Peak District Autumn Trail Race 1 – Sunday 8 September 2019

Peak District Autumn Trail – Race 1.

By Carolyn Davy

I still look at myself as a novice runner two years after starting to run.  I’ve only run a handful of races even though they span almost every distance from Parkrun to a Marathon to being part of a 24 hour endurance race team.  However, off road/trail/cross country whatever you badge it fills me with dread! Absolute stratospheric fear. 

There is no reason for this but it’s there and I could run miles in the opposite direction at the mention of the word PECO!

This weekend a race I have watched from being tiny, supported runners, friends and family took place – the Great North Run.  A race I need to run but to run it for myself, not for anyone else but me, no PB, no pressure, I have been unsuccessful in the ballot for the past 2 years.  Last year I saw it as a challenge and went and ran the Vale of York half marathon on the same day – a fantastic half on our doorstep with great Harrier support throughout.  This year I got narked, got stroppy (yes I know it’s a ballot and I have as much chance as everyone!) and signed myself up for another race so I didn’t have to watch it!

A 15.3km trail race with a 1250ft elevation.  The Dark and White Events Peak District Autumn Trail Series Run 1 at Bradfield.  Not sure why or how but I did! 

Over the past few weeks and months, I have run round Temple Newsam, put the cross trainer on hills at the gym, read over and over the information that has been sent out, watched blogs on their sites all to try and prepare myself for the run knowing full well it’s going to be tough.

Race day – We piled the kids into the car at 7.15am and headed down the M1, then back up the M1 as I realised the required Trail shoes were still in the porch!!  However the Wallace and Gromit trousers/suits of armour/wellies/cling film and bin bags were all left at home sadly!!  Although the correct attire was in the car. Happily the required full waterproof and windproof kit was relaxed as the weather was favourable for a dry and calm run. 

This run has staggered starts so no mass charge at the beginning although with only 350 entries available it was never going to be like the charge down the hill at Roundhay PECO!!   Seeing a small group at a start line made the run feel personal and small. 

The pre-race instructions said a narrow, single file track to start with a climb.  Once we had received a pre-race brief – mainly trying to remember to dib in at the check point and at the end.  We were off – wow – it’s very narrow, definitely single file and has an uphill gradient which tops 20%!!  What have I done!!  There’s no going back and I’m NOT giving up!

Luckily the course “flattened” off around the Agden Reservoir.  It was still tough going under foot as there was a carpet of tree roots and a path with a steep camber in places.  After following the reservoir we turned up Windy Bank and head towards Ughill, the main climb of the run.  This is the most technical run I’ve ever done.  The paths are lined with stones and rocks, it’s boggy in places, uphill, downhill, twisty, overgrown, stiles to conquer, gates to navigate and to be honest it was quicker to walk some of it than even try to run it.  The ankles are starting to feel slightly battered from the different terrains, cambers and steepness.  The climb up Ughill is interesting, you climb up towards Sugworth Tower where there is a false summit then it twists left up to the actual summit.  But wow! Once up there the views of the Peak District are amazing, I happily run past the Climb Summit sign post and know the rest should be fairly plain sailing downhill to the finish. 

The first part heads down towards a road where there is a feed station with drinks and biscuits should you need anything and also the check-in point.  A pair of cheery marshals greet us – the first since we passed the photographer lurking next to the reservoir.   Then back off road as quickly as you are on it to complete the last 2.5 miles or so to the end.  The downhill gradient now increases and a 17% decline is almost as hard work as a 20% incline! 

The run into the village is part on a narrow road, part on a single track footpath.  So narrow in parts the track is as wide as my foot and that’s it!  With 1 mile left to run the track is edged on one side with a board – mainly because it’s on a camber and to stop it eroding, one clip of my ankle on the board and I’m fighting to stay upright.  After some comedy footwork, flailing arms and gritted teeth I’m upright but not actually convinced my ankle will hold up to the end.  I stop, have a drink and give myself a good talking to – out loud with plenty of speedier runners running by.  I decide that there is no way I’m stopping now, I’ve worked so hard to get to 8.5 miles even if I crawl it I’m finishing! 

I had hoped I would finish somewhere between 2 hours and 2 hours 15 minutes.  I dared to look at my watch that I had tried to avoid for the whole race.  It started with a 1….. maybe I can get back in my “hope” time.  Coming into the village there are plenty of people around and about, a marshal is trying to direct traffic and runners who need to cross the road to keep everyone safe so an enforced stop to let some cars go just before the end isn’t ideal but I can see the end! 

The last few metres is around the edge of the village cricket pitch, where Alan and the girls are waiting with high fives and shouts of encouragement.  I cross the line and one last dib in with my timing chip and it’s done! 

I finish in 2hrs 1 minute and 47 seconds.  Once my ankles and feet stop screaming in pain I’ll be happy with that! 

A tough course, no flash, fancy or other reward to take home other than my timing print out and a certificate.  Am I still terrified of trail? – yes but it won’t stop me doing something equally as mad next year unless that elusive ballot picks my name out!!!