The idea of this blog is to include non-FRA events, which will not appear in the regular Results section - mainly, but not exclusively, ultra-distance off-road events - undertaken by our members. Historically we have pandered to J Fulton Esq. (sorry, I do of course mean we have traditionally included RR) by putting Round Rotherham in the main Results, it's entirely possible that in future they will appear in both places.
Yukon Arctic Ultra
Thursday 30 January 2020
At 10:32 am on Thursday 30 January 2020 63 runners set off from Whitehorse in the Yukon which is a wild, mountainous, frozen and sparsely populated Territory in north-west Canada. At the start there were relatively balmy temperatures of -8°C. Attempting a 100 mile ultra were 20 athletes (19 on foot and one on a fatbike) while 21 athletes (mostly on foot except for two on fatbikes and one on cross-country skis) were hoping to survive the 300 mile event. The rest were running the marathon distance. However, it wasn't long before temperatures plummeted below -30˚C and competitors battled to pull heavy pulks (sledges) through soft snow.
The Montane Yukon Arctic Ultra (YAU) starts in Whitehorse in Canada's frozen north-west in the Yukon. The route follows that of the Yukon Quest race in which mushers use teams of about 16 extremely fit and strong dogs to pull their sledges 1,000 miles to the finish. The dog race reverses direction each year - sometimes starting in Whitehorse and finishing in Fairbanks in Alaska and on alternate years the route goes the other way. When the Yukon Quest starts in Whitehorse the YAU offers a choice of 100, 300 and 430 mile options. In 2020 the Yukon Quest started in Fairbanks so to avoid a clash of events somewhere near the middle only 100 and 300 mile options were available for the YAU this year. Participants in the YAU can also choose three modes of transport: on foot pulling a pulk loaded with enough kit to last the race including food, fuel, extra clothing and camping kit, etc or pulling the same pulk wearing cross-country skis rather than walking or running or riding a fatbike with special wheels and tyres and fully laden with equipment stowed in bags around the bike. Whatever option is chosen all competitors have to be fully sufficient to survive in the wilderness. All are tracked with a SPOT device offering options to communicate to Race HQ. If the help button is pressed competitors have to wait and survive until rescued. This may take some time since the snowmobiles will not operate below -40°C or at night for safety reasons. There is also an emergency button for life threatening situations which will initiate search and rescue by the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) and others and if the conditions are not too severe a helicopter rescue may be possible. All competitors have to have very comprehensive insurance cover to deal with such emergencies. Not only is it hard to find an insurer willing to take on such risks but the cost is quite high.
Steven Jones, Dark Peak Fell Runners, finished the 100 mile YAU in 5th place overall at Braeburn Lodge in a time of 51 hours and 8 minutes. The time limit for the 100 mile event was 72 hours. The winner completed the course in 29 hours and 50 minutes on a fatbike. Out of the 19 foot racers Steven Jones finished in 4th place.
Five athletes doing the 300 mile race had already reached Braeburn Lodge at that stage and out of the nine racers ahead of me five had been examined and found to have frostbite. Following a hearty finisher's meal I was examined by a medic to assess my condition and I knew that there would be some issues ... to be continued ... full report to be posted in due course.
Now done ...
Prior to signing up for the Yukon Arctic Ultra the organiser interviews each applicant by Skype to ensure that they are fully aware of the risks and what is involved. Thereafter there is a vast amount of organising to get to the start line including: arranging flights and transport; sorting out insurance (this task should not be underestimated and many insurers will not even provide a quote); acquiring or hiring specialist kit; enrolling on a suitable survival course and so on.
I arrived in Whitehorse in the Yukon on Tuesday 21.1.20 in time to unpack; collect some equipment ordered in England and put aside for collection there and sort things out. It also gave me chance to visit a local physiotherapist to have an injury assessed. I had sustained an adductor tendon/muscle injury the week before and walking was painful. I was advised that 3 or 4 weeks of rest should allow it to settle down. This would not be possible so I would try to take it as easy as I could in the week before the race.
