Grindleford Gallop

As I got in the car on the way to my 3rd Gallop in 3 years Queen’s ‘Don’t stop me know’ was blasting out of the radio. Yep, I’m gonna go go go or do what my body will let me do. So lets see shall we?

[Today] I’m gonna have myself a real good time
I feel alive and the world it’s turning inside out Yeah!
I’m floating around in ecstasy
So don’t stop me now don’t stop me
‘Cause I’m having a good time having a good time

I’m a shooting star leaping through the skies
Like a tiger defying the laws of gravity
I’m a racing car passing by like Lady Godiva
I’m gonna go go go
There’s no stopping me

I was a little apprehensive especially after giving a lift to last years’ winner Joe Fowler who had memorised each of his times to each checkpoint by the second, and had a race strategy down to every little minute detail including where the mole hills were and how these would be avoided to ensure every little second counted. He’d even weighed his socks according to Facebook in order to shave off 3.2 seconds up Balslow hill. Me on the other hand knew I had ran over 3 hours and a few minutes last year and would have liked to have gone sub 3 but who knows with these things? No amount of training can guarantee a time or position only your body can let you know how you are going to perform on the day. And as for position it all depends on who turns up on the day and the best fell runners were all racing Edale Skyline the following day (I had decided to ‘run’ the Edale Skyline the following day and try and ‘race’ Grindleford Gallop) So let the body do the running and let the head go with it. Let the race commence.

You will either get better or worse today. You never stay the same. Which will you choose?

After saying hello to some familiar faces at the start including the infamous Mike, Andrew, Simon and crew it was 10am and we were nearly off. I was not going to make the mistake of last-a-year by nestling 3 rows in but aligned myself in the front in order to get a good start. Well that was the plan which went wrong the minute the GO was given.

Suddenly 100 or so runners came stampeding past me like a herd of elephants leaving me to fight with my own mud and conquer the queues at the first gate. Rush hour in Grindleford. My heart sank deeper into the mud as I watched the world sprint past me, my feet following sinking clumsily further into the mud as I struggled up the pathway. But soon people were far too out of breath and I was steadily passing the eager runners, one, two, three. Ten, eleven, twelve. Twenty, thirty, forty. Once the first field came into sight there was a little more space and my head began to get into race mode. I was in the first 10 of the female pack according to spectators at Froggatt Bridge, just as a girl who ended up being the leading lady (called Kate) came hurtling past everyone in perfect girl style, go Kate, show them how it’s done. She left the rest of us for cow pat and horse manure.

The meaning and purpose of Running is to Run.

Up into the fields we all climbed. I recognised the iconic socks of Martin climbing up the hill who was there just for the enjoyment. I said hi and went on my merry way. Up above were a couple of other girls who I had my eye on, my competitive head was now fighting strong.

On the climb through the woods before dropping down to Eyam I passed a Stockport girl called Jane who I found out later was a really good runner and possibly won the Gallop a couple of times previously. I thought she would get me on the downhill into Eyam but I managed to keep my pace down the track into the village.

It was straight in and out at the first dibber point at Eyam village and then back up to the limestone pathway, where the white peak landscape emerges. This lovely puddly track winds its way through the underlying limestone landscape, a bit of mud here and there makes it a real good ‘ride.

A little tarmac emerges from the track which bends back on itself. I could see out of the corner of my eye the Stockport girl who was looking strong possibly catching me up. I ran and ran and ran straight over the stile into the long stretching uphill fields. I really like this section of the course, streams of runners in-front, streams of runners behind, a few mole hills that Joe Fowler will be avoiding, and a chance to soak in the atmosphere of this fantastic event.

I’m not talented. I’m not the best. I work hard. I do not give up. I keep going. I cross start lines. I cross finish lines.

The second checkpoint supported water and juice. I took a cup of orange juice, downed it thanked the marshals and went on my way knowing that the 3rd female was right on my backside.

Up into the moorland makes this route even more lush. Wild heather and muddy paths stretch far into the distance. I was still feeling good at this point and enjoying every minute of the race. No one to talk to I just got into my own mindset and put one foot in-front of the other.

Down the path to Great Longstone where I inevitably got overtaken by a couple of guys as always with my downhill running. which still leaves a lot to be desired. I’ll try and chick them at Baslow Hill I whispered to myself silently.

Down onto the Monsal Trail I dropped, this is always my nemesis. Flat and monotonous the trail is around 2 miles with a dibber stop and cake at Hassop. Maybe lucky for me I entered the trail with two other guys and the three of us set the pace together, chatting, breathing and taking it in turns to take the lead. I found out that the Stockport girl – Jane was indeed a very good runner and could catch me up as I ran with one of her fellow club members. But we were making good progress on the Monsal trail and I couldn’t thank the two guys enough afterwards for seeing me through that painfully flat section of the route.

