There and Back Again, Again
Not so many people are lucky enough to have two Epic adventures in the space of two years, but I am one!
It all started nearly two years ago over a pint of Oxford Gold at “The Prancing Pony”. Talking with one of the founding members, “anyone of the Spartans could do the ‘B’ race”. That was the comment that started it all, that was my first adventure 10 miles of the Sandstone Trail, which is a long way if you only have short legs and hairy toes.
Then followed a quick r**d race, well supported by many Spartans, tales of which had to be told, which led to another trip to the tavern, and a chat with the Elder founder of the Delamere Spartans! This led to the formation of the first Delamere Spartan adventure following the full route of the Sandstone Trail.
The first Adventure had many tales which have been told before, of fallen comrades, injuriess, and lessons learnt. This brings us to this tale. The Legend of the Spartans had spread, and the talk of the forming of another Fellowship had started. By the time the list was closed the Spartans numbered more than 20, less of a fellowship, more of an Army!
The Spartans who made it to the start of this journey boarded the coach and made the short trip to the start of the trail. Expectations were high as we were joined by two more adventurers who both had, had bad experiences from the previous challenge.
As the time to Start the adventure came, with the cry of “Sparta” ringing in our ears we set off. Our scouts set off and a quick pace eager to mark out an easy trail for the rest of our Party to follow. I was travelling swiftly on my own, but was soon passed by quicker members of our club, words of encouragement and best wishes were exchanged. I found myself in the company of neighbours from a local clan, easily recognisable in their green travelling shirts. They made good travelling companions for the first part of my Journey, exchanging stories of previous adventures, and those still on the horizon.
We left the well-travelled route of the waterway, and struck off into more isolated lands. The land was more rolling plains than hills, but still my pace slowed and another Spartan passed me, but before his kind words had left my ears I spotted the welcome flag of my fellow Spartans. Manning the first of the 5 safe havens which had been marked on our route, were several of the best team mates a person could ask for. While I was breaking my second fast of the day, more of the leaner Spartans headed off, but as has been pointed out to me before, I am one of the stouter members of the Spartans!
The path then lead us of into my dangerous lands with areas of swampland, and wild animals roaming, sometimes hoards of them threatening, and only by forming ourselves into larger groups were we able to keep them at bay. Other beasts we had to choose a different route to avoid their stomping grounds.
As the terrain grew steeper the encounters with potential predators became fewer, and soon I found myself on elevated moorland with many small wild ponies feasting themselves on the fresh lush grass where only weeks earlier snow was lying on the ground. From the Elevation of the moorland offering views over to the Western Mountains we quickly dropped through woodlands to the sanctuary of the second waypoint sheltered against the wall of a Church.
With my healthy appetite now satisfied I headed of in the company of different travelling companions (including ‘Max the spaniel’), exchanging words of encouragement and advice on the route ahead. We were quickly faced with the long climb to the peak of the highest point of our path, and as usual when the path gets steeper my pace seems to drop more than others, and again I was travelling alone.
It was on the sandy descent that I passed a few more fellow travellers. Travelling through woodland always seems to lighten my step, be it the blessing of the Elves or the reminder of Home I do not know, but I seemed to gather pace as I passed through the woodlands. When I dropped out of the woodland down to the next Checkpoint I spot a familiar face of a now distant Spartan, and I am glad of his company as we are about to start on the most barren part of the journey.
Leaving the grounds of Castles both new and old, the path drops down to what would usually be wetlands, but this year it has been dry and thankfully the way is dry, and the overnight rain has stopped the dust from rising. It is with a heavy heart I part from my fellow Spartan, who has slowed due to the early pace and long journeys he has recently under taken.
Upon crossing a quiet major East to West r**d I continue on my Journey North, heading into heavy clouds, and soon I am forced to seek shelter in the shape of my travelling cloak. Now travelling through cultivated farmland, I reach the point where last year I came across a fallen comrade, and to my dismay, here lying on the side of the path is yet another! He is quickly to his feet when he sees me. I offer him what assistance I can, but he assures me he is fine to continue, so I am quickly on my way knowing soon I am in the land of my childhood.
Climbing again slowly, I reach the next checkpoint and take my fill, drinking heartily and gorging myself on the sweet cakes, and biscuits. Climbing again from this welcome respite, I am soon entering the woodlands of my youth, and again my pace seems to quicken. Then it is the border of the Spartan heartland, my spirits soar as I pass familiar spots and remember conversations and faces of fellow Spartans, although alone the Forest is not quiet it is filled with moments shared and races run. All too quickly I reach and pass the meeting point, where I am greeted by cheering Spartans, and again my spirit swells and with their cheers ringing in my ears I push on. In my mind it is all downhill from here! So I push on.
Leaving the Forest the skies darken and with it my mood, as I am met with a driving hail storm. The final checkpoint does lift my mood as I am met by another Spartan well-wisher. My family is close by and I am over joyed by their greetings, running with my children for a short way. When I left them behind I am soon hit by a feeling of tiredness which I know will be hard to shake.
When finally leaving the well-trodden r**d behind me, I spot a familiar Spartan friend ahead. With the encouraging words from this fellow traveller fresh in my mind, and my knowledge of the woodland ahead the Spartan spirit gripped me.
My legs felt stronger, my lungs filled, and I ran! Each traveller in front of me became the next target, even when I could see none. Travelling on familiar paths, climbing as hard as I could , feeling faint as I reached the top of the last climb, knowing I had to give my all down this last steep descent. Even falling as I stumbled over fallen tree trunks nothing could stop me now, never looking back I flung my tired body down through the treeline, out onto the heavy roads and paths of this finishing town. Loosening my travelling cloak to expose my true colours with the Spartan helmet emblazed across my chest, with the cheers ringing out I run the final 100 strides with my children.
I am again elated, my Journey complete, my all has been given, and my reward is my teammates, their praise is nourishment for my soul. The stories of valour, courage, triumph, and bloodshed, are only paused for more cheers as teammates return.
Gladly my body is soon given nourishment, and my hunger and thirst are soon quenched. Then to the Sparty for more food, and beer, there must be beer!