7th March 2015

The Grindleford Gallop sold out within ridiculous hours of going on release, and I just wasn’t fast enough to get a place. I stuck myself on the waiting list in January in a slight hope of a place. Lucky for me ‘SuperSue’ from the running club was giving up her place in favour of a road 20. So I had a place in the Grindleford Gallop, just a week after the 38 mile Millennium Way Ultra. Could I do this? Yes I could.

The warmest day of the year so far, forecasts has predicated temperatures up to a scorching 15 degrees – shorts and tee it was then, with long sleeved on top just in case of wicked winds on the moorlands. Gloves stuffed into the small pockets just in case.

I need to go run this weekend off

So off I went to the little village of Grindleford, nestled in the heart of the Peak District well known for its Cafe and huge cups of tea and chip butties. With driver and fellow club member Joe Fowler (who happened to win this years’ race) in tact we went in search for the Galloping Grindle Ford.

We arrived in plenty of time to pick up numbers and dibbers and just enough time to queue for a wee and say hi and send on our best wishes to fellow runners including the remaining club member John B, and the twitter gang including Simon and Mike (aka Twirly).

It wasn’t long before 500 runners were all lined up in the field ready for off. Last year runners’ traffic jams at the start resulted in around a 20 minute mile. I was determined to get a good enough start to avoid the same mistake this year. I positioned myself about 3 deep from the start line. Big mistake. At the mention of ‘Go’ 500 pairs of trail shoes shot off like a scalded cat. I was instantly surrounded by a plethora of crazy feet fighting through the mud to the first gate. I should have in retrospect been exactly on the start line – live and learn.

Get out of your own way

The first bottleneck was within minutes of starting. I waited patiently but knew I should have been a little more forward to make a good start and avoid the frustration of waiting to squeeze through the gaps in the wall and scooter around the gates. I call this the stile mile. However we had 21 miles to go so plenty of time for catch up.

After a mile or so the crowding dispersed and people began to find their more comfortable pace. Within a couple of miles people had began to drop off. I chatted to John B for a while up a little bit of tarmac, found my comfortable step and got into the groove.

A stream of brightly coloured runners made their way up the fields, it looked like hundreds of people were in front of me as they power walked, jogged and crawled up the first set off hills. I took the power walking option passing those who were attempting to run this early on. Really no point plenty of time to do your thing later on.

Don’t hesitate just do it

Off came the long sleeved top, slinging it messily around my waist. Much better, I was hot already as the sun was beginning to burn through the grey morning clouds. This could be a very warm day. The fields were not too much caked in mud but I knew there was more mud and more cake to come later on, having reccied part of the course a few weeks before.

After the first major climb came a speedy descent down to the pretty village of Eyam. I got passed by a few eager beavers gnawing vigorously through the course.

I caught up with a guy who I found out was called Andy (who I caught up with later in the event) and we ran and chatted together through the village, with ample supportive words of encouragement from the locals. i worked out straight away that Andy was a bit of an entertainer, loving the local banter, and wishing everyone a very good  morning. The first dibber point was at Eyam (28.45), dib in, dib out and off you go.

Just before 4 miles the kids were out counting us as we went by, 67th, 68th, 69th – I was one of them. Not that it meant much, ‘and 3rd female’ they shouted at me. I always reply with a polite ‘thank you’, whether it was good to know or not at this part in the event I hadn’t decided yet.

Onto the limestone bridal way, a somewhat water-washed undulating path. I began to pass a few more of the guys including a brief hello to fellow Strider / Strava and Twitterer Trevor Watson.  There were plenty of puddles to avoid, lots of mud to squidge through too. Oh fantastic fun.

You were born to run. Maybe not that fast, maybe not that far, maybe not as efficiently as others. But to get up and move, to fire up that entire energy-producing, oxygen-delivering, bone-strengthening process we call running. It’s one of the most natural things you can do. – Florence Griffith Joyner

The winds were more noticeable as the runners hit a very small section of road way which backed round on itself to lead to a stile and more fields in of course an upward direction.

Andy had escaped and I was running again without conversation up across the fields. I took this upward opportunity to grab a piece of Kendal Mint Cake. It was runnable but slowly runnable. Way way in front I could spot the now quite infamous tutu of Mike Wells, making very good progress at least 4 or so fields in the distance. Once again the stream of runners lit up the stunning Peak District landscape.

The gash in the landscape at Long Rake was the next dibber point (24.02) (52.47) and a source of water. I had a spiel belt tied round me with a 250ml disposable bottle of water, however I was finding I wasn’t really drinking much of it despite the weather being almost perfect.

A slight gush of wind on Longstone Moor kept us all on our toes. I got chatting to another guy who was old school at the event and gave me a run down of all the weather conditions of previous years. It was up here last year where myself and SuperSue took the wrong path due to the fog. But no sign of fog today as the moorlands boasted beautiful panoramic views of both the White and Dark Peaks. Absolutely Beautiful. Absolutely.

