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What a Wonderful World - Joss Naylor Challenge 2008

An account of the Joss Naylor Challenge

In the last ‘Fellrunner’ of 2006 Monica Shone mentioned that no male veteran 50’s had completed the challenge in 2006. I was looking for a challenge in 2007, so that was enough of a prompt for me. By the middle of 2007 I realised that I needed more time – to break the 12 hour barrier required speed, endurance and an intimate knowledge of the route.

The allotted weekend came (6th/7th September 2008) and the weather dictated that Sunday would be the day. Cars from Shropshire, Staffordshire and Cumbria (yes I had some local assistance) headed for the campsite at Pooley Bridge – it was very soggy and very expensive. Joe made a phone call to Lindsey and we spent the night in Bampton Memorial Hall – great for Pauline to prepare her feast for us, warm and dry for those who would be running and only a few minutes walk from the pub.

The alarm went off at 5.30 am and slowly everybody started to stir. After a 15 minute drive to Pooley Bridge we (Joe, Kev, Rick and myself) started running at 7.10 am. The weather forecast was for a northerly wind (very favourable for leg 1), rain showers and the cloud level at 700 feet. It was right about the first 2, but the cloud decided to stay at about 350 ft. Our heads were to be in the clouds from halfway up the first ascent until the descent at the end of leg 2.

Not to worry though, all the training runs along the route, and the compass bearings carefully marked on the maps should ensure that we lost no time due to poor visibility, and so it proved – we reached the first road crossing (at Kirkstone Pass) one minute ahead of schedule. I’m only sorry that Kev didn’t have a chance to take in the views on the run over High Street – a run for another day perhaps.

There was a lot of shouting and hollering from the support team, food was passed over, a new team of support runners (Ed, Andy, Anna) with drinks and more food led me out onto the ascent of Red Screes. We were now turning into the wind, but were sheltered by the hill. The support team had to negotiate their way to Dunmail Raise without using The Struggle – it was closed for the cycle section of the Ullswater Triathlon – yes more crazy people out in the damp and windy weather. Gill Harris, a great Shropshire endurance mountain runner died last month – cancer took her from us far too soon. At her funeral her husband, Phil, told us that Gill would always be with us encouraging us and urging us on whenever we were out running on the hills. Twice on this leg I felt that Gill popped up, smiled and gave me a bit of a push to help me on my way. Over to Fairfield and up onto Seat Sandal we could see the paths, but no views. I was hoping that our luck would change when we got to the Seat Sandal – picking the route off the top is as much an art as science. We were lucky – no need for compass bearings here, we could see the small crag to our right, and the line of our ascent to Steel Fell to use as a guide to get us to the path down the spur. Another 10 seconds gained on this leg, more shouting and hollering, Monica taking photo’s, sorry but no time to stop and chat, more food, and more fresh pacers legs (Steve, Dave) with Andy carrying on from leg 2 and picking up the navigation.

I knew the sections from Steel Fell to Bowfell would be critical. I’d asked Andy to keep a good pace going to pull me along. Dave’s heart monitor hit 180 bpm on the ascent to Steel Fell, but the pace felt OK and we had to keep moving quickly.  The 14 minutes ‘lost’ on the way to Bowfell was no fault of the pacers, my legs weren’t moving fast enough, and there wasn’t much I could do about it. OK, the ground was pretty boggy, and the rock was wet and slippery, but it shouldn’t have made that much difference. We dropped out of the cloud briefly over Stake Pass with views of a sunny Great Langdale, but it was all too brief. Keith and Graham (Parton) met us near the summit of Bowfell to guide us on and off the top. Ed and Anna had shot round from Dunmail Raise to meet us on Great End – a great effort - to guide us down the direct route to Sty Head where I arrived 25 minutes down on schedule. But still the support team were there shouting and hollering and supplying more food and drink.

Now it was the turn of Paul and Graham (Jones) to guide and encourage me round the last leg. It was unlikely that I was going to make up the lost time, but that didn’t dampen their enthusiasm, and I certainly wasn’t going to give up now. My pace slowed, the descents became ever more painful on the legs, but the ascents were still strong, albeit not fast enough to make up any time. At Black Sail Pass we could see down to the Wasdale Head Inn, we reckoned that the pacers and support team would be in there having a pint. There was more breath to chat now that the pace had dropped, but I felt sorry for Paul and Graham – they are both top class runners, and we weren’t doing much running. We found the grassy tongue off Haycock and dropped down below the cloud to see the sun setting over Selafield! I could manage an occasional slow shuffle on the flat, and a reasonable pace uphill, but the descents were getting slower. The revised target of completing in under 13 hours had come and gone as we descended Middlefell in the darkening sky. Head torches were switched on half-way down, and there was a flash of headlights from the cars parked at Greendale. After 13 hours 59 minutes I reached Greendale Bridge, a very tired but very happy guy. With the support team was the man who created the run. Joss Naylor had been out on the route to meet us, but hadn’t found us as we were so far behind the schedule. I was really impressed that he had taken the time to do that, and to wait for us at the finish.

Postscript

I’m not too disappointed that I didn’t get under the 12 hour target because I’ve had a great time preparing for the run, and an even better time on the day. But most of the pleasure has come from the people I’ve met along the way – from the strangers I’ve met on the training runs, to the friendships I’ve forged doing the recce’s, and the wonderful team that surrounded me on the day, both on and off the hill. The common theme is that they all love being out in the hills and it shows in their humanity towards others. So it didn’t really matter that I didn’t see any stunning views, or that the rock was like ice, nor that my legs couldn’t get me off the last hill without the support of Paul and Graham – I was in the company of good people, and that’s what makes it a wonderful world.

Some thank-you’s

Joss Naylor - for creating the run, Monica Shone for writing the article that sparked my interest, Sue Johnson for helping me fall in love with the Lake District, my mum and my children for understanding that things like this are important to me, Gill Harris for helping me believe that these things are possible, Ros Jeffries for the reflexology and massage, Ed, Andy, Anna, Richard Roberts and Graham Jones for the training runs, Joe Faulkner, Kev Francis, Ed Austrums, Andy Davies, Anna Bartlett, Dave Nicholls, Steve Turk, Keith Richards, Graham Parton, Graham Jones, Paul Cadman the pacers and navigators and all their wives and partnets for letting them be there, Pauline Richards for organising, catering, supporting and shouting and hollering, Lindsey Faulkner, Jo Cadman and Charlotte Cadman for shouting and hollering and helping to feed and water everybody, Rick and Jan Robson for support and advice, everybody who has sponsored me, and Stuart Cathcart and Sam from High Sports for their support and setting up the website.

Andy Lewis


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