I’ve a race coming up on Sunday, the tour of Midgely Moor and being sensible I decided to do a recce of the route. While I’ve got a decent knowledge of the area this doesn’t necessarily mean you will know the race route and plenty of people have come unstuck because they assume they will know the race route and on the day find out they don’t. I asked a friend to come along, we’ll call him Derek for reasons that will become apparent. Derek has run around this area for over 30 years and is a good navigator so I was confident that we find the route and get round with few problems. However the best laid plans of mice and men proved to be the motto of the day.
We got to Booth just above Luddenden, parked up and ran a short distance to where the race started. Over a stile and we were climbing up a muddy field straight away. This is the terrain I like, steep, grassy and muddy. We walked up as 90% of fellrunners do, only the 10% or so who are have super human ability and fitness levels run up these hills. Us mere mortals walk them like any sensible person would! At the top of one hill there is another, as is usual in West Yorkshire, and after this one we’re at the edge of the moor and begin the climb up to Crow Hill and the first checkpoint. Navigating this part wasn’t a problem as Crow Hill stands above everything else at this point so it was easy to find it and walk to the top. We got to the top and Derek get his trusty compass out, took a bearing and off we set on a path that would take us over to Sheepstones. Except we went sort of wrong.
With Derek taking his compass bearings we passed the usual path up to Sheepstones and carried on past Churn Milk Joan until we got to a path that sort of looked like the one we needed. We took this path up to Sheepstones across moorland and arrived at the trig point for Sheepstones. Here we took the first path we saw and headed down. This was also a navigational error as we approached Hebden Bridge Golf club and the Calderdale Way that goes across the top of it.
We ran along the Calderdale Way until Old Town was in view and then we took a sharp right across the moor again following Derek’s trusty compass bearing. At the middle of the moor several paths cross each other. After taking one that headed back up to Sheepstones we turned round and headed back down and rejoined the path we were on originally and headed over to the over side of the moor. Yes it was as confusing as that!
We followed the route on the map across what is familiar terrain eventually getting back to the stile we climbed over to get onto the path to Crow Hill and going back down the hill to the finish. It was hard work and we made a few mistakes but we had a better idea of the route and I was now fairly confident that I would find my way round we few problems on Sunday.
That was until I uploaded my map to Instagram. A friend asked me if I’d dropped down into Luddenden Valley. Erm no I replied. Ahh you should do came the reply and the offer to show me the route on Saturday or risk following the pack round and hoping for the best. I took up the offer of the recce because I have been at the back of races many times and have found myself on my own with no-one around quite often. Another consideration is that the person in front may have as little idea as you as to where they’re going and you may both end up lost. This has happened more often than you might think and I know from races I’ve done where I’ve known the route and people have gone off all over the place. Following and hoping isn’t a good idea!
Yes it turns out that we had made a complete hash of our recce. Derek and his trusty compass weren’t as reliable as they usually are and we had done a tour of Midgely Moor but not the tour we set out to do! To be fair this is a fell race designed to test your ability to navigate and doing a recce of the route is essential. The map deliberately misses off many of the usual points of interest and it is up to you to find them. There are so many paths crossing Midgely moor it is easy to get on the wrong one and end up miles from where you want to be.
I’ll be doing the race twice in 2 days, but it will be worth it as I’ll know where I’m going. I’m not going to win anything so someone showing me round the day before won’t out anyone at a disadvantage and might prove helpful if I see someone lost during the race. And this is why I love running and fellrunning in particular as it is easier to get lost up on the moors and find yourself in unfamiliar terrain and not knowing where to go. You make mistakes, lots of them and learn from them and you don’t give in. People help you to get back on track and in turn you pass on your knowledge to others. Life for me mirrors running in so many ways and this is one of them.