Sunrise from Hepshaw.
'Phew wot a scortcha'. A week of Indian summer and temperatures into the high twenties culminated in a hot yet mercifully breezy Saturday for our tussle with the bog monster on the watershed between Manchester and Sheffield. I arrived nice and early to be greeted by the happy and ever smiling face of Ian Winterburn at the smart new base of the Woodhead Mountain Rescue Team. I commented on the three wind turbines close by. Ian told me they’d only gone up that week. That would explain why they weren’t turning.
I watched the sun rise over another wind farm in the distance as the entrants began to trickle in. There would be a 23-mile walk or run with an 08:00 start time for all (this has never been entirely clear and confusion still occurs not only for people who wish to run it but with some of the volunteers as well). There would also be a ~16-mile walk with an 08:00 start and a ~16-mile run (with longer loop around to the Daisy Lea Moor checkpoint) with a 10:00 start.
Mike D-H asked me to join him for a photo shoot for our distant friend Jan Danilo now in New Zealand. This was his stomping ground before he emigrated and I’m told he won the race last year. I had been tasked to take plenty of pictures. I hope they don’t make you too homesick, Jan.
As 8am approached there was no sign of a starter so the walkers began to wander informally down the track. At 8am just as the starter came out, the rest of us were already in pursuit to begin our 23-mile journey. All distances that follow are from Tracklogs and assume correct route choice. They don't apply to me. 'nuff said.
As an indication of the laid-back nature of the event I was able to run with the lead group as far as CP1 (Crookland Wood, 5.7mi.), by which time we were no longer in the lead. We had taken a long way around to the checkpoint. Phil G was the only one who was going the right way but was persuaded by the rest of us to take the wrong path. The pangs of guilt shall fester awhile.
Back on track and climbing Mickleden Edge I caught up again with Mike and Ken & Jenny W. The order was beginning to sort itself out now with the more capable runners breezing effortlessly ahead and out of sight, Phil being one of them (he never complained once about being led astray, incidentally). The sun warmed us and the breeze prevented overheating as we approached CP2 (Howden Edge, 9.1mi.) and the right turn onto the wide flat watershed and domain of the man-eating bogs. I caught up with someone with a brightly coloured flag draped on his back. I like bright colours and had to ask. It was a Lincolnshire flag to celebrate Lincolnshire Day, always on 1st October.
Lincolnshire flag for Lincolnshire Day.
Back to the task in hand, the terrain was beginning to look decidedly dodgy. I put my past experiences of The Fellsman to good use and stepped on NOTHING that didn't have blades of grass growing out of it. Having visible footprints on it gave further reassurance. An MRT cameraman loitered ominously, waiting for the last stricken gasps of a hapless victim. As I sneaked around the back to plan my route carefully, Mike caught up and performed a leap of faith, which the cameraman captured rather well in multiple exposures and is shown in Mike's report. Mike remarked at my infeasibly clean legs. My mincing and circumnavigating had obviously worked. I left him behind again as I ran ahead to CP3 (Loftshaw Clough Head, 12.5mi.) and another right turn, this time over Round Hill and across to the remains of Lady Cross, where Mike caught me up for the final time. A right turn along the track brought us quickly to CP4 (Lasche, 13.7mi.) and our only food stop. Half a banana did me.
Here you will die (probably).
Mike arrives at Lady Cross (remains of).
We crossed the busy A628 very carefully and headed towards Winscar Reservoir. I was beginning to feel the urge to walk while Mike was still running strongly. By the time we arrived at the brightly sunlit Winscar with flotillas of yachts, Mike was making up serious ground. He was soon out of sight. As I took more pictures, Ken and Jenny were the next ones to catch up for the final time. It was time to start doing my own thing and just get to the finish as best I could.
CP5 (Harden, 16.6mi.) at the top end of Winscar came and I was onto the track left towards the old excavations. The first 16-mile runner in a Dark Peak vest overtook me (please excuse my ignorance; I was told who he was and that he's good, but I'm not well up on the fell-running fraternity). More runners overtook as I hit the Holme Valley Circular Walk and descended towards Hades (yes, really, check the map for yourself). I passed yet another depleted reservoir before climbing to Hade Edge and turning right up to CP6 (Daisy Lee Moor, 19.0mi.).
At this final checkpoint a runner I actually did know caught me up – Steve Lang. He was soon gone. The path took us through an overgrown field. I forgot that nettles can still do their worst to bare legs even in October. I hit the final track up and over the top, following my nose and another runner to eventually hit the lane at Upper Nab. I had deviated too far right and added yet more distance. A left turn down the road for a while and a right turn up the final track to Hepshaw brought me back to the finish in 4:35. With my slowdown and further navigational deviation I lost 18 minutes on Mike in the final 6 miles. Well done Mike with your strong finish.
There followed nearly three hours of chatting, tea drinking and relaxing outside in the sunshine. There was plenty of substantial food on offer, including big fat burgers in buns, baked potatoes, salad and more. I was happy with mushroom soup and a crust (well, I have been eating well recently). This is one excellent, friendly and enjoyable event that comes highly recommended.
Post-race chill in the heat of October.
Mike wrote an excellent account, linked again here. The best of the pictures I took are here. There's quite a crop this time. Fill your socks Jan!