A glorious weekend in a national park….. you’ll love it they said…..It’ll be fun they said….
The Peak District. Ok so the name suggests hills, that was obvious…. it suggests peaks … that’s a big hill right? That’s doable… we live on the Isle of Wight… hills are our friends….. right? And they are! Despite by my own admission, (and my accomplice in this escapade Michael Coultrup), of not being anywhere near our fittest, it should be a challenge but not impossible, so we signed up for the marathonish distance (46k) hoping for a bit of a sightseeing jolly to take in the views along the way.
Arriving early, at Hope Valley Sports Centre we collected our numbers and milled about watching the ultra runners go off. It wasn’t long before our safety briefing was called and we were set off en masse with the 16k and 26k runners. Unfortunately the first mile was fraught with obstacles as a local farmer had locked all his gates and parked his spikey farm machinery (a thrasher? I think) on the narrow footpath to hinder the race. But after a couple of sizeable bottle necks we got going.
Straight into business as the Win Hill loomed in front, reducing us to walking pace already. But once negotiated the view was stunning and a nice descent though the woods and skirting the Ladybower Reservoir. The relief didn’t last long though as Snake Road literally slithered up and up and up.
It was at this point that I realised that the sightseeing jolly was over. Upon reaching the first cut off point, I was informed by the timekeeper that I’d only just scraped under by a couple of minutes. That was it! My head didn’t just wobble, there was a palpable seismic shift! The tears came and the dummy was spat out. We carried on for a couple of miles before I tipped the Pram over and decided to pull out. Micheal went on as I turned on my heel in a monumental strop to stomp back to the check point.
After about a mile I stood amidst the sheep questioning my life choices when I found my dummy, gathered all my toys and decided to stop being such a baby and get on with the job in hand.
Without a soul in sight I turned round and returned to the course. Thick bogs, Rocky streams (I hate water) and steep, stoney, treacherous tracks…was going to be a lonely journey home.
After spending a very only hour or so without seeing any sign of human life other runners appeared from behind
“YES!! I’m not last!!” I said inwardly
Sadly they were ultra runners but as they passed by they made conversation and helped the upward miles tick by.
The course turned a corner and the way was suddenly heavily populated with hikers and walkers negotiating Kinder Scout. Seemingly oblivious to the fact that there was a race afoot and that it might be a bit handy if (IF!) on the precariously wet stony downhill single track path that they could just kind of interrupt their walk for a nanosecond to let those wearing race numbers take the safer route… I began to realise that the safety of others was not as reassuring as I’d hoped as I slipped and wobbled my way down to the bottom.
On and on and on. Up hill and down dale. Watch battery long dead. I had no idea how far I’d come, or more importantly how much further I had to go. Happy is not been pulled out at a check point I kept chugging away. Mostly walking, but still moving.
The last aid station emerged like an oasis. I gulped down the flat coke, leaving the pizza slices for the ultra gang.
Can’t be much further …. surely.
Mam Tor followed shortly after which went up, then up, then up. The marathon distance came and went along the ridge upon the top before hitting the stairway to hell.
At last downhill… grassy downhill too! I could run without fear of breaking a limb. Hope Valley began to feel closer as the 2 mile descent trickled by and the ground began to feel level again. The finish arch appeared and I was cheered in …. exhausted, sunburnt and emotionally broken. 30 miles done.
“That was harder the Glencoe” Michael admitted, whilst laughing his head of at the state of his counterpart “But I’m so proud of you for not giving up”
Moral of the story ….. do some race research – do some training
Michael Coultrup – 7.24.15
Sarah Holmes – 8.48.30