This year was my second entry to the Trans Britain stage race, and since there were a couple of other competitors returning for a second time, including twice winner Paul Oliver, the organisers must be doing something right. That ‘something’ includes some of the finest off-road running you can find in the Lake District, Yorkshire Dales and Clwyd hills, along with great food from Nick the resident chef and always-excellent facilities at the overnight campsites. This year’s special treat was a bathroom, no less, with seemingly limitless hot water, at the day two campsite overlooking Ullswater.
There weren’t the hurricanes blowing in from the Atlantic of the previous two years, although the descent from a cloud-shrouded Pen-y-Ghent got a bit hairy with some of the gusting winds. But there was plenty of rain, swollen rivers and mud (along with the occasional shot of sunshine and a glorious double rainbow) to remind you that this is a long way from a boring urban run. The race covers 156 miles in six days, carrying all your own gear (apart from a tent) and taking in half a dozen substantial peaks along the way.
Favourite moment? Storming down from Rydal fell like a kamikaze mountain goat for a ridiculous sprint finish that saw three of us separated by just 10 seconds after five hours of mountain running.
That leg had special significance for me because I had to cut it short two years ago to lead an injured fellow runner off Helvellyn. With visibility down to a few metres and the temperature having plummeted likewise, it was no time to take chances. I got a time penalty for my pains, which certainly cost me third place overall in that year’s event and probably cost me second. This year, in a much faster field, I held on for third in an overall time of 34 hours 13 minutes 04 seconds. To say I’m chuffed would be one hell of an understatement.