Fifty-odd kilometres up to a height of 1,826m over the course of two days, how tough can it really be? Not that bad if all goes to plan and you know what you’ve let yourself in for. For those who have never run anything like the Berghaus Trail Chase 2014, let’s just call it an adventure.
Set in the North York Moors National Park, the inaugural Berghaus Trail Chase was a two-day staged race. With a choice between three difference routes: Blue Course. Day One = 16.6km / 326m. Day Two = 10.1km / 291m. Total 26.7km / 617m, Red Course. Day One = 25.3km / 801m. Day Two = 17.4km / 582m. Total 42.7km / 1,38 and Black Course. Day One = 32.8km / 1,012m. Day Two = 21.3km / 814m. Total 54.1km / 1,826m (I choose the black) plus camping, trails and views of the country I have never seen before, I was determined to enjoy yet another running holiday/ roadtrip with running mates Jen, Lenka and Marina.
And on the whole, I had a lot of fun. But as with everything you have your highs, lows and sometimes what am I doing here situations. If you’re planning on trying a similar race or considering next year’s challenge, read my list of dos and don’ts of running the Berghaus Trail Chase 2014.
1. Don’t expect everyone to understand
Some people just don’t know why you want to spend yet another weekend exploring the UK by foot, camping in a field and going without a shower for two days. Then again, you may not understand someone else’s obsession with video games such as Call of Duty. That’s life.
2. Do drive up the night before if you have to travel for two hours or more
We (that’s Jen, myself, Lenka and Marina) made the right decision to go up on the Friday night, share a family room which was as cheap as chips so that on the morning of the race we felt suitably refreshed. I can’t imagine feeling anywhere near ready if we’d have had to travel four and a half hours on the Saturday pre-race. It may have been difficult tracking down somewhere for breakfast but it turned into a laugh when Jen our driver started gnawing on a massive loaf of Soreen.
2. Do study the course map
You may not be the best at Geography or want to know what you have let yourself in for (hands up both times) but having an idea of what to expect will definitely help prepare you mentally for the tough climbs and descents in the North York Moors.
3. Don’t neglect the info
You may huff and puff about having to take a series of items (whistle, survival bag, waterproofs, mobile and water) but this is because the course has no checkpoints. You’re also told to follow the flags (white in the black course’s case) to reach your destination so take advantage of all the stuff they upload such as pre-race videos that I failed to watch.
4. Do stay focused throughout the race
Unlike me, who followed two blokes sheep-fashion instead of watching out for the white flags. Not only did this cost me a potential placing in the race, our little detour added an extra 10k to the first day of racing. Yep, I accidentally ran more than a marathon on day one of the Trail Chase.
5. Don’t expect to see your feet all the time
Once we were back on course, it was all downhill from there. No really, the course was super-narrow, steep and unlike anything I’d ever tried before. Let’s just say the others pelted it down there, while I tried to get my balance and footing in amongst the bracken, rushes and god knows what else was under my feet. The foliage was so thick I couldn’t even see where to place my feet so just went for it.
6. Do enjoy the scenery
I was lost, alone and with nothing surrounding me except a sea of purple heather. So I whipped out my phone and took pictures. The scenery may have been bleak at times but it was wildly beautiful.
7. Don’t try and run it all
Unless you’re a mountain goat-style runner. Put simply, run steady not speedy. This is not like X Country Racing. With steep hills that seemed to go on and on, streams to cross and parts of the course where you said to yourself “they seriously want me to go down there” when you came to a brick wall and the course seemed to veer down what looked like a sharp descent of boggy madness. Running was simply not an option.
8. Do take enough water
The wind may have been bitingly cold and the air fresh but a quick stop for water was essential along the way as you had to be self-sufficient on the Berghaus Trail. Make sure you have at least one bottle of water to keep you going.
9. Don’t expect to have much sleep
You’ll be camping in a field and the temperature may drop dramatically so wear all your clothes. Then the rain will come and you’ll realise that you’ll be running another half marathon in the morning on about two hours kip.
10. Do respect the wildlife
If you happen to come across two cows mounting one another in your path, slow down and don’t try and charge past. Remember cows on heat can be pretty feisty beasts.
11. Don’t think the second day will be like the first
It may be similar in terrain but as I found on the Black Course, the second day was way easier and more enjoyable, thanks to the multitude of trails and paths. While the first day of fighting through bracken, getting lost and endlessly trying to spot a white flag in purple, green and foliage galore was not the best running experience ever, the second day more than made up for it.
12. Do practise opening and shutting farm gates
Or simply jump over them as I started to do (not advised but there were so many of them).
13. Don’t forget to say hello
To other runners, ramblers and those who share your path. Plus all those who are running the race with you back at basecamp.
14. Do say thank you to the organisers
Thank you Berghaus and the organisers of the Trail Chase – despite a few hiccups, it was a really fun weekend. The entertainment and food (and £2 a pint cider) in the village hall on the Saturday evening was welcomed after a hard day out on the trails.
15. Don’t forget to bring music
For the long drive home. And by tunes, I mean any dance tracks from the 90s if you’re a car with Jen, myself, Lenka and Marina. Listening to these banging tunes and chatting about the events that had passed certainly was the perfect end to a weekend adventure.
Thanks to Jen for driving us there, Lenka for her entertainment and Marina for all the Ultra tips – I had a blast.