On December 6th 2019, I drove from Bristol with my friend Will to run our first Montane Goat. I have run several ultras, but this was going to be the longest and toughest one yet. I was feeling a bit anxious about what I had let myself in for, running through a whole day was going to be a new experience. I had done minimal research into the event (ignorance is bliss) but thought that it sounded exciting and challenging, with the bonus of seeing a Cheviot Goat. Only the
On December 6th 2019, I drove from Bristol with my friend Will to run our first Montane Goat. I have run several ultras, but this was going to be the longest and toughest one yet. I was feeling a bit anxious about what I had let myself in for, running through a whole day was going to be a new experience. I had done minimal research into the event (ignorance is bliss) but thought that it sounded exciting and challenging, with the bonus of seeing a Cheviot Goat.
During a race earlier in the year, I chatted to a runner who completed the Goat. His words echoed through me in the days approaching the event, "watch out for the bogs of despairrrr". When registering Will and I were asked by the Montane Crew, "what is your tactic for the bogs?" At this point, we realised we had overlooked a key detail; the bogs. To say we underestimated the event was an understatement.
The forecast was bad with storm winds approaching on Saturday night which would make for a tough finish. Nonetheless, I felt positive the night before as we had our carb-loading pasta and studied the route map provided. At 9pm a message was sent to the runners explaining that due to high winds the race would be run in reverse. Anxiety levels were rising but this meant that the bogs of despair would be met in the first half and not the second, win!!
In the morning, everyone squeezed into the Race HQ for the safety brief. The atmosphere was great as we stood in shoulder to shoulder, (the last warm room we'd be in for a while) everyone excited (or terrified) to start. The stars shone in a crystal-clear sky and at 6am, the Goat began.
Running up the first section, I could see the sun rising behind us but with an imminent wall of cloud above. We pushed up the hills and across Comb Fell, entering the clag and the first true section of bog. One racer who I met the day before described it as "hell on earth." He told no lies. These were the bogs of despair. I have never seen a field of runners look more like skiers on a piste rather than runners on a trail. This is the Cheviot Goat.
After the boggy slog, we reached the Cheviot slabs and ran up to The Cheviot summit. Being deep in the clag there were no views to be seen. However, the path was a blessed relief after the struggle through the bogs.
Making quick progress I dropped under the clag and was able, at last, to see the rolling hills of Northumberland. Paying far too much attention to the views and not the path I found myself “in a pickle". I missed a stone and fell waist-deep in boggy water. The severity of the situation soon wore off so as I hauled myself out, I was rewarded with laughter from Will. Only one thing for it, run faster, dry quicker, reach soup.
Arriving at halfway was a huge relief. Grateful that the hardest section of the infamous bogs were behind us and my legs were still feeling strong. The warmth of the fire and a cup of hot soup was greatly appreciated. The sofas in front of the fire looked very inviting however, sitting is the enemy and you've got to get back on the trail as soon as possible. The crew were brilliant, filling our cups with hot drinks and encouraging us to keep on.
After the stop, I ran on good trails but as the light faded, the winds picked up. From here we pushed up to the ridge and followed it to Bloodybush Edge. By now, the fog had descended, visibility was down to a couple of meters with gale-force winds battering the runners. I caught up to a group and as a pack we picked our way through the bogs and heather, taking it in turns to lead. The camaraderie between this group of complete strangers was brilliant. We were all in this together and worked as a team to get through natures booby traps which sent numerous people flying into a watery pit.
Fighting through the dire conditions was exhausting and upon reaching Bloodybush we were directed down the hill and onto a glorious runnable track. The race gives you tracks just when you thought you'd never run one again. Grateful for this, Will and I were able to warm up by picking up the pace. By now, my head torch started to fail, and I was left with a small beam of light that was as helpful as my "Gore-Tex" shoes were at keeping my feet dry. We shared a working light to the finish. After 16 hours of running, we pushed our tired legs through the final section and down towards Ingram.
To date, this is my favourite running experience, running down the final hill with one head torch between us, the end in sight having taken on the infamous Cheviot Goat. We ran down the hill to the cafe and past the finishing line. At the cafe, I ate what can only be described as the BEST SOUP EVER MADE.
Having been nervous to undertake my
biggest run to date, I am elated to have finished The Cheviot Goat, in far from
ideal conditions. My legs took a beating,
but it was a huge achievement which will be stuck in my mind for years to come.
The Montane Cheviot Goat. Thanks to Montane, Cold Brew Event & the Mountain Rescue crews for putting on and supporting an epic event. For all future runners in doubt, do it!! Just never forget that Gore-Tex shoes are pointless and BEWARE THE BOGS OF DESPAIR.
Sadly, I did not see a Cheviot Goat, might have to do it next year then...