Third time lucky for me, the Grindleford Gallop, a 21 mile off road event around the Peak District. I have always wanted to do this but having either been injured or too late to apply I have failed for the past few years. The good news this year was that due to a leak through twitter I was one of the near 100 who entered 5 days before entries were open. You gotta love twitter, tweet tweet.
Sue, Carolyn and a few others were doing the gig too. Like like like. In addition this was super speed ‘Joe’s’ first attempt at an off road 20 plus miler. Welcome to off road running my friend. I knew Carolyn and Sue would excel in this – very much their territory.
Grindleford is a smallish village in the heart of the Peak District. Having reccied the event a few weeks before with some of the lovely twitter crew I knew what I was in for and was looking forward to every minute of it. The plan was just to run. I wasn’t going to ‘race, ‘race’ ‘ it but I was going to put in enough effort to feel good and exhausted at the end.
Myself and Sue warmed up a little through the muddy field as people began to gather. A typical foggy slightly chilly early March Saturday morning. Beats your average park run huh? 500ish runners lined up with rucksacks, waterproofs, fell shoes and buffs galour. Oh I am in heaven and I am not religious.
Running is my church – Joan Van Ark
And we were off, Carolyn shot off like a rabbit in headlights not to be seen for the first 5 miles.. Myself and Sue plodded near the back but got caught up in a lot of congestion. It was like junction 34 (Meadowhall turning) on the M1 on the day before Christmas as we waited to 5 minutes to go through gates and over stiles. A little frustrating but all in the name of the game. Myself and Sue convinced ourselves we would catch up on the hills – and we were right. Boom boom hill.
After about 2 miles the crowds eased out. Those that had gone out too fast were already suffering and those not used to hills were already flagging on the first up hill field. Sue looked strong and I really wanted to keep with her for a partner in crime. My calfs at 2 miles were screaming out, tight and uncomfortable but I had to get through this, downhill was calling and they would ease out, they would they would they wood, through the woods.
Three miles in and through Eyam we spotted Simon, fellow twitter reccie runner. We said hi and fought up the path like hill into the ‘white peak’. I love how the scenery suddenly changes around Eyam from Dark Peak Gritstone to the White Peak Limestone walls. Its so noticeably beautiful. Glancing around I was in my element although struggling only 4 or 5 miles in. Sue was essentially pulling me round but at the same time we were chatting about this that and the other.
In the distance we saw Mike, another Twitter Reccie Runner supporting only vest – crazy man. Normally Mike likes his Tutu but obviously got confused or was not allowed the Tutu on this sort of run. Soon to pass Mike we ventured up the lane and onto a bit of road. The road was not to last long as fields emerged. So did the fog and so did Carolyn. We could see Carolyn in the distance as we ventured up the fields across many stiles and round cow patts. We were both running strong at this point and I began to settle into things feeling much better and the calfs easing slightly now.
Checkpoint with water, but I had enough water so dibbed in and off I went again. Not sure of the random crap myself and Sue were talking about but hell we were talking and enjoying ourselves. Bliss.
Saying hi to Carolyn who was still suffering with some sort of muscular thingy-mah-tibia-fibula-plantar-do-dar-dee-perectus-thingy which I can’t really remember the name off, myself and Sue veered up onto the moors through boggy paths and into the fog. ‘Hello walkers’ Sue would pipe up every so often. Such a friendly event as the walkers cheered us on as did other runners who we were now over taking with ease. At a point myself and Sue were running alone into the fog, with visibility of 10 metres or so. Where were our fog lights when we need them?
Hoo hum which way now? Where’s the scissor sisters when you need them too? We took a slightly wrong path but luckily it led to the same wall where we could see a marshal at the wall just beyond yonder – phew! as a few other runners followed us. The marshal was very friendly and showed us the way. Not religious or anything…. but he showed us the way.
Oh yes I remember this and so did Sue from the reccie for that was when I had a call ‘hello’ ‘hello’. On the reccie I had caught my phone and ended up calling my Dad who could hear heavy breathing. Not this time however as I had left my phone at home.
A nice stretch of downhill lane for about a mile or two into another little village. We were still chatting still pushing through still having fun. This is what it is about. I love it, I am in love. Every runner or walker we passed there was always some sort of banter or conversation.
This is what makes it for me. The friendliness, the support is just second to non. Love it, in love.
Laughter is inner jogging – Norman Cousins
Hitting the Monsal Trail with all force of something like sub 8 minute miling, as I peeked at my watch for the first time. There is always a first time. Sue passed someone she knew as we paced ourselves down the trail. It was slightly downhill to be fair but busy with day cyclist and walkers. A lovely family had ‘bananas’ ‘jelly babies’ and ‘jelly beans’ at hand on the trail, oh bliss; what a community. We thanked them as Sue took a banana and I took some jelly babies and on we went. We both discussed the need for a ‘wee’ but not on the Monsal Trail which was now looking like Meadowhell.
Another checkpoint at Hassop and lots of cheers as we came in. The checkpoint supported juice, water, hot drinks and cake. I took some juice as I had just had a gel to boost me up the upcoming hill. And on we went.
A comment from a passer by ‘how do you two talk and run at that speed at the same time?’ we laughed and continued our conversation. It was so nice to run with Sue, chat, enjoy and push each other (Sue was really pushing me at this point).
