FKT: Oliver Narbett - Minster Way - 2024-01-20

Route variation
Standard route
Gender category
Start date
Finish date
Total time
13h 29m 46s

Minster Way Race Report

On 21st January 2024, I ran the Minster Way in Yorkshire, UK, a trail created in 1980 by Ray Wallis. The route links the Minster of York and Minster of Beverley. It starts in Beverley and ends in York, but I decided to do it in reverse, starting in York and ending in Beverley, for ease of transport connections.

I was due to start early in the morning, hoping to start in the dark and make the most of the winter light hours. I made my way to the start in York at around 7 am. No sooner had I reached the start than I found that the zip on my running vest had broken and the contents of my bag were falling out on the floor. I thought this was the end of my FKT attempt, as I did not have a spare running backpack. Then I realized I did have a regular backpack and decided to run back to the hotel to pack that. The backpack was not ideal; it was large, chunky, and did not distribute weight well. Hoping to support myself well, I was carrying a lot of food and water. The straps were damaged from an ill-fated washing attempt. Things were off to a bad start. I ran back to the start, feeling the bag rubbing and bouncing everywhere. This was going to be a tough day.

I got to the start and set off, immediately encountering difficulty as I noticed the GPX I had downloaded from the FKT website Minster Way page was directing me through buildings. I interpreted the map as best I could and navigated myself onto the core trail outside the city. I was now well on my way.

The bag was heavy with all the food and water I was carrying, and my legs were tired from the previous week’s ultra of 70 km in the Forest of Bowland. Adding to that, the trail was caked in thick, sloppy, and sticky mud, which made traction tricky. I tried to remain positive and powered on.

I got to Stamford Bridge, the famous site of a key battle for the English Crown in 1066, and found my first water stop, a convenience store. I topped up with some isotonic drinks and headed on. The FKT GPX file was causing further difficulty in the urban area. I navigated my way out of the village and on my way.

I encountered my first climb of the day after narrowly avoiding a bite from a feisty sausage dog named Bernie. This was my third avoidance of a dog that didn’t seem to like me in 25 miles/40 km; I was starting to think the problem was me. I traversed the Yorkshire Wolds, a beautiful array of chalk hills, formed in the Ice Age. They were much steeper than expected and very slippy. I took a big fall and landed hard in the thick mud, my legs in the air. I found myself reaching 34 miles/55 km just as it was getting dark.

I stopped for some food and put on my head torch. I realized I had probably been overly cautious with food and brought too much.

This is where the race got interesting. The combination of the vague FKT website GPX and limited visibility at night made for tricky navigation. I found myself losing time as I stopped to look at the map on my watch and work out the way forward, as time after time the GPX file tried to take me through a hedge or a crossing that wasn’t there. I applied the formula of following the GPX where there was a clear path and the official signs of the Minster Way when I saw them. This made for hard work.

I stopped at a village pub for my second water stop, getting a pint of Coca-Cola and a packet of crisps. I found myself overly delayed by an overly keen lady at the bar, who hadn’t seen me and jumped the queue. She made a large order, and this resulted in the barman having to go out to the back to find extra crisps. This should do great for my timings, I thought. Her husband apologized, noted I was first, and I looked like I had come from a 10-mile work. This made me laugh, as my run had totaled 37 miles/60 km at this point.

I downed my Coca-Cola and marched on my way. The GPX caused me trouble again, conflicting with the official signs, and I managed to join the path again. The next 13 miles/21 km were remote and cold. My legs were exhausted with the weight of the bag and the thick mud limiting traction. I noted little eyes of rabbits and sheep staring back at me every so often.

I got within 3 miles/5 km of Beverley, and I could see the lit-up Minster in the background. I knew I was nearly at the end. I ran on into Beverley and it suddenly dawned on me that this was a bigger market town than I thought. The GPX once again proved hard to navigate in the urban center, but I managed to find the path.

I took the narrow path through the houses and suddenly felt some overgrown thorn bushes clinging onto me, ripping open the arm on my brand-new jacket. Great, I thought, that’s two pieces of key kit ruined in one day.

I entered the main part of the town, it was after 9 pm now, and the streets were alive with partiers and drinkers. As a filthy, mud-caked runner, I felt at complete odds with their shiny outfits. I could see the Minster up close, but the multitude of small streets and the GPX's attempts to take me through buildings meant my attempt at the finish was slowed. I finally reached the end, and I looked back at the Illuminous Minster of Beverley. It was bigger and more beautiful than I had expected.

I should have been overjoyed at this point, as I stopped my watch, having completed the Minster Way, but I was worried about catching the last train back to York. I looked at my watch; it totaled over 55 miles / 88 km, longer than I was expecting, especially given the FKT website GPX said it was 75 km and Wikipedia said the route was 50 miles / 80 km. It must have been all the circling of buildings the GPX tried to make me run through and frequently getting lost along the route. I noted my watch was also showing after 9:30 pm; I had missed my train back. I thought I’d take one last photo of the Minster, but my phone died, the cold having shortened the battery.

At this point, I thought I would stroll through the town and find a hotel. No luck. Where will I sleep, I thought? Eventually, I managed to strike a deal with a taxi driver, who kindly drove me back to York. It wasn't cheap, but it summed up my luck for the day. I laughed as the taxi arrived back in York. It had taken the driver just under an hour to drive back, what it had taken me over 13 hours to run! What a day!