Nick Hargreaves – Ultra Marathon
On the morning of Saturday 26th August Accrington Road Runner, Nick Hargreaves set off from Liverpool at 6am to run 130 miles along the Leeds – Liverpool canal! 37 hrs and 50 minutes later, Nick crossed the finish line in Leeds. What an amazing achievement. Please see below for Nick’s story of this incredible race.
Where do I start?
Well, firstly thankyou if you are reading this. A few years ago, I started doing ultra-marathons with my good friend Adam and his brother Elliot. These were amazing coastal trail series Endurance for Life events (all around the UK) and have since done about 7 different courses. Then after doing the Lakeland 55km 3 times, I thought lets up it to Lakeland 100km (which I did last month). Then about a year ago, I was walking back from the Chinese Takeaway in Hapton along the Leeds Liverpool canal bank and at the same time there was a man running past us with “LLCR2022″on a number; so I knew he was in a race. I got home and researched it; found out it was the 130mile Leeds-Liverpool Canal Race (or 200km or 5 back to back marathons).
I then said “I’m going to do that next year.”
I will try not to bore you too much but here is what happened next….
First I wanted to find a good cause to run for, as each Ultra-marathon I have done before has been in aid of The MNDA (Motor Neurone Disease Association) which is what my mother passed away from 12 years ago, so I wanted to help another Charity. Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity made sense, due to my connection with The Royal Navy.
In March of this year, I started getting up at 5am (Monday to Friday) and would run,10,15 or 20km before work. Would run with Accrington Road Runners onTuesday nights, then a long run(30km +) each sunday with my friend Andrew Slaughter. This built up to 70mile per week mileage. (not including, park runs, fell races or occasional Thursday or Saturday runs with Accrington Road Runners aswell).
When I went to the LLCR (Leeds Liverpool Canal Race) website to enter, all of the “unsupported runner” places had gone. ( ie those runners who rely on the organisers to provide, food, drinks, drop bags etc at the 8 CP’s -Checkpoints) so only “supported runners” places were available. I signed up and then fingers crossed I might be able to get enough people to meet me at some of the aid stations…..
When I looked out of the hotel window of the Liverpool Travel Lodge 6th floor, 1/2 mile from the start on Old Hall Street, at 5am the morning of the race, it was dark and the rain was driving horizontally in the street lights glow. It would have been tempting to go back to my warm bed and have a leisurely breakfast…..however, my race prep was done, my kit was double checked, my drop bags were organised to be at all 8 checkpoints, I had stretched for the last 3 days with foam rollers and massage guns ( to rid my left calf of a niggle picked up at Birchwood 10km done 6 days before), I had tapered – ie reduced my mileage and training, I had increased my calorie intake to 5 meals a day and I had already set up a Just Giving Page for RNRMC and so there was only one thing for it…………next stop Leeds!
We had downloaded a tracking app called Life360; which would become invaluable in organising bag drops, meets, messages, etc.
Here are some of my highs:
Running past my house!
The amazing scenery,
Supportive organisors at checkpoints
4 seasons in 1 day! Thunder rainbows and sunsets…
Not feeling sick with the new Precision Gels my RN friend Phil Dowson recommened, thanks Phil Dowson-Smith.
Head torch not running out.
Cold cans of iron bru
Pots of mango chunks
Even more Beautiful scenery and wildlife
Seeing loads of nice barges and narrow boats
Repair work on the tow path! Even on a saturday!
Sunday morning bells ringing from Kildwick Church
Hearing brass band’s practicing in Bingley
Seeing the gorgeous Yorkshire Countryside
Smelling coffee in Skipton on Sunday morning
A life saving Solero lolly at Bingley 5 rise locks cafe
Hearing The Leeds Festival!
Speaking to other runners who; gave me pain killers, directions, advice, company, motivation, running companions and their stories, sharing toilet keys ( thank you Victoria) a goal to aim for or just a familiar face experiencing similar experiences.
Here are some of my lows:
Running past my house!
Missing my support crew at CP1 (sorry Vicky Hargreaves and Leona Palangan Masterson) which meant first 28 Miles on 4 gels left me a bit running on empty..
