Trailblaze is a fantastic idea that allows you to race anytime on some of our countries most scenic and challenging trails. Although probably not everyone’s cup of tea, adding the spice of competition to a day on the hills is the perfect spur for me. All you need do is to register on the website, hire an electronic dibber and then decide what trail and what distance to take on. For all the eight iconic trails there are distances to suit runners of all abilities. For 10 km runners and novices, the Moderate challenges are up to 16 km. Next up for half-marathon runners are the 14-30 km Difficult. If you’ve already got a marathon under your belt then maybe the 26-50 km Hard is for you. The 44-80 km Severe definitely takes you into the realm of ultra-runners and, at 80 km +, the Extreme level is probably best left to the clinically insane. For every level there are rewards and prizes to be won. You then just turn up at the trail head, dib the first checkpoint and you’re off. Once you’re done, you send the dibber back to the Trailblaze team. They’ll upload your results and you can see how you fared against other Trailblazers.
Pennine Way South
Starting just a few miles from my house, the Pennine Way was the obvious trail for me to take on. Following the “Spine of England” it heads north for 430 km from the Peak District, through the Yorkshire Dales and over Hadrian’s Wall to the Cheviots. Choosing a slightly less ambitious day out than the full trail, I opted for the 38 km Difficult Trailblaze Challenge from Edale to Holmfirth. It was not to be underestimated though, packing 1451 m of ascent (more than climbing Ben Nevis from sea level) and crossing the rough moorland peaks of Kinder Scout, Bleaklow and Black Hill into the distance.
Joining me for the jaunt were the man responsible for keeping me body going, massage therapist Tim Budd www.globaltherapies.com and Trail Running Magazine editor Claire Maxted. The 38 km we’d cover would be Claire’s longest day’s running and, carrying a slight hip injury, she was a bit nervous if she’d make the full distance. The final member of the team was my two-year old Finnish Lapphund Otso.
The current Trailblaze record for the Challenge was 6:01:45 and, although we all agreed to a conservative “walk the climbs, jog the flats and run the downs” pacing strategy, it was obvious we all had that mark in our minds.
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