They are about to embark on an audacious quest: running all 200 miles of the GM Ringway, the iconic walking trail that winds its way around Greater Manchester’s ten boroughs.
But this is not just a run; it’s a celebration of the landscapes that cradle their city, an invitation to explore, and the joy of taking life at a leisurely pace, embracing the slow beauty that surrounds us.
Discovering the GM Ringway
The story begins with two young adventurers who met during their student days at The University of Manchester.
Pierre Flasse, a 28-year-old musician and composer living in Chorlton, and Peter Heath, a 26-year-old civil servant from Heaton Mersey, shared a deep love for the outdoors and the beauty hidden within their city.
For them, the GM Ringway represented an opportunity to explore their beloved Greater Manchester from a unique perspective.
A Unique Challenge
To run all 200 miles of the GM Ringway, which snakes its way around the entire boundary of Greater Manchester, cutting across all ten boroughs.
The endeavour was set to unfold over five intense days, spanning consecutive weekends, with their journey commencing on Sunday, 5th November at the crack of dawn, 6 am, from the heart of Manchester – St Peter’s Square.
This audacious plan required them to cover a staggering 40 miles each day during their weekend escapades.
For most people, this might sound like a daunting task, but for Pierre and Peter, it was a chance to prove that you can explore your local area at an exhilarating pace, not just leisurely strolls.
The Vision Behind the Challenge
Pierre Flasse and Peter Heath wanted to emphasise the charm of their local surroundings, showcasing that Greater Manchester holds a treasure trove of natural beauty.
Their project resonated with the essence of the GM Ringway, which was created with the same idea in mind.
By embarking on this epic adventure, they hoped to inspire others to explore their local areas, perhaps at a more leisurely pace, but with the same spirit of curiosity and adventure.
For the Love of Slow Running
To prepare for the GM Ringway challenge, they embarked on regular 20-mile training runs, relishing the winter months for long, slow running.
Pierre Flasse, 28, said: “A lot of our interaction and fun in the outdoors comes from exploring what’s on our doorstep. We really try to engage with the outdoors using interesting routes which are nestled into our city. This is why the GM Ringway walking trail seems such a beautiful idea, as it’s also created with this ethos in mind.
“By running the walking route, we hope can encourage more people to explore their local areas, albeit at a more leisurely pace.”
Starting their runs at 7 a.m., they aimed to finish before the sun dipped below the horizon, allowing them to experience a full day of transformations in the landscape.
A Unique Route
The GM Ringway Project Lead, Andrew Read, shared his thoughts on their ambitious undertaking.
“We designed this trail to help promote the joys of walking to local people. Pierre and Peter’s plan is very impressive, as they’re taking it up a gear.”
The GM Ringway is not just a monotonous stretch of path; it’s a dynamic journey.
The 200-mile trail is divided into 20 stages, each starting and ending in the city centre.
The stages offer a diverse range of experiences, from easily accessible and fairly flat sections to hilly and challenging terrain.
Greater Manchester’s landscape surprises with its variation, ensuring that no two stages of the walking trail are alike.
A Trail for All Seasons
One of the exceptional aspects of the GM Ringway is that it can be accessed entirely by public transport, making it environmentally friendly and accessible to all.
As it covers all ten boroughs of Greater Manchester, it traverses a remarkable assortment of landscapes, including parks, waterways, and breathtaking countryside.
But the beauty doesn’t stop at the natural surroundings. The GM Ringway also offers a glimpse into Greater Manchester’s rich cultural heritage.
Along the route, you’ll pass more than 40 Grade I and II*-listed buildings, visit 13 accredited museums, including Trafford’s Imperial War Museum, and explore 14 scheduled ancient monuments.
It’s a journey through time and history, a testament to the area’s vibrant culture and heritage.
Support from Charities and Grants
The GM Ringway project is not just a solo endeavour; it’s a community-driven project.
Led by two prominent charities, CPRE – the countryside charity, and The Ramblers (Greater Manchester & High Peak Area), this project is generously supported by a £250,000 Heritage Fund grant.
In addition to this substantial grant, the project has received further financial backing.
A £2,000 grant from Ramblers Holidays Charitable Trust and a £10,000 contribution from TfGM’s Cycle & Stride for Active Lives initiative further bolstered this exciting initiative.
Pierre Flasse and Peter Heath’s journey to conquer the GM Ringway is more than a physical feat; it’s a celebration of their love for the outdoors, an exploration of their local area, and an inspiration to all those who wish to do the same.
As they embark on this exhilarating adventure, they encourage us all to take a step outside, slow down, and embrace the natural beauty and cultural heritage that lies right on our doorstep.
The GM Ringway serves as a testament to the wonders of Greater Manchester, a place where history and nature merge into a remarkable journey, ready to be explored. So, why wait?
Lace up your running shoes or walking boots, and discover the magic of the GM Ringway for yourself.
Full details of each of the five stages of the GM Ringway Ultra challenge can be found here:
PART 1 – Sun 5th November – 57.2km https://www.komoot.com/tour/1260245179?ref=wtd&share_token=aDUEiRVWvpF7z2ZWAHeI7Q3r7I4Hd6x3rMAaR0jyvpUqxnNEWa
PART 2 – Sat 11th November – 66.3km – https://www.komoot.com/tour/1260271024?ref=wtd&share_token=aqqf54VIp765e4mIHRvqAI3Wc8Yu7dZGtjAlifQlbTSSfvpNEj
PART 3 – Sat 18th November – 58.8km – https://www.komoot.com/tour/1260302524?ref=wtd&share_token=alWuzC5IRjT3gZBUflNXMwU7Coy2lTbzp2q6MjndEDE5O0KmBr
PART 4 – Sun 26th November – 72.6km – https://www.komoot.com/tour/1260370201?ref=wtd&share_token=akTSkSJdenXK2pAzEHr1EzX5bP4SvcZbFUKbcaMnD4kB0pcwEx
PART 5 – Sat 2nd December – 62.2km – https://www.komoot.com/tour/1260409212?ref=wtd&share_token=aykIIttHSgrhTJLUt3t8h6EfkJBIzPJxmlvpqNJh3ud9qTJxQk