On the 28 th June 2020 four intrepid Tattenhallers [Rob Arden, Simon Duckett, Tom leather and Alli Grundy] took on the Long Mynd Tops round. The challenge was devised by the Mercia running club in memory of one of their members, Gill Harris.
The challenge takes in 22 principal named tops in the National Trust open access area on the Mynd – a couple of the summits are just outside of the open access, a few tricky to distinguish and one just a finger post! The challenge has the essence and pays homage to “the Bob Graham” a Lakeland Classic. This, the Shropshire mini equivalent, starts and finishes in the square in Church Stretton.
The map loving members of the team, Rob Arden and Tom Leather poured over all the possible routes beforehand. Rob Arden and Alli Grundy actually reccied the middle section to work out the best lines from one summit to the next and Simon Duckett led the charge like a train knocking off all summits with ease even though the largest of the climbs were concentrated in the last third of the round.
The best estimate in terms of distance and ascent is around 20 miles with 5300ft. The team completed the round in 4 hours 18 minutes and unofficially it looks like that is the best ever time for a woman, by 6 minutes – congratulations Alli!
For those who regularly walk on the mid Cheshire Sandstone Ridge, they will have noticed the surge in visitor numbers since lockdown began to ease. Unfortunately this has also come with a very noticeable increase in littering. Tattenhall Runners, whose members regularly run all around the Peckforton to Bickerton hills throughout the year, decided to do something about this.
On Sunday morning ten members of the running club, along with some very keen children, organised themselves into two litter picking teams. One team picked litter from the Peckforton and Burwardsley hills, the other from Bickerton Hill. We filled several bin bags with the usual rubbish, including drinks bottles and food wrappers, beer bottles and cans, plus the usual dog-waste bags. We also recovered parts of ‘disposable’ barbeques!
We hope that the effort put in by Tattenhall Running Club has helped return this stunning landscape to a little bit more like it was before lockdown.
I have been training for the last 6 months for a 100 mile ultramarathon which was due to take place at the end of May, but has now of course been cancelled. Rather than let all my hard work go to waste, I have decided to challenge myself in a slightly different, but much safer, way and run my very own Backyard Ultra. A 100 mile race is very well supported, with race marshalls, medics, checkpoints, food and drink. In training, you don’t run anywhere near that distance, so there is a real “facing the unknown” element on race day – can you actually run that far? How will your body react? Reactions can be extreme – hallucinations, vomiting – it’s all part of the fun, but it wouldn’t be sensible for me to attempt this on my own with no proper race support.
So I recently came across a fairly new kind of race called the Backyard Ultra, invented by Lazarus Lake (of Barkley Marathons fame) where runners set off on the hour to run a 4.167 mile loop. They can be as quick or slow as they like, using any remaining time of that hour to rest, eat, drink and stretch – but they must be back at the start line ready to set off again when the clock strikes the next hour, and the next, and the next…. The race is won when only one runner finishes the loop – with elite runners, this can be after 50 or even 60 hours! I didn’t expect to last that long, but I’ve been training for long distance running so I could have a good try at getting at least 50 miles. I planned out my food and rest strategy and listened to as many running podcasts on the subject as I could to get advice and ideas. It’s such a different way of completing a distance, I actually couldn’t wait to start!
I started early on Friday 15th May to make the most of daylight hours and I was really excited. I picked an out and back route down Birds Lane which is quiet and flat, and I planned to update my friends and family during the day with how I was getting on. As an added incentive, I was raising money for NHS Charities which supports NHS workers and their families – so important right now of course. It was went really well on the day, the weather was prefect – cool and quite still, and I just had a great time. A friend ran a few loops with me, and so many friends came out to clap and her as I ran past each hour. My parents even drive over from Whitchurch to cheer me! My husband Steve crewed me, shovelling food down my neck and pushing me out the door with a filled drinks bottle on the hour. As time went on, I lost my appetite, and my ability to make decisions, so he had to be quite firm with me. I eventually called it a day after 12 loops and 50 miles. It seemed like a good place to stop!
