Run-touring the Cleveland Way, in the rain.

[6 minutes read time] Teaching is a very rewarding profession. The main reward is August. In my five week break of 2016, I’d squeezed in a cycling tour of Holland, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Norway, a climbing trip in North Wales, a week in the French and Italian Alps, and a week climbing and Munroe bagging in Scotland. I had just three days left before term recommenced and felt determined to squeeze something into the final weekend and it wasn’t going to be the ironing. It was decided that I’d embark on a new kind of tour. One that involved running.

I’d already done plenty of tours by either walking or cycling, but never running. The key was keeping the weight down – so camping was off the menu. I had already done a section of the Cleveland way from Helmsley to White Horse Bank so we agreed that car park atop Sutton Bank would be the meeting place. Friday night, from Nottingham, I was there in two hours, I ate a poor egg sandwich from the visitor’s centre and swallowed it just in time to

see Martyn arrive. He was better prepared than me and we set off. The sky was high and the view was far-reaching and it was a nice warm evening. We ran along the yellow, grey paths along the edge of the high moor and I tried my hardest to chat because I wanted us to slow down because I was finding the running difficult. It was an August evening and so it was quite hot really and I was sweating and feeling the egg sandwich.

It turned into a brilliant run and we got quicker and quicker. Hugging the edge of the great ridge of the North York Moors, we came to Osmotherly as the orange light of sunset was turning grey. Thirteen miles, Fish and chips, two beers each, still wearing running shorts, youth hostel, shower and bed. A good Friday night.

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The alarm went off early and we had a long way to go. I was only carrying a small, ten litre running sack which contained just enough clean clothing to appear decent wherever we arrived, some food, a small chunk of soap, toothbrush, my glasses and a phone charger. Martyn went similarly lightly and carried the same as I, plus a mini first aid kit which was a blister of ibuprofen and a roll of surgical tape. Upon  leaving the car on a warm afternoon without trace of a cloud, we opted to leave waterproofs, hats and gloves. It was August and we were running.

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Saturday morning was grey. It started raining pretty early on and it continued to rain. We were both very wet. We were hoping to get to Saltburn that evening, which was about 35 miles away and we hadn’t actually booked anywhere to stay. Every now and then, when we stopped for a map check or a call of nature, I called somewhere that Google suggested until we eventually got lucky.

After twenty miles of puddles and heavy, sodden clothing we stopped for lunch at a cafe. We dripped onto the thick carpets. My cash was wrinkled and my fingertips were white and flabby. The principles of moving “fast and light” had met their limits and it was unpleasant.

We ran a further ten slow miles, trotting along, squinting with rain-flooded eyelids and occasionally feeling the odd trickle of cool, salty water migrate from hairline to spine. It was still raining and by this point, it didn’t really matter if it stopped or not. But it didn’t stop. The footpath made for some excellent running across the moors and Rosebury Topping was a highlight.  About thirty two miles in I felt like my scrotum had suddenly caught fire. This was a very big issue and it was a surprise attack that came out of nowhere. The hours of gentle, rhythmic joint pain and the enveloping sound of consistent and relaxing rain were shattered by searing and complete pain radiating from that part that looks like where your ball sack was stitched together. Chaos and panic. We were in the dark green woods and after a few steps I wanted to castrate myself simply to facilitate a way out of this situation. My merino wool, so reliably comfortable on many previous excisions had completely given up. The sodden fibres of both my undershorts and running shorts were razor wire to a pair of over-ripened plums. I needed Vaseline and I needed it quickly.

A short term solution was to hoist my genitals up and stick them to my belly with micropore tape so that there could be no further friction issues. This was a wet and indecent affair but it did the trick. Gingerly, we ran onwards towards to exit from the forest. Twenty minutes later I stumbled into the Co-op in Skelton-in-Cleveland, shivering, leaving pools of water on the aisle floors and picked up a jar of runner’s favourite petroleum jelly. Limping towards the tills, I realised that I did not have any sort of operational ability in my frozen fingers and could not open my bag or select anything in the way of money. Luckily, the kind checkout girl offered, opened my bag and counted out the change. She even helped me to open the lid of the jar, but after seeing the nature of my limping, left the application of the Vaseline to me. Understandably so.

The remaining miles went by without incident and we jogged into town to find the B&B. It was a full 35 miles of running in the rain and I regretted nearly all of it. But time is a great healer, and now, nearly a year later, writing this on the train, with a few tins of Carling in me, I can say that it was actually nearly tolerable.

The next morning we woke up and ran along the chalk cliffs and were encapsulated by the sea roke. Up and down and across broad beaches and through those picturesque seaside towns that I hate and eventually we arrived in Sandsend and enjoyed some  summer sunshine with the ruins of Whitby Abbey high up above. Socks off, fleshy feet on the warm concrete and a cup of tea. Thanks to a generous lift from Martyn’s better half, I was back at my car and ready for the drive home before five o clock. Sixty seven miles ran inside a weekend and I was home in time to do some ironing.

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The drive to and from Sutton Bank cost about £30 in petrol.
Friday Night’s Youth Hostel was in Osmotherly and each bed was around £20 for the night. They didn’t do food so we ate at the chip shop.
We stayed in the Victorian Guest House in Saltburn on Saturday night. It was good, warm and plenty of drying space! I like Saltburn.
We mostly ate biscuits and pasta mug shots using Martyn’s Jetboil. They are pretty cheap in ASDA, the pasta, not the Jetboil!
Jenny gave us a lift back to the start which was great. I fell asleep.

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