Monday, 2 July 2012

Peakers Stroll 2012

Callum, Tristan, nephew Seanie and me.
Torch bearer
The night before the Peaker's Stroll I went to a club barbeque and exercised self discipline so as not to drink too much alcohol. The next day I was to run 25 miles across the hills of the dark peak, taking in Mam Tor, the Great Ridge to Loosehill, a steep ascent of Win Hill before a rugged descent to Ladybower Reservoir, a climb to the Roman road and on to Jaggers Clough, Edale youth hostel, Edale, Hollins Cross, Castleton and up the familiar but never less easy Cave Dale before a trott across the moor back to Peak Forest. I have run this event on perhaps five or six previous occasions. At the same club barbeque, Jez Page of Grantham AC was also abstaining from the festivities but in his case, he had a far more onerous event to contend with,  the outlaw iron man  early the next morning!

Sunday morning bought bright sunshine, unusual for this time of year? The sky really was clear and that, coupled with the warm tempertaures lulled me into a false sense of security. I decide to pack light. I looked forward to running in shorts and t-shirt. I questioned the worth of my rain jacket but packed it just in case. I left the leggins behind and was thankful that the lack of need to gather warm kit on such a fine day mean that we left the house early for the 1 hour 45 minute drive to the heart of the Peak District. Just after passing Kelham Hall at about 8.30am I was even more grateful that we had got away quickly. I would need the extra time because our progress between Newark and Mansfield was hammpered by a bevy of cyclists taking part in none other than the Outlaw Iron Man! I guessed this must have been the race that my club compatriot was doing and we tried to spot his name on the race numbers which were stuck to the back of the competitors vests. The cyclists turned South some miles short of Mansfield. I was later to learn that the cyclists were racing over 112 miles after already having completed a 2.4 mile swim and after dismounting their saddles they would go on to run a meer marathon of 26.2 miles. That event certainly put my 25 mile jaunt round the Peak District into perspective. 

The Peaker's Stroll

Final Instuctions

We arrived at Peak Forest withtime to spare. It was good to see my nephew at registration, he had decided to turn out and run the event too, acoompanied his friends, Tristan and Callum (all fifteen years of age). In adddition, I learnt that another nephew, a niece, my brother in law and some of their friends were already out on the course having decided to set of on the walkers start two hours earlier at 9.30am.  My nephew's lack of preparation reminded me of my own naivety at his age. He had turned out in a holister t-shirt and shorts with no waterproof clothing whatsoever. I meantime was also regretting not having bought more clothes. On the journey across to Peak Forest the cloud had closed in and it was now raining and noticeably more cold than when we had left Grantham two hours earlier. 

Just before 11.30am, accompanied by familar faces from the Peak District fell running community we were ushered out of Peak Forest village hall to the green opposite. Runners were given final instructions on their respective routes before a school playground type bell was rung to signal our release on to the great and beautiful peak national park. The Peakers Stroll has 25, 17 and 9 mile route options. You can walk either route leaving at 9.30am or run from the start at 11.30am. The event is organised by the cheerful and merry members of Tideswell Male voice choir, a choir held in high regard and whose choirists seem to share a similar enthusiasm for song as stroller's do for endurance running.

Leaving Peak Forest
I led the pack of runners out of Peak Forest safe in route knowledge from previous years before being overtaken on the first ascent out of the village. At least five runners past and extended a lead to the first checkpoint. I noticed that I laboured a bit more than usual up the ascent of Mam Tor. I was concerned that I had neglected hill work in favour of the flat Lincolnshire landscape and I resolved to try and get back to the peak's for a bit more hill training ahead of the Bullock Smithy in September. I ran strong across the Great Ridge to Loose hill. I made an effort to appreciate the views. The wide and wild expanse of Kinder Scout stretched out to my left and the the picture postcard view off the hope valley provided a panoramic spectacle to my right. Steve Temple caught up with me on the Great Ridge and we ran more or less together to the summit of Loosehill. 

Familiarity Breads Contempt

As was aptly demonstrated on our descent towards Hope. We have both run this event on several occasions and I happily ran off the hill following the two runners in front that I had managed to catch in the two preceeding miles. Steve caught up halfway down the hill, "I think we are on the wrong track" he said. It looked familar to me but as we approached the next fence the runners in front stopped, turned around, looked at us and questioned "is this right?" It wasn't. Steve was right, we had taken the wrong path off Loosehill and we had to take a minor contour around the hill to pick up the correct route. 

