I stumbled across this race a couple of weeks in advance. Its 56 miles with 14 LDWA style, generous checkpoints, 24hour time limit starting at noon, overnight accomodation aka floor space in a school hall,
and a cooked breakfast at the finish! The race has run since 1976!!!! with times ranging from the record 8.46 right upto the 24hours. For an entry under £20 it was cheaper than staying at home!
The race starts just south of Stockport around the Hazel Grove area and follows a large clockwise loop around Buxton.
I found the HQ pretty easily (makes a change!), just a short walk away from a car park, picked up my stamp card (for the checkpoint staff to hole punch, proving I went to all CPs in order) and checked out the route map one last time along with the`weather forecast on the wall. The forecast was something along the lines of 'low cloud and rain, deteriorating later' not sure how it would deteriorate from that much more? But thankfully it wasn't so bad. I made my way over to the start a couple of minutes away in a park.There was a quick (brief?) brief then the bell sounded we were off! People were running in all directions out of the park, being a few different routes to take, I had had a look at the route on the map in quite some detail beforehand luckily, but for anyone who might not have prepared so well, it must have been a big shock! Normally everybody goes the same way at least for the first part of a race!
To me this race was a key training run for Ultima Frontera 100miler. Having roughly half the elevation (about 2400m) and roughly half the distance (well, 10k over) I planned to take it at a steady pace hoping to replicate what pace I hoped to do in Spain 8 weeks later and see how I felt at the end. Kit wise I decided to use some old Saucony Triumph 7 road shoes that I only planned to drive there in having previously retired them but last minute decided to keep them on, I had quite a large backpack as at the time I didn't have a decent small one, I also carried my night gear and headtorch along with some trail shoes just incase. I wasn't in a particular rush so the weight just added an extra resistance.
As we left the park I set off down the road heading towards a minor side road which merged into a path crossing a few fields. I passed a few enthusiastic starters and we began to merge with people who took an alternate start route. We headed along a farm track and a public footpath creeping into the Peak District heading mainly Eastward, after a couple of kms reached the first checkpoint which being about 4 miles from the start I didn't stop other than to stamp my card. There was some reasonable hills around and about but generally nothing horrendous! There was a decent descent down towards Edale after about 20km which was brilliant down Jacobs Ladder after Edale Cross, I did let it go a wee bit down there which felt great! I located the CP in a public carpark and had a bit of water along with a cup of cold rice pudding and tinned fruit cocktail! Delicious, I was having 2nd thoughts about 5 mins later wether I should run back for
A little more plodding brought me into Castleton, a quick refil of the water bottles and a couple of sandwichs, can't remember what but im sure they were delicous! Out of Castleton is a steady incline for a couple of kms through the limestone rock faces and steep sidewalls which a young kid who had conqured one of said inclines decided to roll down a couple of basketball sized rocks down, perhaps as a bit of a dexterity test, or maybe he was keen on the idea of 'Total Wipeout' still, I passed unharmed. Moving on heading now in the direction of Buxton again along a few open sections of bridleway and footpaths. Road shoes coping totally fine at this point, it had been pretty dry although looking across you could see clouds smothering some of the nearby hill tops. Nothing too exciting until the next CP located in a barn I almost didn't spot the open door as I cruised past, I ducked in and grabbed a seat whilst I waited for some soup to heat up. It was pretty hot so I hung on and had a snack whilst it cooled chatting to the very friendly CP staff! After 5mins I decided to water down the soup as it wasn't cooling, although not in a particular rush I didn't want to spend the afternoon sat in a barn blowing soup! This was around 46kms in. I left the CP and begin a short climb up the next hill and at that point managed to reset my watch passing the 50km mark in a very easy 5 hours 30 about 17.32.
I hadn't seen any runners for a while despite being incredibly slow (especially for me) through CPs and that remained a trend for now at least. I didn't really pay much attention for the next part as I passed a few more fields and a couple of farms and before I knew it I had another runner in my sights (Nigel Aston on his 8th BS run!) as we hit a road section near to an incredibly fake looking hill, almost looks like it is man made as it looks shaped like a pyramid! I caught the other runner at the CP Earl Sterndale, had a bit of a snack and moved on down the road proceeding to overshoot a turning although I realised within a few seconds and backtracked to find myself with Nigel again. We chatted briefly he had completed the
race numerous times so I assumed he would know his way ok and I pressed on. There was a slightly slippery off road section before a descent which was just wet enough for the road shoes. I reached a small cottage (Cumberland Cottage) which was up the muddy hill, with a small gas lamp and some treacle sponge cake which I quite enjoyed while I changed my socks over and tipped out nearly enough gravel to redo a driveway.
I reached another road and switched on my headtorch and a little flashing bike light for the back as I passed Nigel for the final time. Although very, very quiet roads in the middle of somewhere I didn't fancy ending up like any of the roadkill around. I proceeded to take a couple more wrong turns, none costing me more than a couple of minutes although it would have been very frustrating had I been racing for a position! The route headed uphill and then uphill some, there were a few lights visible around and about in the distance but nothing resembling a town. Eventually as I passed over the hill there was the sight of, I guess, Manchester the orange glow in the distance. I descended quite quick to the Cat and Fiddle road near Walkers Barn and then moved on down a farm track and over a few fields weaving around a few gates, styles and fences before dropping down into a bit more of a town for some more confusion. I got myself in the right direction and proceeded on. After a few confused looks in the town I got myself onto the Macclesfield canal and began bridge counting upto the next CP which I found a long way around into. Some nice cake and a quick
stamp leaving me with one final section to the end.
The last section follows a good path, the Middlewood way for a couple of kms which felt like it was slightly uphill but nothing to worry about. I came off the path just in time to startle a young couple coincidently tucked away in a small, secluded layby, probably not the best evening for that being a steady flow of runners throughout the whole night! By now it was near 23.00 and I had a couple of kms to go. I picked the pace up on an easy unsealed road section before reaching the main road all the way back to the finish in 11hours 15mins 95km, 10th position with just under an hour of non moving time (ie eating like a pig at CPs). This left me pretty confident that I should expect to be under 24hours at the worst for Ultima Frontera 100miler.
There wasn't many other runners back to my surprise. Having not really exerted myself too much I felt ok at the end. I got some layers on and had my cooked breakfast (a little bit strange at half 11 on a Saturday night in a village hall kitchen!). I chatted to a few of the other finishers who had previous completions on the race and a friendly bunch. I had a shower using a bucket of water without getting the floor wet (figure that one out) and got changed. Although there was plenty of food going around for finishers I fancied something a bit more substantial so I jogged out of the hall and along the road in the direction of some sort of food. Being now past midnight there were a few takeaways that had already closed and I continued on for 2.3kms until I found a takeaway that was open! Even the yellow arches were closed (quite glad I wouldn't have been to enthusiastic to force any of that down even after running that far!) I settled for a good meaty pizza and jogged back to the HQ and I wasn't sharing with anybody! After another hour or 2 I called it a night and dragged my sleeping bag under a table and went to sleep for a few hours.
At around 6am I got up and drove home after a round of toast and wolfed down a good breakfast before nipping out on the bike for a steady 50km. Lunch at mums and a slightly shorter 44km ride home. A good weekend! Very keen to return one day and push for a decent time! Find the entries for next year here!