Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Starkholmes Stagger 30mi. Sat 21/03/2009

Starkholmes Stagger
This was a low-key event for me, which I ran for nostalgic reasons and to keep me ticking over. I last jogged/walked it 9 years ago when it used to start from Starkholmes, up the road from its new location at the 15th Matlock Scout HQ, Matlock Green. The new organisers – the Phoenix Scout Network & Fellowship – did a grand job.

After a frosty start we were blessed with a beautifully warm sunny day. I was glad of the later 9am runners’ start, when it had had a chance to warm up a bit. The rather highly-strung and obviously very enthusiastic timekeeper had us on our way on the dot of 9.

As the event got under way I was soon reminded how tough (up and down) the route is and I was astounded at how little of the route I remembered. About the only bits that had imprinted themselves on my memory were the early run along the main road in Matlock before the right turn up the first long, steep hill, and the route up to and following Robin Hood’s Stride. Apart from that, once I found myself alone in the final third of the route, some map & compass work became essential to supplement the route description; the description alone just wasn’t enough. There was some inevitable dithering and minor wrong turns, but it did not diminish my enjoyment of the Derbyshire countryside – the small fields of sheep surrounded by limestone walls, the steep, tree-clad limestone valleys, the hundreds of knee-scraping squeeze stiles every few yards (some of which were even too narrow to fit a shoe through), the well-drained stony tracks, the picturesque limestone villages, the industrial heritage in the form of disused quarries and railway beds.

I had been expecting to be overtaken for miles before I neared the finish, due to my inevitable slowing made worse by the navigational issues, but no one did. I had overtaken all the walkers (plus a few runners) I was going to overtake, while the more capable runners (including Carolyn, who must have run strongly to the finish without slowing – well done – first lady?) had long since left me for dead. The last walker I overtook told me that I was 5th runner and had no chance of catching the ones in front. Gee, thanks. Tell me about it. I pushed on with renewed spring in my step to maintain that 5th position.

The final run down the hill just before the finish was a bit of a shock. The countryside had recently been gouged up by mechanical diggers, for reasons not obvious to my tired being. It had obliterated the narrow footpath I should have been following, apart from the odd short stretch here and there. Another bit of map and compass work told me in which direction I needed to head for the track to take me back to the main road and the finish. I ran the last stretch and into the hall as fast as I could go (it was not fast). I stumbled inside, nausea welling up, to register my time and hand over my tally before making a quick escape outside for five minutes’ recovery sit-down in the sunshine.

I was soon inside again for veggie stew (a spicy little number), pita bread, lashings of tea (sounds very Enid Blyton) and cakes, and the obligatory chin-wag for two hours with fellow runners and walkers. My time of 5:36 was a PB by 41 minutes, despite the longer route. This was not unexpected given the 9-year gap since I last took part. I have done a bit since then, after all.

I was not surprised when I heard that there had been many navigational errors. In some cases it must surely have added an hour or two on to times (I’m thinking of Matt here, with whom I started the run). I always think that such experiences increase the hunger to return the following year to take care of unfinished business – do it justice, so to speak. Better luck next year, Matt. You have such a massive PB coming your way if you do it again in 2010.

I drove back home to Stockport sporting a healthy suntan, to learn that it had been cloudy all day back home. Oh dear how sad never mind. I took a few pictures as I bimbled round.


  1. sounds like a belting day out nick

  2. i too did this run with a group of friends in may for the first time. Beautiful day, and my first very long distance run. I came in on7hr20mins. Maybe see you next year! Ash from leigh