Imagine training for and running in a marathon. Quite an achievement and great respect to everyone who has done it. But imagine running in four back to back marathons without a break. Then imagine a few of the well know fell races, such as Withens, the Lothersdale Fell Race or Pen Y Ghent. Then imagine adding in a few more hills that are part of the Pennine Way between Derbyshire and Hardraw and mix them all up and you have the challenge which John Boothman took on this weekend. One hundred and four miles of serious fell running with no sleep and just stops for sustenance.
John not only completed this, but he came second in the race. The winner, Michael Harrison, put in a tremendous performance. In the early stages, he looked as thought he might have gone off too fast, such was his lead, but he managed to keep up that blistering pace to the end. Behind him, by the time they reached the Cowling / Lothersdale area, John Boothman and Matthew Wilkinson were having a fair old tussle and it was nip and tuck between them both. But John had great determination and he pushed on relentlessly, so by the time they reached the summit of Pinhaw, there was a full nine minutes separating them.
Both ran on through the night up to Malham and then across Fountains Fell towards Pen y Ghent. After over twelve hours of running John made the ascent up the end of Pen Y Ghent as Matthew seemed to fall even further behind. From then on John seemed to dig deep and push on relentlessly until he reached the summit of Ten End from where he could see the town of Hawes and the finish just beyond at Hardraw. At that point, only a disaster, like crocking an ankle separated John from what felt like a famous victory, even though it was second place. Luckily, he descended at a fair pace, but managed to keep on his feet to go through the centre of Hawes and jog alongside the river up to the finish.
That was over thirty hours on his feet, apart from meal breaks and it says a lot about John's strong mental character, in addition to his incredible physical fitness. The times for the first three were:
1 Michael Harrison 27:45:02
2 John Boothman 30:33:34
3 Matthew Wilkinson 32:24:29