Swaledale Marathon – Saturday 8th June 2019

Race Report by Darren Smith

Saturated, Distressed and Elated!

Two weeks ago, whilst waiting in the queue for the Wynyard 10k, I struck up a conversation with a lady from Hartlepool Burn Harriers about the Swaledale Marathon: her name eludes me; however, her final words left an indelible mark in my mind, “The weather is always glorious, when the Swaledale is on.”


Three Musketeers – Papa Joe, the designated driver/faith healer/coach, Big Chris Jefferies and Little D – meandered through the heart of the Yorkshire Dales – accompanied by the sepulchral sky, which was starting to suffocate the life out of this Edenic landscape. Even the humour could not evade the ominous weather (Jimmy Saville and his…).

However, our moods were soon dispelled once we arrived in Fremington: we were welcomed with open arms by the race organisers. Well, not quite…a carpark attendant, who was akin to Victor Meldrew, lambasting anybody that tried to walk on the road, “I don’t believe it – you’ll get bl***y killed!”

No seriously, the organisers were top-drawer. They made us all welcome in the starting field, and they also did a special mention for a runner, who had been competing in the Swaley since 1979. Unbelievable, Jeff!

“Are we going to start?”

Oh, yes, sorry, I had planned to stay with Chris, who had done a recce. I literally lost sight of him within the first ten metres. Like a headless chicken, I aimlessly ascended up to Fremington edge. I was goosed! Fortunately, at the top, it plateaued for several miles and I settled into a steady rhythm with a flock of runners, who took turns in leading. I felt fantastic and the company was great.

Unfortunately, this was not to last…

Steadily, we made the ascent up to Punchard. It was tiresome and the surrounding area was looking very sombre. At the zenith, there was a stream to cross. I called it the Volta because as soon I crossed it my energy and zest dispersed, almost Instantly. I had lost the cluster of runners within about sixty seconds. I was all alone. Isolated…on a landscape that was redolent of a post-apocalyptic movie; the fog was almost palpable. To make matters worse, the bogs, marshes and streams took its toll on the legs – memories of the Krypton factor came flooding back. Moreover, the black peat bogs were playing havoc with my petit (29 inch) lady legs – it was fair to say that I’d hit a lull. Punchard moor was certainly punching hard (pardon the pun). It had knocked the stuffing out of me, I was on the ropes. To make matters worse, mother nature decided to join the onslaught and unleash a salvo of wind, sleet and rain. I was secretly hoping for the referee to step in and intervene.

However, every dark cloud has a silver lining: in my case, it was an ageing runner, with a shock of silver hair, who came to my rescue. He helped me circumnavigate to Gunnerside (and at the same time raise my spirits). From then on, I ran steady up until Cringley bottom: I suffered from some cramp and had to gingerly walk down the steps.

Fortunately, I managed to carry on and head for the finish (Reeth Village Hall). I was greeted with a raucous roar from the spectators. Sadly, my dear Papa missed me – he had kindly given a senior citizen 20 pence to access the toilet.

Reeth village was a hive of activity; the whole community/organisers seemed to be working in unison, ensuring the runners were well fed and watered. For me, they enriched the race – almost instantly, their cordial smiles soon chased away the rigour mortis that was starting to reside in my ailing joints. It soon become apparent that these residents take huge pride in their culinary delicacies; the food mirrored their passion for this event.

This brings me to the finish. I would definitely recommend this prestigious event; the camaraderie was unparalleled in my eyes. The event is a steal in terms of money. The weather may have not been “Glorious” but the three musketeers’ smiles, anecdotes and laughter will burn brightly in my mind, forever.

Like Arnie said, “I’ll be back!”

I challenge you, as fellow BMHH runners, to participate in next year’s Swaledale marathon – let’s get a team together – COME ON!

Race Results – http://bit.ly/swaledaleresults

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