The Long Tour of Bradwell involved a distance of 33 miles, 6,300' of ascent, navigational mayhem, a fight with a tree and a trip to Chesterfield Hospital. Thankfully I finished.
The weather forecast had predicted a hot one. It was difficult to get out bed at 5.45am but thankfully Tracy agreed to drive so I could get a couple more hours shut eye during the journey. Bradwell lies in the heart of the glorious Peak District. We arrived from Grantham by 8am for a 9am start and the weather was overcast but warm. lots of familiar faces were present milling about taping ankles, packing bumbags or days sacs and generally keeping busy awaiting the start. Fifteen minutes before 9am we were escorted from the pavilion to the centre of the village to gather, ahead of the start. The horn honked promptly at 9am and off we went to suffer.
The route climbs out Bradwell and across a moor to the top of Cave Dale. I have ascended Cave Dale many times, the Bullock Smithy, the Peaker's Stroll and the High Peak 40 are but three events that I can think of that all use the route. It was refreshing, for a change to run down through the valley which is flanked by steep, limestone out crags all the way to Castleton. I had been given two separate pieces of advice from learned long tourers, start slowly and start slowly. I started gingerly and by Castleton I had woken up, the sun was threatening the overhanging clouds and I felt good about the day ahead. I predicted that the run might take between 4 and 5 hours. that was the first mistake.
After Castleton the route climbs to Hollins Cross before a straight descent to Edale. By the summit of Hollins Cross I could see across the valley. Kinder Scout was covered in mist. I had purchased a plotted route map for £3 but I noticed the checkpoint was in a difficult position off the path at the summit of the plateau. I was a little anxious about finding the control but there were plenty of runners to follow in front of me and I had printed off some route tips which were given to me from a previous participant. We descended off Hollins Cross and ran on through Edale village pausing at a checkpoint for water and biscuits. The route took us past the Nag's Head (the start or finish of the Pennine Way) and out to climb the magnificent Kinder Scout. I was reduced to a walk up the steep winding path towards Ringing Roger. My route tip suggested a path after a small cairn. I found the cairn and the path was confirmed by another runner heading off into the mist in front of me. At the summit there was enough visibility to see the control at Druid's Stone but it involved a scramble across heather gause to get there. After the Checkpoint at Druid's Stone a scramble back across the heather before a steep descent out of the mist and back into the Edale valley.
It was warm by now and apparent that this route involved a lot of climb including rough terrain. My initial enthusiasm and contempt was put into check as we climbed back up to the Great Ridge ahead of a run across the top to Loosehill and a descent towards Hope. The checkpoint near Hope was at Killhill Bridge at the same position as the checkpoint for the Peaker's Stroll which I had visited some weeks earlier. From the bridge the route crosses the lower parts of WinHill, then on towards Ladybower before a switch back to Bamford.
I had cast an eye over the route before leaving the start and was quite sure that we had to climb to the summit of Winhill. I knew we had to depart in a differnt direction to the Peaker's Stroll route but i was certain that we were required to get to the summit. The field of runners had by now started to thin out. I had walked out of Killhill Bridge eating a complimentary cliff bar and washing down an electrolyte drink to combat the sweat loss which I was experiencing in the warm conditions. I had to resort to the route description and map to find my way. About two miles after leaving the checkpoint I saw a sign post for Win hill. I decided to pocket the route description, save myself some time and just take a straight line following the signposts to the summmit. Thankfully as I ran merrily up the road Peter Barr of Retford AC was coming back to me. Peter suggested we had gone wrong. I protested the sign post but it was then explained to me that we weren't supposed to summit Win hill but instead run around it. I wasn't sure. I got out my map and pointed confidently to the organiser's instruction which read, in red bold type "you must visit the summit". I was very embarrassed when peter pointed out that I was pointing at the Loosehill the summit that we had just visited. Peter saved me a summit of Win hill and if you read on you will notice it was not the only time he saved me during my 'Longer Tour of Bradwell'. I ran on to Bamford and watched Peter disappear out of sight ahead of me.
|Nick Ham - Grand Slam|
After Bamford there is another difficult climb up a track apparently known locally as 'the escalator' which leads all the way up to Stanage Edge. I got lost on here too. I carried on the road, into a farm yard and out the other side. I was suspicious when I entered a field. It didn't feel right so I retreated and saw a host of other runners slogging up the escalator adjacent to the road which I had followed. I should have beared right. The errors meant I was slipping down the field, I had lost rhythm and pace and had to gee myself on a bit. The escalator was however sure to knock a bit more out of me.
My race tips had included a warning that the checkpoint control was before the summit. I was informed that previous participants in other years had missed it. Thanks to my instructions I found the control just off the path and fairly hidden from the main route. This event uses electronic dibbers to accurately record your time. I dibbed my electronic dibber which I had affixed to my wrist into the plastic hole housing, It beeped and I ran on. Just before the summit I saw Peter Barr running back again. I hadn't seem him since he ran away from me after my 'Win Hill moment'. I knew I hadn't gone wrong this time, he'd missed the checkpoint. He had ran perhaps half a mile further on to the summit and had to retrace his steps. "Soul destroying", I thought.
