5am alarms are usually reserved for going on holiday, but as I leap (stumble) out of bed it’s for an entirely different reason. It’s to get a train out to Hathersage for the 50km Peak District Challenge which I’m running as a duo with Michelle Edye. We’ve both been putting the miles and pork pies in over the last few months, with lots of training sessions out in the Peaks, so are hoping we’ll be ready for the challenge ahead. This is a running/walking event, so when we arrive at the registration hall I use my powers of perception to weigh up the competition and I decided they were running if they were wearing shorts…… scientific I know. Given the lack of legs on show it looked like most of the entrants were going for the walking option.
We’d all received our checkpoint info about a week before and we’d had a busy route planning session linking up the checkpoints, plotting onto paper maps and studying every inch of the route, however it will soon become clear that this wasn’t true at all. Once we’d planned it I transferred the route onto Strava and uploaded to my GPS. Whilst I think we’re both pretty comfortable with navigation, the plan was to leave the maps in the bag and use my GPS watch the whole way which meant far less stopping and more time running.
“This is all very well and good, but where do we get to eat the sausage rolls?”
Team “Lost in the North” pretended that this was a reasonable time to be up in the morning
Suddenly, we were off around 8:30am and trotted down the lane merrily. The weather was pleasant, conversation was flowing, birds were singing (probably) so everything was going amazingly to plan. I think we had a few minor thoughts that this didn’t seem to be the route we planned, but being slaves to technology, completely ignored it. It was when a gentlemen told us we were heading towards Froggatt edge that faint alarm sleigh bells started jingling in the back of my mind. Froggatt edge was at the end of the route wasn’t it? We stopped and consulted the map, which I’m sure had an “I told you so” look all over it. Sure enough we’d started going clockwise round the route instead of anti-clockwise!
Having already done 7km and some not-insignificant uphill the best thing we could think of doing was sit down on a rock. Michelle phoned the race organisers who offered to pick us up, but the damage was done and there was no way we wanted any ferrying around, so we decided just to carry on. 50km is 50km whichever way round you do it!
Froggatt Edge – some five hours before we were meant to be there
The people manning the first checkpoint seemed vaguely surprised to see us, which was an entirely understandable reaction considering they were actually the last checkpoint. Nevertheless we explained our situation, ate their lovely flapjacks and continued along the route. With the initial disappointment out of the way we started enjoying the fantastic views and ticking off the miles. It actually turned out to be a good experience as sometime around halfway we started seeing other entrants coming towards us who we recognised from registration and who looked slightly surprised to see us! Clearly we were anti-establishment, the renegades, flouting the rules of the race!
Somewhere in the Peaks.
Yoga…. I think.
The deeper we got into the route, the more people we came across coming the other way, all trying to give each other encouragement that “lunch checkpoints weren’t far away” which really depends on your definition of far. Or lunch. We met various runners on other (much-longer) ultra-races and most seemed happy to pause for a quick chat to see how far we were all through our challenges. By the time we got to the last (first) checkpoint everyone had already gone home so we text them as “proof” that we made it and continued on for the last 10km stretch to the end.
Right about now, the heavens opened. I’m not talking about a little shower – this was the kind of rain you should be looking at out of your window, shaking your head back-and-forth, whilst clutching a cup of tea. After a while we probably couldn’t get any wetter so decided to try and get some kind of pace going, which we probably should have named “Slow+1”. We soon came across a wiry long haired fellow also inevitably drenched. We started chatting and he casually tells us he’s running to Sheffield and is around 40-50 miles in to a 60 mile race like this is the most normal thing in the world to be doing on a Saturday lunchtime. It was round about then I realised we are all probably insane.
I tried to high-five Michelle to get the spirits up. We missed. Twice. We considered wading through a river to get back to the end quicker. Brain function was clearly becoming difficult.
A mere 7 hours 28 minutes, 55.6km and 1,300m of elevation after starting, we arrived back at the race HQ and were instantly presented with a curry which was gratefully received. Michelle started eating everything (note how she’s attempting to conceal a large tomato in her hand in the pic below), and that was the challenge over!
Loads of thanks to the organisers who put on a great event, and to the checkpoint marshals who give up their time to stand on there in the cold for hours on end! I think we had the second quickest time for the 50km, but doubt it will stand with such a large deviation from the suggested route.
Done. Ultrarunning badge in the post.
And so the long-running journey continues…… Man vs Mountain (Snowdon) on 3rd September and the Project Trail 50 miler in November!
All it took was a quick email to “Men’s Running” magazine saying how I needed a night off the beer, and somehow I was in their team for the Adidas Thunder Run and had won a load of free running gear from Adidas! Needless to say I am now a walking advert for them – you’d see less stripes on a tiger! For the uninitiated, the Thunder Run is a 24 hour trail running event where you compete either solo(!), pairs, or other combinations to run continuous 10km laps around Catton Park in Derbyshire. Our team consisted four men and four women, three of each competition winners and two experienced ultra runners (Gary and Anne-Marie) to make it seem like it was a run round the park. Which in effect, it was.
I rolled up early on Saturday morning to a bustling campsite and managed to find our team with a well established campsite, a kettle on the go and a selection of muffins and flapjacks baked by some of the ladies. Gender stereotype alert, but as you would probably expect, the men’s baking contribution was ….. er…. nothing. Although I did bring some teabags.
Here’s the team:
Laura, Dan (me), Paul, Anne-Marie, Gary, Jade, Steve, Alexy.
Noon soon rolls along and Paul had jumped forward to do the first lap which he completed in a mud-busting 38:50 which was a fantastic time for the course. The lap was followed by some frantic shouting for Jade who had a remarkable skill of not being found during changeover 🙂 I was next up and set off in the warm sunshine. Gently jogging along the first field, it was all looking very comfortable but a sudden sharp right straight up a steep woodland path left any thoughts of this being an easy run right there at the bottom. I’m a relatively new runner so this was actually one of the tougher routes I’ve done with lots of twists and turns, mud, narrow woodland paths and short sharp hills. Defying the laws of physics I am convinced there was far more “up” than there was “down”. I came in under 50 mins which I was pleased with considering the terrain. I passed on to Laura, followed by Gary, Anne-Marrie, Steve then Alexy. And so it went on.
Purely for reasons of me having a camera, I soon became the official team photographer. We soon got into a routine with Paul being chief ‘spotter’ which meant standing a bit further up from the finish line then frantically waving when one of our team came in. This was a cue for me to stop thinking about bacon sandwiches and sleeping and to quickly get my camera ready to get a picture of the incoming runner.
My second lap kicked off around 9:30pm, so it was time for the head torches as by the time I finished the woods were pretty black. This was my favourite lap and best time too (49:03), it just all came together and I got a nice comfortable rhythm going. Shower, food and time for a quick sleep as I was up again at 4am in preparation for my final lap which started around 5:30am, but I still somehow managed a smile:
The weather was kind to us apart from the final couple of laps for Alexy and Paul when it was completely tipping it down. We finished up doing 25 laps (3 each and 4 for Paul), and it seemed everyone had a great time, each of us with our own level of experience and personal goals for running, from the ultra runners to …..er …… me.
Here’s us with our medals!
Thanks to Men’s Running mag and Adidas for the opportunity to do this along with the free gear, it’s all great stuff. Thanks of course to all my team mates (and Stephen, our support crew) who were all a pleasure to do this with and made it a thoroughly enjoyable experience all round!
Check out my running page HERE on this blog for my running history.
The girls were busy posing for a photo, but it was front camera on all the time, sorry ladies: