One adventure ends, and the planning for the next one begins. Since the end of the Spine Race I’ve been looking ahead towards the next “A” race on my calendar for this year : the Northern Traverse.
The Northern Traverse is a non-stop unsupported race from coast to coast across the width of England, following a classic walking route set out by Alfred Wainwright. It requires the ability to be self sufficient in the hills and dales, both in terms of safety and navigation. In many ways it is quite similar to the Spine Race. However the fact that it takes place in early summer rather than mid-winter should make it more survivable (and possibly more obviously enjoyable). The route is around 300km long, and winds across the Lake District, the Pennines and the North York Moors. Literally it is a journey o’er hill and dale!
This is the first running of this race, so there are no pre-existing race reports to glean for information. Similarly there are no result to delve through to try to ascertain how long it is likely to take me to cover the course. The existing Fastest known times on the general route aren’t of too much use either, as they were not done in unsupported racing conditions. We have very strict rules in the race about following the defined route, which would not have applied to the FKT. We also don’t get to choose our week based on conditions.
The race organiser, James Thurlow, is an excellent organiser, so I’ve no doubt this will be a very high standard event. James’ company organisers the tracking systems for many events (including the Spine and Iterra races, so I’ll be spending the majority of my racing time this years in the company of one of James’s trackers). So of course we’ll all be carrying trackers for this race. The race can be followed live here.
One of the big attractions of this race for me is that it traverses across the lake district. I regard this area as one of the most beautiful I’ve seen anywhere in the world. It also has hills that can be much more taxing to run/walk than you would expect, given their relatively small height. This is one area where it the northern Traverse is likely to be harder than the Spine Race. The big climbs and descents are front loaded in this race, leaving no opportunity to “preserve the body” for the later stages.
Hopefully one of the things that will make this race easier than the Spine is the weather. After all it’s a summer race, rather than the depths of winter. It still is in the hills in England though, so there are no guarantees. Like most big races in the mountains there is a kit list of mandatory gear that has to be carried, which includes the usual range of wet weather gear. I won’t be skimping here, and will be bringing a similar set of gear to the items used in the spine race. As ever, huge thanks go to Columbia and the Great Outdoors in Dublin, who have both ensured that I go into the race without any worries on the gear front.
Initially it looked like this race would be another re-match between Pavel Paloncy and myself. Pavel had said as much on his blog after the Spine race in January. Unfortunately for whatever reason Pavel never entered the race, which is a pity. He brings a skillset into races which makes for challenging racing. Even if he doesn’t appear on the startline he has still had an influence, as I’ve prepared for the race thinking I would be racing him.
Of course there are many familiar names in the race who I recognise from previous racing encounters. There a quite a few Spine race finishers who I expect to race to a high standard. There is also an old Adventure Racing teammate of mine from the U.S., Mark Lattanzi (We were teammates for Primal Quest South Dakota). Mark ran with me for quite a chunk of the Tor De Geant last year (where he was the top American finisher). I expect Mark to do very well indeed!
Just the final pre-race logistics remain. After that there’s nothing left to do but the small matter of running 300km across England, o’re Hill and Dale! It can’t come soon enough.