The Wall, A Coast to Coast 70 mile Run

Here’s a look at this 2 day event, that crossed England via Hadrian’s Wall. Below is our review of the event, and a film. Trek and Run were supported during this race by

 First of all, here’s a film of the event, it’ll give you an idea of what to expect from the route.

I’d taken part in this event in 2012 and loved it, so much so that I wanted to extend the experience somehow and entering again in 2013 seemed like a good way of doing that. It was going to be a bit different this year though, if only because the weather had been kinder in the run up to the weekend than it had been last year so there’d be no wading through flood water or avoiding waterlogged riverbank paths. There were also other changes that I noticed as the weekend wore on. There seemed to be more marshalls en route, which was nice to see, and the halfway campsite at Vindolanda had been moved to a higher field so there was less chance of it getting waterlogged. The mobile signal was also stronger there and also there was an electrical charging point in the beer tent, which there hadn’t been last year. Very useful for me, as I was trying to film the highlights of the run and my camera batteries were only good for 2 hours in total…

The run started in Carlisle Castle. There were plenty of toilets and a warm room to relax in for those of us who wanted to watch the ‘Expert’ category runners (those who were doing the entire route in just 24 hours) set off at 7am, an hour before us ‘Challengers’ were due to leave.

Then at 8am we lined up, got our final instructions and were off.

The film should give you a fair idea of what to expect on the course. It’s basically about 35 miles of tarmac road, 17 of tarmac path and the rest is cross country. I wore trail shoes but perhaps road shoes would have been a better choice, and if I did it again I’d plump for them as long as the week before the race had seen dry-ish weather.

How much of Hadrian’s Wall do you actually see? Well, you run about 16 miles at the start before you first encounter it, then you see a fair bit during the rest of the first day. In most places it’s between 1 and 3 foot tall and 5 or 6 foot wide. The second day though is almost completely devoid of any sign of it. A distant fort on a hillside, and very small remains about 3 miles outside of Newcastle is about all you’ll see.

There was 1 main food and drink pit stop on the first day, which was 32 miles long, and 2 main pit stops on the second day, which was 37 miles long. By main pit stop I mean it served solid food (sandwiches, crisps, fruit, cake) and had medics on hand, also toilets and energy drink. The sandwiches were ok, more mayo than filling but they did the job. As well as these pit stops there were several smaller feeding stations that offered water and sweets such as chocolate peanuts and jelly babies.

I talked to a few of the people who were taking part in the ‘Expert’ category, which meant they were doing the entire route in just one day. What motivated them to do that? I asked them, and more than half said that they were doing it because didn’t think they could handle doing an ultra marathon one day, then camping and getting up to do another ultra the next day. I didn’t find this a problem though personally. As long as you have decent camping gear and you stretch out good the first night then I think anybody can handle the 2 day format. I certainly enjoy it more than running all that way in one day. You have time to slow up and enjoy the scenery for starters, which I like to do.

I’m not sure what the best preparation for an ultra is, I’m not that committed to doing really well to find out. But I’m pretty sure it’s not running 100 miles in a 24 hour race, which I did 2 weeks before, or spending 10 days at a Greek all you can eat buffet, which my running partner Adam did. Or in fact, drinking 4 pints of Stella, which we both did the night before the event. Consequently, we both struggled somewhat over the course of the 2 days. But saying that, we both finished and almost everybody I spoke to had aimed high by entering, so we were all in the same boat. One guy had only ever run 10km events before. I was happily surprised to have him pass me on day 2, about a km from the finish. He didn’t look too beat up either. He said later that there was no way he wasn’t going to finish the event, it just wasn’t an option for him. I understood that. Fitness is important, and if you want to win it’s vital, but for those of us just wanting to finish, of equal importance is a strong desire to do your very best.

The hill at the beginning of the second day, just a km or so outside of Vindolanda, offered great views, as much of the route did. The rest of the second day was undulating, but more down that up, and the last 15 miles or so was almost entirely flat. At the finish line there were showers and decent hot food, which was great (last year we had to travel to the showers by shuttle) and a bus to the railway station.

I have noticed that Rat Race do learn from mistakes, so I’d like to point one out in the hope that next year it’ll be sorted. The event began at Carlisle, and many people parked their cars there and then had to catch the train back to there from Newcastle afterwards. There was a shuttle bus from the finish line to the station, as I said, which was great. But, the bus went on the hour, whilst the train went at 10 past the hour. Basically it meant that you were never going to catch the next train, not unless you already had your ticket and were energetic enough to sprint over the station bridge to get to platform 7, and even then it would be tight. So, next year, please have the shuttle bus go quarter to the hour, so the 10 past train can be caught with ease.

If you’d like to take part in The Wall in 2014 – and I would recommend this race for all those who wish to complete an Ultra, even if they’ve never run more than a half or full marathon before – then check the website out http://www.thewallrun.com

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