Firstly some great news from 4 Villages Half Marathon race director, Laura Baynham-Hughes
Amazing news – the 4 Villages Half Marathon has been voted the best half marathon in the North! Thank you to everyone who helped get people voting – £1k prize and promo in Runners World is a great result! We open for entries on 1st October 2020 – online entry here https://helsbyrunningclub.niftyentries.com/Four-Villages-Half-Marathon-2020.
This year we are also the qualifying race for the England Athletics Masters Team – more info here https://www.englandathletics.org/athletics-and-running/england-competitions/england-teams-and-selection/england-age-group-masters/half-marathon-masters-team-opportunities/
We are having a 4VHM Team meeting on Wednesday 16th October @8pm at the club. If you would like to get involved in this year’s race please come along or drop me an email you are interested but can’t make the meeting (Laura@baynham-hughes.com). The more people that help the better – we want to make sure we live up to our ‘Best Half Marathon’ accolade.
Paul Cunnigham sent this report on from his amazing adventure on Offas Dyke
Offas Dyke is a large linear earthwork that roughly follows the current border between England and Wales. The structure is named after Offa the Anglo-Saxon King of Mercia from 757 until 796AD who is traditionally believed to have ordered its construction.
The Dyke is approx. 181miles in length and roughly 80 km of the dyke can still be seen today – enough History.
The morning had arrived – four trains and 5 hours later myself and Gaz O Connor arrived in Chepstow meeting up with Dave Jones and Trisha Clements at registration – well this was after we had taken a wrong turn out of the station and walked approx. 1.2 miles in the opposite direction carrying four days’ worth of kit – Gaz even managing to lose his waterproof jacket all before registration.
A short coach trip took us from registration to a rock situated at the top of a small hill signalling the starting point of the Offas Dyke.
You receive a small coin at this point to carry with you along the Dyke and at the finish you give back your coin – if you don’t finish you have to keep hold of the coin and return two years later and try again – I liked this concept but definitely didn’t want to hold onto the coin for a few years.
The race started Friday 8pm and the four of us decided to run together for the first few miles – Gaz had completed the race two years previously so I was in good hands and we started at a nice comfortable pace – before I knew it we had run 19 miles and into our first CP Monmouth – the facilities were good Hot and Cold food and drinks at hand – I think here we just replenished our drink containers picked up some food and out the door within 15 mins.
Headed out towards Pandy and here entered some woodland and under torchlight we seemed to move really well once more across the ground – running at night is a magical experience and something that I do enjoy – Dave and Trisha seemed to be in their element and were soon out of sight and running away from us quite easily.
Entered Pandy Village Hall 36 miles completed and starting to feel like the race is now underway.
Stayed here for a Mug Shot and a warm brew before leaving and out towards Hay on Wye
Out of Pandy is the first noticeable steady climb which takes you onto the Brecon Beacons The Black Mountains – this is the highest part of the course.
There is a harvest full moon in the night sky really bright and illuminating the surrounding area Im at peace with the world.
Dawn is approaching and the sun is ready to show itself from below the horizon – a splash of red covers the sky to our right yet the full moon is still on our left and doesn’t want to leave – a battle commences between both lunar objects fighting for the sky – we take a minute and say nothing just staring – how lucky I thought to be here right at this moment to witness this awesome spectacle – the sun eventually wins and a large shadow is cast over the mountains – The Black Mountains aptly named.
52 miles completed as we enter Hay on Wye Parish hall – this is a major CP so we have our drop bag with all our personal belongings – first thing I notice is some runners are sleeping taking a break – I suppose we have been up for more than 24 hrs but myself or Gaz are not ready for sleep.
I complete some foot care and change into a new set of running attire – bacon sausage and egg batch hot brew and away we go.
It’s going to be a hot day – another really nice running section and we are soon into our stride – unfortunately after a few miles Gaz doesn’t seem to be moving as well as previously and takes a hard fall – I heard the thud and hoped he would be ok – Gaz battled on for a few more miles but then insisted that I go ahead and run my own race as he was unsure how his was going to pan out – that’s Gazs story so I’ll leave that there.
I checked myself over and felt great – time to open up the legs and I really did enjoy the next few miles – in and out of CP4 Kington Markwick Hall 68 miles and onto Knighton – between these CPs I met up with 3 guys from Holland Maarten Martino and Franscio whom we had nicknamed The Euro Express earlier due to their effective strategy and how quickly they moved between Checkpoints – they allowed myself to run the next 15 miles with them into CP5 – now here is where you make your first real make or break decision – we are 82 miles in and extremely tired – do you push on through the night into Montgomery completing the hardest section of the race 18 miles roughly taking 7 hours or do you rest up and attack later.
My Plan A was always to try and get to Montgomery 100miles without any sleep – I decided to have 1 hrs rest at Knighton and kick on – leaving the checkpoint approx. 02.00am I was ready to see what I was made of – I soon found out – jelly that’s what I was made of the hills were relentless – not huge 1500ft climbs but continuance short steep 400 footers that really got you blowing out of your backside – the descents aren’t any easier and the burning through your quads as well as feet keeps you focused.