The reason we race isn’t so much to beat each other,… but to be with each other – Ultramarathon Man
Turning off the Monsal Trail some 13 miles or so in to hit the ‘big hill’. ‘Shall we walk?’ asked Sue, ‘ May as well, conserve energy’ I piped up so a walk up the rocky hill we did with all other runners doing the same. At the top another dibber then we were off, smashing through those who had walked up the hill. A lovely view of fields stretched miles in-front of us. Not quite as muddy as the reccie but enough to allow my fell shoes to feel loved in the mud.
Speed is sex … distance is love. – David Blaikie
We passed a few others through the fields, I was beginning to feel the love even more as I glanced around to see the most beautiful countryside anyone could wish for. Nature at its best. Indeed, nature as its best as both myself and Sue knew nature was calling and time for a wee stop. Hell we can’t just stand up against a wall you know like the surrounding bloke in-front of us had just done. So we found a little gate just before the decent to Chatsworth and bared all. Unfortunately there was a guy crouched down looking rather sorry for himself. We asked him his number and ensured he was ok, he convinced us he was, probably amused by two veteran runners wee’ing very near to him, but hell who cares at the end of the day?
I run because if I didn’t, I’d be sluggish and glum and spend too much time on the couch. I run to breathe the fresh air. I run to explore. I run to escape the ordinary. I run…to savour the trip along the way. Life becomes a little more vibrant, a little more intense. I like that – Dean Karnazes
And then we entered Chatsworth estate. In the distance stood the amazing building of Chatsworth house, gleaming in all its glory. It was beautiful as I flew down the fields and ploughed through the muddy bits, Sue just seconds behind me. Beautiful. Once again walkers cheering us on ‘well done girls’. Oh bliss. Did I say I was happy?
Crossing the road into ‘Chatsworth’ itself we overtook some local running club guys. I commented to Sue I was having a perfect running moment. My head was in the right place, my legs were loose I suddenly felt like a rocket had been placed up my backside and I was off, target those Totley AC guys just in-front of me. As I elegantly passed them they made a comment about how I was just ‘ striding past’. It felt so right. I love moments like that when it all comes together and you feel like you are floating on air, nothing is going to stop me now. Bags and bags of energy 16 miles in when most people are about to hit the wall. How, I can not explain, I just felt right, strong and almost like ‘a runner’.
All I do is keep on running in my own cozy, home-made void, my own nostalgic silence. And this is a pretty wonderful thing. No matter what anybody else says – Haruki Murakami
Through the kissing gate Sue had caught me up and we chatted again as some passer bys cheered us on again. We were seeing supporters familar faces as they were doing the rounds. ‘You two again, well done girls’ we heard as we approached Baslow, the last checkpoint. ‘Just 5 miles to go’ I commented to Sue whose Quads were going a bit loolaa. ‘We can do this’ I spurted words of encouragement as my mindset was still in positive mode.
The climb up from Baslow to Curber edge was nasty and really no point in running it. Even a runner who passed us told us we were doing the right thing by walking, and they were right for we passed them on Curber Edge only minutes later. Towards the top of the hill great cheers went out ‘well done girls, looking good you can do it’ with a bucket of jelly babies to hand out. What a fantastic family to do that, such brilliant support.
And only four miles to go on Curber and Frogget edge. I love this edge, slightly rocky but peaty at the same time with a few little bits of mud to throw those not concentrating. I took on my jelly babies and smiled at the camera to run on and over take those who had decided to run up the hill. Boom boom walk – walking up hills is good.
Sue’s quads were giving her pain by now across Frogget. She wasn’t the only one as I passed a guy who had almost given up. With words of support that it was only 2 miles and it was only down hill I continued to the next gate and waited for Sue. We are a team as cheesy as it sounds I was determined not to leave her. The bottom of Frogett – road cross, no little green man but a friendly marshal ensuring safety and down we went across the stream to the last mile. I glanced behind and Sue was there so I was happy to drop myself down the path towards the finish. The last mile was literally all the way down hill, not my forte, but I was going to give it some as I could see a Steel City Strider in front of me and something over took my brain to catch him up as I did my best to fly down the hill. I was catching him up as he swung the gate open I caught it and we almost ran together down the lane and onto the road into Grindleford. Over the bridge, just one last push just one last push toward the finish and I put in a little sprint right to the finish with a massive grin on my face.
Happy trails to you, until we meet again – Roy Rogers and Dale Evans
Brilliant, just brilliant. I felt like I still had energy, I was full of it, I loved that, absolutely loved it. Sue came in just minutes behind. If it wasn’t for the lush company of Sue I may have given up at 2 miles, I may have given up at 3 miles, I may have had a really rough run but to be able to run with someone else for 20 miles, chat and support each other really made it for me. What an event.
And big thanks to the Twitter crew at the start, finish and around the course, and of course, not forgetting the reccie. Until we meet again.
With free hot soup, bread, cake and tea afterwards and a fantastic t shirt designed by the local school what more could you ask for to occupy a random Saturday in March? Nothing. Would I recommend it? What do you think? Blissfully Beautiful a great event.
Oh but I was semi planning a 5 mile road race the following day….
Tomorrow is another day, and there will be another battle! – Sebastian Coe
Position: Joint 94th with Andy Buck of Steel City Striders – out of 341