Sabrina Verjee Wainwright’s Coast to Coast Winter 2020

By Rupert Bonington
January 07, 2021

A massive thank you to everyone who got involved, it was all last minute but lots of peeps came out to help and showed support which made it fun and special.

St Bees 8am – dry, not too cold not too windy – not what I was expecting. James Thurlow counted me down and I headed off along an undulating coastal path, heading northwards. James met me again at Sandwith and I ditched my primaloft – I was definitely overdressed! I stuffed in some Christmas cake and water and cracked on. The next part was a mixture of roads, boggy fields and tracks with slightly tricky navigation in parts but it didn’t take long to get to Cleator. I headed up to Dent, the wind was picking up a little but thankfully it was still dry. The views through here were lovely and there were a few folk out on the fells that I passed on my way to Ennerdale. At Ennerdale Steph had brought a wonderful spread and I stuffed in some cake and tea before heading off with Mike. A slightly technical run alongside the lake: a bit rooty and rocky in places so it’s not the fastest flat running. Storm Bella was picking up momentum – fortunately, we were headed Eastward and the tail wind was like a gentle hand shimmying me along my way. The run along the forest track up to Black sail hut was easy and quick before I knew it we were at Seavy Knott. The wind picked up some more and the grassy descent down to Honister was speedy! In fact we took Steph by surprise as she only just made it there. I had some cold soup – delicious home-made and some vegan sausages (I’m sure I swore I would never eat one of those again).  We were in Rosthwaite before we knew it and as it started spitting we turned southward into the wind. It felt a bit slow pushing up the Cumbrian way and I tried to hide behind Mike as much as possible. He did a great job of sheltering, navigating and providing my food and water for the leg. As we had anticipated Storm Bella was raging and we were not able to speak much between Calf Crag and Helm Crag! We got blown over a few times and sometimes my feet wouldn’t go where I wanted and I’d be blown off on a tangent to then have to fight my way back to the path. It was a wonderful surprise to be greeted by Scott White on Helm Crag and even better to find out that him and Pharoige (collie)were accompanying me to Patterdale as originally I was going it alone on this leg. The 4 of us descended to Grasmere and I was spurred on by some cool purple writing on the road saying “Go Sabs” as I turned the corner into the village I was greeted by some cheering and cow bells – it was so nice to see Lucy Noble and the gang. In the little car park I grabbed some Amaretto cake from Steph – oh yes this was the food of kings and what keep get my legs going!

It was getting dark as we headed up to Grisedale Tarn. It was fairly calm in the valley but as we ascended we felt the wind stronger and stronger on our backs, we were not able to make much conversation. The paths were turning from bog to ice and there was a persistent rain spatter. I was glad for the studs I’d put in my La Sportiva Mutants as they gave me some nice extra grip without the faff of putting spikes on. Grisedale Tarn was raging with sea horses – I’d never seen it like that. We were blown over a lot, so much so that one had to adopt the brace position for the gusts and crouch as low as possible. Poor Pharoige would slip on some ice and then get blown for metres down the valley but he never failed to get himself up and trot off again with his tail wagging! Once off the high ground the track was easy and solid and quick and we arrived in Patterdale in good time. It was now raining quite hard and I was glad to see Debs and Ben – I put an extra primaloft on knowing that the next bit – the highest section was going to be very challenging – windy, wet and cold. I prepared Ben for the worst! We took gels knowing that we would not be able to faff with food up there and agreed that we probably wouldn’t be able to talk either! I put a balaclava on to protect my face from the potential sleet/hail/snow.

Ben and I knew the route well so at least the navigation was not challenging although Bella tried her best to push us off the path at every opportunity. It was true we could barely stand up. As we got up around Angle Tarn the storm was raging and fierce and really unpleasant. I was getting really annoyed with not being able to see because the wind kept blowing my hood over my headtorch so I had no light and the balaclava kept slipping over my right eye. There was no possibility of adjusting it there so I just had to put up with it but it made me fall over even more as I couldn’t see where or what I was putting my feet on! We were both elated and relieved when we made it to Kidsty and met Scott and Andy.

The rain was now heavy and there were torrents of water coming down the paths – I was so grateful for my knee high waterproof socks! The descent was tricky – ice, slippery grass, bog, fast-flowing streams and being shoved by Bella – it was hard to stay upright and at times we had to link arms to stop being blown away and pushed over. The fields across from Burnbanks were so waterlogged, it was like wading through soup and you couldn’t see the path. The roads weren’t much better as they were like swimming pools! Should have brought a kayak! Scott had an endless supply of cakes – rocky road, tiffin, battenburg and orange and almond cake – I didn’t feel much like eating but I managed some of these yummy delights!



