Northants Ultra – Shires & Spires (4th June ’17)

After spending the night in the back of the van, in a layby, on the A508, Debbie and I arrived at the race HQ at Lamport Hall bright and early for the 7:00am registration, collected our numbers, race vest and electronic wrist band (to check in at checkpoints). Nick Ham was setting up the Runfurther banners at the start/finish area, we offered to help, but he assured us everything was sorted, so off we went to sort kit and attach numbers to tops, or shorts in my case.

A couple of minor issues later, Deb being given a vest that would’ve fitted Henry VIII and a wristband that didn’t correspond to her race number, we were off to the start, a chat with Bob and Nick, a quick photo, and at 8:30am we were off!!

I ran the first few hundred metres with Deb, then pulled away, but I was determined not to go off too fast, something I tend to do. Initially the course takes you through slightly underlating fields until you pick up a decent trail when you hit the Macmillan Way, I caught and passed Nick after a couple of miles or so, CP1 was at Cottesbrooke Hall about 4.5 miles in, I got there in just under 34 mins, flashed my wrist at the electronic thingy and ran straight through. CP2 is another 4 miles away at Naseby Hall – all on flatish road, I’d got chatting to a guy called Chris on this not particularly interesting section, which helped, he hailed from Bury, but was now local to Northants, can’t remember where though, we passed through the village of Haselbech, but by CP2 I was questioning the trail shoe decision, although the Trail Talon 275s are very good on hard packed stuff and roads, so It could’ve been worse. Again, I ran through CP2 with a quick wrist flash.

As the road continued towards Silsworth Lodge Riding School and CP3, I was beginning to wonder whether the entire thing was on road, I had checked the map and was sure it wasn’t, I was also worrying whether or not I had enough water to get to the next CP, this is a 7.5mile section, I should’ve stopped at CP2 for a refill – too late now! As we pass through Thornby, I’m still passing the time away with Chris, I’m running well, sticking to the heart rate and moving at a decent pace, with no sign of my usual hip flexor issues, but god I’m bored! Finally, after about 6 miles of road, we get to a track, after some interesting running through shoulder height corn and rapeseed fields and a small section of road in West Haddon village, we arrive at CP3, this time I grab a handful of jelly babies, quickly wash them down, fill the bottle and set off – 16 miles down, 2:23:49 on the clock.

From CP3 to the town of Long Buckby, it’s all undulating track, trail and fields, another 7 mile section, I’ve got water, Chris has dropped off, I’m running well and gradually picking people off, all is well with the world. From Long Buckby there’s more road – about 3 miles of it, all the way into Great Brington, until we pick up a path that leads to the tarmac road into Althorp Park and CP4 at Althorp House (Diana, Princess of Wales is buried here, just in case you don’t know!!), I fill up the bottle, grab the jelly babies and set off to CP5, the final checkpoint – 23 miles, 3:29:53.

We leave CP4 and head up hill – yes, up hill, well, more up bump really to a cross roads, a quick left and right and we take the road into the Village of Harlestone. The route then goes across Northampton Golf Course, there’s about four or five of us now, all taking a slightly different route across the course, I make a small error and end up on a driving range, luckily nobody is practising, we eventually all regroup and spend the remainder of the section chatting, passing, and picking each other off. I went through marathon distance at 3:58:00 ish, and I’m happy with that, but I’m starting to stiffen around the hips, It may have something to do with Hendersons End Fell Race the previous Thursday, and, although a mile shorter than the last two sections, It seems to take forever to get to CP5, but eventually I do. I want to make this a quick stop and get going for the final 6 or so miles, flash wrist, grab jelly babies, fill water, go!! – 29 miles, 4:32:17

I leave the checkpoint with another runner and two runners in the distance, but I’ve just left four behind me, the two of us would spend the next 5 miles chatting and swapping places, he’d leave me on the flat, I’d reel him in on the small ups and downs. Once the road section is over, we agree to pick it up a bit to overtake the runner in front, who seems to be struggling, it’s not long before we pass him. The final couple of miles is a reverse of the start, along the MacMillan Way, then up the hill we originally ran down, at the top of the hill we turn right and emerge on to the A508, there’s about half a mile to go, I tell the lad I’m running with to run on and leave me, he’s a lot quicker on the flat than I am. I finally enter the grounds of Lamport Hall and the finish. From 166 finishers, I’m happy with 17th place in 5:38:35, Deb ran well again, and finished in 6:10:06 for 4th lady.

This event was probably not my thing, too flat and too much tarmac, think, for those that did it, a more scenic version of The Warrington Way. Having said that, I really enjoyed it, it passes through some incredibly pretty, quintessentially English villages steeped in history, and passes some stunning stately homes and historical landmarks.



Northants Ultra 04.06.17





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