One of the main differences between me and Mr Me-myself-and-eye is that he is a planner and I am….. well…..not really a planner…. some would say ‘impulsive’…. some would say ‘an iPod shuffle brain’, others just role their eyes and say ‘ffs, not again’…. I love randomly booking things, just to see what happens…. Impulsively booking the Glencoe marathon for his 40th birthday present…. which turned out to be the year that they had the biggest storm in about 10 years….in which we were camping….. A little break in Skye when I was 6 weeks pregnant and vomming everywhere… not really realising that it would take us two days to get there and two days to get back. Anyway, I think that my impulsive nature is what he loves and hates about me, I like to think that it balances out his meticulous planning of EVERYTHING and he balances out my puppy like nature where I want to do everything and try everything RIGHT NOW!
So anyway…. back in December I was scrolling through some up and coming races, casually thinking about potentially entering a 10km or something. I had just started to run again after tearing my knee ligaments and I thought that a 10km would be a good distance to start with. All of a sudden ‘The Calderdale Hike‘ caught my eye (I had two eyes back then…) ‘An undulating 26.2 or 36 mile hike around the beautiful Calderdale Valley’.….. Click. PayPal. Entry. Done. Yep, I had entered it, only the 26 miler, I didn’t want to be too crazy and I had entered a team of 4. So within a space of around 2 minutes, I had gone from thinking about a gentle, flat 10km run to a challenging, hilly, long distance hike, with a team that I didn’t have.
It turns out though that I have friends who clearly know me and don’t really bat an eyelid (no pun intended) when I send a text along the lines of….‘What are you doing on the 13th April 2019? Fancy a little walk with me….?’ So there we were, the team, comprising of Anna Hobbs, Katie Marriott, Jacky Burton and me. legends.
This however was before ‘eyegate.’… To be fair to my team mates, they did leave it a week or so after my diagnosis before they sent the hopeful text…
“Soooo.…. this walk in April….. you are not going to want to do it…. are you….?” When I responded with, “We are absolutely going to do this blooming walk and I am going to guilt you all into doing it.” the reality hit that we were actually going to be hiking 26.2 miles… over Calderdale, self navigated…. with the only person who claimed that she could read a map now only having one eye. (A claim I clearly made to ensure that the other three would enter)
So fast forward to 0630 on Saturday 13th April and there we all were, ready and waiting to set off to Sowerby Bridge to walk a heck of a long way with non of us having walked over 10 miles for a long time and the self titled ‘navigator’ compromised.
They give you a kit list of essentials that you need to take with you in case you get lost: Map, compass (that you must be able to use…errrrr….ok…. harking back to Geography 1996) waterproofs, bivy bag etc… and snacks. I literally do not know what I was thinking on the morning of the walk when I decided that it would be a good idea to pack some quinoa and wholegrain rice in a large Tupperware box, that was as dry as a sandy beach with no flavour. The Tupperware itself took up most of my rucksack along with the 8 dry tuna sandwiches, 4 liquorice bars, Soreen, nuts, dried mango, approximately 10 billion snack cereal bars and a packet of Pom Bears…. I mean it seemed as if I had packed for a week away, not a leisurely 8 ish hours in Calderdale! I was pleased to see that the rest of the team had also over packed on the food front, with Katie not letting on if she had water or sauvignon blanc in her camel back… (I also felt a bit daring and folded my map THE WRONG WAY – telling everyone that they were NOT allowed to tell Mr Me-myself -and-eye that I had dared to do it…
The walk started from the cricket ground at Sowerby Bridge and at 0800 sharp we all started with the lure of the bar opening at 3pm to return quickly and the only rules, 1) No running and 2) Make your way HOWEVER you wish can between check points. At that point I think that we were slightly optimistic that we had a chance of coming first team as we powered off down the road and over took a few people…. that was until we turned the first corner and saw the vertical climb that was in front of us. I like to think that I am reasonably fit, but dear lord, I was not even a third of the way up what felt like the Dawn Wall and I was wheezing and dripping in sweat… oh crumbs, this did NOT bode well for the rest of the 25.8 miles.
After the first rock hard climb…. the first down hill…. the slight panic of getting lost (thank you Mr Me-Myself-and-eye for uploading the GPX file onto a new fancy OS App on my phone as I clearly had no idea how to read an actual map) and the next 4 gradients that were ridiculously steep and unnecessarily long, we climbed up to see the most stunning views.
Utter bliss and soul food and cementing in my mind that Yorkshire really is part of my DNA and I really couldn’t think of anywhere else I would want to be.
