This race was a bit of an end of season jaunt for me, I hadn’t trained specifically for it and only decided I best do some recces 2 weeks ago. That wasn’t really necessary though as the course was well marked. I thought the course would suit me as a trail runner who enjoys fell running but also the odd bit of road running, and it proved to be the case. The description said it was 30% tarmac but it seemed much more than this, maybe this was because a lot of the trails were so good they were almost road like!
Right from the start I found myself with the front runners, 2 guys shot off with me not far behind in 3rd. I soon lost sight of the lead guy but was only 2-3 minutes behind the 2nd place guy for the first 10 miles or so. I was aware of a couple of runners close behind but didn’t really look back to pay any attention to anyone chasing me down. It was quite noticeable from early on I was walking before the guys around me, but that was part of my strategy, to take the hills easy, especially early on.
Approaching the halfway point at Castleton I was caught on the descent from Hollins Cross, but I think the chap thought his chance to get away from me was by running up Cave Dale. I walked it, I didn’t even take the bait of the walkers egging me on to catch him, I said I’d bide my time and have him by the finish! When he came to a walk it was much slower than my walking pace, as my legs were fresher from not running the initial section. So just before the trail flattened out I started a jog and overtook him, I was now in 3rd position. Hitting the checkpoint after Tideswell, I was told the lead guy was 17 minutes ahead, not that I was intending trying to catch him! I carried on at my own pace, but realised if I did the last 14 miles inside 2 hours I would get the female course record, and be just inside 6 hours. I didn’t expect to see the second placed guy walking on the Monsal Trail, the 30 mile point, but his ankle was giving him trouble so he pulled out at the next checkpoint. That put me into 2nd place. Second overall in an ultra would be my best finish so I was now determined to push on, where I had been comfortably working within myself, for the next 10 miles I ran pretty much all the uphills!
There were points I would have walked, especially as I couldn’t see anyone in front or behind, but because I had paced the race sensibly early on I was able to keep plodding on. I was still aware of the female course record and knew I was on track, but I didn’t know if the course was exactly 40 miles or over, it turns out it was nearer 41 miles. When I reached the last checkpoint the marshal informed me it was only 2.7 miles to the finish, and I had 33 minutes to do it inside the female course record, still not enough of a cushion to allow for any wrongs turns so I kept pushing, even running the last little climb from the trail onto the road into Buxton. When I reached the school driveway I had a last check of my watch, outside 6 hours but well within the record, I finished in 2nd overall, in 6:07:37, taking 6 minutes from the record. Considering the 5453 feet of ascent I was pleased with this time. I made time up on the first guy in those last few miles too as he finished 12 minutes in front of me, and 3rd came in 10 minutes after me.
Through being sensible and walking sooner than I usually tend to, I finished this ultra really strong. My legs are a little sore now, 2 days later but I have managed to teach 3 Strength and Conditioning classes and did a 20 minute run in the last 2 days!
Thanks to the organisers and marshal’s, they were very attentive and it was great to be greeted by name at each checkpoint. I’d love to do this one again, especially as I think a sub 6 hour finish is do able!