Four Inns Ultra Run: Review and Reflection

Setting off on a 40 mile run believing you will fail is not a great start. But after a hectic weekend of raft racing and hospital visits in Romania the week before, that’s exactly how I set off on the Four Inns Ultra.

The Four Inns Ultra

The Four Inns is officially a walk, organised by the Scouts for over 60 years. Participants take part in teams of three or four and your team have to stay together throughout. Many teams do still walk the route but there are a lot of running teams too. There are ten checkpoints and at each one each team member must hand in a route card and show their dog tag with their team number. There are a number of trophies up for grabs too. You can tell this race has been run for a long time as the level of organisation is excellent.

Seemed a good idea at the time…

I ended up signed up in the same way all my adventures start; someone comes up with an idea, I say ‘yes’, then consider it later!  In this case it was my colleagues Craig and Anna who collared me. A 40 mile run, through the Peak District…sounds like a walk in the (National) park. Our smiles at the finish of even the toughest group training runs proved we would make a good team.

My training did not feel smooth however. A foot injury which has plagued me for over a year kept flaring up. As a result I was running on the outside of my foot and creating more injuries. Typically for me, rest didn’t really become an option.

The weekend before the run I flew out to Romania for my first raft racing competition. A truly awesome experience. But, one which took it out of me, not just from the physicality of racing but also from a hospital visit and slightly broken nose due to sun stroke! So, my genuine thought the night before the Four Inns was to set off with the team and get as far as I could. The rules stated that Craig and Anna could then join up with others to form a scratch team.

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The start

There is a strict kit list for the Four Inns and kit check is one hour before your allotted start time. That meant we had to be at the village hall in Holmbridge at 5.28 am. Luckily this was just a 30 second walk from our lovely Air BnB, allowing us to scoot back to the cottage for final prep (panic) before going to the start line.

We set off into mist and straight uphill, chatting to other groups as we passed and were passed by them. There was a cheery atmosphere but my head was not in a good place. Such a large part of long distance running is mental. Channeling the ability to cancel out time and distance and keep putting one foot in front of the other. Crossing the bog beyond Black Hill I sank in up to my ankle and ended up sitting in black muck. Usually a laughing matter for me but this time I was deeply unamused.

Murderous thoughts

Craig had a short cut. Insider knowledge. We weren’t going to follow the footpath. We were cutting across Bleaklow. Perfectly allowed in the rules and he swore it would save us time. But short cuts across peat bogs are not easy. The peat splits, leaving ankle breaking chasms and making running impossible. Long, rough grass conceals muddy pools of water and the GPS must be constantly watched to stay on track.

It was at this point I threatened to murder Craig if the short cut did not live up to its name.

And here we are at the checkpoint – where hotdogs (veggie and meat) were on offer. We hurriedly eat, drink and hand in our route cards. As we prepare to leave the checkpoint another team come in who had previously been ahead. They praise us for our sneaky route and Craig’s life is saved.

I got this

A long, downhill run along the Snake Pass takes us to Kinder, which we must cross before descending into Edale. Somewhere around this time, I realise we have passed halfway and my mind set shifts. The ground just keeps passing beneath my feet and suddenly I know I can do this. Our support teams help with moral. Anna’s family and a group of my friends pop up again and again, cheering us on and up.

The check points all have a variety of food on offer. Jam sandwiches are my go to but the two veg pakora at Chapel-en-le-Frith may have been a bad idea. My favourite offering was the whisky being shared by one volunteer at White Hall! I’m not a whisky drinker but after over 30 miles of running I was up for a wee nip.

Although mentally I was feeling good the distance was taking its toll. When I attempted to run across Iceland I purchased some lightweight running poles. This was the time for them to be deployed once more. Going four wheel drive makes a huge difference and the poles help on the up and downhills.

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The end is nigh

As the day goes on we chat to various teams going at a similar pace. The camaraderie is lovely and we all encourage each other. Leaving the final checkpoint at the Cat and Fiddle however it’s heads down and just keep running through the pain.

At this point breaking into a run is the hard part. Brain sends message to legs ‘start running’. Legs reply ‘no thank you. Done enough. Hurt.’ Brain: ‘It wasn’t an optional thing. I’m in charge. Run.’ Legs:  ‘Ok, in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1…’ Finally you are running again.

We start our descent into Buxton and as we enter the town the odd spectator starts to appear, cheering us on. As always on a big run, I struggle to control my emotions. Tears prick the back of my eyes, relief starts to flood my body. But…not yet! If I let the tears come my throat will close up and I won’t be able to breathe for the final stretch. Keep it together Cadi!

Craig announces we have ten minutes to go to finish within eleven hours. I remind him we actually ahve eight minutes. We speed up. After over 39 miles of running we are suddenly sprinting for the finish. But we can’t see it! People are cheering and we are shouting ‘where is the finish??’. ‘Come back, it’s inside the village hall’ another runner helps us. We dive through the door – ‘Eleven hours’ the volunteer announces. We have made it!

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And then…

We sit. Drained. Friends and family bring hugs and beer. Another colleague, who has completed the run in the past, sent me a photo the previous day. It was of his ‘thousand yard stare’ after he finished. I now understand it completely.

A message from my sister; she has been watching us on live tracking – ‘Well done. The website says you have won a trophy for fastest novice team.’ Wow. A totally unexpected bonus to a fantastic day out.

I can’t praise my team mates enough. My grumpiness at the start was water off a ducks back. We stuck together with no hint of acrimony (if you don’t count the murder threats!). And best of all, we smiled at the end.

I would thoroughly recommend the Four Inns to anyone looking for a challenge. The weather was perfect for us. On another day it could have been twice as tough. But the volunteers would still have manned those check points and handed out jam sandwiches all day long!

If you fancy a go at the Four Inns and want to know more click here.

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