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Long Mynd Hike Top 10 Tips for the challenge

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Having completed the Long Mynd Hike 15 times these are my Top 10 Tips that might help you complete the 50 miles with limited suffering, so you can enjoy what I consider the primary aim of the event; Fun through comradeship.

2017 is the 50th year for 'The Hike'. A 50 mile, figure-of-eight course through the beautiful South Shropshire hills and the Welsh Marches, 8,000 feet of climb with a target of 24 hours to complete.

Staged over the first weekend of October on the cusp of autumn the weather can certainly vary. Expect a range of conditions from torrential rain to desert heat and blazing sunshine, one year it was 38 degrees and not much cooler at night. Over the years I've experienced it all, but mostly something in-between.

For me, night is certainly the best part of 'The Hike', it can be overcast, foggy and damp or clear with amazing star filled skies and moon lit landscapes, with hooting owls, barking foxes and swirling bats which all make up for the lack of distant views but help to maintain the interest along the way.

It's obvious I could cover into a myriad of other boring gear tips but what works best for you is usually the best for you. The following are what I consider the more important general nitty gritty tips :-

Tip 1. Don't carry more than is necessary.  Only take the required official 'Hike' gear list. Don't try to be clever by taking 'little extras'. Travel as light as possible. You should be able put all your gear in a 10 to 15 litre rucksack.

Tip 2.  Wear a light pair of shoes or boots, preferably shoes.  Inov 8 Roclite/X-Talon/Mudclaw or Salomon Speedcross/Speedtraks are good. Mel Price our High Sports fell racing ambassador who holds 'The Hike' women's record completes in a pair Salomon Speedtraks for their comfort, lightweight & grip. Your shoes should be as comfortable as your house slippers and you should be able to forget you are wearing them. Boots are OK and give added ankle support if you have suspect ankles, but obviously heavier (especially leather boots) so maybe consider a Mid boot. If you don't like getting your feet wet wear waterproof socks. But remember sometimes Goretex lined footwear is okay for trying to keep your feet dry but it can also create a bath barrier slowing down water escaping if your footwear gets waterlogged. None waterproof shoes are the common choice by most runners and distance movers because the shoes and feet dry out quicker on the move.

Tip 3.  A new pair of socks.  Have a new pair for the day of the event, fresh and spongy. If you seriously feel you want to increase your rucksack weight then nothing is more valuable than a fresh pair of the same socks wrapped dry and ready in a plastic bag for changing on route. A combination of Injinji lining socks and a Darn Tough 1/4 light sock or Light Hiker have become a popular choice by distance runners for their extremely good fit and prevent toes rubbing.

Tip 4.  Spend as little time as possible at check points. Try not to sit down but keep going. If possible, check in, grab a handful of sweets, some water then check out. The temptations of a check point; hot drinks, fantasy lights, seductive music and a long sit down, you don't need. Be focused, think about your next check point and help yourself by reducing the overall suffering time, believe me it works, NEVER STOP MOVING !

Tip 5.  Eat and drink while you walk.  Have your food in a place you can reach without taking your rucksack off. If needed get a member of your team to get your food out of your sack. Eat on the hoof.   Don't forget to continually rehydrate, even if it's raining you still sweat. Drink plain water, plus water with added fruit flavoured electrolytes like Nuun or High Five which help replenish lost body minerals and aim to avoid cramp.  Worth noting that the longest stretch without available water is usually between Bridges and Bank Farm, getting on for 10 miles, so fill your bottles at the Bridges checkpoint !

Tip 6.  Get to know the route, especially your intended night section.  The first miles to the Stiperstones are the easy bit, it should still be daylight and there'll be lots of folk about. Practice the route from Shelve to the Stiperstones, especially the section from Woodgate Farm to Black Rhadley Hill as you'll probably be in the dark. Try before the day to cover this part of the route in daylight. Medlicote Cottage to Pole Cottage is a night section for most competitors and appears featureless with thick fern vegetation it can be a navigational challenge even for the experienced.  The Ordnance Survey Landranger maps and scale Nos 126 & 137 are usually more than adequate for planning and on route finding, but remember a suitably waterproof map case or clear plastic bag is vital.

Tip 7.  Always grab a bag of free sweets from the High Sports 'sweet handout' just before Stiperstones. They help as a fun energy and morale boost during those early hours.

Tip 8.  Be prepared for pain. Remember it's 50 miles over 8 hills, 8,000 feet of up, and down which is often the killer for aching knees. It will hurt. Your feet and legs will get sore, you will wish that you had never heard of the Long Mynd Hike. But after a period of agony, when you think you cannot go on, persevere, you will enter a euphoric time when nothing will seem impossible. Keep going, the hike is as much a psychological exercise as a physical one.

Tip 9.  In your mind break the course into smaller bits.  Think check point to check point. Don't look at it as a whole and don't even think of the final climb, Ragleth Hill, that belongs to another universe. When you reach Ragleth Hill, just do it in small sections; From the house to the grave (yes, there is a grave) - From the grave to the finger post - From the finger post to the style - From the style to the tree - The tree to the rock - Then up the final short stairway to the post at the top. You have now walked 48 miles, you have 2 miles to go 'mostly' downhill.

Tip 10.  Try to enjoy it. The Hike is a massive fun social event on the hoof. The first 20 miles are a long afternoon walk with lots of folk. The real fun starts when it gets dark and you have to find your way through woods, bogs, uneven, rough, jagged terrain and fields populated by strange, dark mounds which might be cows! The sense of camaraderie is terrific, we're all in the same boat, we have a common goal so let's do it.

I really envy those hikers who are embarking on 'The Hike' for the first time, especially as 2017 is the 50th anniversary year. The 2017 - 50/50 Hike, eight of Shropshire's most iconic and difficult hills. Your sense of accomplishment will be inexpressible, you've done it, now nothing is impossible.

All the best.  Chris Roberts,