The Allendale Challenge

Twenty six miles over the bogs and moors of the Northern Pennines around Allendale on ground normally forbidden to all but the closest friends of Lord Allendale himself.

I’ve done this event several times before. It’s a good time of year for a longish run out but the difficulty of the challenge varies hugely according to the conditions. The last couple of times it’s been frozen and snowy with deep, leg-swallowing bogs covered with a thin skin of ice and sections of the run exposed to beating hail and snow. Sometimes it’s really hot and dry. This year it was perfect having been hot and dry but actually cool and clear on the day. Records could be broken!

My friends and I have got a bit geeky about heart rates and carbo-loading and such things. I’ve discovered that my heart rate is consistently 10-15 beats lower than my friend with the most similar performance and fitness level to me. At first I thought it might be because I’d only spent about £12 on my HRM from Aldi whereas the others have fancy Garmin devices that cost 25 times that. I’d not managed to get my heart rate above 167 so resetting that as my max (as opposed to the default 220-my age of 178) suddenly made it all make sense – now my effort, expressed as % max HR, was the same as my friend although the actual beats still differed considerably. We decided to run at about 80% for the duration and see what happened.

Initially the route goes up for about 3 miles and most people (including me in the past) run all this without difficulty. We took it easy, constantly glancing at our watches and keeping the HR down while everyone else ran away from us. The next 3 miles is downhill and the 3 miles after that is uphill and onto the moorland. Here we started to catch and overhaul runners again and so it went on for the rest of the race.

There’s a section at about 18 miles known as ‘The Drag’ which is horrible. A land rover track that seems to go on and on, at a gradient that should be easily runnable but at that stage is a real struggle – I’ve never run it before. This time we set off and just plodded on up at about 80-85% and whilst the legs were more tired at the top we never stopped. Also I’m really prone to cramp but despite feeling close to it at times I never actually cramped up.

So at 4hr.38min we trotted back to the Village Hall to collect our certificates and shirts having taken about 35+mins off my previous best time. Great to know that records can still be set at our advanced ages but also exciting to consider what  the future of HRM pacing might make possible!

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