Running is becoming a popular way to tackle Yorkshire’s famous coast to coast route, as Jonathan Turner finds out.
For almost half a century, ramblers from across the world have been walking the Coast to Coast – a spectacular footpath stretching from St Bees in Cumbria to Robin Hood’s Bay, in Yorkshire and the longest of its kind in England. Devised in 1973 by the legendary fell walker Alfred Wainwright, the route packs some of the most stunning and varied landscapes our country has to offer into 192 miles stretching across the roof of the North of England from Cumbria to the Yorkshire Dales and the North York Moors.
The most popular way of tackling it, of course, is to walk or cycle, but an Anglo-Australian collaboration is fast making both the route and Yorkshire a must-visit destination for trail runners. Mark Sandamas is the owner of The Coast to Coast Packhorse, a company based in North Yorkshire, that helps visitors plan and organise their route and provides a luggage moving service so walkers, cyclists and runners can concentrate on enjoying the scenery rather than worrying about logistics.
I’m spending a day with Mark and two intrepid Australians who are running the final leg of an epic 192-mile route. Chris Ord and Rob Sutton, who run adventure companies in Australia, have come to investigate whether Yorkshire’s Coast to Coast is a trail they want to add to their portfolio. “It has to be a high-quality running experience,” says Chris, “But I like to build my tours around more than just running. Is it a journey? Is it an adventure? Are there ‘wow’ landscapes? And can you stay somewhere comfortable and eat and drink well?”
Judging by the beaming smile on his face as he surveys the countryside it looks like Yorkshire is ticking every box so far. We head off from Egton Bridge, leading us along an old toll road to Grosmont.
Once there, we pause for snaps of the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, which doubled as the Hogwarts Express railway line in the Harry Potter films. We are then transfixed by a 33 per cent gradient sign pointing uphill, with a Grosmont resident chuckling as he confirms that’s the way to go: “Of course it’s up that hill – Wainwright was a sadist!”
People cheerfully engage with us as we run through their villages - a farmer on a quadbike pointing out we could get tire running the route rather than hiking it and groups of walkers who clap us on.
As we cross Sleights Moor, we are in classic Heartbeat country but, running through Littlebeck Wood, it’s soon Harry Potter who springs to mind again as the skies turn black and we’re hit by the most intense thunderstorm of the summer, fearing lightening scars on our foreheads. As luck would have it there’s a hermitage, carved out of a huge boulder, offering shelter. We linger a little then splash through the puddles and on towards the nearby Falling Foss waterfall, which rarely looks more dramatic.
Just as quickly as the storm blows in, it rolls away and suddenly we’re running through spectacular purple heather, upwards and onwards towards High Hawsker to dry out over lunch and sample a new ale. Set up perfectly for the final push, we gallop towards the east coast, only to be stopped in our tracks as the cliff tops come into view, prompting lots more big grins and photos.
Emotions are high as we follow the coastal path southwards to the picturesque fishing village of Robin Hood’s Bay. “Even for someone like me who knows this area well, you are still making new discoveries all the time and forming new friendships,” explains Mark. “You can do the same run two weeks apart and it can be completely different - the surface, the sounds, the flowers, the weather - and even just today we’ve had incredible contrasts. The essence of the Coast to Coast is in the journey – how you are part of the landscape as well as a visitor to it, in awe of the forces of nature that shaped the land.”
Tradition dictates the Coast to Coast is rounded off by depositing a pebble collected at the start and by dipping your feet in the water, but Chris, Rob and Mark don’t do things by halves. After hurling their pebbles into the North Sea and still in full running gear, they dive in.
Minutes later, still dripping wet but with pint in hand and a smile wider than ever, Chris sums up the adventure: “I’ve discovered that real English ale is perhaps the best hydration for a 192-mile cross-country run, especially when combined with full English breakfasts, comfy B&Bs, hot showers, humour - and those wow landscapes.”
This article was taken from This is Y 2018.