Guest Blog: Daddies Escape – Virtual Tour of Tameside 2020 – All 4 stages in 1 day
With all mass social gatherings and events being cancelled this year due to the outbreak of Coronavirus, it has left runners with big holes in their usually packed out schedules.
With events being cancelled or rescheduled to later in the year there have been some that have gone virtual, the Tour of Tameside being one of them.
The Tour returned in 2015 after it’s original format of 6 days of events concluded in the year 2000. The Tour had been on the calendar for 20 years before it’s break when Sports Tours International brought it back in it’s new format, but now as a 4 day festival of running.
The runners from Daddies Escape have this one pencilled in as soon as it gets announced and with it being a local event it is usually the highlight of the whole year.
This year, Liam and Pete had joined on the virtual tour and when I saw Pete had posted out to Twitter saying he was signed on I messaged to ask if there was room for a little one. Liam said they were planning on doing all 4 stages on the same day, Sunday, in just a couple of days time. I didn’t believe him so I messaged Pete and he confirmed it and I still said yes to joining them…. Why not?
These 2 guys have run the 40 miles from Manchester to Liverpool on numerous occasions and in December ran 54 miles with other group members from Manchester to Blackpool. I’ve ran a couple of marathons so this was going to be the furthest run for me to date.
Pete had planned the attack on the day and decided that getting the traditional Stage 2 Hell on the Fell out of the way first would be the best way round to do things. So it was now set, meet up at 6am near the start of the Hell on the Fell on Sunday.
My alarm was set for early yet I found myself awake at 4:20, a full hour before the alarm was due to sound. I don’t know why but I wasn’t able to get back to sleep. I’d prepared everything the day before to try and make a quiet getaway from the house, the only noise should be the kettle for some porridge and a brew.
As I got ready and left the house it started to rain slightly, more of a drizzle rather than the heavy stuff. I met Liam and Pete near the Active Copley centre and we had a quick chat. Pete had brought his video camera so we could record some small pieces along the way. After a quick on camera chat we made our way to the start of the stage at the side of the Walkerwood Reservoir.
For me personally, i’ve only ever ran the Hyde 7 from the tour before so this was going to be new to me. I have tended to go out on hilly runs over the previous 2 months during the lockdown though so wasn’t worried overall with what lay ahead.
It was about 6:20 in the morning and we now set off. From the start of the stage coming away from the reservoir you make your way to Mottram Old Road which runs parallel with the main highway of Mottram Road. I’ve run the main one a few times, it’s close to 2 miles of constant ascent. The road we were on felt like it was a lot steeper and seemed to be a brutal way to start this challenge.
I was already hot, I was already walking a little on the steepest parts of the hill. Pete offered me the chance to take my rain jacket off and put it in his bag, I did. I was now running in base layer and running top but felt a lot better.
We made it to the top and headed off road towards the farmers fields with Pete guiding us along the way with the directions of the route uploaded to his watch. We reached a fence with a sign informing us that it’s “Private Land” and not to trespass, we had no other choice as there was no other way to go. We made our way to the top of the field where a lady was passing on a horse, she let us know we shouldn’t really be going through the field as the farmer wouldn’t be happy if he caught us. We thanked her for concern and wished her well on her way.
As Pete guided us once more along the route we were now fully in the middle of the low lying cloud on the hills. We reached the summit and made our way through to where the fun starts, the descent.
Liam didn’t like the descent and told me to pass him as he was taking it slower. I passed and soon found myself at the front as lead runner. One thing I noticed as we dropped further and further back down was nice everything started to look as we came back out of the clouds. We do live in a nice part of the world when you see it from certain vantage points. The other thing I noticed is how mad the route down was. There isn’t much room for error on the way down and to think the lead runners of the tour are usually coming down this pretty fast was mind blowing.
We made it down and got to the more traditional pathways and put a sprint on towards the Copley Centre to finish up. Stage 1 for the day complete in just over an hour.
After a quick video interview on Pete’s camera we set off towards the start of our 2nd stage but the traditional tour opener, the X-Trail 10K.
As we pulled up in the car park near to where the finish of the course is, I tucked into one of Pete’s wife Janet’s flapjacks that she had made for us the day before. This was the boost of energy I was happy to take onboard right then.
Pete took us across the road and we started a gentle jog up towards where the start of the race usually is. At this point Pete and Liam said it seems really strange to be here at this point without the ‘Voice of the Tour’, Louise Croombes, sounding out over the speakers.
As we set off we were going up, up again? I thought all the up was done with the fell race completed. It wasn’t long though till we would reach the summit of the climb, which wasn’t that bad, it was more that it was quite a steep climb to start off with.
We carried on through the course and as the morning was now getting later there were more people about on the route, runners, walkers and people on bikes. It was nice to see so many people out getting some exercise done early on a Sunday.
I don’t live too far from where we were and I looked out in the distance to see Hartshead Pike which is part of my normal running route, but I still didn’t really know where I was as i’d never been here before.
As we made our way along the path which forms the out and back part of the course Liam told us we would be best to slow down as this is still only just over 25% of the way through what were doing in total today, so we rightfully slowed ourselves down.
We now came to the trail part of the route and were splashing through muddy puddles like we were Peppa Pig and little brother George. This was all new to me again as I always run on road but it was quite enjoyable trying to avoid as much mud as possible.
We ran along the canal and headed towards Daisy Nook country park where we saw dog walkers and people fishing before heading towards the woods.
Last year I was marshalling on this section of the course and I found it really exciting as everyone started to come through at pace. Getting to run down the same steps was a thrill. Liam and Pete told me we had steps going up that we were about to encounter and that these always prove to be a real test when running in the real event.
