Organised by Bristol and West LDWA, the Wye Forest 50 was a tough route in the beautiful and historic Forest of Dean and Wye Valley area of outstanding natural beauty and was to cover 52 miles with 8778 feet of ascent. Starting from Lydney close to the banks of the River Severn around 170 hardy souls anticipated what the day (and night) would bring. Arriving at around 9.30am many of the walkers had set off, leaving runners to depart at 10.30 am. This however never seemed to materialise as those taking part in the running seemed to start (many with the walkers) as and when they chose. By the time I had prepared myself and had a final cup of tea I was the last to leave.
The first section of the course meandered its way northwards into the ancient woodland of the Forest of Dean and across many interconnecting forestry tracks that would be hard to navigate without using a route description. It soon became apparent the slick conditions underfoot and how much more effort was needed to prevent yourself sliding backwards upon ascent. I started this section really well and felt very confident in my own fitness and was soon overtaking the majority of walkers and runners who opted to go earlier. Passing through Coleford the course turned 180° to follow a southerly direction towards the banks of the River Wye over open, undulating countryside with a series of steep climbs.
Reaching the second checkpoint at St Briavels and marking the 17 mile point it was a good surprise to see the friendly face of Ludlow’s Ian Prentice who as always seems to take these events in his stride. The route then followed a steep track d own through ancient woods to the river Wye and a beautiful run along its water meadows on the Offa’s Dyke Path to cross the river & up along the Wye Valley Walk. At this point and 30 miles to go I had reached the front runners and took the first lead. Continuing along the River Wye the route took us up a long steady climb to Navel Temple to the west of Monmouth and the highest point before going over two steep but short ridges past the ‘suck stone’ and Symonds Yat and finally climbing out of the Wye valley to English Bicknor. I started to feel a bit down on this section and was spurred on by two seasoned long distance runners I had previously passed and with a few energy gels felt I could stick with their pace.
From English Bicknor I continued to work hard, walking the ascents and running the rest as the course worked its way back through the Forest of Dean, passing the Beechenhurst Sculpture trail to Lydney. In a time of 10hrs 47mins and in failing light I finished the 52 mile course in a very jubilant first place.