Malvern Hills Ultra 2010 by Kate Freeman

Malverns Hills

Malverns Hills

Back in the middle of January 2010, my sister Jane rang me. I knew from the tone of her voice that she was ringing with a challenge for me. However, I was quite shocked when she asked me if I would join her in completing the Malvern Hills Ultra, a race of 52 miles, but walking it instead of running; her partner Mick was aiming to run the race. She gave me a few days to think about it and, when I said I would do it with her, sent me a training plan that Mick and her had put together for me to follow. I love walking but had never really walked at a very fast pace; something I would soon have to get used to.

Amongst my favourite training walks were, a walk around Cannock Chase with Deb, a walk up to Hartington from Dovedale with Paula, a walk with Jenny and Mike to Kennack Sands, and the two training walks Jane and I completed in Cornwall; 30 miles along the Camel Trail and 41 miles along The Saints Way- Padstow to Fowey via Helman Tor, with Mick and Mike. Including race day I covered a total distance of 477 miles over 3 months walking through snow, in hail, rain, wind, sunshine and torrential rain on race day.

I was quite late getting in touch with Compton Hospice to arrange sponsorship because until we had completed our training walk of 41 miles, I was unsure whether I would be able to complete the challenge Jane had set me (in my 40th year) and didn’t want to let the charity down by dropping out of the event. I was very surprised and delighted at how generous people can be and have managed to raise a total of £786.00 in sponsorship money. A great big thank you goes to everyone who sponsored me.

The Race Day arrived; Jane and I set off from Top Barn Activity Centre at 6.01am on 1st May 2010 in bright sunshine. Walking along the River Severn, we passed through Worcester and then onto Upton; this stretch of the river being the most challenging as we were attacked by midges and horseflies, and had to fight our way through 5ft high stinging nettles. We were very glad to leave the riverside at Upton and passing through the village we caught a quick glance of the Jazz Festival, Morris Dancers included!! It was at this point, at 12pm, that the first (shocked) runner passed us. We shouted that we were walking the race so he wouldn’t be too upset at us being in front of him (we had a 3 ½ hour start on him).

The next bit of the course was quite challenging as it was road walking (hard on the feet and shins) but we had the company of several runners at this point who decided to join us for a bit of a walk, a rest for them, before running off to the next check point at The Malvern House Hotel. Our family were at this checkpoint to cheer us on and replenish our reserves, yum yum.

My husband Mike and our Uncle Greg decided to join us for the next leg of the race over the Malverns and the views were fantastic although by this time the clouds were starting to move in all around us. We negotiated our way off the end of the Malverns and joined the Worcestershire Way.

At the New Inn at Storridge, Mike and Greg left us and we were joined by our Mom and Aunty Pam for the start of the next leg. This next part of the course was definitely the most challenging, even more so than the Malvern Hills themselves, and we soon had to leave Pam and Mom in order to maintain our pace. We passed through orchards and up some very steep hills into the woods. It was at this point that it started to rain and I said to Jane that we were lucky to make it into the woods before the “Shower” started. However, five minutes later I was eating my words as the heavens opened in earnest, and we donned our waterproofs for what was to be the next six hours!! We had to be careful with our footing as the rain continued and the earth turned to mud, then mush, then streams of water flowing down the path.

We reached the in-between pub, The Talbot at Knightwick, where some of the family were ensconced in the warmth of the pub; how inviting that looked. We pressed on in the dark and rain, getting lost in a field and feeling like sheep rustlers, as the sheep were bleating so loud. Sheep’s eyes viewed with a head torch in the rain are freaky and devil like. We finally arrived at the next checkpoint, The Crown Inn, at Martley, where the very patient Martials were waiting to check us in.

The final leg of our journey would take us through North Woods and Monk Woods, so we were very grateful that my son Jack volunteered to walk with us giving us encouragement and a sense of safety. By this time the rain was coming down like stair rods and the roads and pathways were like rivers. The puddles must have been a foot deep in places and Jack seemed to love walking through all of them.

We arrived sodden, tired but completely elated at the finish line at Holt Castle just after 1am, on Sunday 2nd May 2010, to rounds of applause from our very patient family. WE DID IT!!! Total Mileage: 55.1 miles Total Time 19 hours 5 Minutes.

Steve presented us with our medals, T Shirts, and a very welcome hot drink.

My Biggest thanks on the day must go to Mick, Jane’s partner, who supported us throughout the day, driving between checkpoints and keeping us motivated, well fed and watered. I hope I can do the same for him next year as he was unable to compete this year, having sustained a torn calf muscle just days before the race. Thank you to Steve Worrallo for organising such an awe inspiring race; the route is magnificent and I’m sure if the weather had been kinder we would have appreciated CP4 to the end more. I intend to go and walk this later in the year as the Worcestershire Way, through woods and orchards looked totally amazing even in the rain!!

A big thank you to all my family, friends, and colleagues for supporting me and a very big thank you to Jane for asking me to do the challenge, helping me train, and providing support and encouragement on the day.

Kate Freeman