My primary objective on the start line was to eat every half hour. I had a range of things with me, small flapjacks (three types), gummy Smurfs, and assorted chocolate bars, as well as the High-5 carb drink sachets I've been trying recently. I figured two flapjacks and 500ml of High-5 would give me around 400 calories an hour, more than managed in the whole of my last race, and was hopeful that would keep me going to the end if I could stick to it. I set off in a group of walkers at 0715 which was odd. The main event was for walkers, and only around 80 of the 407 doing the 100km challenge were running, so the first couple of hours were fun just bouncing past the walkers that had started earlier. The course markings were good, and although the route was mostly uphill to a high point at 48km before coming back down the other side of the Pennines, it wasn't too hard going. Eating was going well, and the aid stations were really well stocked so I scoffed down plenty of fruit to supplement my flapjack and Smurfs.
After a couple of biggish climbs around 48km the route started heading down again and I felt pretty good at that stage. I had a bit of a wobble around 54km, and from there to 60km felt like forever, not least because I missed a turning at Oxbury and ran a mile in the wrong direction. When I hadn't seen a sign for a while I checked the map and doubled back, finding the right path easily. No idea how I missed it, as it was clear as day second time around. Maybe a van passed just as I was going by and blocked my view, I don't know. I kept forcing down flapjack regularly, always feeling a little nauseous after, but only slightly and only for a bit, which was hugely preferable to my last time out. Then things got a bit messy. On one section of cycle path around 60km the markings disappeared again. I ran another mile, got the map out, doubled back, and met some guys coming the other way. We managed to work out the right way to go, then saw the cable ties left where someone had obviously ripped the signs down. Then things were ok for about 15km, until I hit a T-junction and again, no signs, just cable ties. This time it cost me about 20 mins, as some helfpul locals had not just ripped down a load of signs, they'd moved them into another field. After a bit of faffing about, checking the map with a couple of guys who'd caught me up, and a bit of trial and error running down the posible routes ahead of us, we finally found the right trail and carried on. I was feeling pretty good after that rest and pushed on ahead of the guys I'd been running with for a while, and all was going well until I ran out of signs again - this time I'd missed a left turn and gone on nearly 2 miles, uphill. I realised what I'd done, but unfortunately not where I was - after doubling back, finding the turn, and running a mile or so up the trail, I passed quite close to where I'd gotten to on the wrong path. If I'd been a bit more alert I could have just romped across the field and only added about a mile, instead of nearly 4. Then again, if I'd been more alert I wouldn't have missed the turn.
I was still feeling ok, and in moderately good spirits to that point, but when my Garmin hit 90km and I should have been looking at my last 10km, I hit a course marker telling me there was still 22km to go. I felt like I'd been punched in the stomach. All of a sudden I was tired and hurting, and just wanted it to be over, and the rest of the race was just about putting one foot in front of the other. I was taking plenty of walking breaks at this point, but after a few seconds of walking my desire for it all to be over had me running (after a fashion) again. I'd stopped eating at this point - it was making me feel a bit rough, and it wasn't going to do me any good between then and the end anyway, and just pretty much trudged my way down into Sheffield and to the finish in the Don Valley Stadium. Inside the stadium at the end I met a guy Chris who I'd chatted with a bit along the way, and his wife Mel who was there to drive him home offered to give me a lift back to Manchester and save me from another three hours travelling back to pick up my car- I think I was happier then than I was when I crossed the line!
Although technically it was a "challenge" rather than a race, I was waiting anxiously for the results. Someone had said at the finish I was 9th across the line, but with the staggered start that didn't really mean anything. I know it was a training run, and I met my main objective of eating most of the way around, but I still wanted to do well. As it turned out, I was 11th overall out of 80-ish runners, and 9th male, with a time of 13hrs 7 mins. Not bad with an extra 12.6km run and quite a bit of navigational dithering.