Established in 1976. The Viking Way is a long distance footpath which starts on the banks of the Humber in the north and winds its way through Lincolnshire to finish on the shores of Rutland Water, a total of 235km (147 miles). Named the Viking Way because of the strong influence of Viking settlements and Viking trade routes in the east of England.
The route passes through the Wolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the market town of Horncastle, the Lincolnshire Limewoods, the City of Lincoln, the southern Lincolnshire Edge and the Kesteven Uplands before entering Leicestershire and Rutland.
Note: You will only be considered for a COCKBAIN EVENT if you have extensive ultra-running experience. A minimum requirement for entry to any of the events is a 100 mile non stop finish or equivalent military endurance. These are low key, extremely difficult events that require a certain level of hardship and endurance.
Registration is either the night before at the Premier Inn, Hull West, or at the start of the event in the morning. I made my way over the night before from Hessle station. Which at the time seemed practical. But in reality with all my bags, it was a mission. I met Mark, Alex, Ed and some of the other runners. Alex arranged contact with Allan Rumbles, who is staying at my Travelodge in Hull Central. So we can discuss sharing a cab in the morning to the start.
Thanking everyone, I made my way back to Hull to get my head down and organise my kit for the morning. I bumped into Allan and the cab was booked for 05:45, as he needs to register in the morning.
I send a last few messages to my friend Helen, who is at work keeping track on me. I set my Runkeeper and Garmin on and we make a start down the dirt track, heading west along the waterside.
I speak to some of the other runners as we make our way along the route. Ben Davies tells me of his tales last year where he had to drop from hypothermia, after running over 130 miles...
Through South Ferriby, heading away from the waterside. So far following the trail markers is straight forward, just follow the viking helmet. A left turn is nearly missed, but Riccardo Giussani, who has run the Viking before, carries on up this road. We all follow.
I have a fueling plan of staying on liquids only for the first 50 miles to my drop bag. Then introduce real foods in small amounts from then onwards. I am very fat adapted and the bulletproof coffee always keeps me full enough for hours of running.
The road leads down into the village. Again no markers, so the group splits. I run with Ben and Richard Lennon through the village and we pick up the viking way further up.
Passing through many buttercup fields. The trail comes out to a road, I follow Richard until eventually the first check point can be seen at Bigby. Ed and Andy Horsley catch up in seconds.
A few cups of water and I am good to go. Thanking Mark, Alex and the team, I carry on the trail towards Caistor with the group close by.
This section is the lumpy part through the Wolds. Although not too high, it has the most rolling climbs of the day. It is very scenic and the sun has decided to shine on us with a cooling breeze.
I remove my light showerproof and pack it away. Unfortunately I accidentally left my tech top and arm sleeves in the finish bag I left with Nick. So I only have the base layer I am wearing.
I carry on with Andy nearby. After the last climb up, the view from afar is breathtaking.
I keep hydrated with NUUN water and take an S!Cap tablet. I sip on some olive oil for the time being. Still not hungry for any solid food yet.
I consume another S!Cap tablet after 5 hours running and have some of my blended coffee with chia seeds to keep my strength up until the 50 mile check point.
Somewhere near Belchford, I cut across the wrong field and through a stream, ankle deep in water. The cooling water is refreshing on my feet.
Feeling good and really taking in all the sights, I enjoy this section more so than the last as I didn't go so much off route or get lost...
I eat some cheese, olives and a few spoonfuls of my high energy blend, I made earlier (coconut oil, mct oil, chia, butter, raw cacao, salt and pine nuts). Gulp of coconut water, change out of the Luna Sandals and into Merrell trail shoes.
I am fit to carry on...
As I get ready to leave, Richard and Cliff make their way into the check point.
I eat a boiled egg I am carrying and drink some of the coffee I refilled at the check point. I take another S!Cap tablet.
Later heading through Woodhall Spa into the early evening, I run my fastest leg of the route today. Averaging at 8:30min/mile, then coming into Stixwould, feeling strong for check point four.
Helen finds this highly amusing...
I munch on seeds, nuts and sip olive oil as I go down the track. I have a bite of the 9bar I took from the last check point.
I think I get slightly distracted through Bardney and Stainfield, steering off a little too far into the woods. I soon back track when noticing. Checking my photo maps, I must have added at least 7+ miles already today by going off track...
Dusk comes in heavy over the valley, the sky turns deep purple, then black, very quickly. My headlight comes on. The breeze picks up and the temperature drops.
I speak to Sunday again, navigate through a field of more cows, get chased to the gate and then run through Hardy Gang Wood. I need my concentration so hang up the call.
Out from the woods and again, gone off the route. I scramble through into a field and head over to Reepham Moor, trying to pick up the trail again.
For what feels like hours in pitch blackness, I finally reach a bridle track that leads me back towards Fiskerton onto the route.
The road runs parallel to the viking way, yet I cannot find a track or footpatch to reach it.
I soon see flashing headlights from the distance and spot this as the next check point. I am ready for a hot coffee and to see some people, it has been a long and lonely stretch.
