finished in
74th overall Stephen Thackley in a time of 14:11.57
112th overall Andy Mowatt in a time of 15:04.38
What would I change if i did it again? There is a whole host of things I would do differently.
I completely undertrained due to injury and lack of time for this 70 mile event and basically ran it on the back on finishing the 56 mile ultra from Glasgow to Edinburgh a few months before.
I didn’t incorporate anywhere near enough hill work and on day 1 this really took its toll. This would be the one biggest thing I would change. I would build up my long runs and then do hill repeats at the finish once every other week for preparation in a race like this.
Potentially I could be closer to 12 hours with the right training and that’s a top 10finish.
Saying that, If I ran it again I would enter the expert event and do it in one go, I can honestly say running a one day event would of been so much less toll on the body personally than the two day event.
Overall though it’s been a great year on my Ultra Journey and I have learned so much so far.
As I break for a few months now prior to starting Ultra training again in October / November this year for the upcoming 2014 events, I ponder of completing my first 100 mile Ultra Marathon run!