Yesterday I had the pleasure of ruuning the majority of The Long Mynd Hike route with Paul Tranter.
This is a race that I had wanted to run in October, but I was unwell so had to pull out. Since then this route has felt a bit like unfinished business, so I planned to do an unsupported attempt. Thankfully Paul agreed to come with me. Without his company, there wwas no way I would have finished what turned out to be an extremely difficult route.
We stayed the night in the nice little town of Chruch Stretton and were up at 4.30 a.m and out by 5. This was so that we could try to finish in the light when we were tired and do some night navigation while we were still fresh. So the first summit of Caer Caradoc was navigated in the dark which was lots of fun! Gale force winds on the far side of the hill added to the difficulties, but it was a good start to the run. It was 2 more hours before we would see the sun rising in the East - beautiful orange and yellow colours over Caer Caradoc. It's an amazing feeling to be high up on a hill knowing that that most other people are still tucked up in bed (or not even there yet!)
The run was going really well despite some long drags which were unrunable gradients. On arrival at Bridges, we checked the progress and time and were devastaed that this first section had taken 3 hours! We thought we had been going really well, but realised that if we had kept this pace up we would be looking at 15 hours out - a much longer day than anticipated. We continued up to Stiperstones somewhat dejected and already thinking of whether to cut the route short. On arrival at Stiperstones, we were buoyed by the possibility of being able to run along the ridge, but this also proved impossible for a while at least due to the angular stones protruding along the ridge. These do eventually subside though and we started making good progress down to Habberly.
We had decided that we would assess the situation again at Tankerville as there is a way of cutting out some of the route there. To be honest at Tankerville if Paul had agreed, I would have gladly turned back, but he was feeling much stonger than me here and suggested we press on. We soon came down to Corndon Hill (and Wales!) where we lost quite a bit of time getting lost! Eventually though, we found our route and pressed on around Black Rhadley (it's private land here so we avoided the hill itself). Now I had a second wind and Paul was finding the going tough. I had it in my head that if we could make it back up to Stipertones car park, we could make it home again. So we pressed on and sooner than expected we had made it to the car park. A quick munch on some food and we made the long descent back to Bridges. A look at the map showed that there was a direct road to Church Stretton, but we both decided we would like to finsih the proper route via Minton, so pressed on up to Pole Cottage.
From here, we both seemed to have fresh legs and we soon found that we were on the descent into Minton, with Little Stretton and Chruch Stretton in view. A great feeling as it had been a very challening day. My legs had a little wobble in Little Stretton (!) but a Mars Bar and some drink soon gave me the energy to run along to Church Stretton at a good pace.
We finally reached Church Stretton just as it had gone dark (something we had earlier given up on!) and ran into the car park at about 5pm, just short of 12 hours after starting.
We missed the summits of The Lawley, Earl Hill and Ragleth Hill as neither of us felt inclined to run up a hill merely for the sake of it, but I think we ran around 45 miles. We probably lost about an hour plus due to navigation difficulties. Overall, I estimate that on a race, sub 12 hours would be a possibility which although isn't a great time for a 50m course, would be a good time for this course with the elevation changes and diffcult terrain.
Thanks to Paul for coming down with me and the good company. A really excellent day out in the hills.
I've never been to Shropshire before and it is definitely somewhere I'd like to go back and visit.
Sorry for the lack of photos, but it was just too cold and I was too tired.