Also through lack of sleep the hallucinations started – I saw people – clowns – scare crows – monkeys – a bear – pythons a skeleton tried to give me flowers – nothing scary but if honest quite enjoyable and got me through the next long hours – I arrived in Montgomery shattered and ready for sleep.
Montgomery another major CP – CP6 so my drop bag was waiting – again change of clothing sorted feet out fed myself and hunkered down in a quite part of the Activity centre for 2 hrs rest – woke up more food replenished my own stocks and onto LLanymynech.
My reward for running through the night is I know the next 20 miles are quite flat apart from one or two climbs to Buttingham – I knew this section as Christine Roach had kindly showed us around a few weeks earlier as herself – Sue Buck – Danielle Ryder – Debbie Read and Jackie Kearsley had done most or all of the Offas Dyke over the previous months – when I was meant to leave the dyke to locate CP7 LLanymynech Village hall I somehow missed my exit and completed my first large navigational error – took me almost 5 miles and over and 80 minutes to put right – I was feeling punchy and decided that another sleep was definitely required.
Chippy tea provided wolfed down personal care taking care of and 90 minutes rest.
This next section onto Froncysyllte – the rest has done me good and again im running really well and enjoying myself – here I meet up with a Becky Wightman whom had won the 100 miler two years previously – great girl really chatty and kept my spirits high – Becky was powering over the ground and was killing the navigation – I felt like a passenger – unfortunately Becky somehow had pulled a muscle behind her right knee and struggled instantly – the ultra-running community is a close one and ive quickly learnt that you stay and help out your fellow competitor as one day it could be you – Becky didn’t complain once and dug in – I was totally impressed and later found out that she works as a full time fireman – made of steely stuff that girl.
Froncysyllte is where the famous aqueduct is situated and is a marvel of engineering – it is now Monday morning and getting to close to 60 hours since we started this epic adventure.
Having plenty of time to think or not to think is a cracking way to find out alitle bit about yourself – your innerself and if honest I believe I am a decent person whom likes to treat people how I wish to be treated – I like me – life is for living – don’t get hung up on minor things or any things for that matter – enjoy what you have and show love and compassion to all.
Leaving CP8 138 miles in this is when I knew I was going to finish this race – I powered into llandegla taking approx. 3.5 hrs to complete the 12 miles – I was on fire ha-ha – Llandegla last major checkpoint CP9 where we had access to our drop bags – beef stew and crusty bread for breakfast taking my footwear off I could see two large blood blisters that had appeared on the side of my feet – my feet started to feel really hot and I couldn’t sooth them – medic takes a quick look but wouldn’t allow me to burst blisters in fear of infection – more tape and plasters but knew the next 30 miles home maybe difficult – also this is where I also found out that Trisha had taken a heavy fall also a day or so ago and was no longer in the race – she was first lady at the time – Dave retired at same time I believe – devastating news and Im sure they will be back in two tears time.
Knew this next section between llandegla and Bodfari as only run it a couple of weeks ago – I was moving slow and this was my lowest point – 150+ miles into a race and first low point – I’ll take that any race – anyone who’s run this part of the Offas dyke knows there are a few nice climbs and the views are spectacular – as I was climbing up to the fort top of Moel Famau I heard my named called -it was Jackie – yes Jackie actually in this country I couldn’t believe it – I took a big hug and wiped the tears from my eyes – I was extremely emotional and was more than happy for the company – Jackie lifted my spirits no end and before I knew it we were at Moel Arthur where Becky was waiting at the bottom with refreshments and croissants – I had only left Becky less than 24 hrs ago as she dropped out of race and now she’s supporting instantly – what a girl – I started to tell Jackie a story about Becky when I had totally got Becky and Story mixed up and knew I was confused alitle more tired than I thought.
Soon I was back on my own heading towards final CP when approx.. 4miles out another friendly face – Jake Holmes had decided I was moving too slowly and wanted to kick me in the backside – soon enough we were in the Bodfari CP and the heat from the log cabin was just lush – medic looks at my feet tells me I don’t have any more blisters and tapes up a few issues – I could of carried on through the night as only 12 miles remained but I wasn’t getting picked up until 10.00am Tuesday morning – so I fed my face and bedded down for a solid 7 hours – 7 hours of the most wonderful sleep I have ever had – I left CP10 with a guy from the South – Ashley Ward and we shared our life stories to each other as if we had known each other for a lifetime – the coast was now in sight as light took over from the darkness – another beautiful morning without another sole in sight – we felt alive and so lucky – Ash and myself jogged into town to be met by friends – family – and the volunteers and crew who had made are dreams and ambitions possible.
We touch the finishing rock situated front of the Nova centre in a time which is totally irrelevant 84 hrs 22 minutes and my first thought was… this wasn’t a race it was an adventure and I cannot wait for the next one
Full parkrun results for Helsby runners are below, including a Helsby 1-2-3 in the men’s race at Phoenix Park