The Peak District is my treadmill

The next dibber point was at Longstone Edge (12.12) (1.04.59) just before descending down to the village of Great Longstone. Many of the guys who I had overtaken on the previous climb accelerated down the hill at record speed leaving me to pick my way down far too delicately for my own good. Part of me was afraid to let go, the other part was afraid of burning out far too early. Perhaps I put the brakes on a bit too much? However I was still smiling and that smile counts for a lot.

Into the village of Great Longstone we ran, back on the flat I began to catch up with some of the guys again as we negotiated the village. The course was semi marked however I knew the route and so did most other people. Just one guy was about to go the other way as we hit the Monsal Trail. We wouldn’t let him run to Buxton that would have been cruel.

The Monsal Trail – an old disused railway line, is a recipe for disaster on this course because it is as undulating as a pancake, and it would be easy to fall flat on your face if the pace was flat out. Two guys upfront set the pace, I kept a happy distance between them but then found myself catching them up and latching onto their conversation to take off the monotony of the flat trail. It was a mile to Hassop the next dibber point, (22.21) (1.27.20) and more importantly the cake stop and tea and juice if you wanted it. A plethora of cakes awaited us all however whilst running sub 7.20 minute miling stopping for a cup of tea and a piece of cake would have been cake-strophic , especially as people were still calling out that I was ‘third female’ and ‘looking strong’. I took a piece of home-made flapjack wrapped up in cling film and downed a cup of water and set off on my way again.

Don’t fight the trail, take it with you

I was soon to catch up the next pair of guys, and suddenly got a boost of energy as I found myself mechanically running in a relaxed but fast pace. This felt good, as I propelled forward at every step. Was this the gel I had taken way back setting in or was it just a mere cup of water that had given me that shot of energy, or the effect of knowing there was a piece of home-made flapjack quietly waiting to be unwrapped in my back pocket. Only the insides of my body will know.

I run to burn off the Crazy

After 2 miles the route took us off the trail (hurrah!) and up the muddy and steep woodlands. Lots of walkers by this point were walking up the hill just like the runners were. I jogged / walked up the hill but had forgotten to unwrap the delightful flapjack still quietly nestling in my back pocket. Towards the top I broke into a run and caught up a few more guys. The next dibber unmanned was nestled on the gate right at the top of the hill at Bails Cross Farm (15.44) (1.43.04) From here it was across the ‘Calton Pastures’ – fields and fields of squelchy muddy running down to the stunning Chatsworth Estate.

A few conversations with fellow runners through the fields made these couple of miles go rather quickly. A lovely guy held the gates open for me and shouted out at walkers that I was ‘racing’ and to let me through because I was ‘third female’, what such encouragement and such kindness on these events. Although there is an underlying self-sense of competition everyone will do what they need to do to help and encourage others. This is what I love about these events.

I was still ‘third female’ but apparently the other two girls were only ‘a minute or so’ in-front. However ‘a minute or so’ is actually a long time, and they weren’t in view so I had set my mind on not catching them and just maintaining where I was. I was in my blissful land, feeling the love of the fields and people surrounding me, captivated by their kindness.

Find something you love to do and do it often

The Chatsworth Estate is a prime tourist trap in the Peak District, and it’s easy to see why as the monstrosity of the  Chatsworth House Stately home dominated the following few miles of running along this pristine landscape.

A few posh Chatsworth sheep and (possible posh possibly not) walkers were sporadically spread about the fields. I had to dodge the walkers more than the sheep as I ran up and down the rolling banks of the fun loving sheep poo invested fields. Still feeling reasonably strong at this point I made my way through Chatsworth Estate, soon to politely dodge the day trippers. The blue skies had made a perfect home for the early spring sun to smoulder on through the estate. This was such a beautiful day. Perfect in many ways. As the sun beat down on the exposed landscape the buff around my wrist went around my head, I didn’t realise at this point it was on rather wonkily and would present a rather amusing photo of me climbing onto Curber Edge later in the game.

Run. It releases more than sweat

Encouragement from a guy on a bike called Matt and his fellow friend gave me that extra boost as I meandered my way through the estate. I decided at this point to take on a gel which I hoped may well see me through to the finish. I was hitting 15-16 miles and it’s often after this stage that you see a series of tiredness and bonking, and I really didn’t want any bonking.

Bonk

Pronunciation: /bɒŋk

(Of a runner) reach a point of exhaustion that makes it impossible to go further

I caught up with Andy once again and we chatted again, I allowed him to go through the round whiz gate first and then off we went in search for the final dibber and cake stop at Baslow (31.13) (2.14.17). I knew by this point that I hadn’t drunk enough and was getting de-hydrated, so I downed some water and juice and the kind marshals filled up my little bottle for me. I refused cake (I said I refused cake) and myself and Andy went on our way – up another hill, the last hill, the climb to Curber.

