Sunday, 21 July 2013

Peaker's Stroll 2013

This year's well dressing
 If I'm honest - there is much mischeavous fun to be had from duping innocent road runners into tough off road events like the Peaker's Stroll. Any satisfaction gained can however backfire when the innocent folk fail to return to the finish. This year I managed to convince two fit Grantham runners to take part. I sold the event on the bais of the great views and the cakes at the finish, I didn't mention much about the hard, hilly nature of the course or the navigational challlenge of finding their way. My sales pitch worked successfully,  I had signed up two Grantham Athletes, Ben Mason and Ben Hatherley who bravely decided to leave the flat lands of Lincolnshire to try their hands at some proper hill running.   

At the Peaker's Stroll, the discerning walker or runner has a choice of three routes  25, 17 or 9 miles. As in previous years I took the full 25 mile option. At the finish the techno runners were sure that the billed mileage was a bit exaggerated and the longest route choice was more like 22 miles. I've done this event more times than I can remember, it proves good hill training for the Bullock Smithy later in the year and passes some of the best areas of the Peak District. The run across the Great Ridge from Mam Tor to Loose Hill is but one of the highlights providing great views into the Hope Valley below.

Relaxing waiting for B&B
We arrived in Peak Forest about ninety minutes after leaving Grantham. The sun had shone brightly during the journey and it was clear that we would run in very hot conditions. I decided to run with two hand held bottles instead of a back pack, conditions wouldn't get better than this and the bottles would no doubt assist with necessary hydration. The least I could do was to mark up some basic maps for Ben and Ben and they picked up a route description from the start. I've run this event so many times I didn't need a map but I still managed to go the wrong way again across the fields to Mam Tor again!  There is a psychological advantage to knowing the paths that lead the way. It wasn't until I started the first climb to Mam Tor that I reflected that Ben and Ben might really be in for a hard day out. Both Ben's are fit and seasoned runners but to my knowledge didn't have much off road experience and they didn't know the way. In addition, the heat was pretty severe and the hilly route would no doubt add to what would likely prove to be a tough day out. I had a little chuckle to myself, happy that I'd managed to involve others in the challenge and then I ran on.

By Mam Tor there was about three other runners around me towards the head of the field. I managed to keep up on the flat and uphill but my recent lack of proper fell running showed on the downhill sections as those around me sped past in a ccontrolled reckless fashion. By Killhill Bridge I had managed to catch up. Kris Mahadevan was first to leave the checkpoint with another runner, I spent more time making sure my bottles were full up. The heat was already taking its toll and the stiff climb to Win Hill was a tough part of the course even on cooler days. I passed the two runners in front on the climb but by the top I was paying the price for my efforts. The sun was beating down, the hill gets steeper towards the top and then there is a short incline to the summit. I wondered how Ben and Ben would be getting on behind. As long as they didn't get lost they would be bound to have fun, the views to Ladybower are but one of the highlights of this excellent event. 

The reading room and start/finish.
The decent to the checkpoint went unusually well. This is another part of the route where even seasoned stroller's can lose the track through the forest. The checkpoint staff seemed surprised to see me "congratulations, your the first runner through". I joined on along the fast part of the course, a two milieish track along the sides of Ladybower reservoir. The organiser in his pre start speech had reminded runners not to jump in the water. The water certainly looked inviting on this hot humidd day. 

I passed efficiently through the next checkpoint and began the climb towards Roman Road. I was sure Kris and the other runners wouldn't be far behind. I was later to learn that the first runner I had passed on the Win Hill climb was doing the 17 mile route but Kris was doing the full 25 miles and he remained in close pursuit of as was confirmed when I saw him after I glanced back on the short climb from Jaggers Clough. I moved well along the sides of Kinder towards Edale. I was manging the heat by drinking regularly from my bottles and pouring the occasional bit of water over my head. This was a great day to be running and I hoped Ben and Ben would be having as much fun a bit farther back. 

By Edale I was beginning to tire but there was sight of Kris or the others so I put a determined effort in on the climb up to Hollins Cross passing the occasional Peaker's Stroll walker who had started the same event earlier in the day at 9am. I ran tentatively down towards Castleton and expected Kris to come careering past but by the final checkpoint at Castelton there was still no sign. I was still feeling pretty fit and I seemed to be managing the heat well. I sacrificed a bit more time filling up the bottles and then set off for the final ardous climb up Cave Dale. I was glad to reach the top and enjoyed a canter over the final few fields and down the track to the finish at Peak Forest. I finished in a 3 hours 48 minutes a little over my best time. Kris arrived shortly afterwards and we retired to discuss our respective runs over tea and cake. The event is run by Tideswell Male Voice Choir and there ability to sing and organise races is matched by the quality of their cakes. 

Ben & Ben

The minutes and hours rolled by and there was still no sight of Ben and Ben. I decided to jog back out on the course to find them. I sat on a dry stone wall and managed to rig my phone up to the Wimbledon men's final which Andy Murray went on to win. I sat in the sun happy with my achievement but getting increasingly concerned for the whereabouts of the two Ben's. The occasional walker came by but no one had seen the two described  runners from Lincolnshire. Maybe the heat had affected them, maybe they got lost, maybe they were waiting for me at the finish after having retired and getting a lift back? I sent a text and to my relief the reply read, "almost back". Phew - I'd chuckled earlier in the day but I didn't much fancy explaining my part in a dehydrated runners hill rescue! It turned out the Ben's had had a navigational epic. The arrived from a "different direction"  some six hours after setting off. They had found the run hard but were both in good shape and cake and tea bought them fully back to life. Both are already planning a sub four hour stroll next year, now they know the way...



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