Just two weeks after the Blubberhouses initiation, I found myself with a car (paid for and picked up just the day before), a GPS (SatNav for you Brits), and the ability to get myself down to Calderdale. I set off in the dark for my first left-hand driving experience, with another borrowed map, black–and-white copies, and the same kit. The start was staggered, with runners leaving an hour later than the walkers. I had a fear of being left behind by fast runners and lost for good, so I started with the walkers. It became evident that this strategic move meant that I really had to walk and never run, or face elimination. Oops. Guessing I ‘m walking the whole way ‘round.
This time there was no route description, and my copied map seemed to have lost the detail of trails that I needed to follow but really couldn’t see. I could have pulled out my real color, laminated map, but it was in the bottom of my pack, and I figured as long as I was around others then I was better off. Besides, there were so many turns, intersections, side roads and other challenges, that I couldn’t imagine not getting lost immediately. I became, as some veterans would probably term it, a limpet. In other words, a follower who hopes to get around the course by finding someone who has recce’d the course and knows the way. It’s a mental shortcut and mostly eliminates the need for maps, route descriptions, and stopping at every intersection. Unless you are following someone who is following someone who thinks they know the way but actually don’t, or isn’t in the race at all, and suddenly a whole line of followers find themselves off-route and quite lost.
Relief came after a few miles in the form of a confident man named Rodney, who knew the whole course from living in the area and walking all of it multiple times. He knew every shortcut and took us past decrepit farms, grazing sheep, scenic overlooks, up steep hillsides, over rock walls, and in the shortest line toward the finish. We walked every step of the way, even the downhill’s, which seemed very counterintuitive. The weather, which had been unseasonably dry lately, meant that I only soaked my feet once in a bog. It was warm, calm, and sunny, and in a tank-top I soaked up every bit of the early April sunshine. We finished in just under 8 hours for my first walking marathon+. http://www.calderdalehike.org.uk/