The Chevy, so ably organised by the Wooler Running club was another of the races where I had set a target time, a sub 4 hours for this 20 mile trail run that summited the Cheviot and its near neighbour Hedgehope. Regrettably, though I had managed to lose a few pounds in recent weeks I was nowhere near a weight that would allow me to achieve this. C’est la Vie. More foolishly, I had drunk a bit the night before and was feeling extremely groggy as I drove up to Wooler from South Shields. The registration and walk to the start were marked by torrential (Stair rod) rain which reinforced my fairly subdued mood.
Anyhow off we went, my legs felt like lead and I was praying for the end of the tarmac road c.1 mile ! so that I could start walking. I walked up the grassy slope and kept walking over the top as the dribs and the drabs at the end of the field came past. By the time I got to the first checkpoint there was no question at all that I was bringing up the rear of the field ! I hurried on intent on keeping in sight the tail end of runners ahead. We soon entered thick mist and I slowly developed a bit of a rhythm which took me up to the tailenders and eventually past them. Once we reached the foot of the cheviot proper I just went up it no problem at all climbing past a fair few other competitors on the way. It was a real a peasouper up there about 20 yards visibility if that. Eventually I got to the summit checkpoint and then headed over the fence for the off trail section down to the upper reaches of Langleeford burn. It got really steep and just after I slipped and went down on my back I remembered that I had some overtrousers in my backpack. On with these and then whoosh off I went, flat on my back, whizzing down the hiill. In the thick mist I really had no idea where I was so I took out my phone to check my OS Map App that was bluetoothed to my garmin GPS reciever. An instant fix told me I was off route to the right so headed left and soon found a track of trampled grass where the masses had come down. As I got lower the visibility increased and way off to my right I saw a line of 15-20 people led by someone in a South Shields Harrier Vest. Oh dear. Pleased, I continued to scamper on down, over the burn and up onto the lower slopes of Hedgehope. Unfortunately it was now my turn to go way off route as I blindly followed some other disorientated runners (a la sheep). Whipping out the phone again the OS Map App came to my rescue and I turned 90 degrees and set a determined track up, up and up into the thick mist with 4 or 5 people in my wake. Eventually we made the ridge line fence and thence up to the summit of Hedgehope.
Once off the summit it was a steep descent but half way down the mist thinned and all of a sudden a wonderful green carpet came into view far below. I stopped to take a photo though the pause resulted in acquiring a small throng of flies. On down I went waving my arms around my face, over the moor and up to the next outcrop knowing from previous mishaps that I needed to skirt this well to the right ! Down and across and then up to the next checkpoint at Langlee crags. I was quite enjoying myself….
Of course as I got lower it got hotter and the sun was now beating down. I ran with my hood up, sweating bucketloads and felt my face burning up with the heat. As I wound my way up Hell’s path it got even hotter and in desperation I lay down on a flat bit of grass next to carey burn and totally submerged my head under the freezing water… except the water didn’t feel freezing and though it must have helped I didn’t feel cooled down at all as I resumed my shuffle towards the next checkpoint. Still I was making generally good progress and as has so often been the case in the last few years I felt a hell of a lot stronger towards the end of the race than I did at the start. 5hrs 40mins.