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The Dark Art of Bog Trotting – through the eyes of a road runner

I’ve done a few fell and trail races over the years but my main focus has been road running. I never thought there would be much difference between the two, other than the obvious difference of trail races being on a marked route that you have to follow and fell races being totally the opposite. There is no set route, you chose the route you take, providing that you visit all of the check points. The actual terrain on the races I have done has been very similar, uneven, rocky tracks but still on mostly runnable ground or it may be that I have just entered the wrong or right races depending how you look at it. To finish the year off I said I would enter some long trail and fell races to try and regain my hill fitness before starting my plan for the Fellsman and Lakeland 50 next year. Last week I decide to enter Grin ‘N’ Bear it, a fell race in theĀ  Peak District starting from the Langsett Reservoir, a CL category fell race, 16 mile long with 1939 feet of ascent. The weather conditions on the morning of the race were perfect for racing but boy was I in for a shock, this was like no race other race I’ve ever experienced. The race started along the top path of Langsett Reservoir on a good runnable track, before we started the relentless climb to the top of the Cut Gate Path. I was working hard on the climb to keep in touch with a small group in front of me, probably too hard at this early stage as my heart rate was around 180 bpm. I’m currently trying to get better at running up hills as this is an area that I need to improve on. My legs were on fire by the time we reached the first check point at the top of Cut Gate . From the picture below, you can see the pain on my face.

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I was pleased to keep one of the guys in front of me in sight as I was hoping to use him to help me navigate the tricky section along Howden Moors to check point two. I knew this section was going to be tough as there isn’t a path, so for the next few miles we would be bog trotting and heather bashing. I didn’t expect to find myself chest deep in a smelly cold bog after a couple of steps off of the path. There was nothing I could do to get out, there wasn’t any firm ground in reaching distance to pull myself out. I’m not sure what I would have done if I was up there by myself but luckily Woodhead Mountain Rescue were managing the check points and saw what had happened. It must happen each year as they had a little chuckle about it before one of them was kind enough to pull me out. I quickly thanked them before heading off trying to work out how many places I had lost. I worked out I must have lost 4 or 5 places which wasn’t that bad and gave me a small group as a target to help me navigate my way around the bogs and to slowly close the gap between us. As check point two came into view I felt like I was closing the gap and hoped I would have a slight advantage when we reached more runnable ground. There would be a lot more heather bashing before I saw anything resembling runnable ground though. There is a lot more skill involved than you might think when running over the open moors, I fell over more times than I care to remember and losing my trainer in the mud causing me to lose even more time was never in the plan either. I very nearly decided to call it a day at this point and accept defeat as I probably wouldn’t be able to catch anyone but luckily managed to stay mentally strong and put my trainer back on, dust myself down and carry on racing to the finish.

grin2When we eventually reached more runnable ground but I wasn’t able to make the most of my road running background like I had hoped. My legs were shot they felt heavy and were stinging from all of the cuts on my legs. My feet were that wet that I was squelching as I ran which didn’t make running enjoyable. I did manage to catch one of the runners who had dropped off the back of the group in front of me which did help me keep pushing until the finish line. I crossed the finish line in 9th place wet, smelly, bloody and not caring about my finishing time. I was just glad to get over the finish line in one piece as the whole of my body was hurting. Looking at the bigger picture the race had given me everything I had wanted, I had worked on my weak points and also identified some points I need to work on further. Overall I was happy with this race as it was a great training day.

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After getting cleaned up I went to have a nice hot drink of coffee to warm myself up, I started talking to a guy from the mountain rescue about falling in to the bog to see what I could have done if I was out running on my own. He reassured me it’s only a myth that you can be swallowed by a bog and it’s not actually possible. You can only go up to your chest before you start to float, this was really good to hear. To help yourself get out of a bog he advised that you slightly lean forward and your legs will eventually start to float to the surface.

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