Harvey Howgill Tops round, April 2023

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On 2nd April 2023 I completed a successful round of the Harvey Howgills Tops. This is a loop of 58km, taking in 39 named tops, plus a spot height to make 40 (totaling around 3200m of ascent). 

Why this route?

In the autumn of 2022, I felt I’d had an unsatisfactory year running wise. Mainly due to ill timed illnesses I had not been able to perform and achieve at key running events that I had targeted. I decided I needed to take the pressure off and rather than aim for a race or mountain marathon event I was going to have a go at a long distance route. The Howgills Tops ticked several boxes. 

  • Not too far from home making recce trips easier to fit in
  • A bit niche (I am not drawn to things that everyone else is doing)
  • Further than I had ever run before, but not a silly distance

And so I set the date of April, which gave me a solid 4 months of training to build up and work towards being able to run 58km in the mountains. 

Preparations and training 

In the months leading up to my round I spent most of long weekend runs reccying the route. I wanted to know the route well enough that I just needed to concentrate on keeping going rather than having to consider where I was going! As I built up the training runs I began to learn the route by heart to the point where I would be able to lie in bed and visualise the entire route like a video replay. The round was going to be further than I had ever attempted to go in one effort before so I made sure that I built my weekly mileage accordingly. 

A Round of the Harvey Howgill Tops

The weekend of the attempt quickly came around. I had originally planned to go on Saturday 1st April. Grandparents had duly been booked in well in advance and so I was pretty tied to this weekend. However, as the week progressed, the forecast for the Sunday was significantly better than for the Saturday and so with some diary shuffling there was a last minute delay by 24 hours. This was absolutely the right decision. The weather can make such a difference when you are out all day. I set off just before dawn at around 6am and completed the first 20km solo before meeting up with my husband, Andy, who would keep me company and pass me food every 15-20 minutes for the remaining 40km! There was no schedule for the day. This project had been all about just completing the round. Consequently, there was no pressure and it was just a real treat to be spending the whole day out in the mountains with Andy. There were moments where it seemed like a silly idea but as we summitted The Calf and entered the final kilometres these were replaced by feelings of satisfaction and elation as I reached the 40th top. This just left the final painful descent (there was bum sliding) and then the run back along the river to the car. Job done.