Great running follows the high ridge all the way to Upper Burbage Car park. My momentum had come back. I felt like I was running through the sky, the sun was now shining brightly it was humid and there were fantastic views stretching out across the hope valley. "This was brilliant running" I thought, as I ran strongly across the ridge towards Burbage car park. I ran this section with a Paul Booth of Pennine Fell Runners. Paul was undertaking his final long run before the Ultra Trail Tour du Mont Blanc in a few weeks time.
|Crossing Stanage Edge|
There are three route choices to Burbage Bridge I chose the middle route but missed a turn off at the bottom and had to ask for the help of a couple of passing dog walkers who relocated me on the map. I was pretty spent by this point and it was either ask for help or waste time helping myself, the former seemed preferable. I ran down the road, not far wrong but enough for another bevy of runners to gazump me one of which included Peter Barr! I was actually grateful to find another pack of runners, Paul from Pennine had run on stronger than I and the next section to Upper Padley was difficult to navigate. Eventually after trusting a previous year's participant we found the 14th checkpoint.
After we had all dibbed in there ensued a debate about the correct way to go. The group of perhaps six of us was split 50/50 about whether to go right or drop through the wooded valley. In a fit of pique I must have remembered my master map reading skills and decided to form my own opinion. I looked at the map and was confident we just had to head down until we would eventually find the railway. A member of the opposing group had a GPS but it was only a GPS on his watch so I judged it wasn't worth relying on, another mistake. The group split, two runners followed my and the others headed off in a different direction following the GPS strapped to the others man's wrist. Shortly after our descent I bumped into two teenage lads I asked them the way to the railway and they duly pointed in the direction that the GPS man had run. It was too late for us, they had gone and we were now further down the wood. I took some verbal instructions from the boy about how to find the railway and we ran on trying to remember them. Eventually we came out by Grindleford Railway Station. I knew the route to Hathersage from here. I had run a reverse of it on another event some years earlier. We ran on to the drinks checkpoint near Hathersage before the final climb up to Abney and on to the finish. I was pretty knackered by now and feeling the effects of the sun. I drank lots of water and ate two jam sandwiches although I didn't really feel like it.
I left the penultimate check point which was the final drinks stop with Peter Barr (my saviour from earlier), Micheal Plummer and a couple of other folks. I hadn't met Micheal Plummer before but I found out that the Long Tour of Bradwell is his latest event in his quest to complete the grand slam of UK ultra distance running. He is attempting to complete all the races in the UK ultra distance championships. He told me that it was Nick Ham's (another grand slammer) fault that he had taken on the challenge. After hearing Nick muse about the joys of a previous year's grand slam he went home, drank a bottle of red wine and then confessed to his partner that the quality of their time together might suffer because he had decided to devote the best part of a year to training for, recceing and taking part in ultra distance running events. I hope he achieves his goal.
We ran up towards Abney through the final arduous climb of the day. At some point before the last self dib checkpoint we entered a wood with a descent. I was shuffling along quiet happily in front of the others at a fair pace when suddenly, wallop, I was flat out. I had run into an overhanging tree branch. I rose to the concern of the others who had caught up. I had not seen the branch at all. I put my hand to my head to rub the pain away but it was bleeding heavily. The others seemed worringly concerned and I was told that it was a nasty gash that needed treatment. I panicked a bit not knowing how bad the wound was. It was bleeding like billyo but I was aware that head wounds often do. Peter stepped in and saved me again! He insisted that I had the wound dressed and he dispatched from his bag two plasters which he affixed and secured with tape by wrapping the tape around my head Terry Butcher style (for those that remember). I found out post race that Peter works in pharmacy. I could not have asked to be in better company. I am very grateful for Peter's help, he sacrificed time to help me thank you very much. I also appreciated Michael's reassurance that he wouldn't leave me until the finish - great, thanks a million.
I stumbled on through the wood still concerned not knowing the severity of the wound. I kept looking at my buff which I was using to apply pressure but the buff was black and wet from sweat so I couldn't see if the wound was still bleeding. The incline in the wood went on forever but eventually I came out at the road. There was a spectator at the top, Peter had run on and Michael was some way back. The spectator questioned if I was ok after seeing me clutching the buff to my head. I asked him how bad it looked. "It doesn't look good but you should finish" was the reply. I ran on, it would have been desperate if I had to retire at this stage, with only two miles left to run. Just before the turn up the final track I was able to do a self assessment in a car wing mirror. The wound wasn't bleeding and at last I felt a bit more confident that my head wasn't going to split it two!
I ran to the finish which involved a steep descent to Bradwell village. Whilst supping tea on the grass outside the pavilion my attention was drawn to two other runners with bloody heads. After discussion with one of them it seems the very same tree had also taken him out. I thanked Peter and Micheal for their help and left for a well deserved pint in the village pub. I had finished 35th in 7 hours 10 minutes 11 seconds. I am sure I can take a chunk off that time now that I have seen the course and more importantly, I know the location of the angry trees. Ian Symington formerly of Macclesfield Harriers was first home after a great run and ahead of his attempt at the Dragon's Back later in the year....good luck!
|Dibbing in at the finish|
Tracy then took me to A&E but we had to travel to Chesterfield because Buxton was likely to be closed and perhaps not able to deal with stitches. The wound is actually superficial but I thought stitches might help it heal properly and avoid infection. Sadly I passed out whilst the nurse was cleaning the wound out, what a drama! It wasn't necessarily painful but it felt like the nurse was running a knife through the middle of the cut. I've never passed out before but i was able to tell the nurse the way I was going before I hit the deck. The embarrassment of the recovery room then followed. Thanks to Tracy for bringing some food in from the car. In twenty or so minutes I was back feeling normalish and we were discharged. I wished I had let it heal itself. The day ended at a chip shop in Chesterfield where I replenished with pie chips and peas before heading back to the camp site behind the Three Stags Head at Wardlow Mires. My bed was a welcome sight but not before a pint of black lurcher of course.