Decided to recce the Rowbotham Round Rotherham Trail Race.
Printed ‘idiot proof’ Wainright style maps, and placed in plastic sleeves.
Packed bag with drink, food, clothing, toilet paper (need to know basis).
Took very early tram to afford myself a 12 hr day on the trail.
Began route at 7.15am, out of Rother Valley Country Park, as per instructions….
Confused about strange surroundings while following tarmac path listed on map, decided to press on in search of derelict canal, expecting to pick it up just ahead.
No canal, I continue on expecting to find the route any moment and make mental note that on race day it’ll be a slightly different tarmac path that saves cutting the corner, but STILL NO CANAL.
Assuming I’ve skipped canal altogether, I run without any idea where I’m going, realising that a picture map is as much use as a chocolate fire-guard once off route.
Eureka moment when I find a trail, complete with what looks very much like a stretch of water, and an upcoming railway bridge, as per map.
SO WHY DO I RECOGNISE THIS BRIDGE? Because it’s the one between a friend’s house and ROTHER VALLEY COUNTRY PARK!
I am now further behind than I was when I set off, having gone in a loop and now have to repeat the same section as before, but choosing a very different tarmac path (obviously).
Ignoring (and cursing) the previous path, I continue nearer the bridge, finding that a) there is indeed a second path, and b) the derelict canal that should pass under said bridge looks suspiciously like the M1 Motorway.
WHERE AM I, AND WHY CAN I NOT FOLLOW THIS CHILDISH MAP?!!!!
I retrace the steps from Rother Valley, and realise my time on Google Earth has caused me to assume the route, rather than to read the map accurately.
I am now back on track, 1hr and 45mins into my day, 7 miles done for the sake of it, and still at the start of my 50 mile run. 49 maybe.
Whad’ya know, when you’re on the route there are little route markers everywhere (durr).
Things become interesting as it dawns on me that I’m recceing a winter event IN SUMMER. Google Earth was full of empty fields, cleared of all crops/vegetation, right now I have cuts on my cuts while I attempt to claw my way through plants as tall as I am (5’2″), tripping once in a while since it’s all knotted together and a natural trip wire. The cuts fill with sweat and sting – almost as much as the million or so Nettle stings I’ve received already.
Ho hum, on I go, taking in the surprisingly scenic parts of what I believed would be a fairly uninspiring trip round sunny Rotherham.
I’m tired, wounded, sore, demoralised but not broken, and I’m beginning to get used to the map. It’s working. I’m covering ground and still able to run pretty well, despite the rain and the clods of mud attached to the underside of each shoe.
Not so fast Mr. Hough, here’s a surprise – the map is lying to you and you can’t find the gate you need, cause it’s in a fence that isn’t there either. Huh?
An actual fault with the map, I’m right and the map is wrong…….incredible. But how do I get out of this field? Climb through the thorny woodland, and over some barbed wire that’s how, then along a stretch of road toward the next village. Oh look that’s a route marker about half a mile further than suggested, typical.
If I had a dummy, I’d spit it out right now, but I’m still a long way from anywhere, and think I might have done another mile while searching for the invisible gate. I want to go home please.
Gradually the voices in my head are tempting me to call it a day, so as soon as I reach the Dearne Valley College Sport Centre, the official start/finish, I’m done thank you. Now to solve the next unforeseen fiasco, getting home from Wath On Dearne, when I expected to be at Rother Valley for my tram……and I am now the stinky man on the bus, hurrah! Distance on the day – approx 40 miles including stupid nav error at start. Route still not recced, about 21 more miles. Time on feet, 10hrs or so.
What I’ve learned: Winter events deserve winter recces, otherwise maps that say ‘diagonal across field’ really mean ‘go the long way round, it’ll actually be easier’. Plants hurt and slow you down. Nettle stings take about 3 days to stop itching. Rotherham’s surrounded by a few pretty little areas. My Saucony Peregrines are likely the shoes I’ll wear on the day. Feetures socks are comfy even when wet for hours on end. The Wainright map is wrong about that gate!
Better luck next time Houghboy.
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