Who would have thought I’d be writing about my 3rd ultramarathon in 6 months. I’m as in shock as you probably are, readers. I’m not sure where that young girl with no self-belief has disappeared to, but I am completely comfortable with the new ‘can-do-anything’ woman that has emerged over the past couple of years. To be honest, if you’d have told me this time last year that I would even run one ultra, I’d have laughed in your face.
You see, I have wanted to run the Warrington Way for a while as it’s very local to where I grew up, in the shadow of Fiddlers Ferry power station, on the banks of the River Mersey. I put my name on the waiting list last year, and then when a place became available, promptly chickened out and told myself I could never run that far. So this year, following on from my first scary foray into ultra distance at Dukeries in May, and then the mind boggling distance of Race to the Stones in July, I added my name to the waiting list again, this time with no doubts in my mind at all that I could comfortably complete the distance.
I was slightly concerned about the many references to slurry, cow sh*t, waist deep water and bogs that kept cropping up in any conversations about the Warrington Way, but after completing Hellrunner last autumn I figured the bogs could be no worse than that. Luckily, Claire had recce’d the route previously and assured me it wasn’t that bad, and we arranged to run together, which made me feel much better going into the event. I needed the moral support – I am genuinely a wuss when it comes to mud and water.
Training had been far from ideal. Race to the Stones had pretty much broken me because my race fuelling had been very poor, and my post-race recovery nutrition had been shocking, so it took me a good six weeks to feel normal again (you can read about my recovery period here). An infected tick bite over summer didn’t help, and I was on antibiotics for a fortnight. Oh, and then we had a house move from one side of the country to the other, and we lodged with family for a few months, so you can see my excuses for not doing any training are solid. Anyway, I pulled out of a half marathon I was meant to run in September because I was getting over this tick bite, and decided to focus on the Manchester Half Marathon instead. Consequently I hadn’t put in any long runs for the Warrington Way so my plan was simply to keep it slow and steady, eat lots, and enjoy.
The race started at 7:30am, so it was a relatively early 4:50am wake up call to give me time to have my pre-race porridge, coffee and of course bowel movements in good time. The dog must have decided to join me in the latter, and there was a big steaming pile awaiting me in the middle of the kitchen floor when I tiptoed downstairs that morning; I like to think of it as a taster of what awaited us in those last 9 miles. A nice easy 40 minute drive to Lymm followed, and parking was an easy affair with a £3 all day ticket at the local car park a 5 minute walk away from HQ.
The forecast was cloudy but dry, which suited me just fine, so I opted for a thin long sleeve top, plus a running jacket I could remove if need be. I also packed a T-shirt in my pack in case it warmed up later. I found Claire at the start, and also had a chat with Chris and Andy who were using Warrington Way as prep for their Longest Night Run in December.
The first 10.2 miles (Lymm to Houghton Green)
At 7:30 we were off in high spirits, and straight onto our first track which was dotted with puddles. It made me chuckle how everyone was avoiding them at this stage. The first leg was a joy, like the first leg of any ultra. Feeling fresh, skipping along, chatting. Crossing the roundabout over the M62 felt a bit hairy but the route was mostly nice quiet tracks. There were some really steep steps down to the first CP, but my legs were still feeling nice and fresh at that stage, and it was lovely to arrive at the CP to lots of cheering and applause. A quick stop for a banana and some chocolate raisins, a water top up and we were off again. I tried queuing for the loo but the first CP was busy as people hadn’t really spread out at that point, so onwards!
The next 10.1 miles (Houghton Green to Widnes)
Back over the motorway again, over a field, and down into Winwick which is an area I’m more familiar with. Onto the fields and here is where it got a little bit* (*ankle deep) muddy.
People seemed to be taking a short cut across the field, avoiding the muddiest section, but I felt this was kind of cheating so we followed the green and white tape, and slipped about, and I realised I’d need to tie my shoes a bit tighter for later stages as I nearly lost my right one a few times in the mud.
Back over the motorway again and then it was a short trot to the 20 mile checkpoint where I was really gasping for a cup of tea! I changed my top here as the sun had emerged, so I was glad I packed that T-shirt. I also had a look inside my socks as blisters were just starting to emerge so I put some compeed on, had some crisps, more chocolate raisins, a photograph with the BEST sign ever (you;ve got the Bon Jovi reference now, haven’t you?), and we were off again, this time with Elma in tow, one of Claire’s friends from her running club who we had bumped into.
The next 10.5 miles (Widnes to Hatton)
The route instructions said to head towards the power station (can’t you tell we’re up north!) and although it’s a power station, I do find Fiddlers Ferry quite striking with its eight towers. It’s been a part of my landscape growing up in Widnes, so I really enjoyed this section heading down towards the St Helen’s canal and the Mersey. This was a nice section to run on, with plenty of paths, and no mud. Through Moore nature reserve, which was a glorious section of green woodland, and some bonus flapjack and coca cola from a gentleman waiting in the car park with refreshments (unofficial refreshment points are always much appreciated!) then over the railway line and the Manchester Ship Canal.
We had reached marathon distance here, and looking at the elevation profile later, I understand now why we walked quite a bit of this section as it was uphill. Through Moore to the Bridgewater Canal, then a beautiful section running alongside it in the sunshine.
From there, it was a short hop past the reservoir to CP 3, and another cup of tea and some malt loaf. Oh and prawn cocktail crisps – yes!
The final 9.2 miles (Hatton to Lymm)
I had been dreading the last bit, as you know, but I was in high spirits leaving the checkpoint. We went over the motorway, then straight down some steep steps into a field. Ow. My legs, yes. But what was going on with my back? I could feel serious chafing, suddenly from my sports bra. Down in the field, I asked Claire and Elma to have a look, and the word ‘welt’ was mentioned. Ouch. A quick patch up with some tissues and microporous tape, and the nasty chafing was padded and good to go again. This section took quite a bit of concentration reading the route instructions and looking for the tape, and it weaved through quite a few fields. We then passed a field of dairy cows and reached slurry lane. It was as ripe as promised – although not as deep as I had feared. The paddock on the next section was the funniest – it was shin deep in water and so cold! I had to change my socks after that as I’d worn waterproof ones, but the water was so deep it had gone over the top, broke the seal and got inside, so there was no way it was going to drain out on its own. That done, we admired the pigs at the end of the lane, and headed into another nice wooded section. We were losing light quickly now, and with around 5 miles to go, I calculated we would probably need to get our headtorches out soon, so once we reached the motorway, we put them on, and set off across the final few fields, the entrance to which were now lit with flashing beacons (thank you!). I have to say, crossing that last field in the dark was both terrifying and hilarious. Feet would disappear in squelchy mud (that smelled suspiciously like slurry lane earlier) and every footstep would be a gamble as to whether your shoe would stay on, or be lost forever. After that though, we were into the woods for a lovely section to the finish. I’m sure this section was beautiful, but I could only see a few feet in front of me as it was really dark by this point. Then we saw balloons, and heard cheering! We finally made it back into Lymm, and the welcome from the locals was lovely. Plenty of clapping and ‘well dones’. We finally crossed the finish line 10 hours and 21 seconds after starting. A hot cup of tea and some chilli and cous cous really hit the spot.
Thank you for a fabulous event Lymm Runners, I had an absolute blast. I’d love to come back next year and finish in daylight. I really loved the company from Claire and Elma – it wouldn’t have been the same on my own, and I think I needed the moral support through the mud!
An absolutely superb day out! Great quality T-shirt, and really smart medal too.