Greensand Ridge Walk - FKT Attempt
After 16 weeks of training for a 50-mile race, Covid hit and it was cancelled. I was absolutely gutted; all the energy was sucked from my legs and my head went down.
Suddenly I remembered my earlier lockdown 1.0 memories of setting a FKT, a quick check of the website and in Bedfordshire and 2 of the 3 main big mileage FKTs had gone, luckily the one I wanted had no time set so far. Plus my Vets football team Wootton Blue Cross had a running charity challenge on to raise funds for a new ceiling for the club house so it doubled up as a great idea.
Chris offered to crew and that what it the plan was set.
Day of the attempt
7:50am I set out from Leighton Buzzard, the start is on the Bridge opposite Tesco, it’s very local key but the Greensand County have big plans to make the Start / End prominent and longer! First part of the route is only the canal and is a nice start, suddenly you turn of and I was hit by the mud and slop that was with me throughout the day.
Working my way up through Rushmere and Stockgrove Park’s, I found myself quite quickly in Woburn at my first checkpoint in good nick. Chris was there with fuel and water, I didn’t stop for long and headed through the deer park past the house and then into more mud, the mud section continued through Eversholt and up to the M1 crossing. The mud was a mixture of waterlogged paths and freshly ploughed farmers’ fields. As I got up above Lidlington and onto the ridge part of the walk the mud relented for a bit. I crossed Milbrook golf course and after another quick stop headed into Ampthill Park towards Houghton house. The signs disappear through the main part of the park, but we picked up the trail at the other side.
After I got to Houghton House that looked glorious in the mid-day autumn sun, I headed down a slight hill and then into Maulden, I flew up past the Church and into Maulden Woods, the rain had not been forgiving to the paths through here and I wanted to get through quickly. As I crossed the A6 into Clophill I got my first real pains, my right knee had seized up but not enough to be a major concern. I got to the Eco Lodges and that was about 40k, Chris met me for my 3rd Check point, a warmish black coffee hit the spot and I was on the trail again.
I took my poles out for the next 15k, turns out they slowed me down, I put them away quickly. My goal was Northill Church, I knew I had a very wet little forest to deal with as I’d ran that part last week, just keeping upright was a win in that section. I made it through the slop but a few pangs in my groin, as for large parts I was travelling sideways. Chris was waiting at Northill Church and I knew this was the final stretch. I quick look at the map and it said 13k to go, this made the route 69k which through me a bit.
I knew the next 7k were fairly flat and after the bridge at Beeston to get over the A6 you are treated to a few flat concrete raised paths that float over the river and surrounds marshes. As you work though Sandy and over the railway, there’s a few rises and then you hang a left onto a Roman Road that stretches on for 2 miles, after that there’s a tough little climb for someone who had been going 7 hours. After this hill you enter Everton and then into the Tetworth Estate, we had to slow down for the Cows and new calves, but I was looking for any excuse to walk by this point. “only 800m to go“ Said Chris, I knew it wasn’t, but I entered a Slow run dubbed a Jostle for the last mile and soon I neared the Gate which signalled the end!
I was very happy we had reached the end; id started the run quite quick, but the early mud had zapped my energy and the last 20k or, so I was hanging on. It was Job done and the record is in the books…..for now.
Official Time was 8 hours 21 Minutes and 57 seconds.
I’m going to take some advice from a Local Greensand County volunteer and Author.
“Can someone tell Tim the Greensand Ridge Way is not to race along it is to amble, look at the views, listen to bird song, spot a Montjac deer, walk the dog, talk to locals, drink in the the pubs, identify the butterflies, let’s the kids explore”.
“Slow down- it is much more enjoyable”