Had a very interesting night on Friday. Instead of going to bed like any normal person I joined 100 or so similarly inclined runners in the High Peak Marathon. As mentioned in my previous post on our recce this is 42 mile run around the Peak District (a big loop encircling Kinder Scout and the Derwent and Ladybower reservoirs to be precise). Our team, the Goyt Valley Striders (one of the less imaginative and humourous team titles) consisted of Clare, Paul and Will as well as yours truly. The event used staggered starts with teams setting off every couple of minutes. Our start time was 11:15 (yes that's p.m.). I'd travelled up to Whaley Bridge that afternoon to Paul's house where our team was meeting up so I'd not had any sleep since getting up at 6:00 that morning.
The night sky was clear and moonless as we arrived at the start HQ in Edale village hall. The temperature was down to a sharp -2 degrees Centigrade so everyone was crowded into the HQ hall trying to keep warm before setting off. The lycra, goretex and pertex density in that room was pretty high. I decided to go for the layered approach to keeping warm with two thin Helly Hansen tops and the event t-shirt that I'd just bought, topped off with my Salomon gore-tex shell jacket. On my legs I was wearing my compression socks, Gore lycra shorts and Gore leggings. Shoewise I went for my Salomon Speedcross 2s. Paul and Clare were similarly attired but Will had gone for the braver cool summer's evening look with sleeves rolled up and no outer shell.
Having hung around killing time for an hour our start time came up before I was ready so I was still putting my outer layer on as we set off into the cold dark night. Will, who had repeatedly asked that we start slowly set a stiff pace up to Hollin's Cross then up Lose Hill. I was hoping that this wasn't Will's idea of slow or else I was in trouble when he decided to speed up. At the Lose Hill checkpoint we came across the first of the fancy dress checkpoint marshals. There were two young lads (the event is organised and manned by Sheffield students) dressed in suits, ties and bowlers hats. They were also busy ironing (?).
Will kept the pressure on down Lose Hill and on up Win Hill. Clare kept on his tail, both lit up with gender specific (blue for boys, pink for girls) fairy lights (kindly supplied by Clare), with Paul and me in their wake. The Win Hill checkpoint was manned by a six foot teddy bear. A bit early for sleepmonsters.
Climbing Win Hill was a warm effort in my many layers so, on the way down, I unzipped my jacket and was immediately engulfed in my own personal steam cloud. Out of the wind it just hung around me and combined with my already steamed up glasses to make visibility a tad tricky especially trying to negotiate the very steep and root ridden Parkin Clough. It was here that I tempted fate and commented to Clare that "At least we don't have to come up this". More on that later.
So, down into and out of Bamford it was up New Road heading in the direction of Stanage. This 2 mile road section is largely uphill. The steady stream of other teams overhauled us as the fast boys caught us up. Steve Watt's team came through at this point. Well at least three of them did. As they disappeared we were commenting on whether they'd been given permission for a team of three when a voice out the dark behind us said "No, I'm the fourth, huffing and puffing at the back". This turned out to be no less a legend as Mark Hartell, holder of the record number of peaks in the Bob Graham Round. He similarly disappeared into the dark.
Our route came from the top right in the above photo, then to the right of the trees before coming up through the bracken where the figures (me and my wife) are. Remember it was pitch black.
Onto the High Neb checkpoint (manned I believe by Spotty Dog and Lubby Lu) then a steady jog to the A57 road and Moscar checkpoint where we grabbed a quick cup of tea and couple of sandwiches. It was at this point that Will started to go downhill (metaphorically as well as literally speaking). His stomach got the better of him as he dashed into the bushes alongside the road. As we waited for him at Cutthroat Bridge I could feel the sweat around my backside start to freeze. Not the nicest feeling at 2:00 in the morning with 9 hours to go. You'll be relieved to hear it thawed out as we got moving again up onto Derwent Moor. On the moor top we set off in a steady jog. Past the Wheel Stones and on towards the Salt Cellar we stopped to check we were all together. Will was missing amongst the mass of lights from the teams on our tail. When he caught us up he looked liked someone had pulled out his plug, drained. Paul said what the rest of us were thinking. There was a long hard 6 hour stretch ahead of us where it would be difficult to drop out without a very long cold walk so it was time to make a decision: continue or pack. We all concluded that it would be dangerous at worst and very miserable at best if we continued so we packed.
We backtracked down to the Cutthroat Bridge checkpoint where we deposited Will into the care of a pretty young lady who drove him back to Edale. (Someone has to do it Will). The rest of us then ran back to Edale via Win Hill (and up the afore mentioned Parkin Clough!), Hope Cross and Jaggers Clough (last visited by me with my dad (who, coincidently, died 33 years ago today. RIP Dad.)) The sleep monsters made an appearance on the track down to Jaggers Clough when a dark puddle lifted itself up and turned into a black panther.
It was then a couple of miles back along the road to the event HQ where we picked up our kitbags and back to Paul's and a very welcome hot shower. Bliss. The silver lining of finishing early (in addition to the early shower) for me was that I could get home early to celebrate my daughter's birthday. I'll also be a little less tired for next week's Grindleford Gallop.
Overall, we ended up having a good, albeit shorter, run. It was good practice in night running for the Lakeland 100. It was a shame not to have finished but I was feeling good and am sure I'd have had no problems finishing the event. I'll not be doing it again though as I believe, from what I saw on our recce, that the terrain on Bleaklow is in a very fragile state and I don't want to contribute to it's destruction. It's over thirty years since I was last up there and it's going to be another thirty (i.e. never) before I go back again.
Well done to all those that finished though. It was a testing night in those temperatures.