As amazing as the views were, we still were only 6.4 miles into the hike and had a looooonnngggg way to go. Anna ‘big right’ Hobbs (she is who I box with) set the pace, striding out with no messing around, whilst us other three almost had to trot to keep up with her (actually, it is a good job she set the pace, had we left it to Jackie, we would still probably be out there meandering along, chatting, making a few daisy chains on the way…)
After skirting through Mytholmroyd (I mean you can’t fault Yorkshire on their AMAZING town names) we headed out onto the Mary Townley Loop (I don’t know who Mary Townley was/is, that’s defs a google question) with the words of a fellow hiker in our ears, “It’s a bit bleak up there” Crikey, he wasn’t bloody joking! Blowing an absolutely hoolie for over 6 miles, we all just bunkered down and cracked on, with Hobbs stopping to collect some litter, can’t fault her, it’s a terrible habit.
I think that the most scenic part of the route was crossing the M62 on the slightly swinging bridge and then skirting pretty much between the M62 and some sewerage works… does sarcasm come over in written form? The blisters were starting to bite and we were all getting a little bit hangary (well I was, the others seemed to be able to cope with being hungry) We had a formula one style pit stop for Katie to plaster up her blisters and to refuel. Having decided that quinoa and rice was possibly not the best decision for a marathon walk, I opted for the dry tuna sandwiches (made at 0530 that morning) and cashew nuts which was just the boost that I needed. Once blisters we sorted and food was consumed, we cracked on, nearing the 20 mile marker, keen to get back to the pub and celebrate with a pint.
Back onto the Calderdale way (or could have been the Pennine way…. I literary have no idea) we caught sight of some walkers ahead Hobbs strode off to make sure the she could see them so we didn’t have to navigate anymore.
For me this part was the most difficult part of the walk as the moorland was covered in beige grass and the light was quite flat and the ground was really uneven and so I couldn’t really make out where I was putting my feet. Cue me getting very frustrated with myself and getting annoyed at the fact that I couldn’t do something as easy as just pigging walking…. it was a good job I was on my own as I was swearing like a trooper with tears stinging my eyes, just generally being very pissed at the world. What was also really strange was that all the death defying drops and slopes seemed to always to be my left, just to make the walk a little bit more interesting for me as to whether I would fall to my death or navigate through.
After this part, we could feel the finish was in our grasp… we could taste the beer…. cracking on through Rippondon, we had collected a few other walkers and runners and we were having a lovely old chat, until we came to a hill that I am going to re name…. ‘That f***ing hill’ In my head, I thought that this was the last push for us all and so I cracked on up the hill, sweating, wheezing and swearing all of the way up (I neglect to mention that I was still wearing my artic feather and down coat -suitable for -2 degree temperatures – which I had refused to take off for nearly the entire walk because I wanted to prove to Mr Me-myself-and-eye that I really did need to take it with me because it was going to be cold. This was after he scoffed at my choice of walking attire) So sweating like a trooper, read faced but triumphant, I made it to the top and turned and watched as the others stormed up the hill. High fives all round as we glowed in the glory of conquering the hill….. then I looked at the GPX route….”Oh f*** it” I think were the exact words that came out of my mouth….. “We’ve come up too far, we needed to have turned off the path approximately 1/2 mile down the hill…” Now I didn’t hear any of the others swearing at me and I didn’t see any glowering looks (I do only have one eye remember) but I would NOT have blamed them if they were all doing that behind my back as I set off back down ‘That f***ing hill’ to where we needed to have turned off….
Once we were back on the single track road we swung down hill for about half a mile. (not before passing my absolute favourite sign post of all time)
We came out at the bottom of Sowerby Bridge recycling centre (pictureqse as you can imagine) and all we had to do was turn left and walk up the hill to the end….. obviously though we thought that going the longer way (and adding an extra mile onto the walk) was what we definitely wanted to do…. we wanted to triply make sure that we deserved the beer that we were going to have. So we turned right and went a convoluted way back up to the cricket club with Katie having pulled a muscle in her thigh and in a huge amount of pain (she is however as hard as nails and I believe she said something along the lines of, “If I’ve had three kids, I can cope with my thigh being on fire” like I said, nails.)
Finally we were back! We had bloody done it! The feeling of finishing was brilliant, relief from all of us as we had all pushed ourselves out of our comfort zones and the beer was lush.
We all had our own stories and reasons for wanting to complete it, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t just because I had asked. For me, it was another thing to show that I was not going to be defined by what was happening to me. To prove to myself that I can and I will do the things that I love to do and to say ‘screw you’ to cancer and all the utter shit that it brings. It sounds silly, but I also wanted to do it for my friends and family who are going through some pretty shit and dark times at the moment. I was thinking about them all a lot whilst walking and gieving for what they are going through.
Walking and being outside is such a soul lifting experience and a basic, uncomplicated thing to do. Yes it was tough at times, but to spend 8 hours with three of the most incredible, inspirational, funny women I know was an absolute privilege and I would do it again in a heart beat….. now where are those painkillers….
Until next time, keep on moving and grooving,