It all started with Jamie posting the idea on Facebook after having a wander around the beautiful countryside that Burnley and the surrounding areas had to offer. His idea was to run a marathon around the Burnley Way to raise money for Brathay Trust. This could be done solo, pairs or in teams of three so there was something for everyone.
Now this report will not be as good as Deborah’s who had written it in double quick time, but it may get people in the mood to give it a go next year.
I have been struggling with injury for about four months when this was first put out and having been given the okay to run slowly I thought "what the hell" and started to have a look where the legs were going. I downloaded the route and even bought a map which showed the Burnley Way, this prompted lots of little reccies and silly “B” selfies. The “B” selfies started to become a regular occurrence and it seemed both myself and Deborah couldn’t run past one without stopping and posting on the TAC page or on Strava it made the training fun.
Move on a few months and I was quite confident that I knew where all the legs were and the route we could take, I approached my running mate Dale Grimshaw (a man who tried to get me to run Frankfurt with him) but after picking up my injury told him there was no chance. But we both agreed that this event was perfect to start off with no pressure and for a good cause so we entered as a pair.
I made the mistake of telling my physio, who is a fell runner, my plans for the next few months; he just shook his head and looked at me warning me not to undo all the hard work we had done. The first test was the Yorkshireman half if my ankle had held up I would do the Lancashireman, well part of me was wishing it hadn’t but after finishing in a slow 3 hours 5 minutes (almost 30 minutes slower than last time) I felt fine and decided to enter.
The day of the race came I drove down to the Wharf and parked up. A few people had already registered and were clutching at the maps and instructions that Jamie had printed, I am a swot and had already reccied the route so put these in my bag. Looked around and made jokes about getting lost and route choices at certain parts of the legs, this was just to mask my nervousness of what I was about to do. Right, down to the start this was on the canal outside the Weavers Triangle, quick photo a speech from Jamie and we were off. Pioneers on the first "Lancashireman" marathon.
Right, start slow don’t go out to fast, out of the group and onto the canal, I’ve run up and down here loads of times but I have never been so apprehensive of what I was about to do. Adrian had entered as a solo runner and had joined me, I looked over my shoulder and could see Dale chatting, he was behind me - good he hadn’t fallen in!
Onto the straight mile and I knew we were going too fast Dale and Adrian's encouragement was to keep going at the pace. I could see Mick and Kerrie-Anne in front and Dale said keep with them. OMG I thought never going to do that. On we went got to the turn at Netherwood Road and Mick was stood scratching his head, if you knew the route the easiest way would be to run down the road but no we had to through the trails which bring you out in the same place. A couple of puppies had caught Kerrie’s attention and she had to stop.
The pack of runners had started to stretch out and I soon slowed going through the trails at the rear of Rowley, confident that I knew where I was going soon I had lost sight of Kerrie and Mick with Dale coming back to see if I was okay. Suddenly I saw Kerrie scrambling down a steep slope closely followed by Mick and Adrian, they had already lost their way and went high by the river instead of low - see a swot knows these little routes.
Along we went and continued, my thoughts again were soon wandering to what have I done, never run this far before I must be crazy. Down through farms and up to Harle Syke and Queen Street Mill, this is where I knew I was holding people up, Dale was waiting for me with Kerrie and Mick. At this point disaster hit, my water bottle burst and water was spilling out over me. Just carry on, sort it out at the first checkpoint, make sure to eat and keep going.
Through the fields and up to Happa passing familiar smiling faces of Tracy and Liz asking where Darren was. This wasn’t the last time we would be seeing the pair. I was feeling okay at this point and we continued over the fields. I had reccied this leg twice and got lost at this point on both occasions; in the field we were in I had been chased by cows. Dale was first in and he is scared of cows or anything large, the plan was to walk through as not to scare or spook any.
Now then, Dale was leading and at the beginning it was decided to go straight down the field through a gate and continue just cutting the path short. But no, Dale had forgotten this so we ended up going through the waist-deep thistles and bushes. Up the steep steps and down to Thursden Valley. Onto the road that led us to the first changeover, Dale advising to take it easy here, then as we hit the climb he told me to start to run, couldn’t make sense of that. At the changeover most teams or runners were arriving I didn’t want to hang around, grabbed a couple of sweets and filled my water bottle, making some quick repairs, and told Dale and the others I wanted to continue, something I wish I hadn’t done so quick as I would feel this later in the race.
This starts with a climb on the road and by this time it was clear that Adrian, Mick and Kerrie along with Dale were acting as an unofficial TAC support crew, dropping back and offering advice.
Once at the top of the road I saw Kerrie and Mick going off the road and onto grass - they clearly didn’t like Tarmac! I was caught up by one of Paul Brown's friends [past 10in10er Paul Dewar - PB] and had a nice chat with him about the route and the lovely countryside.
We passed Alan Boult who was taking our numbers and directing us onto the track to Widdop, a bit early I thought, but he must have been following Jamie's orders.
The trail is covered in ferns and at this point I couldn’t see the rocks underneath and had to walk the majority of this bit, the weather had made it very muddy underfoot. I kept going determined not to stop and to catch my support crew up. Looking to the left I could see Widdop res and looking up I could see where we were heading, another climb I ran a bit and walked until we got to the Stones at top of Gorple Road.
Apologies to the support crew only to be told to stop apologising and just to keep going and we were off, my bottle had emptied again and the running repairs I thought had fixed it hadn’t. Right, downhill for a bit let's go! Kerrie had to make a quick pit stop but soon caught up, down to Hurstwood and as I passed the turn off on the Worsthorne 7 route I pointed out we could save a lot of time going down there but that would be cheating.
