I had the Long Tour of Bradwell (LTOB) in the back of my mind as an event I wanted to have a go at. Being what I would call a somewhat low key event even though it really isn’t low key at all it was possible to enter just a week before the event. Perfect for me as I didn’t know how I would feel after running 70km at TR24 and wasn’t going to overcommit to any races and relive the mistakes of last year. So with just an hour to spare I entered, 6 days later I ran the LTOB. 34 miles with 6700 feet of climb, this is one not to be abused.
The route ascends out of Bradwell through the cement works up round Pindale. It then drops down Cave Dale to Castleton. Up and over Hollins Cross and down to Edale. Next the ascent up to Kinder including Ringing Roger and Druids. A sharp decent off Kinder leads up to Back Tor, Lose Hill, down to Hope. Through Aston and circumnavigating Winn Hill, the route bends round a little of Ladybower and down Thornhill Trail to Bamford via the Mill. A diversion this year avoiding the escalator but adding on another half mile ascends up towards Stanage, a hefty climb. Across Stanage Edge, Burbage and dropping down into Padley Gorge skimming the Derwent Valley into Hathersage. The final stretch ascends onto Bradwell Moor via Stoke Ford up towards Abney and then finally descends steeply into the Village of Bradwell. And Breath…
So the excitement begins at Bradwell Sports Pavilion…Dibber..tick, big map.. tick, all FRA gear including water proof top, bottoms, compass, long sleeved top, map, water, food, rucksack and the kitchen sink – tick. I was ready. Glancing around I said hi to Winner of TR24 and Nomad50 Janson Heath and recognised a few other familiar faces.
We were ushered onto the village green for a briefing including instructions on the closed road at Bamford and it’s sister ‘detour’ which would add another half or so mile onto the course route. After waiting for the clock to tick 9am we were off.
Immediately there was congestion as everyone tried to squeeze through the narrow wall. I took the outside path which placed me around the middle of the pack. Happily going along my merry way I followed the speed goats round the trail which meandered through Hope Cement Works. The infamous blot on the landscape of the Peak District. Iconic.
Without hesitation the uphill track appeared, and people began to walk so I copied but soon got bored of walking so trotted on in my own little head space. Plenty of runners in-front of me, but also enough behind to know I was in comfortable mid pack. I was in my happy place.
The rocky limestone path levelled off as I left behind one girl then another amidst a few guys. After catching up another woman on the flat I tried to jump over the rocky stile but the woman in question came zooming past me in super style mode looking top pro and did a speedy escape down the gentle green grassy banking leaving me to pick up my own two clumsy feet.
I tried to catch up with her and a few others but as the landscape was now descending steeply down towards Cave Dale my mind had already told me that I was going to struggle down here. And my mind was right. I had run up this a few times previously, always slippy with water gently trickling through the slippery rocks. No different this time even though the heat was baking hot already. Once again girls and boys came hurtling past me. I couldn’t even use my Hokas as an excuse as one guy with shiny new Hokas came hurtling down at 100mph. Maybe I should have left my trail shoes on but promptly changed them at the very last minute in favour of my 1970’s stiletto type funky blingy platforms.
At like what seemed to be hours and hours later, I finally made it into Castleton greeted by the first manned check point with juice and jelly babies. Grabbing some jelly babies and squash I ran through the village of Castleton re-juvinating my lost time down Cave Dale. When will I learn to run down hill? It’s so so frustrating.
Up the lane I went now catching all the runners who had flew past me down Cave Dale. I climbed on up past one of the girs again who was munching on a bar of some sort. I then spotted Janson’s buff, caught him up passed him with some friendly chat knowing he must be suffering after his epic 120 miles and solo winner only 2 weeks ago at Thunder Run.
This next section was familiar to me, up from Castleton to Hollins Cross. A mighty indestructible climb. I had run up here the other week (I say run as I did run). This time with nearly 30 miles left in me (I hoped) I wasn’t going to run up like a twithead but joined the rest of the runners and walked. A little trot here and there didn’t go a miss either. Janson and others had now placed way ahead of me as I huffed my way up to the top. Well worth it for stunning views of the Peak District.
Diamonds are a girls best friend, wrong hills are a girls best friend
At Hollins cross a lonesome non race runner asked me what race it was, Long Tour of Bradwell I replied grimacing knowing it was defiantly long.
