An early start to get registered and on the bus to the start by 7am. By 8am we were piling out of the bus. I grabbed a couple of kms for a warm up along the canal and then back ready for briefing and we started just before 8.30.
Same as last year the route is on the edge of the Peak District and links the train stations on Kidsgrove to Disley, 35 mile linear route, that seems to take in everything resembling a hill between the two points. Mow Cop, The Cloud, Wincle Minn, Croker Hill, Tegg's Nose, Kerridge Hill and Sponds Hill before dropping through Lyme Country Park and into Disley. There were 3 checkpoints and about 5 self clips between those.
I was expecting to be able to run under the 5 hour mark after last years 5 hour 1 minute effort. I hadn't checked any split times but roughly remembered been around the 1.10 mark for the first checkpoint below the Cloud.
I started out at the front and led up the canal. The route crosses over a bridge then continues along the canal briefly before turning onto another bridge up some steps which is a different canal... I got to the bridge and was totally confused. Don't remember that from last year and spent a good 30 seconds looking around, not convinced I knew where I was going... I went up on to the canal and continued on. It's a couple of miles before the first Gritstone trail sign comes up! There are 5 main climbs on the route and I jogged up the first, Mow Cop quite happily. As we turned I could see the next runners about 2 or 3 minutes behind after about 4 miles.
From Mow Cop a fast descent, a dicey moment with a bull and a tiny bit of uphill before reaching the first cp feeling great in what I thought was about a minute or two ahead of my split last year. Onwards up the Cloud which I enjoyed having not run here since last year. Over the next section the recent rain had left the ground a bit wetter than last year. One field I literally skidded down with the wet grass. I was remembering the route well and the signs are pretty good to follow provided you keep an eye out for them. I could feel myself working harder over the slippery ground and skidding about in the muddier sections a lot.
I was closing in on marathon distance not long after Tegg's nose and passed through at 3 hours 50 mins just after descending from the White Nancy. I couldn't recall what time I got here last year so just kept pushing on to the final checkpoint.
I left the cp and settled back into a good pace running through the remainder of the route in my head. It wasn't long before I was approaching Lyme park and glanced at the watch to see I was definitely not going to break the 5 hour mark today. I relaxed into a comfortable pace and just enjoyed the last few miles down to the finish... Not like the blistering descent of last year, I hadn't really considered anyone being behind me. I'd set the bar high for a sub 5 finish and once I could see that wasn't happening it didn't really matter to me what time I took over the last few miles.
The weather was perfect on the day, as always an excellent bunch behind the organisation and checkpoints. Beyond Marathon can definitely call their events some of the best organised races I've ever done. Some of the photos I have used I took from last year. Thanks Richard for the start and finish photos!
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