Hills don’t go away, they wait

Many of the runners were now walking as locals were cheering us all on. Andy was full of encouragement, a master in entertainment as he made little jokes at everyone. A pleasure to run with. We shot down a couple of runners up the hill as we ran on together. I was playing at shooting down the Sheffield club vests, there goes a Totley one, there goes a Dark Peak one, and can we get the ‘green and yellow one’ said Andy – that’s Striders, mate but you won’t get a Sheffield Running Club one as he has probably gone and won the race already – oh woopse yes I was right – Physco!. It was here that I found out Andy is an Ironman type of guy and was probably about to swim and bike after this, full on respect. We smiled for the camera as we ran vertically up the hill, photos courtesy of Mike Nolan (some more stunning photos here)

A mile-is of uphillness then opens up onto the top of Curber Edge. With cheers from day trippers and those that had come out to take photos, amidst a few brilliantly captured photos from Jen Regan (more photos from Jen here).

Onto the very bouncy Curber Edge, peat pathways with stunning views of the Gritstone edges of Curber and Frogget in the distance. And in the distance I spotted Twirly aka Mike Wells and friend Chris. I had dropped Andy (sorry Andy) and was bouncing along Curber with a big grin on my face with just four bouncy miles left. I felt a bit like Tigger, exuberant, happy, no responsibility, having fun and full of energy. That’s ‘ridickerus’ said Tigger. Tigger is known in Pooh land as tough, fearless, optimistic and resourceful. “Hoo Hoo Hoo Hoo!” he goes and at this point it described perfectly how I felt, and I was still reminded constantly from passer bys that I was third female. Hurrah!

Climbing up the last of the hills (it’s really merely a slight incline onto the top of Frogget) Mike’s tutu and Chris were edging closer and closer. I was determined to catch them up.  They certainty kept me going, boing boing boing. And good afternoon to your tutu Mike, as I promptly caught them up. Apparently they had been discussing at which point in the race I would ‘chick them’ and had bets it would be around ‘the hill of Baslow > Curber’. Chris was in full form and pushed onwards. I ran with him keeping up as much as possible as he set the pace gently down the edge. Just as the edge pathway levelled out my energy levels took a dip, a big dip bigger than a big dipper. I was about to bonk. Runners’ World kindly remind us of what bonking means in the real world.

To Bonk: The dreaded point during a race when your muscle glycogen stores become depleted and a feeling of fatigue engulfs you. – Runners World

So all that Tigger’ing along Curber had paid the price. But 19.5 miles in, just 1.5 miles from the end and its all so downhill from here and I felt like I was about to bonk. My breathing got heavier, Chris was making good pace, Mike not too far behind. Kind words of encouragement from Chris caused me to do my best to keep up with him to the road. I let him go through the next gate and power on down to the finish as I knew I had lost my energy on Curber and it was too late to down a Gel or even Kendal Mint Cake by now. I should have really had another gel at Curber, not pretended to be Tigger or at least had a slice of Kendal Mint Cake. You know the drill – take on energy before you feel it otherwise it is too late. I blame Mike’s Tutu personally.

‘I can’t do this’ is the running equivalent of the school kids’ ‘the cat was sick on my homework’

Across the river stream I went to face the long 1 mile and somewhat tricky descent back into Grindleford. I let one guy go, and wasn’t able to see Chris for dust, he was flying down the hill. I picked my way down, carefully trying to find my feet amongst the tree roots and muddy patches. Finally I came to the more comfortable pathway and sped up as much as I could having forgotten about my energy depletions some 5 minutes or so ago. Across the river I ran to dib in at the final finish (46.13) and a time of 3.01.06.

Finished my race, now where’s the food?

Chris had finished just under a minute before me, having flown down the hill in brilliant style, Mike was only 30 seconds or so behind me. I had ran the course some 20 minutes faster than last year, placing 43rd overall out of around 500 runners, 3rd overall female and 1st Female ‘old git’. I found out that Joe had won the race only 24 seconds off the course record in 2.24 or something obscure like that, truly remarkable.

Well that did really deserve a big bowl of free home-made soup with French bread and cheese and some pieces of yummy cake alongside a cup of tea or two. And why not after 21 miles of a pure awesome event?

The prize giving soon took place, Joe presented with a lovely ‘gold’ disk and £20 ‘Outside’ Voucher, myself as 3rd Female, a ‘bronze’ disk and £20 ‘Outside’ Voucher for being second female old git. More than rather pleased, did I say I was rather pleased? Well I was rather pleased.

This is a must event for anyone, the village atmosphere is outstanding. The hospitality, organisation and community atmosphere around the course is second to none. All the locals get involved whether it is handing out food, making ‘Go Daddy’ signs or just encouraging all the runners and walkers (lets not forget the walkers its harder to walk it than run it I am sure). It’s certainty not ‘easy’, with 3000ft of climb but there are rest bites along the way – in the name of cake and tea. The aim is to complete it with a smile on your face anything else is just a bonus.

If movement is a sign of life and stillness is death, running is an example of life most fully lived. – Martin Cree

If you like a challenge, embrace hills, like a bit of mud, a few puddles, cake, tea in stunning surrounds and have done a marathon before you’ll be absolutely fine, if you have done a half marathon before then go on have a go next year, go on, you can do it, you could be galloping around Grindleford for 21 miles and at £16 a head what more can you ask for?

Results

  • Time: 3.01.06
  • Position: 43rd out of about 500
  • Gender Position: 3rd Female | 2ndsFemale VET 40

Photo Courtesy of Mike Nolan – more pictures

Grindleford Gallop

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