The descent to Edale was again familiar territory even so I was still unable to maintain a controlled drop as more runners came past me jumping elegantly over the rocks. Once the path levelled out slightly I picked up pace again only to see my sunglasses go splat and having to chase them half the way back up the hill as more people caught me up.
Into Edale I ran, at the next manned checkpoint I picked up more juice and jelly babies and continued. There were a group of about 4 or 5 in front of me including one woman, and another group behind me. Although they were being sociable I was in my own little head-space, I was reflecting on the world of this week.
The world is a graceful place. Here in Edale, up Kinder Scout, miles and miles of elegant countryside stretch forth creating a heavenly place of stunning beauty. Yet the world can also be a cruel, unkind unforgiving place. Last week I lost an old friend to that vicious disease called Cancer. Not yet 40 she had just brought a little boy into the world some three months previous. Old friends come and go but they are not supposed to go in circumstances like this. She was energetic, full of life, not a runner but far more than that . She taught me to give life a chance, to believe in yourself and grab opportunities whilst you can. She changed my life in more ways than one, and always lived life to the full. Cimbing up to Ringing Roger on my own gave me time to almost grieve in my own way. I am lucky to be able to be here today surrounded by what I love. Every step today’s run was to go out to my old friend.
I ran to be free I ran to avoid pain I ran to feel pain I ran out of love and hate and anger – Dagny scott Barrios
Once up on Ringing Roger the more stable paths merged into rabbit paths inter twinned by heather and gritstone rocks. It would have been easy to go wrong up here in mist or rain but scatterings of other runners infront and behind me guided the way. So far I had not needed my £3 map, compass or instructions. Dibbering in at Druids Stones I said hi once again to Janson who had cut across the heather fested moorland. I had taken the easier option of the peat waved path. The route double backed on itself and nodding at incoming runners was compulsory.
A steep uncontrolled descent off Kinder was taking me way out of my comfort zone, not only did the runners I had nodded to back up yonder came hurtling past me on a somewhat vague path but they were a good mile or so in-front within seconds. A guy with poles elegantly raced down as I stumbled carelessly jumping over the cladded heather and bracken best I could. Hokas are not the best for fell running and this was fell running. But I sent a reality check to my brain and reminded myself its just one mile downhill just one mile out of 34 that is all and I could get through this just fine.
Once the trail levelled out I picked it up again and ran past some of the guys. Feeling more in control now I guided myself across the country lane around the farmhouse and up the steep hill whilst chatting about poles and hokas and all things running to a few of the other guys. Lots of stiles and gates to open jump over and squeeze through made this a plesent and easiser up-hill section than I thought. Even walking up the hills I was making good progress.
Up to Back Tor I was on familiar ground again, knowing the route I bolstered onwards dibbing in at the orange and white orienteering kite then powered up to the top of Lose Hill on the flagstones. Downhill once again and I knew I would get overtaken again, but keeping the pack of runners in front of me I was determined not to loose focus as I moved more boldly down the banking towards Hope. By this time we were beginning to merge with the ‘Half Tour of Bradwell’ guys so the pathway was resembling a bit of a highway.
Gate after gate, stile after stile, squeeze hole after squeeze hole. The Hope path was a maze of obstacles. I had drawn nearer the guys in-front of me and had a sense of capability about me as I descended to the next manned checkpoint at Hope.
Grabbing a refill of water and some more jelly babies I went on my way. Two girls had made good progress down Lose Hill and they were now leading this little pack on the road past Hope Cemetery. We had a conversation about mandatory kit which I had the full works of even though it was 25 degrees and I had enough waterproofs to make a 6 man tent out of – twice but I would rather be safe than sorry and qualified not disqualified.
I found another energetic burst as I pulled away from the group I was chatting to and found my own running pattern. In the immediate distance Janson, a guy who I found out had just started running with Totley AC and another guy were all almost together. They were my pace markers and although I lost them a couple of times round the twisty narrow lanes and up the nettle grown paths I still managed to keep them in sight most of the time. The route meandered around Winn Hill. Although it didn’t quite go up to the Trig Point the climb was hefty enough. I was steady by this point, solid and in good spirits. Once again my friends was with me in my thoughts as a trotted around Winn Hill.
