Beauty and the Beast - Bolton Abbey Trail Marathon

February 26, 2017

I was really looking forward to the Bolton Abbey Trail Marathon, an event by the It's Grim Up North Running gang.


Bolton Abbey is one of my favourite places to visit in Yorkshire and I love exploring the grounds with my family and dogs - the cake in the cafe is a hit too!


I was expecting it to be tough as I've walked part of the route many times before. The weather was rather grizzly - a bit rainy but most of the course was protected from the elements by the trees.


It's was a 3 lap race with a figure of 8 type layout. My dad was running but was running his own race and not with me.

My daughter, Millie, had come along to support. She is currently doing an art project on trees so she was going to take some photos. My step-mum, Sandra, was supporting too but ended up helping out and lap counting.


The event took place over two days - I opted to run on the Saturday as this allowed me the Sunday to chill and recover before going back to work on Monday! There was also a half marathon and an ultra going on on the Saturday. On the Sunday there was a 5k and 10k race too.


All races started together outside the cafe. I knew it was going to be tough so my plan was to just take is steady. Sadly, no amount of squats prepared my glutes and thighs for the enslaught of pain they were about to endure!


The first part of the race headed out through Strid Wood. There was no gentle start to the race; right from the off it was straight up hill.


The first part of the loop was basically up, down, up, down (repeat lots) then down to the riverside, under bridge one, towards bridge two, quick water stop and over Bridge two.  We then headed back across a muddy field (usually against a head wind and blinded by rain), back along the river then up, down, up etc, down some steps and a steep hill towards the valley of desolation and back to the registration tent. Now whilst this first part of the race was tough, this was actually my favourite part!

This is the sign towards the Valley of Desolation!


As I reached the tent, I spotted my dad. He had stopped and waited for me after realising this was probably not an ideal race for a fast time and decided to slog it around the rest of the course with me!


I found the second part of the route tougher, we headed off along the river path and then uphill through a wooded section - this is the path I've often walked with my family. It didn't seem so steep on those springtime strolls. It was then up and down (repeat) until you reached the stunning views over the Abbey itself. The view is breathtaking and worth the slog up the hill.


After the beautiful view, it was down a sharp hill to the bridge and famous stepping stones, across the bridge to be greeted by Kevin, the happiest marshal I've ever met and then out towards what I found to be the hardest part of the course! Out across a field filled with mud and sheep, across a little bridge and across several more fields of mud, before finally reaching the turn around bridge, a water stop and another lovely marshal. After a quick pit stop it was back through fields of deeper mud, which were apparently guarded by a bull (who luckily didn't make an appearance), downhill through the muddiest part of the course, as can be seen below....


After sliding down this mud hill, it was across more fields of mud before reaching the worst hill on the entire course. It was a grassy/muddy hill and it was so steep I could not run up it; actually, I could barely walk up it (especially on lap 3 - it would make a cracking hill for sledging though)!


I took all the photos on the last lap of the race but I don't think this photos truly shows how steep it actually was!


At the top of the hill was another incredible view of the Abbey. I had never walked this particular route before so it was great to see it.

It was then a steep downhill back to the stepping stones and Bridge and back to Kevin before turning right, heading right by the Abbey.


There was one last hill before climbing down some stairs, across another muddy field, over a pebble path (so that you gain about 2 inches in height in mud and stones on the soles of your shoes) and then across the car park by the side of the river back to the start!


I forgot to mention that around the full course were a variety of gates some of which took a little bit of fathoming out! Luckily my dad was my personal gate opener for most of the race (after I had spent some time trying to open a gate the wrong way), running ahead and opening them for me as despite the tough conditions he had twice as much energy as me!  Also, for some reason, he didn't mind the fields of mud!


We started out on loop 2 and I still managed to climb most of the hills, however by the time we were back to the tent, half way and the half marathoners were finishing, I already felt completely exhausted and had no idea how I was going to get around the remaining 1.5 laps of the course. To be honest, if my dad hadn't have been there, I'd have probably given up and stopped there and then. The second half of the second lap was the hardest bit of the entire race. I was so tired and down; I didn't think I would make it to the end. At mile 17 and almost at the end of lap 2, I was so achey and ready to go home (we ran straight past my car - I was very tempted to just bob in and take a nap)!


I grabbed my phone from Mill and we headed onto lap 3. I have absolutely no idea how I had managed to run some of these hills during the first two laps as on the last lap, they seemed so steep and were never ending. We broke down the run into little sections and we just plodded on trying to get through it (well, I plodded - my dad kept running off and then stopping to either chat to someone, to open a gate or to admire the view). I also broke up the final lap by taking photos! Most of my photos include my dad far in the distance as I was constantly trying to keep up!  At some points I could just about hear him talking - I don't think he had realised that I was lagging behind!


I could barely muster the strength to get up the monster grassy hill on the way back - all energy had been sapped from my body and the muscles in my legs were screaming at me to stop - especially my right thigh muscle (it clearly did most of the work for me during the race).  I have no idea how I got up that last bit at all.


That was the worst bit of the last lap and once we reached the top, it finally felt like we were almost done.  The finish line was such a welcome sight.  I still cannot believe I actually made it.  I definitely wouldn't have finished had my dad not been there to drag me round!


We were once again greeted by lovely, friendly marshals and delicious homemade cake!


All finishers got a great goody bag and medal.  Sadly, Eva had taken a chunk out of the chocolate bar before I took my obligatory goody bag photo!


This was marathon number 32.  Despite not having many marathons (compared to others) under my belt, this was the toughest one I have done!  I haven't got my final time yet and my Garmin died at mile 21.  I believe we made it around only just under 6 hours (which is 2 hours slower than my PB - shocking!)  Despite being the toughest race I have done, surprisingly it was not my slowest time and amazingly, I wasn't last!!


I have to thank Sandra for helping me change my socks and shoes after the race as unfortunately, I couldn't bend my legs so I couldn't reach my own feet!


I'm looking forward to my next race in a couple of weeks and please, if you ever hear me grumbling how tough a road race is in the future, please just remind me of Bolton Abbey and all the hills and mud!  I can't believe that some brave souls ran the marathon/ultra two days in a row - incredible!  I anticipate for the next few days, I will struggle up and down stairs and I will probably walk like an old lady.  I am going to have a crack at running tomorrow though and I hope my legs don't protest too much!


My dad managed to go out for a run today - I have barely made it off the sofa!  That man is a running machine.  I have no idea how he does it.  I have already inherited my dad's obsession for running.  I am hoping that one day, I will also inherit his natural ability to run so that days like yesterday won't seem quite so hard.  I definitely need to up the training ready for spring marathon season and shed a few pounds.  First things first, I intend to recover from this race before upping the mileage again!


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