At the checkpoint near Hope I filled my water bottle with water and an electrolyte tablet. I knew the climb up to Win Hill was hard and I wanted as much energy support as I could muster. Steve ran on as I sacrificed time for replenishment of reserves. Tracy was at the checkpoint and I was pleased to learn that I had almost caught up with my niece and nephew who had started on the walkers start at 9.30am. They were further up the ascent of Win Hill and I heard that they were trying to beat me to the summit. The rain continued to fall although I wasn't cold. The conditions were really ideal for a running, warmish with a mist of rain in the air that occasionally got stronger. 

Trig point at the top of Win Hill
I ran out of the checkpoint in pursuit of Steve and my extended family. I managed to catch Steve on the tarmac track which later gives way to a steep grass field before a rocky path leads to the castle of rocks at the summit. I pushed on to 'high five' my niece, Erin just before the rocky path and offer words of encouragement to my ten year old nephew, Conor who I met shortly afterwards. I felt strong and had a good stage to the summit. No time to waste enjoying the expansive views across Ladybower and through the Edale valley for I had to contend with a bounce through a moor of heather gorse before descending through the wood towards Ladybower reservoir.

That Wood

The wood usually poses a navigational difficulty. The wood contains many paths all of which seem to lead in different but somehow the correct direction. When I am sufficently confident that I have lost the offical route (which always happens) I simply head downwards safe in the knowledge that I will hit the track at the bottom. It is to be hoped that when you get to the track you are sufficiently close enough to the check point to see it. If not, you have to guess whether it is better to go right or left to pick it up. This year, as usual, I came out on to the track at a different place but thankfully I could see the checkpoint. I declined the offer of a chesse sandwich and ran on, still feeling strong round the flank of Ladybower reservoir to the next checkpoint, perhaps some three miles further on. I like this stretch. The reservoirs permiter track conatins loose gravel but is easy to run along. i knew I could make my recent road training count on this section. I hoped to catch up with some runners in front but they too must have been running well as the only person I encountered was Steve and he was running the other way! Despite his course experience he too made a uncharateristic navigational error or perhaps his error was following me through the heather gorse. Steve had been unable to locate the stile into the wood and instead decided to plummet himself into the wood and adopt the well tested checkpoint finding technique of "descend through the extensive wood and reassess when you get to the track". Sadly Steve's descent had discharged him some yards short and he was retracking back along to check in. 

Choir singer meets endurance runner in crime hit car park
After the next check point I took a straight line through the trees. I was over half way by now and the steep ascent took it out of me. I was glad to get to the top and run on through the stream at Jagger's Clough and along the lower side of Kinder towards Edale Youth Hostel. On the way to the youth hostel the rain got much stronger, I was running in shorts and t-shirt and I got flash backs to the LDWA 100 which had taken place in similar conditons a few weeks earlier. I stopped at the YH and put on my perspex pertex rain jacket. 

I was glad to get to the car park at Edale train station, a quick drink and I was off on the penultimate leg which involves an ascent of Hollins Cross, directly over the Great Ridge which we had run across earlier and down to the village of Castleton. After leaving Edale I could see to the top of Hollins Cross but I couldn't identify any runners to catch. I knew I was fourth runner and I felt like I had strength to pass any runners in front that might be tiring. I ran, power walked, walked and ran up Hollins Cross and then descended steadily before a strong run into the village, still no sign of those in front. I checked in and again sacrificed a bit of time for fuel before heading off on the monotomous slog up Cave Dale towards the finish. The jacket had come off now although the rain still hung in the air. I passed some of the 17 mile entrants on the way up Cave Dale and exchanged pleasentaries with Anne and Vaughan Wade who had successfully completed the same 100 which had resulted in my DNF. I picked up the pace at the top of Cave Dale and headed out on to the open moor at the summit. I still couldn't see any compatriots in front and I dare not look behind. I knew Steve was running well and although I hadn't seen him since Ladybower, I knew he wouldn't be far behind. I negotiated a heard of cows that were protecting a gate, hopped the stile and ran down the final track to the field which leads through to the village edge and on to the village hall. I finished in 3 hours and 57 minutes. I felt my energy reserves deplete during the final couple of miles and was grateful to find a seat next to the cake tables. The mini scones with jam and cream went down a treat. I ate two before ordering asparagus soup, more cake and two cups of tea. Steve arrived just minutes behind ruing his woodland jaunt. 
Erin, Conor, me and their Dad - a fine achievement!

After basking in tea, cakes and personal satisfaction we went back out on the course to encourage the children through the final stages. Callum was first back followed by Sean and Tristan in 6 hours 15 minutes. Conor, Erin and their Dad followed some hours later but all made if safely round a tough route to acccomlish a great achievement given their respective ages.

We travelled back to Grantham in the evening and during the journey we learnt that Jez Page had successfully completed his ironman in a sub 13 hour time. Nice one Jez!  
A few more pics here.



  1. Well done Paul good result I still got a hangover from the 100

    1. Cheers Mark and I hope you are back at it soon!