Afoot in Two Dales
In June Jamie and I ran the Dales Trail 30km route together which starts at Muker in beautiful Yorkshire. As we ran I commented repeatedly that the Dales was becoming one of my favorite places to run having now ran a few races there which I loved.
We chatted about a ‘last long run’ before Lakeland 50 at the end of July and Jamie then mentioned a relaxed 50 mile LDWA event happening soon and covering areas we were running that day…. A 50 BEFORE my first official 50?!... It reminded me of 2016 when I jumped into 3 off-road marathons within 6 weeks of each other before what was supposed to be the first marathon i was actually training for a month later!
Obviously, as i’m writing a race report - we entered!
Afoot In Two Dales also known as The Yorkshire 50, to say it’s relaxed is an understatement. Rocking up to a 50 mile event with an 8.30am start meant I could get a good night’s sleep beforehand which was great. The relaxed briefing felt more like a group of friends out for an adventure and really set the tone for the day.
So relaxed in fact meant we were the last to set off after a brief startline bag adjustment for Jamie but we were bang on 8.30am with others maybe going half a minute prior. This did mean picking our way through the hordes of walkers down a narrow trail until the open field after 1 or 2 km.
As there was no pressure or expectation with this being my first 50 mile run, we quickly found ourselves in a cat/mouse band at the first climb with several serious walkers catching before we peeled away on the flats.
We reviewed the frequency of checkpoints; the leg split distances were a nice 7-7-5-9-5-5-5-7 miles, with the long stretch over Great Shunner Fell, 3rd highest Mountain in the Yorkshire Dales by the way. So the game plan was fairly straightforward, checkpoint to checkpoint with the only concern being carrying enough water on the long leg over Shunner in the heat, finished with a plenty of shorter legs.
A nice stretch of running through woodlands of Leyburn got us ahead of the main body of walkers and to the back of the runners. The day was already hotting up with the forecast of 16deg being cooly pessimistic at best. This leg had a gorgeous view of Penhill we’d be running in the foothills of later in the day and a real variety of woodlands, trails, farms, fields and then over railway lines into the checkpoint at Redmire to be greeted by.... D&B! Always a firm favourite of mine but not at that point in time, lessons learnt mean I usually stick to water when running. Instead I’d opted for half a Twix (never seem then in a race before) and the staple of the day... handful of Cadbury’s MiniEggs!
Now it’s worth pointing out with 10 months of training and running on a ketogenic diet, after cake consumption at my 2 year old’s birthday the week prior, I was in a peculiar position of being ‘out of keto’. Rather than suffer on the run, I decided to go back to my tried and tested method of fuelling on long runs (don’t forget the banana!) as I had at Dales Trail 40km in 2016 and R4CF Dalesway Ultra in 2018.
Coming out of Redmire, we had a long climb out of Castle Bolton over Black Hill. Having picked off a few on the way out, those fast walkers were quickly hot on our heels going up the fell. We kept the pace steady knowing the tops would soon be upon us and we’d have much more pace going on the downs and out through Apedale.
A good little stretch down Whitaside Moor and we’d made our way through to the middle of the runners who we just managed to keep ahead of. A male walker we passed laid down the gauntlet for later: "I’ll catch you on Shunner Fell!" which, after hearing of the dreaded long climb being described by competitors earlier, the only response I could muster at the time was “Is it really uphill for five miles?!”
This section was a lot of fun; legs warmed up and feeling good. Running down a dusty track - with plenty of DofE Expeditors out - a man-made path created out of the natural beauty for better access to the moors presumably by the landowners.
We flew in and out of Haverdale Checkpoint, being a couple of gazebos in a field. Water refill, oranges in hand and we’d quickly gained on several groups around us.
This route into Muker we’d ran a few weeks prior on a retrace of the Dales Trail 30 route, into Gunnerside, through the gorgeous Swaledale Valleys, passing the Ivelet Bridge and a few more runners in the process.
The meandering meadows that had previously seemed to go on forever felt to fly by with a great strong feeling and with plenty of electrolytes - which faulting had previously scuppered many long distances races - working through my system. However, a feet wetting in the River Swale to cool off felt great at the time may have been a bad idea and probably hindered my feet later in the day.
Heading into the checkpoint at Muker Village Hall, we chatted about the strategy of swift turnarounds at checkpoints, especially as we both felt good. A brief pause at Muker helped us take on Cheese & Pickle and Egg sandwiches but another quick in and out saw us lead-frogging another small group of runners including a male pairing.
We headed through Usha Gap campsite whilst eating and a small tarmac stretch took us to Thwaite.
As if the beautiful countryside and flags wasn't enough to remind you of the gorgeous area of the Yorkshire Dales, you don't get any more rural than a lady farmer raking the hay in a wax jacket and cap on the hottest day so far!
“Everyone seems in such a hurry going through, they must have somewhere to be!”
I felt distinctly Lancastrian with each “Hiya” greeting I made which was colloquially responded with a distinct Yorkshire Dalesian “Ow do!”
Food finished we made our way out of the farms, reaching a road and notably a sign heading out of Thwaite : “Shunner Fell : 5 Miles”. That confirms it then!
We set off at a brisk pace considering the long climb, mostly to assure the male walker from the first climb didn’t catch us on the hill, soon after to be caught - and only caught - by a lady runner with a headband and curly hair.
The breeze had died down and the sun was baking hot so we looked for anything to take our minds off it, noticing DofE labels left there by the Expeditors : “Still got pants, no ticks, bit sweaty.” Mostly this prompted us to make a mental note to check each other over later for ticks (o’er)!
The five mile seemed to fly by. The sun was ridiculous, taking on two bottles of water before the summit and absolutely frying with no shade on the path. Still the walking/running felt strong and comfortable.
We continued to march up and made some distance on the male duo behind us. The terrain felt notably familiar with many stone slabs similar to the back of Pendle or sections of the Hobble; all nice and evenly spaced for a 5ft 2.5 (5ft 3 on a good day) woman, about time!
Here I felt the training over the past 12 months and days out in the Lakes had really paid off. We’d quickly hit the cairn followed by a couple of photos which simply turned out to be a false summit, not much further to the top.
The views were amazing out over Birkdale Tarn, Nine Standards Rigg and stretched all the way down to Hawes and Hardraw villages, the latter being the location of the next checkpoint
The rocky descent had few short paving sections and with all the water gone with 3 mile to go, we started to dream of ice pops in the village below after the longest leg of the day.
We got into Hardraw Bunkhouse, turning down the offer of hot food (baked beans on toast) on such a hot day and going for cold rice pudding instead. A quick glance at the checkpoint list puts us around 40-50th we thought. Again we both felt good so decided to press on..... to the ice cream / tea room next door! Salted Caramel Ice Cream and a Tropical Calippo, we were ready to go. We seemed to collect two Gents on the way out, helping them to nav out of the village.
A pretty uneventful but long stretch into Sedbusk with a bit of nav to pick up the right path out to Bainbridge and a disused railway, losing the Gents in the process. Here Jamie was feeling a little queasy, not too unusual for him but we slowed our pace a little and walked/ran until he felt settled, too many liquids too quickly at the last checkpoint we later decided.
Swiftly up to Bainbridge checkpoint, we see Headband-Curly-Haired Lady leaving as we entered. The village hall was nicely setup but looking unused. No sight of egg sandwiches but Cadbury’s MiniEggs FTW! With my feet becoming a little painful with every increasing step, I decided to change my socks here, hoping the fresh dryness would suit them for the remainder of the course.
Quickly pressing on, we left the checkpoint and set off to Cubeck. This leg was really nice - I felt comfortable, there was quite a bit of tarmac which felt more comfortable for my feet than churned up farmland, the heat had dropped a bit but Jamie was starting to feel queasy again so he took action - a quick throw up by the road and he was good again. Otherwise the sky was pretty with the sun still shining, Yorkshire looked beautiful. The long stretch of road was broken up with a few interesting charity hay bales and a highly amusing automatic lawn-mower chasing rabbits off a homeowners grass on a dusty evening.
We headed on a flagged section over Flout Moor with the beacons setup for the night stages. Before we knew it, we were heading into Thoralby and the checkpoint in the Village Hall. I felt good but my feet were starting to hurt quite a bit. We were both keen to press on; and not hungry we refused the cup of soups and Wensleydale Cheese/Fruit Cake although Jamie did have a nibble and could easily have stopped at the George Inn for a pint.
Our strategy of quick checkpoint turnarounds seemed to work well and we gained a lot of ground because of it. As we left the Checkpoint, Headband-Curly-Hair Lady was leaving at the same time. We had a brief chat together; swapping stories about ailments, she had completed this event last year also but otherwise we were all feeling pretty good and pressed on.
We passed the most beautiful house, off Westfield Lane in Thoralby. A stunning Edwardian manor with a high walled garden - beautifully planted, well cared for and well.. I guess i added a couple of minutes to our time there admiring its beauty, maybe if i win the lottery?
What also struck me was seeing the local Swaledale & Wensleydale farmers, still hard at work sweeping, baling or tending to their fields and finishing off a hard, hot day’s work - much like this run.
Some more miles covered and my feet were now really beginning to hurt, I could feel blisters under my big toes and hot spots in places on the sole so went carefully through the farmlands and wheat fields with a pretty evening sunset.
Heading past the remains of a preceptory of the Knights Templar, I noticed this leg was passing quickly despite it being very quiet between us. We had our heads in fields or the skies, getting on with the running, managing foot pain, knowing there was 15km to go and otherwise feeling really good.
Heading to West Witton, we hit a stretch of tarmac so I could pick up the pace a little. There was a bit of a confusion with the GPS showing a left deviation on the course to the checkpoint whereas we stuck to the trusty written instructions which perfectly put us through the village and into West Witton Sports Pavilion, surprised to see a team-mate Claire Storozuk who had already spotted our ‘under the radar’ names on the entry list.
At the checkpoint, we had 11km to go and it was early evening. Although we stopped to take out head-torches, we didn’t take on any food as I was simply not hungry but another handful of Cadburys Mini-Eggs for the road… just because!
A brief chit chat with Claire and her Mother-In-Law (and LDWA aficionado) Hazel and off we went.
We were following the beacons, which were now lit up ready for the night stage, the navigation was easy so we concentrated on the climbs. We could see the next Lady at the top of the climbs as we started so this aided nav a bit more. She gained a bit of distance here as my poor feet struggled to keep up with her on some of the rough terrain.
Then we heard music coming from the distance, feeling like we were in the middle of nowhere we wondered was the lady in front carrying a speaker and blaring some Fleetwood Mac and Bill Withers’ “Lovely Day”... it had been a lovely day but that was a bit weird!
When we got to the top of a hill, we realised the music was getting louder and louder until we hit upon a farm venue, hosting a wedding celebration complete with 6-piece easy listening live band. There was a temptation to gatecrash but a hot Summer evening wedding party with drinks in full flow already has enough hot, sweaty people at it and we didn’t think our running attire complete with backpacks would blend with the dress code.
A swift right turn past the plantation and we head up a slight hill before shortly passing Spigot Lodge, the home of racehorse trainer Karl Burke. Running beside a racecourse, complete with hedge fences for jumping, starting gates and ‘Warning Racehorse’ signs picked up our spirits. There was gently undulating white trail around the training ground so we got a decent shuffle on. It was around dusk so the ground was just about visible without head torches. The feet were hurting but it felt good to be running again and knowing we’ll be done soon i was determined to push on where i could.
As we hit the tarmac, head-torches went on heading into Middleham, passing the Castle and remarking “What, have all the villages got castles around here?!”. Turning quickly out of the village, we could feel we'd be retracing our steps shortly and the finish would soon be in sight. I felt a little disorientated here - it was dark with nothing to see but follow a grassy trod and occasional small markers, showing my limited experience in night time navving.
We could just about make out the fancy castle-style bridge over River Ure, before seeing the headtorch of the lady runner ahead! I wanted desperately to run but we were on uneven farmland again and my feet were so sore they simply wouldn’t allow it, so stuck with jog/walking with intent.
The village lights of Harmby were ahead in the near distance and our finish!
Heading up the narrow track, recalling the path from earlier in the day (yes still the same day), I let out my first yawn of the day, surprised how I had not felt tired until then. Being the longest I have ever been running/on my feet I expected to feel quite tired by this stage, but instead I was buzzing!
Before long we had marched past the car park field, into the Village Hall and the finish line.
A warm welcome on return and a well earned LWDA 'Afoot In Two Dales’ patch to add to my collection. I chatted briefly to the organisers, beaming and happy, i had done it! Jamie was looking peaky still and quietly resting so we went for a brief hot shower, then hobbled back to the car and a nap, not wanting to drive home tired. A couple of hours later we woke hungry and headed inside again to chat with the volunteers on the event and be offered eggs, sausage, beans and toast, which was FANTASTIC!
There was a really friendly volunteer crew who, despite it now being 3am, were chipper and chatty as anything, including Headband-Curly-Haired Lady who was still soaking up the atmosphere, finishing only a couple of minutes before us.
Unlike other runs I’ve done in the Yorkshire Dales, with the rolling green hills experienced on the R4CF Dalesway Ultra last year and DT30 route ran earlier in the Summer, this has a real variety of terrain with a lot more stone paths, loose trails, more farmland and even a racecourse! But you still have the same Dales views and that grand Yorkshire feeling… almost makes you want to move over the border!
50 miles done âœ”ï¸ÂÂ