Hadrian’s Wall – Running the width of England

AUTHOR: Lisa

Last week Lisa, Libby and Bo hatched a very last minute plan to run Hadrian’s wall over 3 days on the first weekend of April. Still buzzing from the High Peak Marathon we were, perhaps foolishly, quite casual about the challenge that lay ahead!

Early April is slightly before the regular season to traverse the route, so it was a little challenging to find places to stay. After a bit of searching, we booked beds in a farmhouse and in a B&B with just 2 days to go.

Friday afternoon was a scramble of packing, repacking, bag altering and rushing out of work to get on the road, but once we were on our way we were all really excited about our run.

Day 1 – Bowness-on-Solway to Gilsland

We stayed with a friend in Newcastle on Friday night then got an early train to Carlisle and a taxi to the start of the wall. It was pouring with rain! Despite the rain it was great to get going and we made a good pace along the road towards Carlisle. The rain cleared up after an hour or so but the footpaths were sodden. Many walkers coming the other way looked pretty miserable, in full waterproofs and boots caked in mud while we were skipping along happily. We stopped in Carlisle for lunch, we got a few funny looks as we were sopping wet, but it was great to refuel. One nice thing about long runs like this is that there is no reason to rush, just take your time and enjoy the journey!

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It was a little hard to get going after lunch but it was nice that more of the footpath was away from the road and we started to see remains of the wall in places. The end of the day took was hillier than the start but we soon reached Birdoswald Roman fort, where we turned off for Slackhouse Farm Bunkhouse, our home for the night.

The farmer kindly brought us some hot soapy water to clean our legs and shoes before going in. We had a lovely relaxed evening and were well fed with a delicious locally grown/produced dinner.

Day 2 – Gilsland to Corbridge

After a hearty breakfast we set off. Day 2 took in the majority of the ascent of the route and was by far the most scenic. There were remains of the wall for large sections and the weather was beautiful! Bo and Libby actually ended up with classic coast-to-coast single arm sunburn.

The continuous ups and downs were tiring, although the ascents weren’t long they were steep and we could feel in our legs that we had run 33 miles the previous day. Being on top of the ridges gave us amazing views along the length of the route, and the descents were great fun. We stopped at Housesteads Roman Fort for a lunch of sorts – there was only one sandwich left at the visitor centre so we had to resort to cake and ice cream.

Unfortunately after lunch Bo’s foot began to hurt and we ended up walking the last 6 miles or so. We were unable to hitch hike into Corbridge so hobbled the extra 4 miles into town. The idea of a pub dinner at the Black Bull kept us going though and it didn’t disappoint. We were well looked after at Felcroft B&B and the lovely owner even washed our running clothes for us!

Day 3 – Corbridge to Wallsend

Another fantastic breakfast! Lisa particularly was a black hole for food this weekend – it’s amazing how much you can eat when running long distances. Bo sadly had to bow out for today and got the train to Newcastle. A nasty bruise had materialised on her foot and weighting it was painful.

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Bo’s bruised foot 😦

The owner of the B&B kindly drove us the 4 miles back to the wall route. Amazingly we were feeling pretty good for the first section, despite the ridiculous number of styles we had to cross! Although there are limited remains of the actual wall in this section, the path runs in the Vallum – the name for the ditches that were dug either side of the wall. After a quick snack stop in Heddon we descended to the river, which we ran along for the rest of the day.

The remainder of the route was almost exclusively tarmac along the riverpath. This was hard on the feet but it was mostly flat which meant we could keep moving at a good speed – at least good for already having ran 75 miles! Coming into the lively centre of Newcastle was exciting, and we passed many lunchtime runners and business people on their lunch-breaks. Although this was just a weekend trip being a work felt like a world away.

We met Jim, the friend we had stayed with on Friday, near the Millennium bridge and he ran with us for the last section. His presence really kept us going and we finished, tired but happy at Segedunum fort at Wallsend early in the afternoon. Success!

We met Bo, changed and headed to Tynemouth for well-earned fish and chips! What a great weekend. It was definitely a challenge and we had our ups and downs but nothing beats a good adventure with great friends!

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Feeling victorious!

Practical information:

Map used: Harvey’s Hadrian’s wall path  The path is well signed so we didn’t need to use it too much, but necessary to bring for reassurance and planning!

Miles each day: 33 (day 1), 31 (day 2, includes extra 4 miles to B&B), and 25 (day 3)

Surface underfoot: mixture of tarmac/road, (muddy) fields, hard surface trails

Bog level: Low – although we did get wet feet on day 1!

Kit: We packed relatively light. We each carried a 8-12 litre bag with: ~1l water (+1 refill each day), running snacks (we relied on stopping at shops/pubs/cafes for other food), waterproof, spare long sleeve top/fleece, leggings+spare t-shirt for evening, spare socks and underwear. Minimal wash+first aid kit between us. Camera/running watch + charging cables.

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