The Haltwhistle Challenge
[Sat 26th May]
The Haltwhistle Challenge is 1 26 mile multi-terrain event with approx. 2300ft of climbing starting and finishing, as the name suggests, in Haltwhistle, west Northumberland. Billed as the last event of the week long Haltwhistle walking festival, it is the one event in which the organisers actively encourage runners to enter. This year's challenge, the third so far, saw an entry of 134 walkers and 29 runners, with Dave and myself being two of the latter.
As Dave Bradley hadn't run for 2 weeks because of a problem with his calf and as I was seriously lacking in training due to time off with medial ligament problems in my knee, this was always going to be a case of getting round rather than setting any records. The plan: to start slowly, get slower and sprint the last 200 metres.
From the start in Haltwhistle market square, the route heads north, where it joins Hadrian's Wall at Aesica Roman Fort, runs eastwards next to the wall on the Hadrian's Wall Path for a couple of miles before leaving at Milecastle 41 and again heading north to the first checkpoint at Wealside. The route then heads west on tracks, minor roads and low moorland with another short stretch next to the wall to hit the half way point at Greenhead and checkpoint 2. The next section to checkpoint 3 at Lambley is virtually all on the Pennine Way and essentially off-road. Leaving Lambley via the spectacular viaduct, the final section follows the South Tyne river via Featherstone Castle, Bellister Castle and Alston Arches (the old railway viaduct over the river at Haltwhistle) to the finish at Haltwhistle Community College. It was here that the plan went out of the window; last 200 metres seriously uphill, so no sprint finish.
Although you have to carry a map, compass and whistle, the organisers go to a lot of trouble to mark the route with red & white tape and bright yellow direction signs, this together with the number of marshals makes navigation a lot easier than it could be and hence it is an ideal long distance navigational challenge for first-timers to have a go at. In addition, water was supplied at four locations on route, energy bars at two and hot drinks/soup at halfway and the finish. Another plus point was the range of good real ales in the local hostelry afterwards.
For the record the race was won by Will Horsley of NFR in 3hr 37min, with Dave and myself finishing 16th and 17th in 5hr 23min. Full details can be found by clicking HERE.