The Survive to Race course started on the Thursday. The five day course covered things necessary to survive in that environment and it became apparent that staying alive is essential to finishing the race. Highlights included: temperature management (not only keeping warm to avoid frostbite and hypothermia but also to avoid sweating which can lead to a rapid drop in core temperature later on) so layering up and down and constantly monitoring how you are; making water out of snow and ice using liquid fuel stoves and cooking; camping in well below freezing temperatures; making a fire using wood found in forests; wading across a creek wearing base layers and getting warm again when on icy banks afterwards; practising pulling the heavy pulks (sledges) with supplies to last the race; tactics and procedures to get to the finish line and so on. It was also a good chance to get to know some of the other athletes on the event. It was certainly well worth attending the course.
The event registration process was dealt with on Tuesday 28.1.20 involving various bits of paperwork and a waiver of liability for the organisers. Everyone was to be self sufficient and entrants should not rely on rescue if the conditions were bad. The insurance cover of all entrants was checked again. After dealing with all of that I rushed off to see a doctor. I had had a troubling cough for the last week and it was not clearing up and I felt generally unwell. The doctor said it was not too bad but I was given anti-biotics. Then back to see the physiotherapist - things seemed to have improved a bit. I could walk without being in pain and there were two days before the start to give more scope for the injury to become less severe. The rest of the day was spent shopping for additional equipment and clothing, etc.
On the Wednesday there was a compulsory briefing for all racers. The medics had noticed my cough and examined me. There was some concern and they took readings but said I would be allowed to start tomorrow but they would keep an eye on me. The SPOT monitoring devices were also handed out. These provide tracking data enabling the organisers and followers to keep up to date with progress and mount rescue missions as appropriate. There are also buttons to press to advise the organiser that a racer is bivvying (to avoid a panic at HQ if there is no movement for some time); a help button to request assistance ASAP and an emergency button for life threatening situations. In the evening there was a pre-race buffet along with a medical briefing by Dr Poole of Whitehorse Hospital who specialises in cold injuries. A series of photos were displayed on the large screen to illustrate various stages of frostbite. He encouragingly noted that with prompt and expert treatment most cases of frostbite can be resolved satisfactorily.
It was clear that the margins for error were very narrow and that if things start to go wrong things can unravel quickly and matters escalate beyond control. With the most extreme cold plastic goes brittle and snaps; snowmobiles fail to function and problem solving becomes critical. In previous editions of the event temperatures have fallen to -57°C and life changing situations have developed.
There followed some frenzied packing trying to get the super large sleeping bag and other camping items; stoves, fuel and food; several flasks for water; lots of spare clothes and so on into the pulk. It weighed more than the luggage that I brought with me on the flight over and was perhaps in the range of 25 kg to 30 kg although I did not take an accurate reading. Lifting it out of my room and along the corridor was a challenge in itself and I was wondering how I was going to pull it along for about 100 miles.
The course is advertised as 100 miles but the actual length varies from year to year. This is because the route follows frozen rivers and lakes and the condition of the ice dictates that a route that was good one year may not be suitable the next. So guides on snowmobiles amend the route accordingly. Indeed, just the day before the race was due to start unseasonally warm weather (-10°C) meant that some ice was being over-run with overflow which is a particularly dangerous phenomenon striking fear into locals and runners alike.
At 10:32 am on Thursday 30.1.20 the race started from Shipyards Park in Whitehorse with a temperature of -8°C. A procession of racers snaked north out of town following the frozen Yukon River. I found it to be hard work pulling the heavy pulk through the soft snow. It was a bit like running on sand with feet sinking but also sliding around. I was able to imagine how a shire horse would feel ploughing a muddy field. However, things were going well and the scenery was superb. Before long I had to remove outer layers since I was getting warm. Camera crews and photographers were out and about. A documentary was being made featuring an American hoping to make it to the finish line to banish some demons from last year's race. A whirring noise and a speck in the sky ahead drew my attention to a drone ahead probably filming. The American was in front of me and he had picked up his pace. The competitive instinct in me took over and I broke into a run and pulled alongside him then increased my speed further to surge past him. Maybe they will edit that bit out of the film.
