Belper Rugby Rover 30km (18.4 miles) was nearly not set to take place but after negotiations the race directors once again put on a faultless event.
I really wanted to race this event as I had raced it in 2012 and was looking forward to seeing where I was at with my running. In addition the route is a fantastic plethora of trail hills and luxurious woodlands. It is all marked so there is no need for navigation and if I remember correctly plenty of jelly babies en route.
Most people don’t drive 18.4 miles on a Sunday
However a summer cold struck just a few days before the event. Coupled with an ‘icky’ leg – a little bit of pain down the lateral side of the left leg I decided to spend the time running around it with my best friend Becky, for whom it would be her first ever run over a 13.1 mile half marathon on road. A big difference.
So down to Belper I drove on what looked like a lovely Sunday morning. With fellow club member Kate in the passenger seat, the 1 hr plus drive consisted of chit chat around how beautiful the Peak District is and of course running. I am in the process of trying to convince Kate to do more trail running. We arrived early in order to enter on the day (no tee-shirts for EOD), milled about and met other fellow runners including Dean who was to run with us later and other club members Claire and Craige.
Soon it was time to be chaperoned to the start just down a little side road on an industrial estate. I remember from the previous year that it starts off on road and goes round a roundabout before veering off into the deep and wonderful trails. The reason for this is to give the faster runners a proper run out rather than get stuck in the congestion of the many stiles within the first couple of miles.
A good laugh and a long run are the two best cures for anything
We started off at the back – almost right at the back, only a scattering of runners behind us, including the most incredible 74 year old guy. Once over the railway bridge we hit congestion through the swinging gates but there was no rush for us, completion was key.
Through the fields we pottered to the next congestion point – a stile leading upwards and into some more fields. The sun was shining the marshals were smiling and it was a happy Sunday morning.
Trail running is not all about time but about our experiences along the way
Once we had climbed the first big hill we were on the flat, on the most stunning trail you can imagine. The sun gleaming through the branches of the trees to radiate through all the pattering of feet on the soft ground.
As we were near the back there were times when we were almost running on our own. I couldn’t help but to run in-front or stay behind to take photos of the tantalizing trails. Even a few miles in I could tell Becky was loving this.
It’s not where you take the trail it’s where the trail takes you
The miles flew by, up and down we went following the big arrows. Some hills, runnable, others within walkable distance. Lots of stiles, lots of gates, lots and lots of fun. Each checkpoint was carefully manned with smiling faces, water and more melt in the mouth jelly babies.
9 miles into the trails and they turned into tarmac but not for too long. Becky was still doing good as we hit the half way and stopped for a silly pose and photo. Hell why not when you are having so much fun?
You can always do more than you think you can
Down the road we ran, chatting to other female runners around us about the race. After around 10 miles at the top of a field another checkpoint presented us with more water and tasty jelly babies. There we spotted Dean who had befriended more runners. We ran down the fields with them enjoying the sunshine and being in our happy places. Although this was new territory for Becky her words of ‘I am in my happy place’ filled me with happiness. ‘Time goes so quick on the trails’ she remarked, ‘this is so much fun’, she said. ‘I hate this’ said no Belper Rugby Rover runner ever.
For the remainder of the race we ran with Dean who held back with us, chatting away and indirectly pushing Becky as much as possible. Once we had passed the 13.1 mark Becky was in unknown territory. Both myself and Dean glanced at our watches for the first time on the race and realised that we could push for a sub 4 hour time. It would be close but it would be feasible. This was our goal for the remaining 5.3 miles.
When you feel like quitting, think about why you started so, enjoy your trail
The last checkpoint of course had more jelly babies and water, we stocked up and took on the country road in-front of us. Although Becky was slowing down somewhat she was still making progress and myself and Dean would take turns to run by her side, encouraging her all the way.
The final couple of miles, always the hardest on a long distance run, so near yet so far. Becky’s legs were tired, not fully used to the distance, hillage or terrain. This was a massive challenge but we were determined to finish it. Back along the fields littered with crops we ran, one foot in-front of the other – it was that simple, nearly there, so nearly there, there was no time to stop.
Don’t give up, life begins at the end of your comfort zone
Finally we reached the end of the fields crossed the railway line again and back into the industrial site to bring it home at the HQ just a little further down the road. Bringing it home in a clear sub 4 hour – 3 hours and 57 minutes. A A massive hug went out to Becky a fantastic achievement and a well chosen event for her first ever run over 13.1 miles.
Happy trails to you, until we meet again
- Time: 3.57.48
- Position: 248 out of 278