No more than 150 runners on the start for my first race in Hucklow, a small and friendly village.
Start with an unusual 1 mile down hill, a sharp left and crossing the river to a nice and steady up hill to the summit – legs burning, hot and mosquitos! No roads, no single tracks just farm fields, up and down hills until single track next to a river mud to your knees. Absolutely loved it.
More hill on site and a bit of a walk to save the legs to a final downhill for a deserved drink and flapjack (made by the locals!). Family at the end to cheer you up (very important to have family support).
Will definitely be back next year! (Jose)
Yes, I had to look it up too. Near Hathersage, not one of the usual Peak District leisure destinations and all the better for it. So after a journey made slightly more adventurous by road closures, I park in the village and walk up to register. Race HQ is in a field by the school.
There’s shelters for admin and catering, a finishing funnel and a portaloo. Somewhat alarmingly, there’s also a Cave Rescue vehicle. I’d seen the course profile, it looked challenging but it all seemed to be above ground. I’m reassured by a race marshal, in fact there’s no mandatory kit requirement today as the weather is set fair.
I chat to a few runners, most have run here before and are happy to give me advice, then return to the car to ‘kit up’ passing Jose and family on thier way to registration. Team Danum is assembled.
We are called to the start on a lane near the school, the clouds have parted and it’s now hot. The organiser stands on a rock and addresses us with understated humour (you don’t get hyperbole in fell running), and then a moment of levity as the funnel shoots out of the starter’s air horn into the front row, my last smile for about an hour. Now we’re off, and it’s a mad downhill start, through the village and still descending, onto a rough stony track. We turn left and onto a rough pasture at the foot of Durham Edge, the most severe of the climbs. But first we need to negotiote what the organiser described as a puddle. It’s more of a pond, knee deep and unavoidable, so it’s full speed and straight through. The climb gets steeper, we are all walking, hands on knees to the top, we skirt the gliding club field and are now running again onto more undulating pasture and open moor.
Not many runners can smash a fell race. It’s always hard on the heart and lungs, and harder on the legs. On a good day though you can get into a rhythm, feeling light on your feet, almost flowing over the ground.
Today it’s not like that. The first hill has taken the wind from my sails and I’m rusty too, it’s my first race this year and I’m not reading the trail quickly enough, a toe caught on a grassy clump sends me tumbling, and I’m continually running into avoidable bogs that threaten to steal my shoes. One bog tries to take a leg.
A fast descent through a meadow leads us off Abney Moor, along a brief road section and into the Hidden Clough. We drop down to cross Bretton Brook, then turn and run along it’s steep banks, cross again, ascend, then drop down to a farm at the foot of the last hill. It’s a long ascent in full noonday sun and a cloud of flies is adding to my torment.
I try not to walk. I walk. I check the watch, less than a mile to go so I’m running again before the marshalling point at the top of the hill.
Despite the encouragement here (it has been very well marked and marshalled), my legs are heavy and I’m overheating, I want it to be over. But then a glorious parting gift. We drop down into the shade of Great Hucklow Woods and onto a long descent, the flies have gone and the air is cool, and just for a minute or two I’m picking a fast line over the rough ground, moving at a decent speed, running with not against the terrain. It’s a good feeling, it’s what keeps us coming back.
Straight out of the woods, and still moving at speed, there’s a hard left across some scree onto the finishing field. Jose, (long finished and shortly off for a picnic with his family) is there to cheer me home, and to warn me. Apparently some runners have already taken this last opportunity to fall, but I get to the line without incident. I find shelter and get a drink. Theres a hose pipe in the corner of the field so we take our turn to wash off the worst of the peat from legs and hands, and while we wait, swap stories and compare battle scars. We are weary, but enough baking has been done by the good folk of Great Hucklow to more than replace every calorie burned by the runners today.
So that was that, I spent a sunny morning in the beautiful Peak District, I didn’t run that well but still enjoyed the race, and I still don’t know why people pay a lot of money to enter races with mud and contrived obstacles when it’s all here for a fiver. I would have paid that just for the cakes. (Simon)