FORMER Royton Road Runner Howard Dracup braved the elements to finish third in the gruelling 108-mile, multi terrain, Mountain Spine Challenger, writes Gary Smith.
Starting in Edale, Derbyshire and finishing at Hawes in North Yorkshire, the Challenger is promoted as one of the toughest ultra-races a competitor will ever attempt.
To prepare, Howard travelled to Snowdonia, the Lake District and on the fells above his home in Rochdale before the big day.
Howard wanted to finish in under 30 hours and was determined to run his own race, so started slowly and deliberately letting others make the early pace in windy and drizzly conditions.
The runners soon separated out, with Howard spotting just a few when he got to the top of Jacob’s Ladder.
After negotiating Snake Pass, he had to climb Bleaklow Head before dropping to the checkpoint at Crowden reservoir before climbing out and up to Black Hill and Laddow Rocks then Wessenden Head on to Marsden Moor with transitions to different surfaces.
The wind, mist and rain became more unrelenting past Blackstone Edge and Stoodley Pike, all traversed in the dark using a head torch.
The route continuing across the Yorkshire Dales through wet, boggy terrain, climbing and descending, continually thinking about food and energy, weather and clothing.
The wind became especially severe threatening to blow Howard off Pen Y Ghent such that he had to crawl to keep his profile low.
Rightly elated to finally finish, Howard was ‘absolutely knackered but buzzing at the same time.’
Howard vowed not to even think of doing it again; at least for a few days afterwards!