I rose at 6.50am with The Boss, no dog, showered, clothed, and ate. At 7.30am the "Mossley Marauder" (Simon Jump) arrived to pick us up; as ever prompt and cheerful. I was tired and mulling over the unfolding day. The Boss (aka the "Hamilton Haircut") was happy and cheerful. Dog curled up in Macclesfield at my Mother's hotel; probably sedentary after a gorging of cocktail sausages. Des Thorpe aka the "Grotton Greyhound" - subsequent day's efforts proved this to be correct - was then picked up. Another cheerful one. To surmise, there was pleasant conversation, a) Des was going to nail Three Peaks, b) Simon was going to run around it, c) Claire was awaiting a potential Armageddon, d) I needed a number two and was politely vocal about this, "I need to drop the kids off at the swimming pool". The word puerile was used by one person in the car who did not find this statement and others amusing. Des excelled at the early stages of the race by showing the gang some really clean and nice public toilets not far from Horton in Ribblesdale. Note was made of these - location not to be divulged to Sadds. The kids were left to do the shopping. Other runners were noted - Rab gear etc. One runner in particular caught our attention loitering in the car park. It is only now I wish I'd yelled "are you dogging?" out of the window at high velocity, but in hindsight The Boss would have certainly sent Mr Spank to Botty Town. I was feeling more cheerful and happy after the aforementioned release of tension. Mr Paul Taylor aka "Big Daddy" was not dogging and stuck his head through the window to say hello - he was apprehensive about his sciatica for the race. Was he covering his arse? Was he genuine? This hulk of a man weak?!? Later in the day he did himself proud, busting his PB for the Three Peaks. On arrival in Horton I queued in the car as we waited to enter the car park field. I had safely been delivered by Jump Taxi Services. I saw a lot of cars, and vans, and people, and the weather was a bit nippy. I decamped from car to the main marquee. I registered and got my bag - serious stuff - and the nice gentleman gave me a Crunchie, did not ask for my number. The Boss was having an ID crisis which was unfortunate and can only be put down to the fact she a) must be Scottish, b) Nicola Sturgeon's antics, Brexit. ID was required to get your bag and number. The nice old man did not bother asking me. The UKIP supporter clearly had it in for the Jock. I saw her panic and pull multiple cards out for ID. I made my presence clear, asking what she was up to. Glare, bag given. Prior to this I did wave her driving licence at her having remembered it was in my wallet after picking up a Post Office parcel. I was impressed by this remarkable character stomping past me and exclaiming that I was a fat lot of use "pecking her head". For the sake of the Union I let it go. Back to the car. Gear shuffled, re-shuffled. Team ready, back to marquee for briefing. Then start line. We discovered Paul Taylor, Adrian Sell, Richard Gee, and reflective sunglasses wearing Michael Gradwell. I noted Gradwell's utter cheerfulness, and contented myself with photographing all and sundry. On deciding to run with The Boss we were in the 4-5 hour finish group. The "Mossley Marauder" and The "Grotton Greyhound" were ahead.
I started and vainly tried to stay with The Boss on the opening stretch. If I had a fetish for Lycra pounding away on Tarmac then this was the occasion. I was tired from a busy week and wondering about the 23.3 miles, with 5,279 feet of climb, and three tough cut off points.
I grew hotter on the ascent to Pen-y-gehnt, the sun had come out and the clag had cleared. Clearly a slog, and glad I'd opted for the club vest, but the arms would have to come off. I lost people from the club and it was just The Boss and I on the long climb. I moved to the right near the final ascent to let the "genetic aberrations" (Trademark Mark Brakspear) thunder past us on the way down. I spoke to The Boss, she sort of spoke back. My legs were fine on reaching the summit but I was still tired, then I descended. Adrian Sell aka "The Kangaroo" passed us confident with a nice pace on the descent. The Boss and I in a steady pace. I and The Boss made High Birkwith checkpoint (first cut off) with plenty of time, then onward to the Ribblehead Valley cut-off check point - a long slog distance wise. By now it was hot and close and runners spreading out.
