Double Calderdale Way
Not sure I will ever know what possessed me to mention it to Ed about 6 months ago. The conversation went, Ed I am thinking about doing the double CW, will you support me. Silence followed for a minute or two and he responded saying he’ll just do it. Glad I have a mate that is as nuts.
A little history – the Calderdale way is a circular route around Calderdale consisting of mixed terrain and is about 50.5 mile with a total elevation of 8125ft. I’d done it three times before and Ed had done it last summer together in 8hrs23. To me I knew I could do it but we wanted it to be challenge so set a target of under 24hrs. So that’s 101 mile with the climbing (and even descending) of half of Everest in a day. What could go wrong.
With no races on and in and out of lockdown, training was going ok, plenty of up and down mileage. We both used the opportunity to explore new routes and paths in particular of Marsden Moor and down by Piethorne Reservoir.
Fast forward to the week before and it was proving difficult to sort the logistics out. We had all but sorted it and then various people dropped out and then the reserve dropped out but thankfully we had some brilliant replacements to help. Not sure I was nervous until the Thursday before when I think it dawned on me what we were about to attempt. It had been attempted before but never completed as a double. About 11 years ago when I started running, I would never have imagined wanting to run 100 mile.
The morning came and despite organising all the food etc and dropping various items off, its always in back of my mind that we’ve forgotten something. It wasn’t that big of an issue unless bad weather came at the Tod end as we had money and plenty of time to sort supplies for the night run.
Looking back, the run itself seems a little bit of a blur and despite running for 23 hours it seemed to fly by.
Once we’d set the tracker off and turned phones off (to preserve battery for when we need it) we set off up through north dean woods. No going back was my thought 😊. I initially didn’t really give much thought to the mileage or time but remember running past someone and Ed commenting saying it was only 9 oclock. We’d been running for three hours already. Despite it all being steady I didn’t feel that great but what I’d learnt before (when doing the single loop) is to just hang in there and more than likely I’ll come good.
Things were ticking over nicely albeit slowly and after being joined by Moonie it was a pleasant distraction for us both. Weather was great and we managed to just miss the huge rain cloud but we did get hit with a hail storm. Thankfully it came and went just as fast. We managed to get to Jerusalem Farm in one piece and as always had the joyous task of climbing up to Wainstalls. Physically I was managing with these large hills but mentally I kept switching off and wanting to just sit down for a few minutes. Luckily Gav was at the top with his boot full of food. After last year and seizing up at the stops I was conscience of moving. I threw my bag in for a rest, got a drink, couple of scooby snacks and rammed some potatoes in my mouth. I left Ed and Moonie and ran on. Surprisingly that was the best period I felt all day.
At Wainstalls about 32 miles in.
At some point over the moor I realised the tracker was still in Gavs car. Too late to get it but ‘back home’ everyone was flying messages about wondering what was going on, whether we’d gone wrong somehow or dropped out. A couple of miles had passed and I was caught up by the others but it was just a case of one foot in front of the other and keep drinking and eating. Approaching Shelf park was a strange feeling this time as it was normally an indicator that we were nearly done, however it was only half way to come.
More steady miles till we met Clark and Gav M in Bailiff Bridge. This would bring a new direction of conversation and listening to Clark is always helpful with his ultra experience. He was saying how well we’d done for time and just keep it steady.
I think this was the point my knee niggle turned into more of a dull pain. It wasn’t ideal, just needed to manage it. As Clark said, every step forward is one less to do. He was right but it seemed a long slog left. A lapse of concentration made me take a tumble and all I remember was the sharp stabbing pain in my calf. Thankfully it was just cramp but there was no time to lie down or feel sorry for myself, I had to catch Ed. Moonie dropped out in Brighouse after doing over 25 mile
Onto to half way, I felt tired which was inevitable but knew if I could get to the other side of Tod in one piece ill manage. After seeing Alison and family and making sure everything was in place for the night shift, I set off with Gav M. Immediately after the steps, I couldn’t run, my knee seized up and it was a worry. Gav asked what pain was on a scale of 1-10, I thought, no good to lie as he couldn’t make me quit so I said 8. Not wanting to quit I wanted to shuffle as long as possible and then walk if needs be irrespective of completion time. This could have been an extra 12 hours but I was determined. I had resigned myself to ‘quitting’ if needs be which I never thought I’d do but I was in a funny place. Thankfully Gav and Clark made me keep moving and the walk turned to a steady run. Pain was still there but manageable. The demon had to go back into the closet (and to stay).
