A glance at the final report of the CRO Challenge indicates that only 66 people took part in this year's event
with equal numbers competing in the 26 mile marathon and the half marathon Clapham circuit. Of the 33 who took part in the marathon 45% of them, 8 walkers and 7 runners, all found it a little too much and were forced to retire. Another marathon participant changed his mind after 4 miles and opted to get the job over with as quickly as possible by joining the shorter Clapham circuit at the first check point. Others apparently opted to bend the rules to suit themselves, nine of them setting off long before the scheduled mass start for runners at 09.30 hrs, one of them sneaking off as early as 08.25. However, this wasn't a race as such, it was all about getting round the challenging routes and raising as much money as possible to boost the organization's much needed funds. An early estimate suggests over £2,500 has so far been raised at this event. And even as we battled round, the organizer of the Challenge, Philip Nuttall, was called out to 'an underground incident' and therefore missed many of us finishing.
|The CRO Challenge route......|
|Gathering for the 09.30 'mass start'......|
So how was it for us? Well, pretty horrendous, that's what. The weather was bad enough as the 18 remaining runners lined up for the start in Clapham where my wonderful partner and I had opted for full body cover as protection against a freezing cold blustery wind and increasingly heavy rain. But at least half a dozen runners set off in shorts, much to our amazement. The start of both routes is through a dark tunnel and into a long stony lane that climbs steeply for two miles before depositing us onto the open fell. I found it difficult to maintain any sort of rhythm over the hard uneven surface of the walled lane and found myself relegated to tail end Charlie in the early stages. Once through the gate and onto a smooth green track across the fell I began to pick it up and clawed back a couple of places.
Conditions grew decidedly worse as I ran towards the flashing headlights of a Land Rover guiding us like a beacon to
the Nick Pot check point just below cloud level. Wind was doing its best to tear my hood off and rain rattled my waterproof jacket as the marshal clipped my tally before embarking on the muddy, well worn track down Sulber Nick. It was in such a churned up state that running became very difficult indeed. Slimy mud and water covered slippery limestone rocks and filled deep holes. It was difficult to tell whether these holes were ankle deep or knee deep, so care was required to maintain any sort of momentum and stay upright. This muddy morass, made worse by a herd of lumbering cows, continued for 1½ miles to the next check point where a marshal was trying his best to shelter from the horrid conditions in a flapping open tent tucked away in a corner of the rocks.
|The path after Nick Pot check point......|
|Slippery conditions in Sulber Nick|
I'd passed another two runners, Heather and Clive, on the way to this second checkpoint but they caught me up again as I studied the map to work out the route ahead towards Moughton. Together we got it right for the next ½ mile but became confused as to our next turning where, if my hands hadn't been so numb and useless, I'd have got out my compass and worked it out. As we stood there with heads together gazing at each others maps a guiding light appeared in the form of my wonderful partner who pointed to a stile over the wall and declared "It's that way". And it was! We all ran together, more or less, for the next 2½ miles, through the tiny hamlet of Wharfe and on to the next check point by Wood End farm where I once lived and worked in the late 1940's. The marshal punched our tallies and offered us water before we set off to run the last 3¾ miles.
Heather and Clive had to be shouted back and pointed in the right direction. I dragged a Cadbury's Brunch
Bar from my daysack, tore the paper off with my teeth and awkwardly nibbled at it as I jogged along a back lane I knew so well. A runner came hurtling past us as we ran down a muddy field to Flascoe Bridge. Whoever he was, he took a wrong turning shortly afterwards and missed out the final check point. Shortly after Flascoe Bridge Heather was reduced to a walk, complaining she'd pulled a muscle, and Clive dropped back to help her over the next section of the route that climbed a strength sapping 400ft over Robin Proctor Scar in the next mile or so - a nasty sting in the tail where I was reduced to a walk up the final steep bit.
|The beasties that churn it all up......|
|Runners at Flascoe Bridge|
After that it was more or less all level and downhill along Thwaite Lane and back through the tunnel to the Finish at CRO headquarters in Clapham village. As I ran down the village street, intent on breaking 3 hours, two runners came flying past and beat me to the Finish by a mere two or three seconds. "We were in the lead" they told the Finish marshal, "hoping to finish in 1 hour 40 minutes, but took a wrong turning and got 4 miles off route". The marshal seemed far more interested in their tale of woe than he was about checking us in as we trooped upstairs to his office to be awarded certificates and medals. My recorded time was 2 hours 58 minutes, a minute more than the two who'd sneaked ahead of me. Seconds didn't count and none were recorded in any of our times.
Meanwhile, my wonderful partner had arrived at the Finish shortly after me but there was no-one around to
check her in and no-one responded to her shouts - which she thought was a bit of a shambles! How was she to know we were all busy chatting in an office hidden away upstairs? And why wasn't there someone permanently on duty at the Finish? After eventually finding her way to the office her time was recorded as 2.59 - a minute after me - so happy with that. Heather and Clive finished 3 minutes later in 3.02.
|.....and all for this!|
After such a battle with the elements and treacherous underfoot conditions I felt totally exhausted. My fingers were so cold I'd great difficulty untying the laces of my shoes and hauling off wet clothes in order to get changed in a cubicle of the National Park toilets. Once I'd fought my way into them, dry clothes were sheer bliss and a hot cup of tea at a friend's cosy house on the way home never tasted better. My wonderful partner was adamant she'll never run the 'Challenge' again whilst I vowed to murder the woman in our village who'd talked us into doing it - just before she shot off for a holiday in Pembrokeshire where the weather was apparently glorious. Grrrrrr!