A safety team recorded runners passing under the Takhini Bridge where we left the Yukon River to follow the Takhini River meandering west and later north. This was about ten miles from the start and conditions were still mild for the time of year in those parts. However, the wind was picking up and there was a bit of snow as the temperatures steadily got colder.
After a while I seemed to be all alone. I could not see anyone in front or behind. My feet were now wet from the snow. As I stopped to have a hot drink from my flasks a couple of others overtook me and disappeared into the swirling snow ahead of me. I was keen to remain on the trail and avoid straying onto thin ice on the river and trusting that the guides had picked a route over firm ice. To the north of the river steep rocky cliffs hemmed the river in just beyond a narrow and flat flood plain. The fascinating scenery helped take my mind off thoughts of thin ice; the trail being obscured by the snow now coming down thicker than before and what it might be like if the temperatures plummeted.
The first checkpoint at Muktuk Adventures provided hot stew and hot drinks. Medics carefully examined everyone for the first signs of frostbite or other issues. So sitting outside (none of the racers was allowed indoors) each competitor had to remove headgear, gloves, shoes and socks for inspection before hurriedly putting them back on again. After stopping for about 30 minutes I set off again as dusk approached.
Shortly after leaving there was some shallow overflow with solid ice beneath it. Since I already had wet feet I went straight through it rather than gingerly finding a way around it. We had been warned about this at the checkpoint and I had planned to sort my feet out after this.
Shortly afterwards I hauled my pulk to the side of the trail. I found dry socks while having hot drinks and food. I dried my feet with a t-shirt and put plastic bags over my new dry socks and this tactic seemed to be effective for several hours. The route followed a river valley with steep rocky sides and later a trail led upwards through woods. There was a section across a flat seemingly featureless area with trail marker poles at intervals. I felt a bit like a pioneer crossing the Atlantic hoping to make it safely to the new lands across the sea but not knowing for sure whether I was on route or not. With each sighting of a marker pole I was able to breath a sigh of relief. Going off route and wandering around aimlessly in the night was undesirable.
I was getting increasingly tired and the trail was narrow not offering much scope to pull over and set up camp. Suddenly I was in a small clearing and others had already set up tents and another pair were in the process of finalising the erection of their tent. It seemed like a good opportunity to rest so I set up my sleeping bag inside my bivvy bag and went to sleep for a few hours.
When I woke up I decided to get up and leave quickly before I got too cold. Reluctantly I crawled out of the sleeping bag but found that my shoes had frozen solid!! They were not quite as malleable as sheet steel and it would have taken a long time to de-frost them and would have been an unwelcome delay. I was reluctant to use my spare shoes just yet and then risk having no spares should they be needed later. So I dug out the large overboots from my pulk to wear without shoes. The overboots normally fit over shoes and are waterproof and provide an extra layer of insulation. However, by doing up the straps as tight as possible I was able to move off albeit with the overboots flapping around on my feet a bit. Nevertheless I was able to finish packing up and leave to start warming up. A few miles later I was warm enough to stop and put the spare shoes on with the overboots on top keeping the new shoes and socks dry with the snow still being a bit loose and wet.
It had been a cold night and dawn was extremely welcome. The rising sun was reflected on a mountain ahead of me and to the right giving the snow a warm orange and pink glow. It looked beautiful. Shortly after that I saw two pulks being pulled away from a clearing where a fire was burning. Turning off the trail to investigate I noticed a musher had got a fire going and was in the process of cooking coffee and breakfast for his clients who were experiencing dog mushing. They seemed to have spent the night in luxury walled and heated tents and were now being looked after by the musher. His fire was impressive with large logs heating up a variety of cooking pots and vessels resting on a large iron grid. I gratefully accepted the hot coffee and food offered to me and chatted with the curious clients there eager to hear about the adventures to be had on the ultra that I was running. After a while I reluctantly dragged myself away from the fire to press on. Heading downhill the pulk wanted to race against me but being clipped to my waist it was unable to overtake me. As if in anger it tried to mow me down. I ran as fast as I could but this only encouraged the pulk to push harder against my back until the slope levelled off. The sunny mountain remained to my right but over the course of the day I drew level with it before it was behind me. It had a distinctive and majestic shape and it was fascinating seeing it from different angles.
The snow was now firmer and no longer wet. I decided to pull over to the side of the trail to eat and drink and remove the overboots. Upon checking my feet I was horrified to see the skin splitting; we had been warned about this possibility on the course. The cold and dry conditions apparently dries skin out and it is not uncommon for feet to split open. Despite using moisturiser as advised things seemed to be deteriorating. I taped my feet up hoping that they would hold out until the end. Despite the pain I now made faster progress wearing just running shoes without the overboots and the pulk was running more smoothly over the harder trail. A gradual incline meant bracing forward to haul the pulk up as the slope became steeper. At least there would be some downhill to compensate in due course? However, it just went up and up as the trail weaved and snaked up the hills. I found out later that the ascent here had been about 2,300 feet. It was never very steep but certainly relentless and I was now just wearing long sleeved base layers without a coat or jumper. The pulk seemed to get heavier and the snow softer but the next checkpoint could not have been more than a few miles ahead now. A sustained effort might enable it to be reached before nightfall.
As I came round another bend there was a glow of a fire in the dark signifying that I had made it to the Dog Grave Lake checkpoint. It had been constructed from walled tents brought in by snowmobile and erected by volunteers for the race. It must have involved a lot of logistical effort to construct it all in the wilderness miles from the nearest roads. As inviting as the tents were we were not allowed inside since they were solely for race staff. We were allowed to sit near the open fire nearby but there was a risk of getting too comfortable making departure that much harder. An inspection by a medic confirmed that I would be okay to continue. After hot drinks, stew and having my flasks filled up with boiling water I washed my bowl and spoon (we had to supply our own bowls, mugs and utensils) while finishing off a hot chocolate. When I turned around to rinse out the bowl the water had frozen; this saved drying it since the block of ice could just be tipped out. Then I was off again. The night was getting colder and my coat was back on. Partly to generate heat and partly to catch a pair of other racers ahead of me I set off at a brisk pace using my poles to gain traction against the hard-packed snow and propel myself and pulk up the gentle slope of the trail. I seemed to speed past three racers ahead of me all on the 300 mile version of the event and resolved to keep up this pace. Things were now going really well after the brief rest and the superb stew. I was now all alone with just the narrow beam of light from my headtorch to light up the way. It was as if the world just consisted of the small area illuminated by the headtorch and beyond the beam was just deep blackness. From time to time I glanced either side of the trail and to the right were flat, featureless lakes and to the left a wall of trees obscuring the view to just a few yards. Beyond the reach of the torchlight there could have been steep mountains rising up or deep valleys or just miles of forests and lakes. I could only imagine what was there so took to gazing at the tracks on the trail. To pass the time I tried to work out who might be ahead; there were occasional marks of cross-country skis, snowmobile tracks and various footprints. Maybe I was gaining on someone or perhaps someone would catch me up. I remained isolated on the trail with not even a hint of a torch in front or behind. After several brief rest stops for food and hot water it was apparent that the boiling water was now just lukewarm rather than boiling despite the top of the range flasks. A Mars bar kept handy in my pocket had frozen solid and was like concrete. I was unable to dent it let alone bite into it and put it inside an inner pocket to eat later.
I was now very tired and finding it hard to keep moving forward. I had passed a few racers who had parked up and set up tents to rest for the night. I would need to do the same soon but pressed on for a bit longer looking for a good place to stop. However, the trail was narrow and I needed to find enough space to get off it to avoid blocking the way. Finally I was able to find somewhere to drag the pulk off the trail and wade around in the knee deep snow to set things up for the night. The inflation valve on the down air mattress had frozen shut and despite my best efforts I was not able to open it. Sleeping directly on the snow would promote rapid heat loss which was to be avoided at all costs. A solution was needed quickly since I could feel myself getting colder and colder all the time despite having put my thick down jacket on while sorting things out. I was able to attach the hand pump to the mattress via the deflation valve and get it ready. As I was settling down to sleep it suddenly dawned on me that I had forgotten to press the button on the SPOT device to let Race HQ know that I was stopping for more than half an hour. Failure to notify Race HQ accordingly could lead to panic there and rescue efforts and for that reason failure to adhere to the procedures could lead to a heavy time penalty or disqualification. So I wriggled out of the sleeping bag and bivvy bag to press the button despite having nearly warmed up. By the time I got back in I was chilled but at least I could rest.
I awoke shivering violently two or three hours later and knew that I had to get warm soon to avert a serious situation. After a few seconds of thought weighing up the options I sprang out of the bivvy bag and sleeping back and put my headtorch on to pack up and leave as quickly as possible. The torch started blinking which signified that the batteries were nearly dead and would cease to work completely within a few minutes. I worked frenetically to try and get moving to generate some heat before having to stop to swap over to my spare headtorch. Most things were now packed up by cramming them into the pulk but the air mattress could not be deflated. Both the inflation and deflation valves had frozen closed solidly. I removed my down mitts to try and pull the valves open but could not get sufficient grip. I had to remove my inner gloves too but the valves refused to yield. I pulled with all my might and the fingers on my left hand were getting numb from grabbing the frozen valve. There was no way to deflate the mattress and it was far too large to fit inside the pulk bag. In a flash of inspiration I tied it to the top of the pulk bag ready to move off. To attach the pulk harness around my waist involved removing gloves again but my fingers struggled to get the clip done up. After much effort I was successful and I was able to move off. Down mitts offer great insulation but with all that padding they reduce dexterity enormously. Getting the first mitt on is relatively straightforward since the hand without a mitt on can grip the cuff to pull the mitt on. However, when trying to get the other glove on it can be quite a struggle with cold, weakened fingers trying to get a numb hand into the other mitt and over the layers of clothing on the wrist. I now had several layers on including a warm coat and my large down jacket but was still cold and my hands were hurting with the cold. At least there was pain in my fingers; the medical briefing before the start of the event had noted that before frostbite occurs fingers go cold and then pain starts but the real problem is when the pain stops and the fingers go numb. When the feeling is lost the situation has already become serious.
After a while I was sufficiently warm enough (or rather less cold than before) to stop to swap headtorches before the one I was wearing stopped working. The last of the water was now frozen in the last flask but I had some fruit juice sachets in my pocket. These were frozen solid so I transferred them to an inner pocket to thaw. I was getting tired again having woken up sooner than I had wanted to due to the cold but I didn't fancy trying to set up another bivvy for a short while. Indeed, stopping to attend to my increasingly sore feet didn't seem like a viable prospect either. With probably only fifteen miles to go I may be able to get to the finish before blisters, etc became unbearable. Only a few more hours of pain and suffering and I would be at the finish and could rest. Meanwhile, the creatures in the forest were there to keep me company - the wolf might well have been a clump of snow but in the shadows of the headtorch it was hard to tell. A series of other shapes and shadows lurking in the gloom on the periphery of the beam from my headtorch conjured up a variety of images in my mind inspired by the variety of shapes in the snow. Beyond the reach of the headtorch many hungry eyes might have been watching me or maybe there was nothing there at all in the wilderness.
Daylight came and I was now entering the Tunnel of Doom which is a part of the trail with trees densely packed on each side of the trail for more than ten miles. Once in that tunnel there is no escape to either side. It seemed to go on for a long way with little variety in the scenery. It was just a matter of keeping moving forward. Crossing the final lake I knew that the finish was not far away.
My pace had been picking up and I had been warming up. It was perhaps only a mile or so to the finish so I stripped off most of my layers to finish wearing a base layer and hoodie without a coat. Leaving the lake there were embankments to scale. Although only a few metres high they were steep and not easy to get to the top of. When nearly at the top there was a sense that one false step would lead to being pulled back down again to land in a heap at the bottom. So I braced myself against the slope leaning forward and pushing hard with both walking poles. A photographer taking photos and shooting video signified the end was very close so I broke into a sprint to finish in style and eased off back to a walk on passing the photographer. However, he ran forward to take up position further along the trail and I had to start sprinting again. This happened several times and I had begun to think that the end might never come into sight after all. Then I rounded the corner to the finish line at the Braeburn Lodge where I arrived 51 hours and 8 minutes after the start. The sprinting at the end made absolutely no difference to the result for the 100 mile race since I was more than five hours behind the person in front and more than five hours in front of the person behind me.
I was treated to a substantial finishers meal before being inspected by Gavin the medic. I had mild frostbite on the tip of a finger on my left hand and a bit of frostnip on the others on that hand. However, it was not too serious and within a month would be perfectly okay and back to normal. The foot problems were not blisters but drying out in the cold Yukon conditions and the skin was red raw in parts - particularly on my heels. The skin had started to split in places and I would not have been able to continue much further.
After being transported back to Whitehorse I was able to compare stories with other competitors. We compared frostbite injuries and some fingers looked quite black and blistered but the experts at Whitehorse Hospital were able to sort people out. It would appear that about half the entrants had frostbite to some extent or other.
With the 100 mile race over the 300 mile version continued. Watching the tracking on-line the number of competitors gradually dwindled. Ten athletes had made it to the 100 mile checkpoint at Braeburn (the finish for the 100 mile event) while eleven did not make it that far. Eight made it to the checkpoint at Ken Lake as frostbite continued to take a toll on the entrants. It looked as if there might be eight finishers and then just six. Five made it to the Carmacks checkpoint but only four continued onwards. With this rate of attrition would any of the four remaining 300 mile racers be able to persevere to the finish? They all made it to the McCabe Creek checkpoint but only three continued onwards with one having to retire shortly after leaving. Then there were just two. Each day seemed to bring in news of athletes being forced to retire; frostbite and sheet exhaustion were the main culprits for that. The last two made it to Pelly Crossing and out to the Pelly Farm checkpoint. They both finished at Pelly Crossing after their out and back loop. Over the last few days it looked as if there may be tactical finish with someone pushing on without sleep. However, the margin was maintained and both aiming to finish without a visit to the hospital at the end rather than pushing themselves for first place. The one coming second had very minor frostbite starting but was okay. Both the finishers failed to finish the event last year due to frostbite but had recovered and had returned to have another go. The 300 mile race seemed to have been an exercise in survival and preservation rather than trying to go as fast as possible.
After the event news from the organiser noted that the coldest night of the event had been on the second night when temperatures fell to around -40°C. Although pretty cold on the first night when I bivvied it certainly felt colder on the second night when I woke up shivering.
Entries are now open for 2021 when the event runs from 7 February 2021 to 20 February 2021 with a choice of distances (100, 300 and 430 mile ultras along with a marathon distance). After deliberating long and hard for nearly an hour I was the first to sign up for the 430 mile distance next year and have been rewarded by being assigned Bib Number 401.
100 mile ultra results:
Starters: 20 (19 on foot and one on MTB (fatbike))
First Man: John Berryman; MTB; 29:50
First Man on foot: Kevin Leahy; 1st on foot and 2nd overall; 32:04
First Lady: Virginia Sarrazin; 3rd overall and 2nd on foot; 34:02
Steven Jones: 5th overall and 4th on foot; Dark Peak Fell Runners; 51:08
300 mile ultra:
Starters: 21 (18 on foot; 2 on MTB's and 1 on cross-country skis)
First Man: Fabian Imfeld; on foot; 162:42
Second: Tiberiu Useriu; on foot; 169:21
Sunday 12 January 2020 to Sunday 19 January 2020
268 miles (431.3 km); 43,733 feet (13,330 m) of ascent
168 hour time limit
First Man: John Kelly (USA); 87:53:57
First Lady: Sabrina Verjee; 5th overall; 108:07:17
Steven Jones: 32nd man and 36th overall; Dark Peak Fell Runners; 149:16:27
The Spine Race series consists of the Spine Challenger and Spine MRT Challenge (for cave and mountain rescue volunteers) and the Spine Race itself. The first two events start on the Saturday and follow the 108 miles from the start to Hardraw following the same route as the Spine Race. The longer race commences on the Sunday.
In the Spine Challenger Jen Scotney (Dark Peak Fell Runners) was 6th lady (21st overall) in a time of 49:15:15. In the MRT Challenge Gregory Crowley (Dark Peak Fell Runners) was 2nd in a time of 32:21:35 - less than five minutes behind the winner.
