The Butcombe Trail Pub Crawl – My UK Ultrarunning Magnum Opus

The Butcombe Trail Pub Crawl – My UK Ultrarunning Magnum Opus

I’ve had a great time adventuring about the UK in my time here. I’ve seen amazing places unlike anywhere I’ve ever been before, and become a part of a wonderful community. Also, I’ve become quite familiar with mud, bogs, nettles, British weather and food, and extreme swings in daylight hours. Before my residence here ends I wanted to pull as many of these things as possible together into one day. Before we moved here from the Washington, DC area I put together a similar event: The Farm to Founders 50K.

This past spring, as I was exploring my local trails in the Mendip Hills, I did the 47 mile Butcombe Trail over a weekend. After researching the trail a bit more and finding that it was created to link the original six Butcombe Brewery pubs in the Mendips, the idea came to me of an ultra pub crawl.

Overview

I can think of no better way of combining as many of the unique aspects of my time here in the UK. There will be running on random footpaths through open fields, there will be pubs, there will be lots of manure-infused mud, and hopefully there will be great company (the key ingredient). Unfortunately there won’t be many nettles that time of year and there aren’t any good bogs in the Mendips, but if we’re lucky there might be truly awful weather.

I should note that I’m not the first person to think of doing the Butcombe Trail as an event. The Butcombe Trail Ultra has been going on for years now, and looks like a great race that benefits the Mendip Hills Fund. If anything, this should be seen as a great opportunity to learn the route and I hope it gives the race more visibility and motivates people to sign up for it on 22 April. Doing this a few weeks beforehand should be great training for the race, with enough time to recover but not so much time that route knowledge or fitness are lost. This is meant as a very different type of day out, though:

  1. It absolutely is not a race. We’ll be attempting to stay together on the schedule laid out below, which amounts to about a 14 minute / mile pace and has the goal of hitting all the pubs while they’re open.
  2. People are free to join or leave whenever they want: do the whole thing, do a section or two, or even just meet us at a pub (more info on the “divisions” below).
  3. There are definitely no UTMB qualifying points here. In fact, they might subtract points if you come do it. 😅
  4. There is no registration or cost, but everyone is fully responsible for their own safety, navigation, and transportation (and food and drinks at the pubs). In the US we would refer to this as a fat ass event: no fees, no awards, no aid, no whining.

Schedule (Saturday, 2 April)

This will tentatively take place on Saturday, 2 April. In any case it will be around that time, and I’ll aim to confirm at least a month ahead. Originally I was going to do it in November (which is why this post went up when it did), but then decided it was too last minute so switched to February, then a big conflict came up for me then… so April it is.

We’ll start at The Swan Inn and go clockwise, which makes the only two pubs open in the morning the first stops. We’ll try to stick to the schedule below. We might arrive at a pub early or late, but we’ll try to not leave any pub earlier than the times indicated in case people plan on joining at that point. If there are a lot of people we might also split into a few groups. This schedule is subject to change a bit before the event, so please check back here before the day.

PubArrivalDepartureMiles to next
The Swan Inn (Rowberrow)8:308.7
Ring O’ Bells (Compton Martin)10:3011:004
Ring O’ Bells (Hinton Blewett)12:0012:309
The Queen Victoria Inn (Priddy) 14:3015:007.7
The Lamb Inn (Axbridge)16:4517:158.5
Queen’s Arms (Bleadon) 19:1519:459
The Swan Inn (Rowberrow) 21:45
Priddy, somewhere around halfway. I fully expect the conditions to not be this nice.

Rules

The only real rules are:

  1. Everyone is responsible for themselves.
  2. Respect local residents and landowners – do not park inconsiderately, stray from public rights of way, run in massive groups that are many people across, or leave gates open or do anything else that could cause issues for livestock. In summary, follow the countryside code!

As far as “completing” the run goes, anyone can make whatever personal goals they want, or they can just come join for a bit of the run or time at a pub. But for a fun challenge, here are some recommendations.

  1. A beverage of choice must be consumed at each pub (see below for the divisions). This won’t be done at the start, as we’ll be revisiting that pub at the finish.
  2. All food and drink must come only from the pubs. Water and snacks can be takeaway (highly recommended), but the beverage of choice must be fully consumed while at the pub. This means it’s a good idea to arrive at the first pub early enough before the start to get some supplies. Also, this definitely isn’t how I would recommend normally fueling for an ultra. 😅 But if your gut can take this, then good fuel should go down easy.

Divisions

  1. The Original – a half pint of beer or cider at each pub (this will be my goal)
  2. The Rare Breed – a full pint of beer or cider at each pub (now is a good time to reiterate the “everyone is responsible for themselves” rule)
  3. The Session Strength – join for a single section between two pubs, with a drink at the beginning and end
  4. The Damo – a tea at each pub
The specific variety of beer or tea can be anything, or different at each pub. I’m not sure if all the pubs are still even Butcombe Brewery.

The Route

A gpx file for the route (/raut/ 😉) can be downloaded here. This is from my runs on the trail, with my wrong turns deleted / corrected (I think I got them all, but no guarantees). I’ve also split it into sections and added waypoints for the pubs, for those who have devices that support that. There are a number of other sources that have a gpx file as well, probably with very slight variations. The only intentional variation I’ve made on my file is to go to Beacon Batch, because it seems pretty silly to me to just run right by it a couple hundred meters away.

Beacon Batch, the highest point in the Mendips, barely getting above 1K feet

I’ll attempt to set up a Strava tracking link, and will post that on Twitter. Strava tracking requires my phone to have service for it to work, though, which I also can’t guarantee will be the case for all or even most of it.

The Strava activities from my runs on the trail earlier this year are below. Remember, these have some wrong turns in them.

Registration

There is no registration. Show up when you’d like, leave when you’d like. If you want to stay up to date on any last minute changes or info then send me a message (through one of the social media links on the right side of this page, or by using the contact form here. I’ll respond with a link to a WhatsApp group that you can join. If there’s a larger than expected interest then maybe I’ll try to figure out how to do an actual registration process of some sort. I’ll also try to post any last minute info (including the tracking link) on Twitter.

Support

Again, the only costs here are orders at the pub, but if anyone (participating or not) is able to drop a donation at the link below it would be very much appreciated. I originally set this fundraiser up for my runs on The Pennine Way and The Wainwrights this year, but my attempt at the Wainwrights unfortunately ended up short (DNF blog post still to come) as did the fundraiser. Of course the importance of the cause has zero correlation with my success at these challenges, and I plan on continuing this fundraiser at least until I reach my original goal. Even more critically, I hope to continue to raise awareness for a fantastic charity so that support can continue to grow regardless of what crazy running things I happen to be doing.