Finally, we arrived in Shap like 3 drowned rats! I changed my clothes here and it was amazing to get into the dry and warmth. I had some cheese and pasta and tried to stuff in as much as possible – I allowed myself the respite – I deserved it. I had known setting off if anything was going to stop me it was the section over Kidsty Pike and I had made it – nothing would stop me now.

I was in good hands again – Paul Nelson – local to the Orton Fells navigated the next section seamlessly – charging on ahead he kept me going at a decent pace. Through horrendous bog and ice and streams we just kept ticking along and the rain kept pattering down. I did wonder how much more water could be left in the sky?

On the way into Kirkby Stephen – I was cheered on by more running friends – even though it was late in the night. Martin Stone popped along for a bit too. Finally, I got the long awaited Guinness Cake that Laura had made and took a little respite in Debs campervan.

The track up to Nine Standards was pretty good and quick but I was lacking a bit of energy. Getting food in now was getting a little hard despite all the yummy things I’d been offered so I just kept banging in the Mountain Fuel jellies. The Cola ones also had caffeine in and so prevented any sleepiness. I wanted to be able to push on a little faster and keep up with Paul but I was now feeling it. It seemed to take far too long to reach Nine Standards Rigg but I was so glad when we got there. The very boggy and icy descent was not very quick and also went on forever. I managed to eat a bit of a sandwich and a bite of cake but I just wasn’t getting enough food in.  At least the dawn was coming and the rain was easing off. I fell in a deep bog – one that fills your clothes with muddy water – Paul pulled me out quickly and we changed my gloves. “Just over a mile to go to Keld Sabs” – phew that’s not so bad. Then 30 minutes later “About a mile to Keld Sabs”… errr….. I’m sure we’ve done at least 2 miles since you last said that. Another 30 minutes “About a mile to Keld now Sabs”. – “Paul you can take your mile and shove it!”…. I think I’m hangry!!!

Here we are about a mile from Keld … or maybe 10!

Sunny, cold, Keld – icy roads and deep river crossings and then finally – Debs’ campervan but no George. I decided to take some time out here, I was not in a good place – I knew I hadn’t eaten enough and my energy was low, I knew I had to sort this out here before going on. Debs had made me so many wonderful things to eat and tried to get some of it down – a porridge with mountain fuel recovery drink in seemed the easiest thing to eat and I did manage a bit of pasta. The bad news was George who was supporting me on the next leg was not here so I would have to go it alone to Reeth. I couldn’t complain I had had such amazing support and people had pulled together in the last minute to come and help – I just hoped he was ok. I set off with plenty of clothes, I risked not taking a a race vest and instead stuffed a bit of cake, my soft water flask and a gel into my pockets and just hoped that I’d run tin some support soon to refuel. As the food kicked in my mood improved and my legs found a way to trot along the icy paths. This section was stunning, snowy covered hills and glinting sunlight, I was happy on my own.

Old Lead Mine at Gunnerside Beck

Not far from Surrender’s Bridge Sam came to find me – he had brought fresh filter coffee – I was being really spoiled! I managed to eat a banana and some OTE cookie flapjack thing. It was here I felt a sharp pain in my left knee … oh no! I could only walk for about 30 minutes but then the pain seemed to subside and I managed to get trotting again – it didn’t bother me too much after that.

Proper Winter conditions!

Not much further and we ran into George! He had set off from Richmond and just not made it to Keld because I was quite ahead of my schedule.

It was a nice, easy run to Reeth in the sunshine – good company and chat.

 At Reeth there were quite a few people to greet me. Jennifer, Caroline, Ian, and Sam and I was inundated with food and also got a Panini from the Dales Bike centre. The next section was fun fairly easy road sections interjected with annoying boggy fields but it went quickly as we were all just chatting and I was managing to get food in. We were joined by Matt and Dave for bits – fellow ultra runners who knew what I needed – tea, home-made guacamole and houmous with falafel and lentil chips!

Soggy, boggy fields!

So much water!

We arrived in Richmond just before 4pm. I remembered because all I wanted to do was sleep but I didn’t want to let myself sleep during daylight so I pushed on past Richmond to Colburn where I could finally lay my weary body to rest. Sadly, I lay down and couldn’t sleep. My breathing rate was too fast 90 breaths a minute and I was wheezing and coughing. I don’t know how I hadn’t noticed that my asthma was so bad! I tried to use my inhaler but I just kept coughing the salbutamol out before I could inhale it. At least as I lay there my breath started to settle. I might have managed a few minutes asleep before Caroline came to get me up.

