I decided to run this route spur of the moment while on a caravan holiday in the Peak District. I was having a browse of OS Maps looking for some local running routes when I discovered that the Limestone Way was very nearby and thought I fancy running that. A quick message to my coach, Nathan Flear to slot it into my training plan who pointed out there was no FKT for it and that was it, all set for the following Sunday.
I decided that I would attempt the route unsupported so the wife and kids wouldn't waste the day following me around and after checking the kit I had with me took a trip to Go Outdoors in Derby to buy a bladder for my running vest and stock up on Torq gels.
Weather forecast was slightly milder than it has been recently but still very warm and humid so I knew I would need all the water I could realistically carry. I'd bought a 1.5l bladder, and had 2x650ml softflasks, 2x500ml softflasks and a 350ml softflask loaded into the vest with 2 softflasks in the front and 2 in the rear of the pack ready to switch over along with the bladder and the other flask in hand. By far the heaviest pack I have run with and the first time I've used a bladder. I also took a card and some cash so if need be I could switch to self supported and get supplies along the way or concede defeat and have Sunday lunch.
Having managed to load the route onto my handheld GPS (Etrex 30X) I took a drive in the days leading up to my run to the start and finish so I knew where they were. I have a reputation for getting lost even on marked routes so at the very least it seemed a good idea to make sure I would find the start and know when to stop.
On the Morning of the run the weather forecast had changed with it now being forecast to be 25C and very humid, bad news. I arrived at the start in Castleton in time to start at about 9am and it was still very misty, drizzling and cool which would have been perfect if it has lasted. The very first thing I did was walk past the start and had to double back, promising start. After a disagreement with my GPS which initially froze when loading the route I took a photo of the start point and headed off, or should that be up the first mile.
The scenery at the start was stunning with the dramatic rocks either side of the path leading up but I tend to get tunnel vision when I'm running so it wasn't long before it all became a bit of a blur. It was a little busy with walkers for the first few miles so had to wait a few times on narrow sections but after that I had the route mostly to myself.
One concern I had after family walks was cows in the fields and it didn't take long before this became an issue. It seems that at this time of the year every other field is full of cows and/or bulls and generally with calves. I'm not very experienced of being around livestock and am generally not bothered by cows but this year they have all seemed to be quite skittish so I was very wary of running through them and spooking them so lots of time cautiously working my way through until I was happy they wouldn't all trample me if I ran. They on the other hand seemed to be more interested in playing block the runner.
One thing I hadn't anticipated was just how many gates and stiles there would be on the route. It seemed that for much of the route I couldn't run for more than a few minutes before I had to open another gate or climb another stile. I'd genuinely be interested it somebody wants to count them all one day. The route is also the very definition of undulating, you can probably count on one hand the number of miles on flat ground, it was almost a constant go up a hill, go down a hill and repeat and my lack of hold in training tools very quickly.
I took advantage of the mist and the cooler weather for a few hours and was using my fluids at about the right rate to see me through to about mile 42. I was also taking a gel every 20-30 minutes and feeling good, but then the mist cleared, the sun came out and I started to cook, the pack started to feel heavy and I started to feel sorry for myself. Less than half way and I was knackered. I took a moment to switch the empty bottles in the front of my flask with the 2 in the pack (I think about mile 19) and instantly wondered why I hadn't done it sooner. Note to self, use the water in the back of the pack first next time. I spotted a van selling refreshments in a field just across from me while doing this so made a point of getting moving before I was tempted by a nice cold can.
With a seemingly lightened load I headed off again feeling more energetic, the navigation was going well and I still thought sub 9hrs was on the cards but it wasn't long before the heat and humidity subdued my energy and it just became a matter of making sure I actually finished and I stopped caring about the time. There was little variation in the scenery with it mostly being hills and girls with cows. Stunning but after 30 miles it becomes repetitive. There was a lovely stream at one point and a deep gorge with loads of steep steps but it was hills and fields all the way.
So after 38 miles I run out of fluids. I'm my head the route is 44 miles so 6 miles in full sun is not ideal but I can plod that out. After 44 miles I'm still in the middle of nowhere, losing my ability to open a farm gate and having arguments with cows, sheep and llama. I took a photo to make sure I wasn't seeing things they were indeed llama! It turns out that the route is actually 47 miles, I knew I should have changed the 2l bladder fitting my pack.
I walked the final few steps to the finish in Rocester managing the age old con of running the last 50 yards so my family waiting would think I'd run the whole thing and then once finished posed impatiently for the photo they wanted to take of me at the finish before I could raid the car for anything even remotely drinkable.
Much harder than I had expected, a good hour or so longer than I had hoped but the entire Limestone Way route from Castleton to Rocester unsupported and on my own with only the items I carried in my pack from the start completed. My first attempt at something like this and I think I'll be back to try some more and to better this, when it's much colder though!!!