So back to the Longmynd Hike for the third year in a row and a chance for my annual fun 50 mile overnight hike around the picturesque lands in Shropshire with a couple of buddies. Joining me this year were Frank and Matt (Fetch: Cheeky Conswala) and we also knew that Shane was taking part although he had planned to strike out on his own and run it ahead of our planned group.
We arrived at Church Stretton about 10am, checked in, had our equipment checked and then wandered towards the shops for a light lunch before returning to collect our gear from the car and make our way to the start for 1pm.
The weather was absolutely glorious and warm, really warm. The requirement to carry waterproofs, woolly hats, gloves etc felt a bit unnecessary due to the heat but there was no relaxing of the rules which is disappointing when its obvious that a lot of the runners must have dumped a lot of the required kit from the small sizes of their hydration packs but rules are rules and these are in place for the safety of competitors at night so one must obey.
We started out at 1pm and headed towards the first summit Caer Caradoc and Checkpoint 1 (2 miles). Our plan was simply to walk and finish although we were looking to get past the Stipperstones (an ugly area of rocky paths) before it was dark. We headed up the first summit over the top of this and then onto the second summit The Lawley and Checkpoint 2 (4 miles) immediately afterwards. I managed to progress ahead of Matt and Frank but saw them on the way down The Lawley and agreed to wait for them at the bottom where I took on some water, ate some food and took a few pictures.
Frank had started to struggle a bit here and it took him a little while to get up and down the slope, the pace had slowed and we were near the back of the group already. I admit to being a little frustrated at this point as we grouped back together. What was also evident that the heat was taking its toll on some runners and I could see a number of red faced runners huffing and puffing up and down the slopes and thought a few are going to drop due to the warm weather.
We continued towards Checkpoint 3 (High Park). Frank had already started to give signs of wanting to pull out and I suggested I carry his pack for a few miles to give him an easy few miles to recover. To be fair, he was reluctant to receive any assistance but eventually agreed. We continued on but it was evident he was not improving and shortly before the Checkpoint he decided to pull out. He could have carried on a bit further but had decided not to slow the team down any further and made a bit of a sacrifice for the team. I think a combination of lack of sleep, general fitness for the event and the heat had all contributed towards the event, this was proof that Longmynd is a tough event whether you walk or run it.
I gave Frank my car key as I had left a sleeping bag in the car and Matt and I pressed on to Checkpoint 3 where we made a brief stop and then pushed on. I was determined that we should try and make up some time and set a brisk walking pace and we soon started to pass quite a number of people as we made our way up a gradual incline before we arrived at Checkpoint 4 (Pole Bank – 10 miles).
After another brief stop we pushed on again and continued to overtake a few people as we headed back in the same direction before taking a left and a downhill track towards Checkpoint 5 at Bridges. We arrived at the pub at Bridges where we stopped for a refreshing pint of Orange Juice and Lemonade each and ate some food before carrying on. Whilst it was still light, we were then grouped up for the night leg just after the Checkpoint. As the minimum size of the group was 3 people, we were held for a few minutes until 2 more walkers arrived (Ruth and Dyllis) and after some brief introductions our group of 4 carried on up the road towards the Stipperstones.
There were still quite a few walkers visible both ahead and behind us but we were familiar with the navigation at this point and made our way over the Stipperstones in the light to Checkpoint 6 (Stipperstones – 15 miles). It must have been about 6pm’ish when we checked in here and I recall thinking we had only just covered a half marathon plus a couple of miles, it’s going to be a long night!
We made our way up Earls Hill, had our tallies clipped and headed down to the Pub where we stopped to get some water and meet Frank before continuing on towards the next Checkpoint 8 (Bank Farm – 22 miles). It was now late evening (around 10pm ish) as we got to Bank Farm. As we had a stop at the pub we didn’t feel the need to stop here and checked in and out before heading towards the next checkpoint.
Dyllis’s directions were excellent as she took us a more direct route than I had covered last year. Whilst I had little doubt I could navigate around, it was evident that I had added on a couple of extra miles in previous years by taking different paths (perhaps hugging the comfortable flat roads as opposed to using footpaths).
Dyllis and I were paired up with another group of 4 (Mike, Steve, Ann and Rona I think) and our group of 6 carried on although Steve was suffering from blistering and needed to attend to his feet a couple of times earlier on but seemed to recover well. Interestingly, I had no blisters to speak off. The combination of compeeds on usual blister points, toe socks and pre-applied sudacreme was working well.
As we plodded into Checkpoint 14 (Pole Cottage 42 miles) it was light and permission was given to split the groups and carry on at your own pace. I had a quick chat with Dyllis and whilst we had encouraged me to press on at my own pace their was little point as I had no goals or targets apart from getting around with my buddies and I agreed to stick with Dyllis until the end. With my pacing and her navigation we made a good team and it would be a shame not to finish it together.
We walked towards the hill and then started our ascent. We made our way to the top of the hill and paused to get a few pictures before passing Checkpoint 16 (Ragleth Hill – 48 miles) and continuing on towards the finish a couple of miles away. We headed off the footpaths and into Church Stretton and made our way towards the finish at the school where Matt met us having not really slept at the school overnight. We registered our finish times and said our good byes before I had a nice hot shower, got changed and enjoyed the cooked breakfast on offer. I spoke to Shane on the phone who finished in a good 16-17 hours which was much better than he did a couple a years ago so well done to him.
We stayed and watched the presentations. The event was won by a woman (Val Swingler in just over 10 hrs) for the first time in its history which was a great achievement and there were various other awards for finishers and groups. Apparently, out of 550 entrants 100 were no shows (which is disappointing when there’s a large reserve list) and over a 100 pulled out due to various reasons but dehydration was a key one. This was the highest attrition rate they’ve had in years apparently.
Overall, as I’ve said before it’s a brilliant well organised event which is challenging, enjoyable and offers great views. The marshalling is excellent and the event is great fun and a steal at £22 for the entry, drink and checkpoints, a cooked breakfast and somewhere to bed down for the night.