Run for the joy. Run for the love. Run because you can.

Turning off at Bakewell station and over the bridge, a glimpse back onto the trail I saw Jane was just coming off the trail, only 30 seconds or so behind me. I got into competitive brain mode again and ran up the hill out of Bakewell as much as I could, to be stopped only by the muddy inclines where I decided to take on some sugar ready for the ‘lush green fields of Chatsworth’ section.

Still feeling the love at the top of the hill I ploughed through the waterbogged fields down to the Chatsworth estate. The sun was shining right across the peaks. It was a beautiful day surrounded by beautiful scenery and a beautiful race. I was in tee and shorts, yet only 5 days previous it had been 1 degree and I was in 3 layers. What a wonderful weather world this is.

Down through Chatsworth I descended, another one of the sections I struggle with mentally, for it’s just flat and exposed. Many day trippers cheering me on through the estate but my head was mentally beginning to struggle. I had a few strict words with my head and soldiered on, fighting against the flat concrete path.

Through the swingy gate I ran and got told I was ‘second lady’ and that the first lady was only 2 minutes ahead, and that I should try and catch her. 2 minutes is a long time even in a 21 mile fell race.

The fantastic thing about this race is that all the local Peak District day walkers are always cheering you on, so of course its not aka London with constant screaming of your name or your club plastered all over your running vest but an array of walkers, kids and adults alike clapping us all on, even the dog’s are mostly friendly and may even give you a woof or two. It’s all so genuine and unstaged. You never know when you may get a cheer of encouragement.

At Baslow I took on some more water, filled up my little own water bottle and ran onwards and upwards. Some runners were beginning to slow down, I was still feeling the love even though I was a little hot by this point. With buff around my head and energy in my feet I ran up most of Baslow Hill trying to avoid the big black dog that was running around rather crazily nearly tripping me over. Good job Joe Fowler hadn’t come across the dog that would have cost him about 5.6 seconds.

Love what you do. Do what you love. – Wayne Dyer

Through the gate I went and onto the rocky ascent up to the top where a couple of people (Mat and Joanne) gave me a cheer and told me I was ‘second lady’. I had to hang onto this. I was too in the zone to even bother what time I was running to. Yes that sub 3 hour was still in the back of my mind but I had no idea where I was and my body would do what my body would do, I would not be dictated by a watch.

I caught up a couple of guys at Curber Edge and ran on feeling the strength beneath my feet on the squishy peat. Conditions were just perfect, the still air gently laying on Curber Edge, the sun beating down right across Froggatt Edge, quintessentially faultless. I was having a good time….

Don’t stop me now (’cause I’m having a good time)
Don’t stop me now (yes I’m having a good time)
I don’t want to stop at all… yeah!

Onto Froggatt Edge I hopped, the small climb up is always quite arduous, I didnt have anyone to pace this year across the edge, just me and my feet dancing across the rocky path. Lets do the gallop dance again.

It’s just a jump to the left.
And then a step to the right.
Put your hands on your hips.
You bring your knees up tight.
But it’s the pelvic thrust
That really drives you insane.
Let’s do the gallop dance again.
Let’s do the gallop dance again.

However on the descent down through the rocky section 3 guys over took me – again my descent letting me down. However I managed to catch them up on the flat sandy section to continue to run right to the end of the pathway to the road, this year managing not to bonk at 19 miles.

Crossing the road and dropping down into the little trail to a stream I pottered. I decided to take a round about way across the stream as the main kind of pathway goes into a deeper trough but alas my brain was loosing it and I slipped on the rock and lost footing. None of that my friend, come on, pick yourself up and be off with yourself as I stumbled a little up the slight banking and headed back down the 1 mile windy tree routed stony pathway to Grindleford getting that head back into gear. Once I had picked up my brain again I concentrated on each step, skipping over the rocks and propelling myself forward ready to land safety in Grindleford. The race wasn’t yet finished as I hurtled as fast as I could down the lane onto the road across the bridge and into the finish area. Boom! 2 hrs 59 minutes and 10 seconds with a 2nd Female position 2 minutes behind the winner and first FV40. Lets do the Gallop Dance again.

I found out only a minute later Joe had broke the course record by 2 minutes coming in 35 minutes faster than myself. It must have been those mole hills he avoided?

The weekend wasn’t over, no rest for the wicked, brain in running mode I was to tackle the Edale Skyline the day after, 21 miles over 4000ft of climb and was looking forward to every peat bog minute of it – review to follow. Call me strange, call me a nutter, call me what you want… I may break again but I love what I do when I can do it.

I run today so I can run tomorrow

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