Body in the canal between CP2 and CP3(prayers are with the family of those affected) and subsequent detour
Battery going flat on Watch (Twice)
Losing a water bottle cap near CP2
Losing a water bottle in the dark near CP6
Running out of water 6 times! When will I learn?
Nearly using nettles as toilet paper at 2am in the morning in the mist…..
The mile markers! They show the miles you have gone….. but also show how far you still have to go….every single mile reminding you!
More Blisters! Big ones!
Missing Burnley Park Run on Saturday morning; their special 500th race…
Muddy,narrow, unlit and dangerous towpaths….ironically just between Blackburn and Burnley
Drunk swearing locals in Mill Hill at CP4: sorry Jean the volunteer you had to put up with them.
There were many times when I could have thrown in the towel, Quit, Gone home, stopped at a CP, dropped out or just given up. But I didn’t.
Each time I got to a checkpoint and recognised a runner sat down in the tent (which I never did throughout the race) they would say they were not going on…a ping of doubt got stronger in my mind. I thought , if they are stopping and they were ahead of me…..what chance have I got?
“Start slow and finish slower….” wise words once told to me by a friend and ultra runner was going to get me though…
One such time was after leaving CP5 there is a 14 mile stretch through the night that takes you through Barrowford Locks and over the Foulridge Tunnel. Picture this: it’s dark, your exhausted, lonely, emotional, feeling constant pain in your legs and the early rain and puddles had caused ( later counted 8)massive blisters!!!! which meant every step I took was like being stabbed in each foot with a knife (crazy eh?). It was at this moment that I smelled wood smoke coming from a barge, moored alongside, with a glow coming from inside the cosy warm and safe boat. As I approached my shuffling and squelching feet, caused whoever was inside to pull back the curtain from the porthole for just long enough for me to see them having a warm cup of tea and watching a film. It was almost like a warm burrow or hobbits house from The Lord of the Rings. It was at this point I was so tempted to knock on the door for shelter and quit the race there and then. But I didn’t, I just smiled and said “Come on Nick, next checkpoint is 86 miles and it’s going to be sunny in Leeds tomorrow.”
Incredible support and thanks:
CP2 Vicky and Leona
CP3 & CP4 Andrew
Blackburn, Eanam Warf, Clayton-le-moors, Rishton and CP 7 Daphne Noeb Hargreaves, Paul Hargreaves and Natalie Hargreaves
Whitebirk Adam Sykes
Norden Bridge Rishton Andy Panda Radcliffe
My father Chris Hargreaves and Diana Dodding with a fantastic homemade sign (lit up!) as I ran past home
Bob Preston and Trevor Roper at Hapton Bridge
CP5 (70 mile mark) Vicky and the crew! I’m sorry I missed Tiny Tish, Alma Johnson, Paul Johnson, Jeun Bolima, Abi, Gil, Noralyn, I am so grateful for all of you help with food, changing socks! Kit, clothes and motivation!
CP6 Paul Wickham 4.45am! Your wise words of “Don’t sit down, the ones that do, don’t get back up.” were invaluable, as I saw 3 runners at that point pull out.
CP7 Accrington Road Runners Dave David Sagar and Michele Baker timed it to perfection. Getting me to, through and beyond CP 7(100mile -160km mark) your company conversation and snack replenishment was invaluable
CP8 Aldrow, Jem Torrefiel, Vicky and of course Leona who was my guardian angel for the last 13 miles.
The Finish! Courtney Masterson, Carl Cleary, Leo Leona ( for my medal! It was delicious chocolate)
So after an initial entry list of 150+; 84 turned up on the day and just 45 of us finished.
37 hrs and 50 mins after I started, I hobbled into Leeds at the start of The Leeds Liverpool Canal.
Recovery will take some weeks, but memories will last forever.
I couldn’t have done it without the incredible support from everyone and am forever grateful to the amazing Vicky for organising the support.
The RNRMC is a great cause and you will be pleased to know I have another Ultra in October. North Yorks 55km (this will be the 4th time I have done it) and the views around Robin Hoods Bay just get better each year.
Thank you for reading and take care. Remember you can do anything you put your mind to.
“What the mind can conceive the body can achieve”