I soon hear voices, and then see volunteer Karen waving from a van on the roadside.
Sunday calls back to check how I am doing. I spot Cliff coming up the road and catch up with him. He knows this section well, so I stay close, following him to the Cathedral. Then navigating through the High Street.
My sister calls before going to sleep. She is pleased I have company to get through Lincoln and wishes us well.
After a long stretch through woodland trail the track goes out into fields through Waddington and then towards Navenby. I thank Cliff and pick up my pace.
I feel alive and euphoric through this section. Night running is never a problem for me and my senses are awakened. I hear every tiny sound.
I reach a personal best for running 100 miles.
My SE07 Lenser light dies after just a few hours (I think the usb battery is faulty). I fumble in the dark for my PETZL Tikka 2 light.
Cliff catches up, he is not well, he has been urinating blood and was throwing up. It is not far from the next check point so he soldiers on...
I make sure I pick up my spare ANKER battery pack.
Within 20 minutes Cliff checks in and explains his troubles. He says he wants to carry on and finish the race. I bid him well and thank Alex for her help.
I update my location on Facebook and text some family (it's now around 3am). Checking the map it is a lonely, dark, six mile stretch down the Roman Road, towards Carlston Scroop.
Still buzzing and on a runners high, my legs feel fatigued but nothing more than normal running long. I just seem to be on auto-pilot...
I speak to Sunday again before he crashes for the night. The temperature drops more so, but with no breeze the air feels thick and wet. My every breath is like running through a mist.
Feeling good, I really enjoy the night time segment with my tunes to keep me going and before long the sky changes colour and dawn breaks.
Following the River Witham, I hop over stones in the dark with just my headlight as my guide. I go a little too far out under the railway crossing but soon pick up the trail again before Marston. The sky is brighter and I can see the sunrise through thick, dark clouds. Today looks to be dull weather compared to yesterday.
I eat a babybel and take another S!Cap tablet. I go through a large gate that is heavy to lift. It makes a loud creak and I see movement from the car parked in front.
This is check point seven.
I ask how the other runners behind are doing, a fair few have dropped already and I am leading by 4 hours at the moment. I find this hard to digest and really am in awe of what is happening.
I have another hot coffee and refill my water. I munch on some nuts and another bite of 9bar, whilst walking and texting up the road to Foston...
After another 6 or so miles I have been running for 24 hours and already covered 122 miles on the Viking way. The rain starts, lightly, then a heavy down pour. I pass the time speaking to my virtual pacers, Mum, then Sunday. Mum cannot quite register that I have been running all through the night, with no sit down or nap...
I speak to Sunday first and he tells me how great I am doing. All our running friends from the Bosh Run group are routing for me and following all my progress on Runkeeper.
He can hear my frustration on the phone with getting lost again. I hang up and then return my sisters call. I'm getting really tired all of a sudden and do not feel in the mood to talk.
I ask some locals if this is the way to Sewstern, they tell me about another mile on this road will take you there.
This road is very straight and long. My mood is low and I walk with my head down. I don't want to run anymore.
For what feels like forever, and a few magic words of encouragement from my sister, I find the crossroads on the map and it is a left turn down to the next check point.
Once I see the marker for 'Viking Way' it feels like a ton of bricks have been lifted. I feel so emotional for no reason, except that I am back on track and that tiny bit closer to the finish...
I thank them both for all their help, then listen to David's instructions for the route ahead. The footpath heads through fields before reaching The Drift again, then onwards to Thistleton and Greetham. I take a track too early and end up reaching the check point again.
Cursing myself at my mistake, I run back the same road I came along, adding more miles to an already long weekend of running...
With all the bonus miles, I must have gone an extra 10 already.
Sunday is about to leave for a flight so we have one last chat before he leaves. I am just 10 miles from Oakham so had I not got so lost I could have been at the finish already by now.
My right ankle starts to get more tight and uncomfortable. I am ready to stop running... It is very hard to find the strength to keep moving after 30 hours of non-stop running. I power walk some technical off road sections, then pick up the pace to a slow 10:30min/mile shuffle on the flat roads.
Cutting across open fields, through Tunneley Wood, then a visit to Exton village, before picking up the off road track again,over more fields and through gates onto Whitwell at Rutland.
I manage a small grin for Karen's picture, she tells me all my running friends are cheering me on and they think it is amazing how far I have gone, and to stay in the lead. I make do with a water refill and I cant see anything else I will need at this stage, so late in the race. i still have plenty of snacks on me I didn't eat...
'Let's do this' almost there...
It does some good as I manage to keep running, correction shuffle into Oakham, then I can see some signs for town centre at the next junction. I look to the right and can see the viking flag and then the Library with the team cheering me on for the finish.
At 16:29 on Sunday 20th April I finish the Viking Way Ultra in first place in a time of 33h 29m. My first attempt at this event and trail, with lots of diversions and time added from going off route. I ran in total 160 miles.
So next year I will just have to try again but without the slight detours!
I enjoy a jacuzzi, whisky with dinner and some chocolate to celebrate Easter! happy knowing that Lucy waited for me to finish before tucking into hers....