This year we have reports on both the 50k and 25k routes for the first time as well as updated "Gatistics"
A first for the Gatliff with a mid-October date with an appreciable advantage for daylight and ground conditions compared to an end of November date.
The forecast was very promising and was the perfect start with cloudless skies and temperatures in the low mid teens, perfect, and clouding over early afternoon and light rain for the later finishers. Ground conditions were near perfect with little in the way of mud not like a proper Gatliff!
The route headed west to Tandridge then Mercer’s Lake, South Merstham and new territory for the Gatliff before heading over the M25, M23 and up the North Downs to Caterham for the lunch stop and returning to Edenbridge via Godstone, Tandridge and Limpsfield Chart.
Out of 38 Gatliffs this was, according to the ‘Gatistics’, the 19th hardest so an average one despite 50+kms and even more for those like me who got slightly lost!
Congratulations to the front runners of each event:
25km Hannah Green 2.31 Ashley Norie 2.31
50km Peter Mack 5:35 Megan Lennox 7:04
A special call out for John Pool reaching 20 completions which he completed in 153 hours 5 minutes.
A heartfelt thanks go to the organisers and all the helpers for planning the route, booking and manning the checkpoints, feeding and watering us and the behind scenes effort to ensure a successful event including placing of warning signs for motorists on the many crossing points which took all day Saturday.
I’ve never walked 25km in my life! Yet here I am, three-quarters of the way to my telegram from the King, chairing a club that’s full of veterans of marathons, long distance yomps, cycle rides to John o’ Groats . . .
I really feel it’s time I entered into the spirit of the thing. So, a few 10 and 12 milers through the year, no ill effects. Survived the Weald Walkers Wander. Then the final hurdle – the Gatliff rehearsal. All going swimmingly until, three miles in, I accidentally discovered that venison has sharp bits . . .
. . . and forwent the rest of the course in favour of a visit to the Minor Injuries Unit. On the plus side, we’d identified a field that the final Gatliff route won’t cross!
Anyway the big day dawns (as big days will) and here I am, limbs and dignity mostly restored, but feeling ill-prepared and a little trepidacious. Some rain forecast for late afternoon, but we’ll be round so fast we’ll miss that, eh?
A loose grouping of the less athletic COPSE members set off in high spirits, clocking up an initial 2.9mph on my OS Maps app. Impressive, but sustainable? We’ll see.
The 25k route tracked north to Crockham Hill, the southern outskirts of Westerham before heading south to Limpsfield Chart and joining the 50k route back to Edenbridge. As we headed off to the countryside our little group settled down into a matching speed set. Roland was loosely attached but soon strode imperiously off into the middle distance. That left a core of seven that stayed the course together: Chris, Christopher, Dick, Gerry, Keith, Paul, and me. Incredibly, there were even some who couldn’t keep up with us! They shall be nameless.
Not far into the trip we identified what I will call ‘personality traits’ within our group with regard to navigation. One of our number was an acknowledged expert at following the obscure encoded route directions. Another knew everywhere on the route and didn’t need any directions. And one had printed off the map provided on the event website and tried to follow that by matching to the OS Maps app. Now, you may think, by triangulating between these approaches we would have no problem finding our way? You would, of course, be mistaken.
Still, we remained cheerful, the weather stayed friendly and we cruised serenely on to our inevitable encounter with Checkpoint 1.
Except . . . we missed it. Somehow a left turn escaped our notice and we laboured long and hard up a very steep hill before noticing that we needn’t have bothered. Then we hit the part of the course that we shouldn’t have been on until after the Checkpoint, at which point we decided to do that leg backwards till we reached it. That made things interesting, as we met plenty of others going in the opposite direction, all telling us we were doing it wrong. Yeah, OK.
Anyway, checkpoints are an opportunity for brief rest and reflection, and it’s as heartening to see the friendly faces of those manning them as it is to grab the refreshments. And had we kept up that initial blistering pace? Not quite, down to 2.7mph at this stage.
Stage 2 took us into the woods and onto Mariners Hill, where the route was so obviously straightforward, with no danger of straying off course, that we managed to do just that. In this case, though, we found a benefit – an excellent view of Churchill’s Chartwell home from on high. It was also a simple job to re-join the prescribed route, so not much was lost.
Walking in the woods, Paul was giving full rein to his interest in fungi, though we all resisted the temptation to try one just to see if it was edible. Here’s a nice picture of one variety:
Now we met some long straight stretches and more woods, including a visit to the ancient ruined tower in Tower Wood. We speculated about the purpose of it, but it appears others have done some real research – have a look at https://www.visitwesterham.org.uk/images/documents/TheTower.pdf.
Rolling hills took us mostly downwards to the River Derwent and a turn to the South along the Greensand Way, which would bring us to Checkpoint 2. This gave us a long climb across open country and into more woods. It wasn’t too steep but it was long enough to bring out the worst in Keith’s knee, and he struggled for a little while.
which gave the rest of us an excuse to slow down for a bit!
One more detour kept us entertained and amused. This time we’re blaming a 5-way fingerpost sign that definitely pointed straight ahead for the Greensand Way, while the instructions told us to take the path to the right. So we naturally followed the sign and . . . the rest is predictable. Only a small deviation, but extended discussions ensued.
Checkpoint 2 at the Crockham Village Hall, amusingly labelled “Checkpoint 6”, did much to revive our spirits. I was particularly impressed to find cheese cubes on sticks – an unexpected refinement that went well with a large mug of tea. The stop also had a miraculously curative effect on Keith’s knee, and he resolved to take it all the way to the finish. But we’d upped the pace by now, surely? Nope, down to 2.4mph.
Stage 3 was relatively straightforward, mostly across open country and farmland.
There were no significant ups or downs, which was just as well, because with a mile or two to go my ancient limbs were starting to register a few complaints. Keith announced that he knew the way perfectly once we reached the (currently defunct) golf course, and he could do it with his eyes closed. Imagine my disappointment when he kept them open all the way. All mouth . . .
Arrival at Edenbridge coincided with a few spots of rain falling, which quickened our pace a little into the final straight and arrival at the Rugby Club. More tea, more friendly faces, hot food (in spite of, I hear, a few technical issues), and a real feeling of achievement at covering all that ground – surely at a record-breaking speed of . . . . OK, 2.5mph. That’s not bad at all, I tell you!
Our Magnificent Seven stayed together, argued constantly about the route, had many laughs and lots of fun and exercise on the way. Although our athletic abilities varied considerably, we kept to a pace we could all manage and a good time was had.
Do I recommend it? Definitely!
Will I do it next year? Probably.
Up for the 50K next time? Not a chance!
We stayed around long enough to chat with other groups. There’s a definite feeling of camaraderie amongst the people who do this sort of thing, and the atmosphere in the Rugby Club was generally triumphant.
Later a party of us COPSErs repaired to the Swan pub for relaxation, the playing of their in-house 3-string guitar, and an excellent meal arranged by Ireen. We eventually drove back to Croydon in lashing rain, thick mist around Botley Farm, and deep puddles everywhere on the roads. Good timing, weather gods!
We hope you enjoy pondering over the results and various statistics that follow.
We look forward to seeing you next year for our 39th event! (If you can, it would help us greatly if you pre-enter.)