#RunFrodoRun – UK Section (approx 260 miles)
Not a lot of people know this, but being in possession of the ring of power in today’s day and age is a real pain; everything’s a bit different now.
Firstly, there’s more traffic and things out there now to get in the way. Secondly, finding Mordor is a bit more challenging now everything is a bit more built up.
Eventually, after some careful, considered minutes of searching for stuff in google maps, I found Mordor. It turns out it’s just a small area on the outskirts of Essen in Germany. No idea what it was yet, but it was indisputably labelled ‘Mordor’. So off I went with an aim to run as much of this route as possible.
Like all the best epic quests to destroy cheap jewellery that you hear about these days, it began at the Manchester Marathon. The fellowship of the ring!
Day 1: Manchester Marathon to Buxton (57.4 miles)
That fellowship consisted of my mum, who did the driving to the start line, provider of food and general support. Plus there was my younger brother Samwise (true story), who volunteered to run the marathon with me and help me fend off orcs if they happened to turn up. Luckily, none did.
Now, as a lot of people who know me would tell you, I’m not often comfortable outside of the Shire. However, even with all the big people all around me, Manchester was incredible (as always) with its support lining the streets. Cries of “GO BILBO!!” and “COME ON HARRY POTTER” were among the many other franchises people were confusingly shouting at me. This kept myself and Sam amused and energised to the finish line, four hours, seventeen minutes later. Sam finished one second faster than I did according to the official chip times, but I didn’t care; it’s a stupid race anyway. Stop going on about it!
For the next part of my trek, I would be on my own, running back to my flat in Buxton. I elected a nice route, running through Handforth, Bollington and Goyt Valley. Unfortunately, it was along this route that a lot of things happened at the same time: firstly I started getting really tired (I know, shock horror!), secondly the hills picked up, thirdly the wind picked up, and finally it got a LOT colder.
When I finally arrived at my flat at 11pm, I felt like I was beginning to hallucinate. I couldn’t speak properly and my hands were shaking. It had been a 57.4 mile day according to my Strava app. I’d not done that in a while.
Day 2: Buxton to Ashbourne (approx 25 miles)
The fellowship was now down to just myself and Samwise. Just a walking day today, as we were both still feeling the effects from the day before; my quads in particular were on fire!
We walked past the mines of Moria, which was now just a simple quarry area. We elected not to go through this, as we’d both seen the films and reckoned it was a better idea to go around.
Then Sam got us hopelessly lost by not paying enough attention to where I was going and I had to use my brilliant map reading skills and sense of direction to get us out of bother.
We eventually pressed on to the Prancing Pony Inn near Ashbourne to meet up with Gandalf, but in typical wizard fashion, he wasn’t there due to following the Lord of the Rings script to the letter.
From here on out, the burden of the ring would be mine alone, as Samwise had work in the morning and had to leave, which was fair enough I suppose. I now had the task of finding somewhere to camp out for the night and naturally, it was tipping it down and wet hobbit attire is not pleasant for sleeping in when it’s cold.
Luckily, my mum was now back with the car, so using the dryness provided within this piece of machinery I said I’d try not to use, but oh well, we were able to find a field just a few miles up the road I could camp in without me getting totally soaked through. I then ran out into the field, threw my bivvie down and dived for cover before whichever wizard that does the weather could do any permanent damage.
Day 3: Ashbourne to Melton Mowbray (approx 35 miles)
The camping kit I had with me for this adventure was all lightweight and really only designed for nights 5 degrees higher, so that night was ‘uncomfortable’ to say the least; plus is was still raining.
Today I mostly just got my head down and ran. My left shin was now quite swollen, which made walking very painful, but strangely running at a gentle pace was okay.
Jobs I had to do along the way were drying my camping gear off somewhere and putting a bit of charge in my phone. The rest was pretty simply just running where I want to go as quickly as my legs allowed.
There was a big difference in pace once I left Derbyshire and entered Leicestershire due to no footpaths along the road any more. It’s no wonder everybody drives everywhere in this country when as a pedestrian we’re so often made to feel unsafe and in the way.
Slow going along the muddy, uneven, overgrown grass verges, but I eventually stopped to camp out under some trees, about eight miles short of Melton Mowbray.
Day 4: Melton Mowbray to Kings Cliffe (approx 35 miles)
The huge mileage from day one had hit me quite hard and I was still suffering for it slightly, but I was slowly getting into a routine and learning to ignore pain a little more. Part of this routine if I could help it was breakfast at a Wetherspoons if I could find one. I didn’t have a lot of money to do this quest and being self-employed, obviously I wasn’t earning anything either. In Wetherspoons I could get a cooked breakfast for £3.50 that included all the coffee I wanted; this pleased me.
Approaching Kings Cliffe (my target for the day) I ran through a forest area in a place called Fineshade where I went past a group of mountain bikers. I always try to say hello when I pass people, as it breaks the tension from people looking at you unsure of what to make of man dressed as a hobbit running past. On this occasion one of the bikers decided to google “Running Frodo” out of curiosity and found this site. Got to love google for that!
Day 5: Kings Cliffe to Papworth (approx 35 miles)
Slightly warmer night, but still not above the temperature my minimalist camping kit ideally called for.
Mostly off-road today, which was nice, although the weather was still being annoying; it never really rained properly, but it was kind of a bit raining all of the time.
By evening the rain was really starting to concern me. It tickles me now, looking back at how much I feared getting wet; it was like being a gremlin or something. The hobbit attire, although very funny, had the horribly inconvenient attribute of holding a lot of water and it took ages to dry off if I ever got wet!
My luck was in that night however, as I got a call from a good friend on social media Andrew Dorrsett who lived nearby and offered to pick me up from wherever I got to for a night’s sleep under a roof, then drop me back off in the morning same spot.
Andrew is one of those people you can’t help but like, as his unshakable enthusiasm and love of running kind of rubs off on you. I also met his wife Georgie and delightful son Ethan in a chilled out evening and well needed, Rivendell style respite.
Day 6: Papworth to Stoke by Clare
Today would once again be a day of constant drizzle. Textbook April in the UK!
In Cambridge I met up with my friend Alan Middlebrook, who I met at a trail marathon a couple of years back. Alan is also a slightly faster runner than me, so I happily found myself pulled along at a pace I forgot I could do. We ran an awesome trail route right through Cambridge and out the other side before parting ways.
I sheltered from the rain where I could, but the country lanes here were all flooded, so getting soaked from head to toe was kind of inevitable. I eventually cut my losses and camped out in the woods completely soaked and hoped for better weather tomorrow.
Day 7: Stoke by Clare to Bradfield (approx 35 miles)
Words can’t describe how soaked I got overnight. I might as well have been camped out in a swamp; it was ridiculous!
Whilst wading through knee deep water along the country lanes, my heart actually stopped beating for a minute after one moment where I reached down to fish a bramble out of my trainers and my phone fell out of my pocket; dropped into the water and stopped working.
My phone was the only piece of technology I had on me, but was a fairly imperative item. I’m still not sure what I’d have done if it didn’t start working again a minute later. More caution was required from here on!
The rain was so relentless this day, I never managed to completely get my camping kit dry; this could be a problem. My luck was in again however, as a lady at a pub in Manningtree who heard of my slight dilemma, contacted the local campsite who agreed to not only let me stay there for free, but lend me a tent and sleeping bag for the night! For reasons I’ll go into in a later write up, today had been a strange day, mentally draining and my confidence had taken a hit, but had actually ended surprisingly well.
Tomorrow I would travel to Holland!