I went ahead to stretch my legs and arrived at Ribblehead, which resembled the scenes of a street market in West Bengal. Runners, startled walkers, dogs, organisers, Mountain Rescue, drivers, motorcyclists, and the author. I was pleased to have taken a barrage of photos thus far, and proceeded to photograph The Boss as she arrived, an exchange, a drink, a heading off with yours truly perched on a rock. I intended catching her up as I furtled with water, food, and Ibuprofen. It was a quick run for me passing a variety of people, and with walkers I flexed my abs and other muscles trying looking hard wondering if anyone thought Alan Partridge when not at Radio Norwich also goes fell running.
When I caught The Boss she had begun the brutal ascent up Whernside. My words of encouragement (I was worried as to the Hill Inn cut off - the last one) led to a healthy "discussion" and I proceeded to dis-engage from the "discussion" and photographed the choo-choo train that appeared in the valley. Whernside summit was conquered after scrabbling, but no hands were used, all leg work by the both of us. Conversation was muted and we then legged it to the checkpoint conscious of time. I realised in this race you have not time in which to "tit about" - photos are okay.
On the descent to Chapel-le-Dale I and The Boss met "The Kangaroo" who was just as perplexed as to how we had not seen each other. I exchanged pleasantries and gave him the once over - he looked fit.
I ran with The Boss and Kangaroo to the checkpoint constantly looking at the Garmin. I then encountered a walking Richard Gee - "Gee Man" - having very very badly cramped up. I respected the fact he was going for it, in agony, and cheerful. By now I was feeling my legs and feet having conquered two of the three peaks. I made the checkpoint with "Gee Man", the others followed and for the sake of posterity took the phone out for ascetic and atmospheric shots. The Boss glared and went off, "The Kangaroo" hoped off, "Gee Man" waved and grinned - there was hope. I sat down, and properly "titted about" with my rucksack looking like a true professional. On getting up I'd lost the others and ran to find them "Lassie like". I caught The Boss like her other faithful hound. And thus began the long and clearly tiring and brutal ascent of Ingleborough. I chatted with a fellow runner to pass the time with The Boss just behind, and made the start of the ascent to the summit. Hard and hot, sweat beading I climbed, then stopped to photograph The Boss at the first summit, who then promptly route marched past. Some more rucksack "titting about". I was drawn and beckoned to the featureless plain of Ingleborough. Four miles to go and I was getting excited. I wanted to run like Highlander, and was told "pupil" style that walking was fine. After scoffing a Haribo teddy bear care of marshalls I was off on the final long, rocky drawn out descent.
The Boss by now was tired and struggling, I had my eye on sub zero five hours and coaxed and cajoled her, proud that she was soldering on. I think pace is crucial, oh so crucial in this race, and a number of people were buggered by this point on tired legs despite it being a scenic and pleasant run at this stage. Words were "exchanged" and concern as The Boss almost went flying at one point. I pushed on, pushed on. I was amused at the last stretch before the line as a local had let people literally go through their garden!
I made her run, run hard and we fought to get the time. I crossed the line at 5 hours 1 minute 40 seconds, The Boss 1 second after. Loud speaker ringing in ears, The Boss's name mentioned, the people cheering - I flexed my abs - Alan turned his head each way to acknowledge the crowd hanging off his every step...
The Grotton Greyhound met us and photographed us in an embrace.
I headed back with The Boss and changed, made the marquee, got food and drink, and joined the motley crew. Food and beer took the edge off what I now realised is a very very tough race. There is and was no let up with the pace. All were cheerful at finishing - I intend to have a chat with Michael Gradwell aka "Saddleworth Smiler" at his being too happy, he needs to add some misery and woe into the mix to balance the cosmic vibe.
I made my tired way back to the car for some pleasant conversation on the journey home.
(Slightly written in the Gonzo style - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gonzo_journalism)