I’m recovering well, and hoping to do another in July – the worldwide virtual Quarantine Backyard Ultra. And I’ve raised a whopping £780 which I’m so pleased with.
This was Tattenhall Runner’s version of a team dance off. Team Latham versus Team Duckett, 19 entrants in each team, carefully allocated by Jen Chambers. Every runner in each team had to post the distance they managed to run in one hour exactly and no more! There was one week to post their best effort. The winning team had the furthest cumulative distance. This challenge really got those competitive juices going, especially since lockdown has led to the cancellation of all races. We have also been missing the banter that flows before and after races, and several club members made the most of this opportunity!
The challenge was set and all the runners really went for it. Team Latham, with the support of their inspirational leader got on with the job and posted runs early in the challenge, taking an early lead. Luckily Team Duckett had Simon’s inspirational (nagging) facebook posts to jolly them along. The challenge went down to the wire with it really not clearly which team was going to take the bragging rights at the end of the week with every metre making a difference.
The final result: Team Latham posted a cumulative distance of 227.75km, average distance per runner 12km, Team Duckett 230.9km, average distance per runner 12.2 Km. Therefore Team Duckett were the victorious team. Again it was great to see how much effort everyone put in with some incredible runs. Charlie Weaver must be mentioned running 15.49km in the hour as well as Kate Lightfoot who also went the extra mile going out and bettering her initial effort by more than 2km which made a real difference.
Again it was great to see how many Tattenhall runners got involved and it was great to really have a competitive team event.
May 2020 saw the continuation of COVID 19 lockdown, including a ban on group sports. In order to keep the club spirit alive and kicking running together virtually became more important than ever. Emma Latham came up with the great idea of seeing if the club could run the equivalent of John O’Groats to Lands End in seven days – this direction was chosen as apparently it’s all downhill! The distance required is 1607km in 7 days, and to complete it we needed to cover 230km between club members each day.
The challenge began on Friday the 15th of May. Day one started with a bang – Hayley Cooper who was due to be running an ultra marathon which had been cancelled due to Lockdown took on the challenge with a vengeance, running over 80km. When all the other runs were added we managed 274km in the first 24h, well ahead of schedule. Day two came and it was clear the club had embraced the challenge with another huge chunk taken out of the required distance with a further 388km run in just 24hrs. We were smashing it. Lots of Tattenhall runners were pitching in, we continued to be ahead of schedule and although we had initially planned to complete the distance in seven days we reached the Lands End by Tuesday evening. But no one stopped running and we still had two days to go, so we decided to virtually run home to Cheshire and Tattenhall. This meant a further 500km in two days. Everyone continued to put in runs, and the extra 500km was completed with Jen Chambers doing the last kilometre during the weekly Tattenhall Zoom virtual drinks getting off the sofa putting the G&T down and doing a quick run round the block.
Overall we had 60 Tattenhall runners post runs, including some of the new generation. Two runners managed to run over 100km in the seven days, and three runners posted runs every day of the challenge – Grace Hart, Melanie Barker and Simon Duckett. It was great to be involved and see how engaged the whole club was across all groups – a real club effort.
The arrival of Coronavirus to the UK and the subsequent lockdown has had a huge impact on competitive and recreational running. It has led to the appropriate cancellation of races, and limitation on travel means that we’ve had to become more imaginative in our local runs to keep all of our morale up in these unusual times.
It has been remarked that the social isolation may not only have affected some peoples running fitness, but in some cases may have warped their imagination leading to some rather creative running challenges.
At the end of March 2020 we were asked to only leave home once a day for exercise. This led to the birth of the two kilometre garden challenge. The aim of the game was to run two kilometres without leaving your own property (not including fields). Many Tattenhall runners embraced the challenge with family members getting involved too. Lawns definitely took a beating and most of us ended up a bit dizzy, but lots of fun was had by all. The longest offering was 10km of garden laps, and the Easter Special edition has convinced many young neighbours of the authenticity of the Easter Bunny rumour.
