Tag Archives: trail race

Litton Christmas Cracker, 12.5k fell race, 14 December 2014 (organised by Tideswell Running Club)

Litton is a small and picturesque village in the Peak District, and this was the inaugural Christmas Cracker fell race. Runners registered in the tiny village hall and the start and finish line was on the perfect-looking village green, a triangle of grass overlooked by the post office, the village hall, and the traditional local pub, the Red Lion. This part of the Peak District has a gentler feel than the exposed brown moors of Kinder, it is greener with more rolling hills punctured by outcrops of white limestone. I wasn’t fooled though, this is a fell race and the route setters of the Litton Christmas Cracker weren’t thinking gentle thoughts when they chose 359m of ascent, one flooded river, and unlimited amounts of mud.

Having already run a couple of races in early December and completed a ten mile training run the day before, I wanted to treat this as a fun morning out rather than running it as a race. After the first brief uphill section, we queued for several minutes at a series of stiles and gates. If I’m honest I was grateful for the rest, but tactically I’d advise a fast start to get ahead of the crowd. Although I have never run in this area before, I have climbed, and the race went by some familiar places including Chee Dale, Raven Tor, Ravensdale, and Rubicon Wall at Water-cum-Jolly. It was nice to link all those places together by following the river Wye, it also meant that I knew what was coming as we approached Water-cum-Jolly. A fairly long stretch of what had been the path was now under water, and there was no way to avoid running through the flooded and icy cold river. It was so deep… so muddy… so fun!

The next section was mentally and physically the hardest for me, almost continuous uphill for a very long way, ending at an exposed trig point. This part of the race included an out and back section which actually made it really interesting. It was tough seeing how many people were ahead of me, shooting back down the hill and not looking like they were struggling at all. They were encouraging though, shouting to the up-hillers that we were nearly there and keep going. When I could finally see the trig point, for a long time it seemed to stay exactly the same distance away somewhere on the horizon. Finally I reached the top and as the wind buffeted me around the turning point I became one of those joyful people leaping with ease down the grassy slope. I was challenged again shortly afterwards with a steeper and more technical section, too scared of falling I picked my way down as more experienced runners bounded past. After one final uphill through some foot-sucking and very slippy mud, I was relieved to trot back down into Litton and be cheered by locals and runners onto the village green.

Overall I found this race tough, but I’m not a fell runner… yet. I now know I have to improve my endurance on long uphills, and my technique on steep downhills. The race was well organised, and the stewards were really encouraging. Tideswell Running Club are lucky to have such a beautiful and varied area to run in, thanks to them for organising this new race. I hope I get the chance to test how far I’ve come by running it again in 2015.

You can find out more about Tideswell Running Club at their website here http://tideswellrunningclub.uk/

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Rab Mini Mountain Marathon: Edale, Peak District, 29 November 2014

I am standing in the middle of a bog somewhere south… or possibly west… of Grindslow Knoll blinking mist out of my eyelashes and peering hopelessly at the 10m circle of tussocks visible in the dense fog that has suffocated us all morning. There is a checkpoint somewhere close by – at a ‘fence/wall junction’ according to the scant description. I would love to be able to see a fence. Or a wall. Or anything other than this damp white blanket. This is the Rab Mini Mountain Marathon, my first Mountain Marathon experience…

If like me, you’re not familiar with the format of mini mountain marathons, on arrival entrants are given a map and have 4 hours to navigate to up to 25 checkpoints. Each one is worth a number of points that varies depending on the distance and degree of difficulty finding it. If you are back late, you lose those points. The checkpoints are tiny boxes deposited on crags, in gullys, and behind crumbling dry stone walls and are distributed in an area around 25 square kilometers. I have entered as a team of two with Bodil – we are regular trail runners and have high hopes of speedily picking up a respectable number of points. As entrants can choose what time to set off between 8.15am and 10am there is no rush of start line adrenaline, and no other runners to lead the way. Bo and I have a quick scan of the map, loosely agree a route and set off running.

Mini Mountain Marathon map

Mini Mountain Marathon map

In no time we arrive at the point where the little circle on the map indicates that the checkpoint should be. Locating it is not as easy as expected – we are in the right place but we just can’t see it, and suddenly the little circle feels a lot bigger. Three steep gullies join here and it’s somewhere in one of them, so we split up and search until we finally locate the checkpoint. It has taken half an hour, but we have 15 points! We decide to take the direct line to the next checkpoint and enthusiastically thrash our way up one of the gullies through running water, boggy black peat, and springily resistant heather. There is no trail, not even a sheep track, we are forging our own way and I realise that this is not going to be normal running or racing. At the top of the gully we join a path as expected, and feel pretty sure we know where we are. According to the map there is another checkpoint relatively close by, I can see a trail and I just want to run down it so I urge Bo to follow me. However, after about a kilometer of enjoyable but fruitless running, we are forced to admit we are not where we thought we were and there is no checkpoint here. We give up and retrace our steps, uphill.

