St Cuthbert’s Way 45mile Ultra

This was a race of two halves – the hot, hilly and unbearable half then the stormy, made a pal but in pain half.

I entered this Ultra as I hadn’t done one in a while and figured if I do a bunch of other races in the area then I’ll get to know the route. I loved the 3 Cheviot trail races and the trail marathon; I could run from Wooler to Kirk Yetholm with my eyes shut now 🙂

As the day of the ultra approached so did the amazing sunny weather. I tried not to worry and prepared for it as best I could.  For reasons I still don’t understand we didn’t start running until 10.30am so right into the heat of the day. I had convinced myself that I would be fine because all my races had been in the heat – this one was just a bit longer.

The heat really hit during the first 3 miles of climb out of Wooler, I stayed just off the back of 3 ladies who I’d been chatting to before we started but I couldn’t chat so I shamelessly used them to pace myself.  However by mile 5 I had to pass them and one of them came with me and was chatting but I needed all my breath so at the water station I left her, she was waiting on her pals anyway. The climbing got longer and steeper with lots of fields with cows, calves and bulls. Some of us just stopped on this really steep bit, none of us spoke, we were just trying to breathe but we were all thinking ‘this is complete and utter hell’ 🙁   We kept going with a few jokes about why had St Cuthbert had to walk so far anyway. We got up that hill, down the other side and then started on the next one. I’d stuck with a guy called Neil for a bit, he was running his first Ultra, he was suffering so I pretended that I wasn’t and encouraged him to drink and eat and just take it gently down the next hill.

He fell behind so I shouted was he okay and he told me to go on. I got to the bottom of the next hill and there was Iain and his wife Herbie, I know Iain from Jed Ultra and have stayed in touch, he said he would come and see me but little did I know that he and his wife would become my guardian angels for the rest of the race. After pouring a bottle of water over my head he chummed me up the next hill and I continued on my way with his total encouragement.

I carried on pretty much by myself for the next 7 miles, drinking and eating and determined to get to Morebattle checkpoint at19.5miles ‘if you get in to Morebattle checkpoint and leave again then you’ll finish’ said the organiser and Iain. So I had to flippin’ do that.  At Morebattle Iain & Herbie had ice-lollies, can you believe that?!! I still can’t!

After they had filled my water, put a cold buff round my neck and given me all the encouragement I set off again, just 25 miles to go 😀  I met Sarah who’d also had a lolly just down the road and we chatted about how lucky I am/we are to have I&H there supporting us. So Sarah and I ran on together and seemed to be coping the same and running at the same pace, I had a heat rash on my arm and a reaction to grass pollen on my legs so I was in a bit of a state but I felt strong. We caught up with 2 guys from Whitley Bay who were struggling, they tried to stick with us and we had a bit of a laugh at one of the paths we were running along where we all got to the end with eyes and mouths full of flies – gross but laughable.

Sarah was great at focussing on the distance to the next checkpoint because I was starting to suffer with blisters. The sun had gone behind the clouds but the heat was still there and I was having to hold my breath because of the pain in my feet. At the Bonjedward checkpoint we couldn’t believe that I&H were there to get us drinks, melon and apply Compeed and tape to my feet, I am so ashamed at the state I was in but Iain just got on with it, taking it in his stride 🙂

We ran with the Whitly Bay guys for a bit, they seemed to be using our strength and determination when, if not running we were walking fast. But they couldn’t stay with us and we couldn’t slow down. We now had to get to Maxton and then we only had 10miles to go, it was starting to get dark but we were determined to not get our headtorches out; we were so mad at all the heavy kit we had to carry that we were damned if we were using it.

This section was really overgrown and seemed to go on for ever, you could hadrly see the trail or the waymarks at times. Our determination and chat kept us going and we made it to Maxton 😀 Despite having run 35 miles we actually managed to get our own cups of coke and fruit here I&H just stood smiling st us – we were possibly slightly manic and over-excited so a bit scary.  They gave us the best encouragement to continue and were so pleased that we had each other, they knew we’d do it, we knew we’d do it as there was no other option!  We were so grateful to them and would have hugged them but we were not really huggable, bit smelly and sweaty 🙁

We went into the woods, bit dark, Sarah used her phone torch as we were still refusing to get headtorches out 😀 We then got onto the beautiful river section that had so many steps, up and down – don’t know how our legs did it.  Then the thunderstorm started, it was absolutely pouring we were undercover but not for long. We embraced the rain and soldiered on until we hit the dark, dark woods :-O Headtorches out!!! If I had been on my own I doubt I would have got through here but together we were brave and had totally and utterly had enough and wanted it to be over. I knew this section but going the other way and I was trying to explain what was ahead – a long climb!! We got up it and onto the new path off the Eildons, it was lovely until we reached the unfinished section and it clogged up our shoes and we were carrying an extra kilo on each shoe 😀

We could then see the lights of Melrose and we were so happy, we blasted down and into the rugby club for a very underwhelming finishline but the best hug from Sarah!

As Jan said in her WHW epic report, friends and support are what is important when you set yourself a challenge. My challenge was less than half of hers but I am so grateful to Iain, Herbie and Sarah for getting me through my 7th Ultra marathon.

My body has suffered badly because of the heat, the details of which would put you off your tea but my muscles are fine – I was prepared for this race, I just couldn’t cope with the heat.

Will I do another Ultra? Not in the Summer that is for sure 😀



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5 comments on St Cuthbert’s Way 45mile Ultra

  1. Sadie Kemp says:

    Wow this race sounds like absolute hell! I hope you got a good medal! X

  2. Rob Wilson says:

    Schmooze. 45 miles or 90 miles. It’s all impossible for me. Kudos is all I can say. Hope the feet are on the mend

  3. David Cairns says:

    Another epic “Harrier” journey. How do you all train your minds to cope with these extreme highs and lows? I’m in awe, great effort Susie.

  4. Bill Bennet says:

    I enjoyed reading your report Susie, though you had prepared me for the horrors of the weather for the Ultra on Tuesday at Beeslack. It’s a lovely bit of country and on a cool day it would be a real pleasure I’m sure. Well done for completing it.

  5. Mark Dawson says:

    Great report. Well done for getting through the very hot conditions and thunder storm. Brilliant running.

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