Preparing for the Gritstone Grind

I am busy preparing for tomorrow’s Gritstone Grind. This is an event organised by Rich of Beyond Marathon– Rich is a veteran of many ultra including the MdS and the Atacama Crossing, and so has a very good idea of what makes for a great day out for ultra nutters.

The Gritstone Grind follows the entire route of the long distance path known as the Gritstone Trail, which runs from the railway station at Disley, near Stockport, to Kidsgrove station, north of Stoke-on-Trent. It is 35 miles long, and our challenge is to walk the whole length of it in one day- or 12 hours to be precise. This will be my longest event for a good while and I am really nervous!

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The Bassetlaw Bash

Bassetlaw BashThe Idle Valley Nature Reserve is a pretty, peaceful spot just to the north of Retford in North Nottinghamshire… or at least it is peaceful apart from one Saturday in April. For on this day scores of ultra runners and walkers descend on the visitors centre ready to start what has become an annual fixture- the Bassetlaw Bash, named for the area in which it takes place.

As it’s fairly local I thought I may as well give it a go. There are a variety of routes to choose from-  5 mile and 10 mile family walks, plus 20 mile and 25 mile challenge walks.  I checked in, told them I was walking the 25 mile route and got the cheery response ‘actually it’s 27 miles!’ Although it was only the second running of the event, it was very well attended, and there were hot drinks at the start which is always a bonus in my opinion.

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Peddars Way and Norfolk Coast PathThe Peddars Way and Norfolk Coast Path National Trail form a 93 mile trail across Norfolk and around the Norfolk coast. The Peddars Way runs for 47 miles from Knettishall Health in Suffolk to Holme-Next-The-Sea on the Norfolk Coast, carving like a knife through the remote agricultural lands of north east Norfolk as it marches inexorably towards the sea.

The Way was one of the earliest known Roman roads to be built in Norfolk. It formed part of an extensive network of routes created following the failed revolt of the Celtic leader Boudicca, allowing the Roman army fast access to the coast as well as all areas of Britain in case of further Celtic uprisings.

Over the centuries the Peddars Way has changed from a symbol of Roman might and oppression to an important trade route for pilgrims and drovers. In fact the name ‘Peddars Way’ did not come into common use until medieval times. Most of the route of the Peddars Way can still be traced today, and in some places the raised ‘agger’ of the original Roman Road can still be seen.

As the Peddars Way joins up with the Norfolk Coast Path at Holme-Next-The-Sea, the two trails have been linked and are usually walked together.

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Chasing the Naranjo de Bulnes, Picos de Europa

Naranjo de BulnesThe Naranjo de Bulnes, literally the ‘Orange of Bulnes’, had acquired a somewhat legendary status amongst our trekking group. It’s Asturian name is Picu Urriello, and it is one of the best known sights of the Picos de Europa mountain range in Northern Spain– a huge monolith of limestone rock, towering over the tiny isolated mountain village of Bulnes.

There are many view points from which to appreciate it, but thanks to several days of rain and low cloud, we hadn’t yet had so much of a glimpse. But that was to change today, or so we hoped…

The day had started off clear and sunny, so we bundled our packs into our tour leader, Juan’s, four wheel drive and started climbing the rough zig zag path to the Pandebano Col, which was to be the starting point for our quest. Abandoning the car, we leapt out and walked uphill through green meadows, noticing with some consternation that the cloud had already started to hide the tops of the mountains surrounding us, begrudgingly allowing the sun to shine through from time to time to spotlight the valley far below.

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Walking the Cares Gorge- Picos de Europa

Cares GorgeThe spectacular Cares Gorge was created by glacial waters carving a deep ravine separating the Western and Eastern massifs of the Picos de Europa mountains in northern Spain. The sparking waters of the river Cares now rush and bustle their way along the bottom of the gorge, but in 1916 it was decided to divert some of the water along a canal blasted out of the cliff face to feed the hydro-electricity station at Poncebos. An access path was created at the same time, and although originally intended to service the canal it has become a hugely popular walk.

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Joint HealthNow that I am well into my- ahem- 40s, I have started to give my future health some serious consideration. Given that I tend to give my body quite a pounding in the mileage stakes with the walking, trekking and running, and intend to continue to do so for as long as I am able, I thought it was time to develop a plan for ensuring that my joints are well able to cope with whatever I choose to throw at them. So I have come up with a five stage process for future joint health; feel free to use it yourself to help keep your joints in tip top endurance condition;

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The Marathon des Sables… Could You Do It?

Marathon des SablesSo- want to do the Marathon des Sables, but wondering whether it may be too tough? Could you actually do it?

There’s no doubt that the MdS is a serious undertaking and one which should not be contemplated lightly. You will need to train- this is not a race you can blag unless you have a very good level of running and walking fitness. I am not exactly the greatest endurance athlete in the world, but I trained gradually over two years.

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On The Wishlist- the Grand to Grand Ultra

What is it?

Grand CanyonThe Grand to Grand Ultra is the first- and, so far, only- self-supported footrace in North America. The race takes place in September each year. It starts from the jaw droppingly scenic North rim of the Grand Canyon and finishes on the Grand Staircase- hence ‘Grand to Grand’.

Just like the MdS you have to carry everything you need for the week except a tent on your back- food, equipment etc. You will also need to supply a medical certificate and ECG before the race.

How Far is it?

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The Belvoir Challenge

The Belvoir ChallengeOnce a year the peaceful Leicestershire village of Harby, set amongst the rolling countryside of the Vale of Belvoir, is disrupted by hundreds of runners and walkers thronging to take part in the annual Belvoir Challenge. First ran in 1990 this is a 26 mile challenge walk that has grown in popularity year on year- so much so that the event usually fills up weeks in advance.

The Belvoir (pronounced ‘Beaver’) Challenge is organized to raise funds for the village primary school by the ‘Friends of Harby School‘. A shorter route option of 15 miles was added some years ago and has now proved to be even more popular than the marathon option I had decided to tackle today. The school children themselves love to get involved, and can be seen helping to man the checkpoints, clear up the hall or even completing the shorter route alongside their parents.

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The Telegraph Adventure Travel Show, Olympia

Ben Fogle speaking at the Adventure Travel ShowAfter years of intending to go to the Telegraph Adventure Travel Show, I finally decided I should just stop talking about it and take the not exactly arduous step of booking the ticket and catching the coach down to London… which I ended up changing as Ben Fogle was originally scheduled to talk on Saturday but two weeks before the event I noticed that this had been rescheduled for Sunday!

So my first tip would be to keep checking the schedules if there’s a particular speaker you really want to see- there’s nothing more annoying than travelling down only to find that they are now speaking the next day! Although the web site does warn that the talks are subject to change so it is up to you to check…

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