Grindleford Fell race 2015.
A couple of weeks back a group of us from TRC had done a steady recce of the Grindleford Fell Race. Despite us taking a couple of wrong turns. We knew largely what to expect in terms of terrain. The route was truly spectacular, and very enjoyable to do, so I was looking forward to giving it my best effort.
I turned up at Grindleford nice and early, getting a decent parking space, and I chatted to a few other runners I knew. I bumped into an old schoolfriend after the race, and an old band mate before it. I also bumped into Alex Kashefi, the barefoot runner who I follow on Instagram.
At first, I thought the race might be quiet, but the car parking field soon filled up, and the race organisers ran out of numbers as a record 431 something runners arrived to take part.
Eventually, the race got underway and after a couple of laps of the playing field the racing snakes were away.
The rest of us ran into the tight church lane funnel, where we got about 5 minutes running before we ground a waking queue. I was glad of this though because my quads were already burning and the calves weren’t best happy either.
After the steep climb of low branches and rock strewn path, we emerged onto a wooded hill with an epic view of the Hope valley. After a short downhill where I prematurely bolted past a load of runners, we were through a stile and up a boggy hillside heading toward the longshaw estate. This hillside was crisscrossed with small, rusty streams whose banks and been collapsed by grazing livestock, this turning the land into bog after bog. I was glad to get out of the fields and onto the hard packed dirt track above. This didn’t help me much though as a few runners came past me at this point.
I feared I’d spent my energy too soon. After a few minutes though I found a good rhythm and slowly started to pick a couple of people off. We turned left and encountered ditches and fallen trees as obstacles. I think this is where I started to believe a bit, because I went over the logs easily and headed down towards the road at the back of Owler Tor.
Slowing slightly to get my breath, I knew that getting a good start at the top of Padley Gorge would be pivotal for my race.
When we recce’d this the week before, it slowed a few of us up because there is a stream crossing, and runners were choosing the boulders instead of just running through the water. The same happened on race night.
There was a pack of runners, all gingerly picking their way over the boulders, I blasted through the water, leaving them to wonder what whizzed past. Then up ahead a few more just entering the rather technical, rock and root littered path. I just pressed the peddle here and went flying past them. It’s a risky strategy, but I do love a technical downhill, and I tried to remember what my teammate, Ben told me about not over striding. One after another, I dropped runner after runner, this felt so good, because I rarely overtake anyone in races and always finish quite near the back. Only once was I overtaken on this section by a Steel City Strider and I managed to catch that lady and pass her later on.
At the bottom of the Gorge there’s a gravel downhill, my idea of hell, followed by a brief uphill section, past the ancient Ruined chapel where the Rouge Priest Nicolas Garlic was captured. Here I ran with another chap, Ian for a minute or two, we marvelled at a small woman who came chugging past up like a Trojan warrior, before turning left through a kissing gate. It was at this point, that I put my foot in a divot and lost my balance. I didn’t go over but my confidence evaporated. I gestured for the runner behind me, a smiley Pacer to come past. A few seconds went by and I regained my composure and kept going.
Running down a green path into open meadows, I could see 4 runners ahead of me, the Trojan lady and Ian from the bottom of the Gorge were already pulling away, followed by the Steel City Strider and the Smiley Pacer. At the boundary of the first field I dropped the Strider. She followed the path, I bounded though a gap in the wall, landing a few steps ahead of her, then pulled away. The Smiler was just in front now, but we had the big flat meadow to cross.. Instead of trying to take her early, I thought it best to wait, I trailed her all the way to the river.
I’d envisioned myself fearlessly blasting through the river, but that was far from reality. As soon as I hit the water I became disorientated. The moving water made it had to balance, I took a line with deeper water, this coupled with the screaming crowd, I struggled not to fall in face first.
Emerging from the water, smiley had 20 meters on me. I trailed her in, thinking that she would put a final spuit in any time. Alex Kashefi high fived me and shouted “go on Tideswellman “, Well, it was at this point that I spotted the finish line and a few of the Tidza crew were urging me on. I gave it everything I had and just crossed the line ahead of the Smiley Pacer. I felt bad for her really, but that’s the game, and she was very sporting about it too. It was a rather unimpressive time of 58:13. Finishing 394th out of 431.
Any decent runner would scoff at such a time, but I’m only a year into my running journey, and I feel the race went ok. I’m proud to have done it, proud to have represented my club and proud of the effort I put in, which has boosted my confidence no end.
Since then I’ve completed 2 more local fell races at Tideswell and at Hope. Next up is my chance to show that I really have improved. Hathersage Gala Fell Race was my first Fell race , exactly a year ago. So we’ll see if I’m any quicker this time. Fingers crossed.