Because endorphins are more effective than any drug – reasonstobefit
Views around here have to be some of my all time favourite. Ladybower Reservoirs glistering in the summer heat, the villages of Bamford, Hope and Castleton nestling quietly below. In the far distance the dramatics of Kinder, the rocky edges of Derwent, Bamford Edge and Stanage begging them to be conquered. Oh what a wonderful place, 15 minutes drive from home.
Running down the muddy path just above Ladybower, I knew the I knew the pathway like the back of my hand. I was defiantly Keane by this stage. I came across a fallen tree I felt the branches of it looking at me. One of the guys made a comment about being half way. Half way to Paradise.
Another dibber was positioned on the fence just before a descent on a wider trail. Now I am not descender as you know, however I am not as atrocious on open trail even though the other guys fell controllably way in front of me again, I can testify that no one actually passed me on the descent. Result.
Back on the Thornhill Trail I caught Janson and the other Totley guy up and we ran in steady almost swearing at the flatness of the monotonous trail. The next checkpoint at the car park was a welcome sight as I took on more jelly babies and juice. The manned CPs were well stocked with sweets and bananas but I was just unable to face a ripe banana. However I did have dried banana in my stash of goodies on my back which I was able to munch upon.
Back on the trail, myself and Janson had left the others wasting time at the CP. Something I have learned with running long distances, straight in straight out of CP’s don’t waste time. Down into cow fields and across to Bamford we ran, the other Totley guy had rejoined us and proceeded to tell us his life story of winning every event over 60 even though he had only just started running a year ago. Credit to the guy at least. I had reccied this section last week and felt more comfortable in knowing where we were and where the diversion was. The diversion added another half mile or so onto the course.
At one point I had to get out the map and instructions and Totley Boy decided in his infaniate wisdom to take them off me. I was solely without instructions only a very large map and a GPS route on my newly supported Sunto that I didnt know how to use so all that was rather pointless. It was a good job I was back on home territory. The phone would have to come out with the stored maps on it if I was to get lost later down Padley Gorge or on Bradwell Moor. Up till then I knew the route well enough to be without instructions and a small map.
Running is WD40 for the mind… cyberpenguin
The only way was up towards Stanage rocks, a strenuous climb, exhausting but stimulating embracing every step. Once again the appreciation of the views could do nothing but make you feel alive and striving for more. The next dibber kite was hidden 2/3rds the way up. But a carefully positioned arrow pointed upwards to the kite. I was wondering if we needed ropes and harnesses for this one – nothing had been said on the kit list, but alas no rock climbing for the runners today, they just made us climb a small banking to dib in and out before going on our merry ways.
Up on Stanage Edge the wind set in. The cool breeze was welcoming but rather gusty. I began to loose focus as another Totley Guy came hurtling past me dancing on the Stanage stones. I had run out of water and was feeling dehydrated. Stanage is beautiful and full of weekend walkers, however braced in the distance is a mile or so of slight rocky incline, which sometimes after such milage can be mind blowingly deceptive. Once near the trig point I snapped out of my blip knowing I only had half a mile or so in sight to the next manned CP and water, water water.
A well done guys as myself and Janson arrived at the CP together and topped up our water. It was then I was told I was first Lady through – no pressure then. I knew the other two ladies behind me were strong and would probably get me on this stretch or even further down but in the back of my mind I also wondered if I could get through this and maintain the position. At this point Janson had become my running buddy, keeping me going, silently pushing me through and even waiting when I needed a portabush stop. He had long since decided it was not a race for him.
From Burbage there were three choices, up Higger Tor and down the valley on rocky terrain. The middle path which I reccied last week and managed to 12 minute mile all the way through rocks gulleys, bog and bracken, or the easy option the simple but longer 2 mile Burbage path down to near fox house. We took the easy option as were all the other runners in view.
Find your own way then run it
Through Padley gorge we went, again having reccied this section did set me in good step to know the route without the map. Scrambling up some rocks I was able to lead the way on a faintly marked path overgrown by bracken. I was in my happy little place and we found the next dibber hung on one of the gates.
Red and white taping and arrows marked a few tricky bits of the course, and descending down Bole Hill Quarry was no exception. Again it would have been easy to go wrong here. Janson was doing a fantastic job of pushing me through. It had never been a race for him, it was a privilege to have such a fantastic ultra runner stick with me and help me get to the finish line keeping me sane and safe. You just never know what is going to happen in Ultra running.
