Posted on March 26, 2012 by Chris Baynham-Hughes
One week post Hardmoors I find myself stressing over whether to take the bum bag or the rucksack. My left ankle was still sore, but nothing to stop me running and was better after spending a week off it. I’d managed one extended commute into work in the week and that was about it, so I was certainly rested.
The sudden onset of summer had thrown everything out. The expected heat meant that for me carrying water was becoming essential. I usually run without water at home, even if going for a number of hours, but in race conditions I felt I’d need to take something, but one bottle or two? Ridiculous. In the end I decided that I would treat this exactly as I had billed it; a tune up race and thus I should wear a pack and carry water… “good training and a beautiful view… yes, that’s what it’ll be. I won’t get carried away in the first 5 minutes of adrenalin and rush off… no, not I!”
I find myself running up Ringing Rodger passing people, and jostling for position… will I ever learn? To be fair at least I wasn’t eye-balls out as usual, but I’d certainly gone off quicker than planned. I wasn’t alone this time, not only was there 300 other competitors, but Andy Robinson, Ed Halliwell and Jackie Keasley were all there to represent Helsby (even if Ed didn’t run in his colours and Andy wore the training shirt… no commitment! :))
Meeting up with the other Helsby runners was great. I’d bumped into Ed and Andy as I was obsessing over the bumbag vs. rucksack debate and post registration I’d seen Jackie who was like a cat on hot bricks. Fantastically nervous in a energising way.
Dad caught me out an made me chuckle half way to the top as I was pap’ed and cheered on, by this stage I was feeling great and really motoring, maybe that week off had done me good. Reaching the top and getting on the outer paths gave me time to take my breath and look around, simply stunning!
For those of you that haven’t been to Edale before I thoroughly recommend it. Walkers would find a great day out in the first half of the course – a walk from Edale, up Ringing Rodger and round clockwise to Mam Tor before heading back down to Edale. Anyway, back to the running I was loving it, just about able to strike a stilted conversation, to the apparent annoyance of some of those puffing harder than the chap I was talking with. It didn’t last long and I found myself on the first sneaky short cut of the day.
Now I’m not sure if this was actually a shortcut or not, but it was one of many locations where there was a choice. I believe the winner of the race actually comes down off Kinder Scout and then back up again all to save one minute (and no doubt to avoid the bogs, but more of that later) so suffice it to say it is worth a recce if you can. After rejoining those that went the other way, having no idea whether I had gained or lost, it was not long before it was up to the checkpoint and onto the descent into Hope.
Into Hope and back out again is achieved via the roads and a surprising amount of road it is too. I thought it would be a couple of hundred yards, but it was far more. Quick water stop and Jelly Baby (other jelatin based snacks are available… just not at skyline checkpoints) before cracking on and to the second true major hill of the day. At this point I was starting to worry about my food approach for the day. I’d settled on Mario’s favourite, the snack sized Milky way. I could almost feel them melting in my hip pockets. Water was going well and not too heavy, but for the first time I decided it was time to ease off a bit and save some energy for later.
Near the top of the hill I got chicked for the first time in the day (not the last time) as Jasmin Paris over took. I was pretty sure I wouldn’t take that position back as I was starting to realise I’d gone out too quickly. A very helpful young marshal informed me I was in forty second place and I started across the second ridge line to Mam Tor. Tourists were bemused and, mostly, very happy to see these nutters trying to get around the skyline and mostly were very kind to get out of the way. I wondered whether this was because I was in the front 50 and whether they would be so kind to the remaining 250 people, but I was striking out and trying to maintain position so besides that and the view I didn’t pass much more thought about it.
Mam Tor arrived quicker than expected and I was delighted to find my cheering squad. Rhys and my Dad were cheering me on (I thought Laura was too and it was only on the way home that I found out they had only just made it there in time, so as I passed Laura was running up the hill herself carrying James and thus missed me! This rush explains my Dad’s panting on the video as he’d just run up carrying Rhys – not bad for a pensioner!)
I was so happy that I missed the short cut the other runners were taking and bolted down the steps only to find my Mum at the bottom cheering me on. This gave me the boost I needed to crack on up the next hill to the water station.
Filling up half a litre and popping in a zero tab was my mistake of the race. I should have filled the other bottle too as I suffered on the final quarter of the race without any fluid. Crossing the bogs around to Kinder scout was better than normal as it was mostly dry, but I still found it hard going. Maybe the 55 was showing, or I’d just gone out too hard. I was caught by the trailing bunch most of whom delighted in stating “the race starts here” – I was tempted to play the pedant and point out it started in Edale, but felt I didn’t have the energy to carry it off
To be fair to the experienced hands I can see what they meant, the bog is followed by pretty technical terrain and route choices galore. I saw people heading off in all directions and I made several bad calls on whom to follow. A bad route choice meant I was overtaken by the 2nd lady (Vet 45) who was looking very strong and I was under no illusions that I looked the opposite. Shuffling around with a raging thirst I bumped into Richard and Beverly from the club – I presume they had known about the skyline and were there to cheer Jackie on, but it was a wonderful surprise and a nice little boost. It didn’t last long though as I was overtaken by two guys 20 yards later.
I kept it going though and the heat was really starting to get at people. I passed at least three people stopped with cramp and picked off one or two more that were just having a tougher time than I. This section of the run just didn’t seem to end, but at last I saw Ringing Rodger and knew the descent was all that was left to come. The descent starts off technical and whilst remaining rocky, turns into a path. Turning the final corner it’s a deceptively narrow path followed by a gallop down a green tongue of grass to the finish line. I ran hard knowing the sub 3:30 was in the bag. I almost missed the end too, although so did pretty much everybody! The result: 3:27:10 and 44th.
Everybody was there to meet me and once I had downed some well needed fluids it was time for a hug from the boys and a pork pie!
Andy was next in. Luckily I’d seen him from the distance and managed to get a video of his descent. It’s worth it for the final bit over the bump! A cracking 3:56:06 saw him into 123rd… without water!
Ed’s delight at finishing is clear. Again I managed to spot him from a distance so got all of his descent on film. A triumphant 4:19:09 saw him 208th and certainly glad to have survived. An excellent second finish of the skyline for Ed.
Sadly I didn’t get to see Jackie finish as Rhys was getting more and more difficult to chase. It was like trying to herd cats, so we thought an ice cream was in order. Maybe he’ll enter next year
Jackie finished in a superb 4:44:36 – considering that when I saw her before the start she was concerned she wouldn’t make the cut off this was a stunning result and put her in 266th and an incredible 2nd in the Ladies Vet 50 category – an excellent end to the day!