Rat Race The Wall, 15th June 2019

The Claremont Ultras were doing mad things again this weekend – The Wall is a 70 mile ultra along Hadrian’s Wall from Carlisle to Newcastle.  Nina Jensen, Julie Dumpleton, Marie Slack and Jamie Harding were the running team with Richard Slack also staying awake (and driving!) for 22 hours!

We have two reports – Nina Jensen describes the run from a participant’s perspective, while Richard Slack provides his “view from the boundary”.  Firstly the runner’s tale from Nina:

“So we sat on Friday night with Richard arguing who’s idea to was to run The Wall – a 69 mile route from Carlisle to Newcastle roughly following the route of Hadrian’s Wall. Whoever was to blame we all agreed that a pact had been made on the bus en route to one of the Claremont Tyne Trails so if any other Claremonters can help out solving the quandary please let me know.

The Wall is the equivalent of a Great North Run in the ultra world. Yes they’re expensive but all the bells and whistles (although not an event specific t-shirt much to our annoyance) are there so this was very different to some of the other low key events we’ve done. Following a very easy registration on the Friday night, we met at 6.15 for a 7am start at Carlisle Castle.
After a comprehensive race briefing about 700 of us ran out through the castle gates and through some very pretty parks in Carlisle. Due to the numbers it was a bit crowded at the start and we sniggered at those who sprinted past. Plenty of time for that. The fantastic 4 stuck together for the first 10 miles before Jamie headed off at the checkpoint to make sure he was there before midnight as otherwise his lift from Alison would turn into a pumpkin aka a blueline taxi.  Onwards to the first feed station or pit stop in Rat Race events. This is where the event was very different from others with a table resembling a buffet at a wedding complete with paper plates. All with the back drop of Lanercost Priory. It was hard to leave but onward we went fuelled by sandwiches, crisps and cake and a hug each from our crew, Richard, who was following us with the aid of a tracker and a car full of anything we might need for the day. There were 5 pit stops in total so along with Lanercost we also went to Walltown Quarry, Bardon Mill which was also the overnight camp for runners doing the event over 2 days, Hexham where we had a bag waiting with fresh clothes and trainers (much needed after the bogs I’d fell in and the rain showers) and Newburn. Between pit stops there were also checkpoints where you could grab some water (as long as you had your reusable cup as the event was doing it’s bit against plastic waste) and sweets.
There were always people to chat to along the way too so the miles ticked down and we were well ahead of the very generous cut offs (much to Richard’s pleasure as he kept threatening to send our Claremont resignation letters if we didn’t make it).
Highlights were the views of Hadrian’s Wall and sorrounding countryside and Richard appearing with a glass of Moretti at the Boathouse in Warden.
At Hexham we agreed that Marie and I would press on together whilst Julie who had contracted the Claremont virus from the St Abs trip took it easier. It was tough but we knew that as the evening descended the last thing we wanted was to get cold waiting for each other. Julie paired up with a gang she’d met earlier and when we met Richard at various points he would report that she was going well and had company.
On the route there was so much support including signs beside taps saying to help yourself, chairs lining the route if you need a rest, gangs of people in the middle of the night cheering, dancing and offering high fives. We also passed down a private road where there were holiday lodges lit with twinkly lights and a lady offering tea and biscuits or glasses of lemonade. At that point Marie and I thought we were hallucinating but the guys we met at the end of the road confirmed it was real.
By the time we got to Newburn, the pit stop looked like a military hospital with a number of people dropping out and, although it was tempting to join them, the sign said only 7 1/2 miles to go although even with my tired brain I thought that was optimistic.
We pushed on – by now power walking and soon were at the turning point of the handicap. The miles were ticking down, the balls that marked the end of the first Claremont 35, the bridges, all familiar and looking spectacular in the moonlight. We met Richard again between the Millennium and Swing Bridges and he walked the last bit with us. Official distance was 72 miles by the time we crossed the finish at HMS Calliope where there were hot showers, rest rooms and food for those who wanted it….chilli at 3am anyone?
Thanks to Richard who drove back and forth between us all and allowed us to relax at the stops whilst filling water and trying to second guess what we wanted to eat and also handing out hugs and positivity throughout the day and night.
We conquered The Wall!”

And from Richard (who deserves a medal too for going above and beyond the role of normal supporter):

The Wall 15 June 2019, View from the Boundary by Richard

Having dropped a friend off a number of years ago to do the Wall, I was so pleased that this year I would be helping Claremonters as their support crew for the epic and truly mad run of 69 miles from Carlisle to Newcastle. I’ll stick to the fells. So at 6.15am on Saturday I dropped off Marie and Jamie to meet up with Nina and Julie at the car park by Carlisle Castle. First duty done – to get the gang to the baggage bus and the start on time. A few runners needed to heed that as I saw a few late arrivals sprinting up to the Castle for the 7am start – like you need a sprint warm up before a 69 mile run!
My duties after the start were pretty simple. Get to the various Pit Stops well in advance of the Claremonters, assist with water and anything else at the stop (I can, although rarely, take orders), sort out any change of gear and be a general domestique (cycling parlance).  My arrival times were made possible by the run being tracked, but complicated as inevitably people arrived at different times. Although Jamie was well ahead of the others, I managed a few visits up the route and said my farewell to him at the Boathouse (just by the path to Water’s Meet) near Hexham. Strangely, he did not need the beer on offer, readily gulped up by my later arrivals of Nina and Marie (repeat at Ovington Bridge much needed by around 11pm). As the route progressed, I also became better at working out the minor roads, bridleways and cycle paths being used as their is no actual map of the route beyond the tracker. Thus I made it a mission to meet Nina, Marie and Julie as much as possible at various points through the mid section of the run all the way pretty much to Hexham by which time the daylight had faded and that little game was more difficult. I also found that my adventures associated with this sometimes and increasingly met with failure either being too late for the runners who had already passed or ending up in dead- end industrial estates to the more bizarre farmyard appearance where the road just ended somewhere near Newburn.
Watching from the boundary, I was just impressed with the sheer mental will and determination of them all to complete the course and get to the Millennium Bridge. Strangely my offer of a final timed mile from the Baltic Square (the finish) was not well received by any of them. I had mentally prepared for a very long day and helping as much as I could to let all of the Claremonters achieve their goal of “The Wall”. At around 2.45am I met Nina and Marie for a fast walk along the quayside from the Swing Bridge to the end under a moonlit sky, knowing that Julie was well on her way from Newburn and Jamie tucked up in bed!
The camaraderie of all the runners was great – everyone simply wanted everyone else to finish and help others along the way. It was so good to be involved in my own way, and pleased to have been part of it and not one of the runners/walkers/ walking wounded as the race unfolded. Brilliant achievement by my fellow Claremoneters – an epic!
Photos are on Flickr: