AQ Grant winner from 2020, Harriet Banks, tells us about running the Brecon Beacons Way with her Cocker Spaniel, Jack
What, where and when was your adventure?
I ran the 152km, wild and beautiful Brecon Beacons Way in South Wales with my dog, Jack. It took 4 days, +6000m of elevation gain and many snacks (human and dog). We had the most amazing September weather with plenty of Welsh sunshine.
CP1.1 = day one, check point 1. I split the route up into sections to make it feel more manageable and arranged to meet my husband throughout the day to restock on food and water.
Days Daily start/end points and accommodation Daily Distance Cumulative
Day 1 Start Skirrid to Crickhowell
https://bearhotel.co.uk/ 40km 40km
Day 2 Crickhowell to A470
https://sabrainpubs.com/pubs-and-hotels/mid-west-wales/powys/wellington 42km 82km
Day 3 A470 to Llandeusant
https://kingsheadllandovery.co.uk 38km 120km
Day 4 Llandeusant to Bethlehem 32km 152km
I couldn’t find accommodation on the trail for each night so it was very useful to have the support car able to drive me to a pub and back to the trail the next day. Originally I had thought about camping on the trail but I was so grateful for a shower, bed, hot food and pint of Guinness each night!
I started canicross (running with a dog harness) in the March 2020 lockdown, each week going a little bit further. I found I really loved plotting new routes and having the time to explore. My training got to the point where I was running a half marathon once a week so although I felt comfortable running 20km it was still pretty daunting; the thought of doing almost four marathons back to back to achieve 152km in 4 days.
I overcame this by thinking only about the distance between checkpoints, which were always less than 20km. I had the mantra of this being just as much a mental challenge as a physical one and this really helped me keep going. I also made sure I knew how many hills there were each day so I could count them off and not be surprised. It was very hilly… which was tough but also allowed really rewarding views!
What were your expectations before you set off and how did the reality compare?
I was expecting a bit of a sufferfest to be honest. I thought I’d find the running physically exhausting and I was intimidated by the thought of being on my own in the Brecon Beacons (not helped by people reminding me that this is the location where even the army have been known to get lost!) The reality surprised me so much – I completely and utterly enjoyed myself! It was exhausting but not in a limiting way, more in a satisfying way. And I wasn’t intimidated by being on my own, I felt empowered by it and more connected to the landscape than ever before.
How did you cope with any obstacles, challenges or setbacks?
I love the simplicity of life on the trail, there’s actually not a huge amount that can go wrong (apart from things outside of your control of course) so the main challenge was staying positive. I heard the phrase “motivational menu” on a Rebecca Rusch podcast after I had finished my run but it resonated with what I was doing. I’d do regular check in’s with myself to see how I was doing, then pick from a made up list of things to cheer me up. First off were the questions – am I hungry/thirsty/too cold/too hot? Then take the necessary action to look after myself. Then it was – am I losing motivation/enthusiasm? If so I’d sing out loud (the beauty of being nowhere near anyone else), make up a song, or even plan a speech for my mum’s birthday – this particular activity kept me entertained for a 15km very remote section!
What piece of advice would you offer to someone thinking about applying for the AQ grant?
Just do it! Don’t let yourself make excuses not to – I was worried that my challenge wasn’t challenging enough (that seems silly to write down now!) because it was only 4 days and not in some far off remote lands. However I’m really pleased that it didn’t stop me applying, I wouldn’t have pushed myself out of my comfort zone without the commitment I had made to the Adventure Queen community to see it through all the way to the end.