You just can't beat running 11 miles in the North Pennines on a sunny Easter Sunday! This is the first time I've actually trained on a section of the John O'Groats to Lands End route. In fact this is approximately mile 424 - 435 of the big run. Or you could think of it as 1.2% of the total distance! I prefer not to though as it makes me feel rather sick!
Setting off from the ford at Stanhope, I immediately had second thoughts about doing such a hilly run. That first 14% hill is an absolute nightmare and is enough to put anyone off. I was gasping for oxygen after only 7 minutes and boy could I tell I'd had a Chinese meal the night before! Half a mile later things started to even out a bit (not much mind!) and I started to get in my stride. It did, however, take 16 minutes to do the first mile, such was the steepness of the first climb. I think this may be a new record for me.
With it being a Bank Holiday. there was quite a lot of traffic on the road and I'm pleased to report that 99% of them gave me plenty of room and a few of them slowed down to wave for some strange reason. I reckon that the 1% who drove very close were more than likely bitter Mackems who spotted the Newcastle training top I was wearing.
After 4 miles or so, I was stopped by a colleague from Northern Rock - Richard. He'd been out for a walk with his good lady. It's always nice to see a familiar face and he reckoned that once I'd reached the nearby 1650 ft summit (pictured) that I'd have "broken the back" of today's run. It was quite appropriate that I bumped into Richard on this day of all days (Easter Sunday) as some say he has a look of the Messiah himself! I'm referring to the biblical one by the way and not Kevin Keegan.
Richard's words of encouragement turned out to be quite right. Once I'd gone over the 1650ft summit, I really did feel that the worst climbs were out of the way. In the distance, I could see the valley in which Middleton was situated. This, at least, gave me something to focus on and I picked up the pace to around 11 minutes per mile. This is much slower than my usual training pace but that's all the steep hills and strong wind would allow.
After 2 hours and 10 minutes of running, I met Katy and Jack (pictured) for my lift home. I felt really good at the end and felt like I had a lot of miles left in me. This was surprising, considering the amount of crispy duck, ribs, chicken and seaweed I ate last night!
All in all, a successful day's running was achieved and Jack was rather pleased too, having gone to the park in Stanhope and had an ice cream while waiting for me to finish.
As far as training runs go, this has got to be one of the most scenic I've ever done. The conditions would have been perfect if it hadn't been for that pesky 13 mph westerly wind. The glorious sunshine more than made up for it though. Happy Easter!