As far as local fell races go this is one of my favourites, long enough distance to be a good day out but not too far to take long to recover from. It is just over 16 miles, from Langsett Barn with what seems on paper a fairly flat 1800ft ascent. The flattest section of the race though is by far the hardest 4.5 miles of the race, you do well to avoid going in waist deep, some of the bogs are that bad!
The start is pretty frantic through the woods until the climb up to Cut Gate, the views yesterday were fantastic with the sun out and all autumnal colours. Despite the climb being over 3 miles it is all runnable. I’d led the women’s race from the start and wasn’t aware of any other women around me. As you turn off onto Outer Edge it is always reassuring to have runners around you. I was with a group of 4 and was very grateful to the Totley runner who hauled me out of one of the first bogs when I was stuck thigh deep! With the recent rain and the conservation work going on up there I had expected it to be worse, it was mainly just ankle deep. My usual experience of Outer Edge is in the early hours of the morning in the High Peak Marathon at the end of March, this was a refreshing change for the bogs not to be icy and freezing cold!
From Swaines Head it is a tough descent through the heather with a few surprise rocks! This bit was made slightly easier in sections where some of it had be burned. I had lost the guys I had been with on Outer Edge, they were far quicker than me on the descent but then people took all different lines to cross Far Small Clough and towards Salter’s Brook. I caught up with a couple of people here but welcomed the first and only walking break through the marsh up to the old road. I had my line sorted to Cabin Hill from a recce a few weeks ago and was a bit disappointed to see the checkpoint so obvious with a big pole sticking out of it, there was no excuse for not getting a good line here! The good tracks leading to the final checkpoint at the barn should have been much easier to run than I was finding them. I think that was due to only taking one bottle of Tailwind and as it was so warm I was in need of fluid but I managed to get a couple of cups of water at the checkpoint.
There is a nice descent before one final long climb. I was taken by surprise when I looked back at the bottom of the descent to see a female runner about 10m behind me, I had thought I had been running well for this stage but Megan must have had a storming last section. It was 14.5 miles in when Megan caught me, we chatted a little but it was clear she was running stronger than me. I was about 10m back when we retraced our steps from the start back through the woods. I was digging in and amazed to find my ultra legs were able to generate a bit of speed after 2hrs 20mins racing, even managing a 6:35 mile on the undulating last section. The distance was shortening between us and by the time we reached the final quarter of a mile we were neck and neck. The sun was shining right in our eyes and in a bid to avoid the trees I missed the finish funnel! I had been 1 stride ahead but Megan nipped in the funnel and we crossed the finish at exactly the same time, just a few seconds outside my record set last year, in 16th place overall and joint winners, 2:28:07.
Thanks to Woodhead Mountain Rescue for organising a fantastic race.