Recing the mud (aka Viking) way

Once term ended for Christmas I set off to recce the final ~65 miles of the Viking Way from Lincoln to Oakham. Partly to learn the route and save time navigating on the day, and partly to see exactly what I was getting myself into. I learnt 2 things:

1) The training doesn’t work if you don’t do it

I deliberately do much running during the Autumn, to let the car-seat induced hip niggle I’d been nursing all Summer heal. The plan was cycling (indoors on my turbo trainer) with the occasional weekend foray into the Peak District for mini mountain marathons would keep me fit-ish and then I’d start ramping the running back up in December. Come the end of November my legs were feeling fine and I was looking forwards to getting back running properly. However the aftermath of the wonky-finger incident led to the hip niggle flaring up again, and I was back where I was at the beginning of the Autumn. But minus any fitness.

The plan from the outset was to walk the whole way over 2 days, carrying sleeping kit. The first 10 miles, where the route meandered along the sides of fields through various villages, were OK. But then everything started hurting (back, legs, feet, the lot...) and didn’t stop.

2) It should really be called the Mud Way rather than the Viking Way

I’d read various blogs which mentioned the mud. However I’d convinced myself that this was Southerners moaning about a couple of inches of mud. And then I hit mile after mile of the 2nd worst mud I’ve ever come across. The worst mud I’ve ever experienced is the infamous ‘Mud road’, just South of Bellingham on the Pennine Way. But that at least is fairly short, and due to forestry vehicles working. This went on for miles and is caused by wankers in four by fours deliberately destroying the countryside for fun (‘greenlaning’ my arse). Having grown up on a farm, I just can’t get my head around the concept of Landrovers as a toy rather than a tool.

If it wasn’t just that the mud was deep, but that the vehicles had carved deep ruts in it. So you have the choice between paddling through deep, uneven puddles you can’t see the bottom of, or tottering along on the muddy ridges between them. At one point the track crossed a river. I didn’t fancy either wading through the puddles or balancing on a ridge with a 2 metre drop to one side. So I ended up scrambling down the bank and paddling through the river instead!

All in all this was a bit of a rude awakening. Maybe the ground will dry up a bit before April, but there are huge stretches of the route that are never going to be smooth and easily runnable. And even if my legs are feeling relatively good at this point I’m going to struggle to move at any more than 3mph.