Stephen – approaching half way
As we were joined by Potty and Jamie, Gav and Clark went home having done a good slog. I was still putting one foot infront of the other but my goal was to get as much done as possible before needing to walk as darkness was coming both mentally and literally. Jamie out and Leon and James in. After a successful refuel in Todmorden I was beginning to feel more positive but that was soon knocked out of me climbing the longest hill on the route. That was where I wish I’d brought rope to be pulled up.
Time came and went but we still had to push on to get as far as we come before head torches were required and mistakes . We managed to get to Heptonstall where Potty got picked up. The struggles were plain to see, the downs were harder than the ups but there was no quitting and I’d given up trying to keep with Ed. Midgley moor got some light relieve as I could get into some form of rhythm which helped tick the miles over and I was now into the late 70’s and a slight push to Wainstalls would get me about 18 mile to but the temperature was dropping.
At Wainstalls it was nice to see Gav again but it did mean we were now running on our own. The cold was evident to see when we’d been sprayed by the gritter. Running together seemed a lot easier and I actually felt more comfortable running. Sub 24 was very much on so we both ticked over the miles. At about 12/1am it was very bizarre to see Joanne and John Hirst cheering us on and again half hour later but this time with the Knightrider at Holdsworth house. It did bring a slight laugh as we ran past a house a car alarm went off, followed by the house alarm followed by about 10 others. That was motivation enough incase the police came.
Back to Shelf woods brought more caution as this time it was pitch black. Luckily, we managed it and just kept going. A lot of the next 5 or so miles was a complete blur. I remember feeling hungry, cold and dizzy. Not sure if it was just an excuse to have a rest. Once we got back to Brighouse, I quickly got some food but my legs stopped working. I think this was the point I was broken physically but not mentally. Ed was happy to walk and despite me going 3mph walking he was still marching on. Going up towards Southowram is always a hard part as the canal always seems an easier option. I was actually quite nervous about how to get down from west lane down to the bottom. Gravity was the only bonus at that point and knowing there was about 2 miles left (still a 40 minute slog). Nearly home was my initial thought. No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t walk any faster. That was the most frustrating part. Gav walked the last few hundred yards with me to make sure I’d finished.
After finishing and feeling great pride, I was exhausted physically but strangely didn’t feel like I wanted to sleep. Sat in the car for 15 minutes to warm up was probably an indication I didn’t wrap up adequately for the previous few hours. Got home, put bag on floor and laid on couch unable to move. Once I heard movement in the house I somehow got upstairs and hide in one of the kids beds. After every run I’ve ever done, never have I felt so incapacitated as I did that morning. Everything was hard work, even laying there. This lasted for about 4 days.
So pleased to finish this, maybe didn’t fully do it justice but I finished and what I’ve learnt is sometimes there are things out of your control over such a long period of time. Asked if I’d do it again, 100% I would if it wasn’t for the pain afterwards.
Big thanks to Ed for agreeing to do it in the first place and then allowing me to follow him for 23 hours. Gav Dodd provided us both with immense support throughout and I dare say it would have been more of a challenge without his food. Moonie, Clark, Gav M, Jamie, Potty, Leon and James were all great support crew and helped mentally take my mind off the challenge. My wife, Alison for putting up with the kids and me for the subsequent week.
Raising money for charity was always the added bonus and raising over £1500 as it stands makes it all worth while.
Stephen Hall is fundraising for Overgate Hospice (justgiving.com)
Stephen & Ed at about 4.50am once we’d finished looking fresh…