So off into my second night with Jess and Ian. Jess knew this section which was great because in the dark the navigation was impossible and the gpx trace was dodgy here. Unfortunately, although this section is flat it was hard to gather speed because the ground conditions were terrible – muddy, boggy, fields and waterlogged ways. There was a lot of road to Danby Wiske- which was tedious but a hell of a lot better than bog! The full moon was a welcome distraction and so bright and clear that we could turn the headtorches off. Caroline did an amazing job at meeting me frequently as I could then eat some proper hot food and she always found something new and exciting to cook! Ian made what could have been a terribly long night a fun adventure – chatting and distracting me and making sure I ate and drank. I felt stronger and stronger as I got the calories in. I was so glad when I got to Ingleby Arncliffe and this was definitely a turning point – I felt better and the route was getting more interesting again.

It was such a beautiful night – the moonlight, it was dry, it was not too windy – it was so enjoyable to trot along the paths and climb up the hills. The only problem now was that after 40 hours on my feet and only 1 hours kip I was getting quite sleepy. I kept taking Cola gels but the effects would not last too long so I had 3 more 10 minute naps during the rest of the night to get me through to morning. These were short and efficient and also gave my body some time to digest some food – I had chorizo pasta, noodles,  a fried egg bap, couscous, cheesy pasta – all good sustenance that I ate when we met Caroline in the van and then while out on the hill it was mainly gels and occasionally some Christmas cake and fruit and nuts.

Icy slabs on the Cleveland Way

At Claybank I think Ian had had enough of me so Caroline took one for the team! It was nice to have a good natter up Clay Bank. The footpath here would normally provide a nice easy surface for a trot but it was covered in ice and snow and water and bog and it was hard to see what was what so you had to really watch your footing. As we approached Lion Inn another day was dawning – another good day promising sunshine and a beautiful end to a wonderful journey. Adrian took over here and I scoffed his snickers, then the tracker and I was about to polish off another tracker bar when a wonderful lady turned up with 2 mince pies – so I ate these! I got an energy burst and a spur on from the sun and pushed it on into Glaisdale almost on schedule. I tried not to waste too much time here and just stuffed some more food in and continued. Adrian knew the way which made things a lot easier, but unfortunately the roads were icy and we had to watch our step. There was a fair bit of bog slog from Littlebeck but I could smell the sea! At May Beck I was joined by Claire and Ali – it was great to have a good female contingent for the final run in. Adrian left us at Hawkser – he’d done a great job of nav and feeding and I was feeling good. Not far to go! I’ll admit the Wainwrights route here is massively frustrating – it’s a long detour to run along the coast which I wouldn’t have minded except that the coastal path is just a boggy mess and slippery and slidey and so slow when all you want to do is get to the Bay!

Last few kilometres – running to the sea

We were joined on the coast by a lady and her son  – it was just so nice to see a few folk along the way who wanted to run with me and cheer me in – I am so grateful. A final push to RBH down a steep descent and I had to dip my toe in the ocean – or rather wash off all the mud in the sea before Ben would let me in the car!!!!

An amazing journey and fun adventure – I would recommend the Coast to Coast route to anyone – whether you walk it over 14 days or run the Northern Traverse Ultra in a few days it’s a beautiful route. Thanks to everyone for helping me – I couldn’t have done it without you.

James Thurlow (tracker, lift, road support), Steph and Mike (run and road support, cake and soup!), Debs and Scot White (campervan, road and run support, cake, hot food), Caroline and Ian (campervan, road and run support, an entire menu of hot food and drinks all the way from Reeth to RBH), Ben (facing storm Bella with me from Patterdale to Kidsty Pike!), Scott and Andy (more Storm Bella frenzy from Kidsty to Shap – the largest cake selection in the world!) Leigh-Ann (Shap stop, hot food, warm fire!) Lucie Barnes and Paul Nelson (run and road support, thanks guys you are always there for me J ) Sam Johnson (Freshly brewed coffee, run support, road support) George Marchant (run support, various food goodies) Jennifer (run support, Panini, houmous wrap! Biscuits) Jess (run support) Claire and Ali (run support, tea holding, various yummy goodies to eat!) Adrian (run support, snickers, tracker, holding half eaten bananas LOL) Richard (bananas!) Lady who meat me on Glaisdale Rigg with awesome mice pies !!! Running granny, lucy Noble (art work on the road!) Matt and Dave (run support and a van full of goodies – home-made houmous and guacamole!!)  Martin Stone, Derek, Krystal, the people who came to cheer me in at RBH and anywhere else along the route that I have forgotten to mention.

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