After the steps we made it to the finish in the middle of the woods and headed back to the cars for another round of video interviews on how we found it and what we were feeling like. It was now time to move on but being near home I decided to head there for a quick trip to the loo before catching back up with the guys at the start of the Hero Half Marathon.
As I pulled up and got out of the car we had been joined by 2 more ready to take on the half, Paul Minton came along after seeing Liam’s updates on the socials. Secondly Liam had nipped home on his way to the start and brought his dog, Bella, with him. Liam decided not to use the loo whilst he was there. Could this prove to be a problem as we carried on through the rest of the challenge?
It was wet and quite miserable as we made our way to the field where the course begins. Before the start I’d topped up with 2 energy gels. Pete had fueled with a banana and Liam was lucky enough to been given a chicken wrap by Leanne when he went to pick the dog up.
We set off and ventured towards the Longendale Trail and as we were now at about 10am the trail had quite a few people out and about for their Sunday morning stroll or family walk.
It was nice to catch up with Paul Minton along the journey, I’ve not seen Paul properly for a while so catching up about life on lockdown and just general stuff made the 13 miles of this half marathon tick by quite quickly.
Progressing along the trail at the side of the reservoirs there was a lot of nice scenery. There was also a stark reminder of how dry we have had it in the region and the UK on the whole as the normally full reservoirs were at alarmingly low levels.
The out and back nature of the course meant there wasn’t much to report that I haven’t already said so far. We did stop a couple of times to take pictures of the surroundings and to make sure Bella was still with us. She wasn’t leaving our side, she might not have wanted to be there but she dug deep and stuck with us all the way.
As we made our way back towards the start/finish we saw a couple of familiar faces coming along the path, Paul Neal and his son. He was out doing the same route we were just coming to the end of but we stopped for a chat and catch up before setting off again with stiff knees. The day was starting to take its toll.
e approached the end and the little turn off the path, up the hill and ready to pop out into the field once more to complete the course. It was over! It was my slowest half marathon to date at a little over 2 hours.
Back at the cars the plan was to meet on the Asda car park in Hyde, on the way Liam would go home to drop the dog off. Bella did amazing and was deserving of her rest.
Now at Asda we were joined by fellow daddy Andrew Nurney who was here to run the Hyde 7 with us.
The sky was changing, gone were the grey clouds, blue was the colour and this called for a change of top and also trainers. As I took my socks off my feet looked lifeless and almost see through. My wet socks and damp trainers were thrown into the car and I put on a new pair of fresh, dry, clean socks along with my favoured road running shoes and my daddies vest.
Pete came round the corner, parked up and told us the same about his own feet. We had been running in the wet and mud for 4 hours but the shoes had been on our feet for nearly 7 when you take the pauses in run and the travel in between events in to account.
Liam arrived and so we made our way to Hyde town hall and took off up Market Street. The pace was a lot slower for me as I was coming the point where my body knew it had never been before. Liam struggled up Market Street, complaining he should’ve used one of the two opportunities he had been home to use the loo.
At the top of Market Street turning left I saw Paul and Andrew in the distance carrying on along Mottram Old Road. Pete came passed and seemed to re-energised. This man was focused and was carrying on as if this was his only run of the day and he hadn’t already completed 25 miles.
I struggled a little along here, any short rise was tough and I felt the need to walk as I was now getting to my limit. Andrew had dropped back to run with Liam and as I walked up one of the rises they caught me up. Liam let us know in ‘Who Wants to be a Millionaire’ style that he had phoned a friend. He had a friend who lived on the route that said ‘Yes of course you can come in to use my loo’.
As we waited for Liam we chatted through how hard this was and who had what beer in the fridge at home ready for them when they got back. Liam emerged and it was time to continue through the Hattersley estate.
I don’t like running through here as when you get half way through it literally becomes an uphill struggle. I didn’t have much left, I had to walk. I could see Pete in the distance still running up the hill. Pete could see the end in his mind and was making his way towards it with nothing getting in his way.
A left turn on to Mottram Road heading back towards Hyde and it was slightly downhill to my relief. There was now a little over 2 miles to go with just the one tough section of uphill passed Hyde United and Active Hyde. As I got to the top of the hill Pete and Andrew were waiting, I stopped and we all waited for Liam who had Paul for company to help him along the way.
With just 0.7 of a mile to go, we set off together. Running towards the finish at the town hall I checked my watch as Paul said he was complete, I needed a few more steps, Liam and Pete needed a few more than me. It was done. We did it!
We took one final video and some photos. I ran my hand through my hair and I could’ve been running in rain for the last hour it was completely soaked through with sweat.
As I mentioned earlier, I’ve never ran that distance before in one day, Liam and Pete have done way more than this on multiple occasions but we acknowledged it was a difficult challenge. The total route had us take in just over 32 miles, 686m of elevation all in a total moving time of around 5 hours and 9 minutes. We saw rain, we saw sun, there was a point when we almost couldn’t see each other on the fell through the low lying cloud but at the end we saw achievement and success.
Paul and Andrew, not forgetting to mention Bella, joining us at the various points was great and a real boost. I’m glad I said yes to this, i’m glad I got to the end, i’m not bothered I walked up some of those inclines on the final stage, I’m glad I went to the loo in between stage 2 and 3, I think Liam regrets not doing.
Have I learnt anything else? Yes. Pete is a machine and he has such incredible focus on finishing what he has set out to do.
All that was left now was to say our goodbyes and head home for whichever beers we had in our fridges, or coffee and to make sure your dog was still alive if you were Liam.