By Jamie Harding
Legends of the Chevy
Paul Schaefer … Dave Manners … Ken McCormick
These are the names of some of the Claremont Runners who have achieved legendary status by completing the Chevy Chase – the 20 mile long, 4,500 feet high challenge over Cheviot and Hedgehope – 10 or more times. On the morning of 4th July my tally stood at seven and I thought the predicted hot conditions would be the greatest obstacle to reaching eight. Also running were experienced Chevy runners Rez and Paul Carroll, while Dave Reay represented a welcome new generation coming through and Dave Beaney was our representative on the walk.
Despite the weather forecast, heavy rain greeted us at the start at Wooler and we found out later that the marshals on some of the more remote parts of the course had to use their emergency shelters while waiting for the first participants to come by. The rain stopped within the first hour but was replaced by mist, meaning that visibility was quite limited. However, I was in optimistic mood as I began to climb the Cheviot, with my shoe count at a very conventional 2.
Problems started just before Cheviot Knee when, on some particularly slippery ground, the grips broke off my left fell shoe. Thankfully it was just before the second checkpoint and a very helpful marshal managed to tie together what was left of the shoe with some tape. As I now had a sole on my left shoe, but no grips, I regarded my shoe count as 1.5. I was able to get to the top of Cheviot without too much trouble but the steep descent was very difficult, as I slid around like a contestant on some ridiculous game show – I half expected Ant and Dec to suddenly appear and crack some bad jokes.
After wading through the river and beginning to climb Hedgehope, things became considerably more difficult when my right fell shoe broke in half. With my shoe count now standing at a problematic 0.5, and more than half of the race to complete, I considered dropping out. However, I then decided that, if I could keep going to the end, it could be one of the historic Chevy stories. Of course, no one could ever beat the story of Bill and the mountain rescue, but I hoped that mine might be somewhere lower down the leader board.
I left the parts of my right shoe with the marshals at the top of Hedgehope who said that I could carry on, without me having to argue the case that the kit list did not include shoes. Shortly afterwards the sun came out, we started to go downhill and I was cheered on by my fellow competitors every time they noticed that my running sock was putting in some extra duties. The stony path by Carey Burn was the worst section but I was only two miles from the finish at Wooler when the marshal’s repair to my left shoe finally broke down, leaving me with a shoe count of 0. (The upper part of my left shoe remained, but both socks were hitting the ground directly, meaning that I avoided the road and sought out every grass verge in Wooler.)
The welcome and refreshments at Wooler Youth Hostel were as excellent as ever. I finished behind my fellow Claremonters in my slowest every time. However, all the other times had been achieved in races where I was younger – and had finished with two shoes.