Left at Gorple gate and down to the village. Kerrie then said we were halfway there I had made a concerted effort not to look at my watch as I always do this and I politely told her to xxxxxxxx (not repeatable). I soon apologised for my foul mouth comment!
Once we got to Hurstwood it was another uphill, my legs were battered at this stage and I couldn’t seem to run, this was the first time I knew I was starting to struggle I had felt fine but by then but suddenly I was tired.
Adrian walked with me until we reached the gate with the bull in the field, through we went but no bull - again Dale was sprinting through the field but then started to run around in circles, shouting Strava, must have had a sugar rush - out of the field and down to the water crossing, more messing around doing what only can be described as karate kid moves in the water splashing around. All I could think was where do these lot get their energy as I was struggling.
Up to long causeway I tried to run and managed to slowly catching them up. At this point Mick pointed to one of the signs that led to the car park but I thought it was closer to the road, this was the only error I made with the navigation and this led them onto more Tarmac. We reached leg changeover and I was really feeling it 17 miles in and I knew what I had left to do. I was seriously considering quitting.
Mick ordered me to take twi ibuprofen, Dale tried to swap bags but I wouldn’t let him, I could hear everyone taking the mickey out of me I wanted to laugh but couldn’t, I just stared and sorted myself out. Tracy was there with Darren and she stated she hadn’t seen this side of me before, not a lot of people have. Sweets, biscuits and a banana down my neck and another water bottle and I was ready for the off.
More tarmac and I was determined to run to the end of at least Long Causeway, something my support crew had other ideas about, I could hear laughing behind me and it became apparent that they had found a “L” plate at the side of the road and had attempted to pin it on my bag. More fun and frolics but was good to stop me thinking about the next leg. Got to the end of Long Causeway and I pointed out that on my reccie the field is full of long nettles and the track was a better option, something Mick agreed with, down to the bottom and those who had done Haworth Hobble recognised where we were.
Through more fields with the odd sprint by Dale and shout of Strava. I was confident where I was going something which was questioned a couple of times on this leg but I got them through. The food I had taken on board had started to work although my legs were tired they were moving and I'd begun to enjoy myself again; suddenly I fell over, got cramp in my leg, and had to be helped up by Adrian and Kerrie.
I continued to run down a hill and as I turned around I could hear Dale shouting he had pretended to fall down a cliff and was clinging on with one arm, not his broken one. Both Dale and Adrian then decided to go to waterfall and get a photo. Waiting for them Mick and Kerrie joined me at the bottom. Up another climb and down the hill all four of them ran past me down a steep hill all I could think about was the scene from Heartbreak Ridge where all Clint Eastwood’s soldiers ran past him and he just kept going, this is what I did, I did get my own back by waiting for them to get to the bottom and told them they had took the wrong path.
We stopped at the level crossing that was closed due to a train coming, I don’t know who but someone said they were on strike. Adrian thought it was a good idea to cross before the barriers came up to Kerrie’s disapproval, and he was scalded like a naughty child. We crossed and then one of the barriers wouldn't rise so Adrian did the right thing and assisted lifting the barrier.
Onto the road and past the pub suggestions of going in for a pint were muted; I was so close in going in but think if I had no one would have got me out. Across the road and up, up and away, a steady climb along the moor to Thieveley Pike. This is where Mick was giving me encouragement, mind over matter - your mind is telling your legs to give in, tell your mind to shut up ignore this keep going, another banana was doing the trick which I had just as we'd stopped for the level crossing.
I tried to run and walk but started to suffer with calf cramps on the uphill sections. Again I was looking in front and I could see everyone jumping in bogs and messing about one more time - where do they get their energy from?! Eventually we got to Thieveley Pike a quick photo and down, Christ my knees are hurting here but I kept going.
Suddenly we saw Liz coming back up the hill to a gate, she had gone the wrong way and had made it down to the road until she realised, I did point out that if she’d turned left at the road she could have gone around to the Ram Inn and picked it up from there. Down the steps and my thighs started to cramp up, I kept going and they eventually eased off.
From here it was run and walk at points. Blackberries foraged by Adrian from the hedge were eaten. Going through fields Adrian was collecting conkers for his kids. On into Towneley and Liz had already gone ahead and again got lost, we picked her up again and she stuck with us to the end.
On the Avenue in Towneley Adrian had run to the toilets to fill the water bottles. I got to the top and Mick shook my hand and Kerrie gave me a hug, I hadn’t realised it but this was the 26.2 mile point, I had completed a marathon distance. Up to the cross at the hill behind the hall and Adrian was playing Rocky music. A quick photo and we were off again.
Along the old railway line and they went the wrong way, "Oi!" I shouted, "You are going the wrong way!" Out of the bushes they came and up to Rock Lane across the fields and down to cardiac hill, along the road and the group had started to back off and were trying to let me finish on my own, I turned and told them to get with me. Onto the car park with Jamie smiling and greeting us. Kerrie looked at her watch and disappeared, she couldn’t stop on an odd number and had to round it up!
What have I just done, I had completed 27.5 miles, the hardest thing I had achieved! I couldn’t have made it around without the help of Dale (Stava) Grimshaw, Adrian (Bear Grylls) Blackledge, Mick (the philosopher) Dobson and Kerrie-Anne (crazy dancing lady) Bretherton. There had been fun and games, a few choice words and cursing along the route. I never would have dreamed of doing anything like this before and although it was tough I did enjoy myself.
Am I entering next year? Well it would be rude not to. I am over the moon that the race is going to be in the race calendar and that it's going to be called “THE LANCASHIREMAN”. Thanks also to Jamie for coming up with the idea and putting this together. Also to my wife Tash who knew what I was planning called me crazy and still had the faith in me that I would do it.