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Greener Miles’ Pennine Journey North 112: A Crew’s Perspective

Some time last summer I excitedly signed up to the Greener Miles Running Pennine Journey North – a 112 mile race round the North Pennines in the footsteps of Alfred Wainwright. I was attracted to the race for several reasons: The adventure of a circular route passing through some of the country’s most beautiful and challenging landscape; the low-key nature of the event, meaning that it truly would feel like a wild adventure rather than a conga line; the chance to test and improve my navigation skills; and last but not least, the environmental credentials of the race organiser (more on that later). Sadly, my own race aspirations were curtailed by a long-term injury. Not wanting to miss out on the fun, I opted instead to provide road crew support for someone taking on the race for the first time. So it was that at around teatime on Friday 3rd May, we rolled into Blanchland and parked up outside race HQ at Blanchland Village Hall.

Getting Started

We arrived a little before registration opened. There was a laid back, friendly atmosphere – a few people had already pitched up their tents and there was lots of chat and hot drinks on offer straight away. Kit check was completed without issue and detailed waterproof maps of the route received. The hall quickly filled up with participants, their crew, partners, children and assorted pets, all taking shelter from an untimely rain storm. The atmosphere was great and there was even pizza available to buy – really helpful after a long journey to a village without many food options.

Whilst whiling away the time until kick off, I got the chance to look at the goodies that would be available to finishers. And this is just one of the ways in which Greener Miles shines above so many other race organisers. No sign of mass-produced medals, ill-fitting plastic t-shirts, disposable water bottles or unwanted gel taster packs. The 1st place trophies were beautiful handmade wooden models made locally from reclaimed wood. There were Greener Miles mugs and bottles of beer. And my favourite innovation: Race-specific patches printed on old race shirts, with an onsite press for them to be attached to your chosen piece of kit. I absolutely love this – it reminds me of being at school and collecting badges for swimming – but a lot easier to attach! What a great way to celebrate your achievements without it costing the earth. I really value the fact that Greener Miles lead the way on stuff like this because it is at the heart of what they are all about.

Race briefing complete, the rain obliged by pausing for the start, and 30 odd runners headed off to take on whatever the North Pennines was going to throw at them. I had another quick cuppa before heading off to my first road support point.

On the Move

From then on, the race for me involved keeping up with the runners and making myself available for support whenever the race crossed a road, as well as at any of the checkpoints where crew were permitted. The great thing about this race was that there were several support crews on the route, as well as checkpoints approximately every 10-15 miles. So in the parts where there were accessible road crossings, it was never too long before the runners would come across some form of support. Most runners seemed to come past in pairs or groups, having linked up with others moving at a similar pace to them. Whilst they had their own particular runner to look after, all of the support crews were really friendly and offered encouragement or practical support to every runner who passed them. I quickly learnt that watermelon and ready salted crisps were the 2 most desired foodstuffs. I also learnt that even the best organised systems can quickly unravel if you don’t keep on top of it, especially after a night of no sleep, so I spent quite a lot of time re-arranging things in between support stops!

The checkpoints were well stocked with the indoor ones having hot food available as well as the usual race stuff. As usual, Greener Miles had done what they could to reduce waste at checkpoints, with no disposable cups and minimal packaging, collection points for people’s waste, and probably lots of other little things that I didn’t even notice. And most importantly, they were staffed by fantastic volunteers, who gave runners and crew alike a warm welcome and lots of individual attention (another advantage of a race without hundreds of participants). There were also several points along the 1st half of the route where there were chances to pick up extra supplies if needed (the service station at Alston seemed particularly popular).

What I saw of the actual race route from the road was quite limited, but I can say for sure that the area in general was absolutely stunning, varied, beautiful, wild. I felt quite envious of the runners out there exploring it, though I’m guessing that they also felt quite jealous of me sat in my van drinking tea.

The End (For Now)

For the runner I was supporting, his journey unfortunately came to an end at Alston, as an injury had slowed him down significantly and there was no possibility of making the cut off for the next checkpoint at Garrigill. He wasn’t the only one to stop at this point, and there were several crews parked up at Alston, and again the general camarardarie of the event shone through. The rest of the race route looked absolutely incredible, taking in Cross Fell and High Cup Nick amongst others. Many congratulations to every runner who toed the line: Whether you made it all the way back to claim your finisher’s patch or had to stop early, this is undoubtedly a hugely challenging race and you deserve credit for however far you got.

But obviously for both of us, the Pennine Journey North 112 is now unfinished business and we both signed up for next year at the first chance we got! It will be an adventure not to be forgotten and I can’t wait. Who’s joining us? Check it out at and feel free to get in touch with me to ask more. Hopefully see you in Blanchland next May.

6 thoughts on “Greener Miles’ Pennine Journey North 112: A Crew’s Perspective”

  1. Great review for a great event. I really like Greener Miles and your review shows everything good about them. I hope you’re back running again soon.

  2. Big fan of greener miles running – really enjoy the events they put on. I did the 52 miler this year and stepping up for the 112 next year so shall see you there 🙂 my mam and family crewed me for the 52 miler and gotta say it makes such a difference and really boosts morale when you see loved ones or friends at each checkpoint. Also the volunteers, Marshalls are just amazing

  3. Great write up. I’ve done several on greener miles events as both a marshal and runner and love everything they do, the friendly atmosphere, the great organisation and their effort to minimise their environmental impact.
    I’m signed up for next year. Look forward to sharing some trail miles with you.

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