Charnwood MarathonThe Charnwood Marathon is a fairly local challenge event for me, and as it runs through some of the most scenic areas of the Charnwood Hills area in Leicestershire and I missed it last year I thought I’d pay it a wee visit. I have done this event a few times before but- whew- it kicked my ass a bit today…

The Charnwood Marathon used to start and finish at Quorn Village Hall, but for the past couple of years it has moved to Rawlins School just up the road. It was good to see Ross and his canine walking companion, Kyla, and we walked together- I usually end up doing these events on my own so it does make a difference having someone to chat to.

It was a lovely sunny spring day, and after being started by the bell ringing town crier we headed out over the fields to the villages of Woodhouse and Woodhouse Eves. I was expecting it to be muddy but thankfully it seemed to have dried out a little.

Sweeping views followed the lung wracking pull up Broombriggs Hill and the more gradual ascent of Beacon Hill, with the surrounding hills, woodland and the dark industrial smear of Leicester standing out in remarkable clarity.

The  view from Broombriggs Hill

The view from Broombriggs Hill

After grabbing a quick drink and hot cross bun at the first proper check point, we faced another stiff climb before dropping down to a farm, with the continuous buzz of the nearby M1 keeping us company. We had a bit of an adventure here- we realised too late that there was a herd of cows in the field and they took a keen interest in Kyla. She thought they would make lovely playmates and it was starting to get a little hairy so we opted for a climb over the fence and a battle through brambles and branches to the road- all part of the experience!

Descending to Lubcloud Farm

Descending to Lubcloud Farm

After another leg burning climb and descent to Lubcloud Farm we had a bit of road walking to reach the reservoir. My legs were starting to feel quite heavy, which annoyed me as we weren’t even half way yet. It was still a lovely spring day and there was absolutely no sign of the showers that had been promised. We climbed up to the next checkpoint at Mount St Bernard Abbey in the company of a couple of runners, and stopped to stock up on more delicious cake- well I didn‘t want them to have to throw too much away.

The Reservoir. Still sunny...

The Reservoir. Still sunny…

The runners left and we followed rather more sedately, dodging patches of mud. The climb up towards the Warren Hills caused my thigh muscles to really start complaining, and I realised I hadn’t brought any pain killers to shut them up so just tried ignoring them instead. Warren Hills is a lovely unexpected patch of rocky outcrops, sweeping views and delightful paths, unexpectedly sandwiched between a couple of busy roads. It was originally part of the Charnwood Forest ’wastes’ and was one of the first reserves to be established by the Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust.

Silage bales with character!

Silage bales with character!

The toughest part of the event was yet to come however- the descent into Coalville and the long, steep slog up to Bardon Hill, an extinct volcano and the highest point in Leicestershire. And just to make sure you don’t cheat and miss the summit out the crafty organisers attach a self clip to the trig point…

The summit of Bardon Hill- complete with self clip

The summit of Bardon Hill- complete with self clip

Actually only half of Bardon Hill remains. It’s quite an experience to traverse the long, narrow ridge to the trig point marking the summit and see nothing beyond apart from the huge gaping hole marking the quarry. It’s also quite depressing…

As we left Bardon Hill and made our way to Copt Oak and coffee, we noticed that the sky was getting increasingly darker behind us and hoped that we would make the next checkpoint before the rain hit. We gratefully accepted filled rolls and hot drinks under shelter and listened to the rain pattering on the gazebo roof. One of the advantages of being slow is that by the time I get there the checkpoint staff are eager to offload all the spare food and I agreed to fill my pockets with rolls and biscuits. Thinking it had blown over, we left our shelter to head out towards Bradgate Park, only to be hit by the type of fierce hail storm that soaks you through and chills you to the bone. I was feeling knackered by this point and my fingers were freezing but I couldn‘t be bothered to stop and root out my gloves. Luckily Kyla had a rather fetching red coat to keep her dry and snug.

Ulverscroft Priory

Ulverscroft Priory

To make matters worse, the rain nicely re-energised the mud and so we slid and slithered our way to Newtown Linford. It almost added insult to injury when the sun came back out to shine as though nothing untoward had happened. In fact it was so lovely that ice lollies were in order when we reached the village!

Newtown Linford

Newtown Linford

There is another self clip at the highest point of Bradgate Park, at the Old John monument which resembles a beer tankard and which, as local legend states, was erected in fond memory of a favourite beer swilling park retainer killed in an accident. We met a group of walkers here who had got lost, and as we left the summit heard shouts behind up and realised we had all been caught by the sweepers!

Bradgate scenery

Bradgate scenery

They told us that the last check point in the car park was due to shut and that there would be a minibus waiting to transport us back to the finish. I was shocked- this has never happened to me before and I couldn’t believe me may not actually be allowed to finish! Apparently the cut off times had been tightened up as they had to vacate the school hall by 6pm. Me, Ross and the others decided that we would rather carry on if we could, even if the school hall was shut when we got back. We were told that the decision would rest with the organiser manning the checkpoint but after a tense few moments he agreed that we could all continue ‘as long as you leave here quickly- and try not to get lost!’

We left with the sweepers hot on our heels and to be honest it felt a little like a route march! I don’t think I have ever walked the last few miles of an event so fast, although to be fair the sweepers finished the walk with us and were great blokes. In fact it’s a really friendly event and rapidly increases in popularity each year.

The Old John folly- Bradgate Park

The Old John folly- Bradgate Park

I was nearly caught out as the very last part of the route had been changed since the last time I did the event but I was quite relieved as it cut out the usual endless and very muddy path by the stream.

We finished in around 9 hours 44 minutes which was within the 10 hour cut off and we finished in time to grab some home made soup which was an unexpected bonus. I must admit, this event felt tough, far tougher than usual. I am finding it rather concerning that the more or these events I do lately the slower I seem to get! I may need to seriously reconsider my ability to complete the fill 29 miles of the Three Shires Challenge until I sort it out…

Be Sociable, Share!

Tagged with:

Filed under: Challenge EventsEnglandEurope

Like this post? Subscribe to my RSS feed and get loads more!