Finding the first checkpoint

Finding the first checkpoint

Our next checkpoint is at Ringing Rodger and the clue says simply ‘top of rocky outcrop’. I know that this is a familiar landmark and on any other day would be easy to spot, but we can’t see any rocks at all, and definitely not an outcrop. Feeling slightly guilty about leading us astray down the previous trail, I decide it might be better to let Bo navigate, she has the compass and seems more confident about where we are and where we’re going. Following another well-defined trail, we sense we are close as figures begin to appear and disappear in the mist. The scene feels a little surreal as we press on until suddenly there is a steep drop to our left, and a checkpoint nestled in the rocks right in front of us. Another hour has gone by, but at last we have 20 more points.

We quickly eat fruit bars to keep our energy up, and now that we have located ourselves we are on a roll. On the edge of the Kinder Plateau Bo leads us to the next three checkpoints and we earn 65 points with relatively little trouble. The third is located at the bottom of Grindsbrook, one of my favourite hikes in the Peak District – to make it more interesting we follow the river itself rather than taking the less direct but easier footpath. I feel at home again, scrambling on rock in a small gorge, wintery water gushing past us as we descend maybe 125m back down the valley. From this point we decide to leave the comfort of the path and strike out south, to a checkpoint that I don’t realise is on the other side of the highest point around. Having just descended, we power up a steep hill, the top of which reveals another steeper hill. We climb rapidly and then then speedily descend, but in all of the striding up the hill and the wiggling down it, we have lost our bearings and find ourselves somewhere south… or possibly west… of Grindslow Knoll.  After trotting around the tussocky field for a while, the fence/wall junction checkpoint is suddenly visible just ahead of us and we have 15 more points.

What Grindsbrook would look like on a normal day

What Grindsbrook would look like on a normal day

Now with about 25 minutes to go, we are almost back to Edale. It’s too soon to go home, but to attempt the next checkpoint is risky. We know that it is doable though it will be tight and it takes us just seconds to commit to it, knowing that it is uphill all the way there but downhill on the way back. At this stage, what would normally have been an easy run feels like crazily hard work. A stream of people finishing their race stroll happily past us in the opposite direction as we plough our way upwards through a series of exceptionally muddy fields of sheep poo. We finally see the checkpoint… at the top of a steep embankment. My legs are burning, my heart is pounding… but it is within my grasp and I am so determined to reach the top and those 10 points. Bo must feel the same as she seems to leap up the hill and is at the checkpoint well ahead of me. We shout to each other as she dashes back down, “Come On!!!” As I catch her up we have 8 minutes remaining… and I know we can make the final kilometer. This feels like my kind of racing again and although the road through Edale has never felt so long I am full of joy as we muster up a sprint finish after four hours and make it home with three minutes to spare!

Bo and Anna wishing we could enjoy the view at one of the checkpoints

Bo and Anna wishing we could enjoy the view at one of the checkpoints

In total we ran 10 miles including around 850m of ascent, and collected 125 points from 7 checkpoints. I’m so glad I entered with Bo, it felt great to put in a team effort and I would have felt a little lost on my own. It’s important to take this event seriously – it involves being out in all weather conditions on sometimes difficult terrain for several hours, but for me it was a safe and fun way to practice carrying the right gear and test my navigation skills and endurance. Four hours flew by, and I would definitely be up for a longer event next time. As I start to write my tick list of challenges for 2015, I feel good that the preparation has begun for next year’s endurance events…

If you fancy entering a mountain marathon next year, you can find the website for Dark and White events here  http://www.darkandwhite.co.uk/mountain-marathons.asp

Sheffield Tententen, Endcliffe Park 10k – October 2014

Endcliffe Park tententen Sheffield

Endcliffe Park tententen Sheffield

Climbing has taken up the majority of my time and energy for the past couple of years, so I haven’t entered a 10k race for a long time. When an injured friend offered me his entry into the Sheffield Tententen, which starts five minutes from my front door, I grabbed the opportunity to get back into running.

I don’t find it easy to just potter round, when I run I want to run the fastest and hardest that I can, and since I hadn’t really been training I wasn’t sure how I’d perform. The Endcliffe Park 10k is not a race to aim for a PB, it involves two 5k loops with a short road section, a short but very steep (and muddy!) hill, and some fairly narrow undulating trails through the woods. I usually prefer to run on my own, so I was concerned about feeling crowded in the race. It really wasn’t a problem, I should have worried more about my lack of fitness on the hills, they were short but sharp and I really felt it!

Ideally, I wanted to finish in under 50 minutes, my final time was 50:06. I knew it was close, but I’m happy that I ran as hard as I could and just couldn’t have squeezed the extra 6 seconds from anywhere. It’s a great benchmark time for my first 10k in two years, and I’ll be aiming to bring that right down in 2015.

I have run this race in previous years, and it’s one of the best 10ks that I’ve entered. Endcliffe Park is ideal for friends and family to watch so there’s a great atmosphere, it’s really well organised by runners for runners… and the T shirts are the best designed with this year’s orange my favourite so far!

If you want to enter next year, or would like more information about the event, this is the website http://www.sheffield10k.com.