Running Hadrian’s Wall Path – Chollerford to Greenhead

By Laura Cummings

I have never done a multi-day running trip before. Since starting at Contours two years ago, it’s something I’ve always wanted to try. At the start of 2019, we introduced several short break running itineraries to encourage more runners to take to the trails. I was lucky enough to try out one of these short running holidays at the end of March; namely our Hadrian’s Wall Short Break.

Hadrians Wall Path Housesteads Nicholas Box Landscape 1024x358 Running Hadrian’s Wall Path   Chollerford to Greenhead

Training and Pre-trip Planning

Leading up to the trip, I increased my weekly mileage and practised running over consecutive days. I found that by increasing my miles, I also needed to rest for longer in-between training sessions. I also experimented with eating different things in varying amounts whilst running. This was to determine what my stomach was able to digest on the go, knowing that we would indeed be running for several hours a day.

The route itself didn’t take a lot of pre-planning; it’s a very straightforward trail to follow, and the map and guidebook we received were all that we needed.

Friday Night – Arrive in Chollerford

On the Friday afternoon, Wendy (my running companion) and I arrived in Northumberland. We left our car at the end of the route in Greenhead, and made our way via public transport to Chollerford. It was easy to find our first nights’ accommodation at Orchard View, and after dropping off our bags we headed to the pub to fuel up, ready for the first day’s run.

Saturday (Running Day One) – Chollerford to Once Brewed

I was quite nervous this morning, but eager to get started. The weather looked perfect; bright, cloudy and dry. Once I was satisfied that I’d eaten enough, we waved goodbye to our hostess and headed out.

I was very conscious about running too quickly at the start. We had a lot of miles to cover and I wanted to ease myself in. The first 4-5 miles was mostly farmland and soft track as we ascended higher.

We reached Brocolitia Roman Temple in good time and stopped to have a look. It was quite boggy at this part, which gave my trail shoes a good test – luckily they are waterproof. The terrain then starts to change; we started to climb higher and notice more of a rugged landscape. It was still lovely to run on, as it was soft underfoot with some rocks and undulations. We followed the trail up and over hills, through woodland and farmland, all the while hearing the skylarks singing. We didn’t see a single soul for 10 miles. It was truly beautiful and we felt we had the whole trail to ourselves!

We reached Housesteads Roman fort, where we agreed to stop for a well-needed lunch. We were now 10.5 miles in and this was our first sit down and snack break. I did start to cramp up slightly, so I made sure to keep stretching and moving around whilst refuelling. Housesteads is very impressive and it was great to see the historic landmark for myself.

The wall itself is quite sporadic – you come across it fairly early on and then lose sight of it again for a while. This seemed to be the trend throughout our run. After our break we headed off to our next key point – Sycamore Gap. I had a lot more energy after Housesteads and ran fairly strong to Sycamore Gap. We descended down to the tree to take a photo and have a breather.

From this point it was only just over a mile until we reached our destination for the day, Steel Rigg car park. The last part went by quickly, but a steep decline at the end made me feel relieved to have finished for the day! We reached the car park and treated ourselves to a well-earned cuppa.

Our hosts collected us from the car park, and we were lucky enough to see Vindolanda and the museum before settling down in our B&B with a home cooked pie… perfection!

Sunday (Running Day Two) – Once Brewed to Greenhead

I slept well on Saturday night, but I woke up feeling like I needed to stay in bed! It was also raining, which didn’t help my resolve. However, after eating a delicious breakfast and noticing that the rain was passing, we got ready to head out for day two. I wasn’t aching as much as I thought I would have been, which was incredible considering how much we had done the day before. We started the trail by running up to the highest point on Hadrian’s Wall and being rewarded with beautiful views. We then followed the trail to Cawfield’s Quarry – a tranquil area filled with wildlife. After this point we ran through farmland again, which was relatively flat. We saw another fort, Great Chester’s Fort, where there is a famous carving of a jug – the only one that remains on the Wall.

We were treated to more woodland and some undulations as we got closer to Greenhead. On the final, very steep descent, I could feel my legs turning to jelly and we decided to sit and have a little break. We could see the end in sight, which helped to motivate me for the last mile!

As we approached our car, the rain was just starting. We had been so lucky to have such good running weather the entire time we were outside. We jumped in the car to warm up and head home.

Closing Thoughts

This trip was the most rewarding running adventure I have been on. Not only has it given me the confidence to pursue other running trips and longer distances, but it has given me a taste for running the trails that we offer, so I can enjoy all the wonderful scenery and wildlife. It is very rewarding to reach your accommodation at the end of a day’s run and warm up with some lovely food, ready for the next day.

If you’re considering a running holiday or you’re training for a long running event, these short breaks are an ideal way to test your ability and to push your confidence further. I highly recommend Hadrian’s Wall Path for a first trail running holiday, as it offers you enough of a challenge without being too much to tackle on your first run.

I can’t wait to get back out there and try some more!

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