With everyone settling into lockdown it became increasingly evident how serious the situation was, especially for key workers and within the NHS. The challenge was for Tattenhall runners to show their appreciation for the nurses, doctors and health care professionals by signing their Strava GPS records with the letters NHS.
Due to lockdown all of us have been running from home, rather than our traditional stomping grounds of Welsh Hills or the Peak District. This has impacted the normal climbing training, which was addressed by the next challenge – The 1000m Lockdown Climbing Challenge. The creatively-named challenge was to run from home to the Sandstone trail ridge and achieve over a 1000m of climbing in a single outing without repeating routes. Ten Tattenhall runners gave this a go which was fantastic, although we all found this a really tough especially in the heat. Five runners managed to get over 1000m of ascent during their runs with Rob Arden achieving the largest total at 1338m.
The Lockdown challenges keep coming. Next up is Emma’s Virtual Tattenhall John O Groats to Lands End relay. The club is aiming to achieve a cumulative distance of 1407km over one week – every run will count towards the final total and every member can contribute. There will, of course, be the now-famous certificates from Simon for notable contributions (not necessarily longest distance!).
Tuesday and Thursday nights are normally running nights at Tattenhall Runners. In the current climate, running cannot be done in the usual groups, so the club runners have had to be more inventive in the way they train and the challenges they undertake.
An example of this is the ‘A to Z ‘street name challenge’ in Chester. There is no X or Z, but 24 other letters are out there to have a go at, in alphabetical order. It is as much a geography and map planning exercise, as a run. The current record stands at 8.4 miles, though there could be room for improvement! Mel completed the challenge and took a photo at every street sign as proof.
Tattenhall Runners is a very sociable running club, and at this time of year we would normally be meeting twice a week for training on the Sandstone Ridge, as races and other events. The club has a strong interest in fell running, an aspect of which is supporting club members attempting long-distance rounds, such as the Bob Graham Round in the Lake District and the Paddy Buckley Round in Snowdonia. Runners attempt to complete this routes non-stop, and there is often a time limit for completion to be considered successful. The Bob Graham Round is approximately 66 miles with 26 900 feet of ascent (that’s not far off ascending the height of Everest from sea level), so to complete that non-stop within 24 hours is certainly a challenge. The format for attempts is that the round is broken up into legs, and the runner attempting the round elicits the assistance of others for individual legs, who will carry their food and other supplies, navigate, and do their best to keep their spirits up. These events are a lot of fun, with a great sense of camaraderie.
Now as much fun as long-distance rounds are, they are an impossibility from the flatlands of Cheshire, or so we thought! During the lockdown club members have been exploring routes from home, making good use of our daily designated exercise, and have been finding little know paths and coming up with lots of variants on routes. That led to the realisation that there are two long-distance trails in the area that pretty much join up with each other at a couple of points. The Sandstone Trail is well-known and popular with walkers, and there is also the Bishop Bennett Way, which crosses the Sandstone Trail at Grindley Brook and comes pretty close at Beeston, so if you join the loop together it makes a 45 mile round, the Bishop Sandstone Round!
We decided to attempt the round as a virtual relay for Tattenhall Runners. We mapped where everyone who was interested lived, and split the round up into 10 legs, and assigned people to run the leg closest to their house, so no-one needed to travel. Over a weekend we had 48 hours to complete the round, with people allowed to run their legs at any point during that time, to hopefully accommodate all household circumstances. Through the weekend everyone posted uploaded photos of their runs onto Facebook, and recorded their runs, and we successfully completed the virtual relay in 5 hours and 52 minutes, with 18 club members taking part.
The event was a lot of fun, and it definitely generated the same team spirit as previous weekends away, though many of us are still pining for the hills of Wales!