Through fields we went and down into dark woodlands. I picked it up again, running through the Derwent Valley past farmland every step of the way heading to Leadmill bridge on the outskirts of Hathersage towards the final manned CP.
With another refill and some jelly babies I was beginning to feel the toll of having run a marathon with some crazy climb of 6000ft or so. I began walking up the road Janson had made good progress and knew the road to take. I too should have know this as it is the same route as the Eyam Half Marathon up up up and up, ‘just one foot infront of the other’ said Janson as he recognised I was flagging.. and you have nailed it, small steps that’s all it takes. Focusing on the small steps we ran through farmways.
Alas at a bridge we diverted the wrong way for a moment and the big map came out to pinpoint Stoke Ford. I screwed the map up in my front pocket a comfort knowing we were back on track. My negative thoughts had disintegrated and I was now back on track too, in terms of how anyone would feel at 28 miles.
The last dibber at Stoke Ford was a welcome sight as we meandered up towards Abney hill. It was then when the conversation turned to Sunntos for I had been nursing my new watch but without the GPS route as I couldn’t get it to work. With one click of a button Janson turns round and makes the map magically appear. Fantastic! 3 miles to go and I now have a watch working with navigation! Go me! Through the village with comments of ‘still looking strong others behind are struggling, not far to go now’ pushed us through the final hill.
The finish line is just ahead.” “The aid station is just ahead.” “Trust me … this is the last hill.” “You’re almost there.” “The trail is well marked.” – Unknown
At the top photographer who I found out later to be Nick Ham (picture cortesy of Nick) commented on us still running strong up the final hill – irrespective of whether we felt it or not. Once on the top the limestone path supported stunning views once again. I knew where we were but my head was buzzing and I almost ran straight past the walled stile that headed down back to Bradwell. Had I not done enough running for one day? Concentrate girl concentrate. I knew what was coming – a rather large and technical drop in which I could easily have lost places. ‘Just follow my steps’ he said with ease, easier said than done, however I did my best loosing my gripping slightly in places but hammering down as fast as I could.
Once on the tarmaced road Janson pushed further, I was at my limit now breathing very heavily as we ‘raced’ through the village, with cheers from the village people. I was racing not just running, breathing deeply. 33 miles in and I was sub 8 minute miling. I was at my limit but still pushing to the very end with cheers from surrounding passer by’s.
Finished! I dibbed in and gave Janson a huge hug, thanked him so much for the support. For the company, for pulling me round, boosting my confidence on the down hills, and believing I could do this, sacrificing his own ‘race’ to bag me first female.
The run is more important than the race
A few people approached me and asked if I was first woman, I wasn’t sure at this point. Apparently ‘Nicky’ hadn’t come in yet. Nicky was the woman I was chasing from Pindale right through to Hope. Nicky I was to find out later was the legendary Bob Graham record holder Nicky Spinks, from DPFR. Utter most respect to Nicky. I almost felt guilty but really chuffed at the same time for I had run a 6.06 LTOB and come in a respectable 15th. Yes a rather good run.
Don’t compare yourself with anyone else. The world is full of runners, so you’ll probably see one every time you circle the block or your favourite park. Some will be thinner than you, some smoother-striding, some faster. But don’t let this get you down. There’s only one runner who really counts: you. Running is your activity. Make it work for you, and don’t worry about anyone else. – Amby Burfoot
Flaking out on the grass, handed cups of tea, tomato soup on tap, fizzy harribos brought round by one of the lovely little girls, taking off socks to see any foot infested damage and chatting away in the summer sun all for around £15. My bottle of wine and half a box of Cliff Bars goes to Janson and Wife Lisa who had bagged 2nd place in the Half Tour as a thanks for such a brilliant event. I surprisingly walked away with an Ultramarathon Store voucher and the other half of the cliff bars. I didn’t even expect prizes for an event like this. Double, Triple naivety all round.
Dedicated to Katherine Bones; an amazing energetic friend who I shared many crazy times with including flat sharing for 2 years in London, who inspired me to make things happen, and believe in myself and make life worth living.
Distance: 34 miles
Gender Position: 1st Female
Overall Position: 15th out of 86