In the Spine Challenger the first man was Douglas Zinis in a time of 29:00:32 while the first lady was joint 4th overall in a time of 34:19:04. Out of 110 starters there were 52 finishers with 58 DNF's.
For the Spine MRT Challenge the first man was Joe Parsons in a time of 32:16:42 while Ella Corrick was joint 5th overall in a time of 46:54:45 to be the first lady to finish. Out of 25 starters there were 12 finishers with 13 DNF's.
On Saturday 11.1.20 I registered for the race at Edale and went through kit check and had the race briefing. I stayed at the YHA Edale.
On Sunday 12.1.20 drop bags were weighed at the Edale YHA with a strict limit of 20.0 kg. I was right on the limit at 20.0 kg!! Others were over the limit and had to remove stuff and one was about 35 kg which must have provided quite a dilemma to the runner concerned! There was a shuttle bus transfer to the start at Edale. Competitors had the chance to compare kit and chat before the start at 8 am. There was a hint of a dry start but the most likely outcome was rain so most runners put waterproofs on. It was a wise move since the winds were high and the rain got heavier throughout the day. Indeed, Storm Brendan was due and would last for a few days. It would get much worse over the coming days.
I started at a brisk pace but within about 2 miles I felt a left groin strain. I had had a niggling injury there which had been troubling me for a few weeks during training before the race. This was an unwelcome development so soon after the start so I eased off the pace a bit to try and prevent it getting worse. Up and over Kinder Scout and then Bleaklow in rain and wet conditions. Some runners on the Marsden to Edale Trigger Fell Race were passing the other way and I stopped to chat with several of them and it was good to see them. Then on to Black Hill with stream and river crossings. The wind and rain had been steadily increasing in intensity during the day. The conditions were muddy and slippy. This made progress over the moors and past Stoodley Pike slow. I was a bit behind my target schedule when I arrived at Hebden around 10.30 pm after skidding down the particularly muddy path to the checkpoint. My legs felt a bit tired. I ate before sleeping for 90 minutes.
I left in the early hours of Monday 13.1.20 struggling up the slippy path with ankle deep mud. Then over moorland in darkness. By the time I got to Lothersdale it was daylight and a marquee had been set up to provide some light refreshments for runners. My legs reluctantly obeyed my request to press on and there was now more walking than running. At Malham I diverted into the Lister Arms for a full all day breakfast. However, when I attempted to stand up and leave my knees were stiff and sore and I struggled to get going again. I caught up with Ian and we pressed on together to the Malham Cove intermediate checkpoint. I didn't hang around there and was eager to tackle Fountain Fell. The descent was particularly slippery with extraordinarily waterlogged ground. Despite wearing grippy fell running shoes I was skidding and sliding and it was more luck than skill that kept me upright. Due to stormy conditions courtesy of Storm Brendan there was a route diversion and so I didn't go to the very top of Pen y Ghent which was both a disappointment and a relief. I was tired and feeling at a low ebb. An extra intermediate checkpoint at Horton in Ribblesdale provided a chance to pause for a while. While slumped on a chair runners who had been behind me overtook me while I rested. There was still a long way to go so time lost here might be made up later.
I forced myself to continue and was on my own with nobody visible in front or behind. Going along the Cam Road I started falling asleep.I found myself waking with a start while running and walking. It was horrible: too cold for a power nap and too tired to focus properly. On the slippery descent of Ten End I was awake enough to run and even managed to overtake two other runners. The final bit on roads seemed to drag on forever. The checkpoint at Hawes was close but the plod through the village dragged on and on. I ate quickly then summoned up the energy to climb the stairs for some long overdue sleep in a bunk bed for three hours. Apparently I looked shattered and in a bad way (which was just how I felt).
I resisted the urge to use the snooze mode on my mobile phone when the alarm went off. I knew that there was a risk of falling back into a deep sleep and delaying my departure. I ate and sorted kit out and set off again in daylight on Tuesday 14.1.20 later than planned. I had hoped to make better progress and set off before dawn. I was now reduced to a shuffling walk on stiff, tired legs. Wincing in pain and limping my groin injury was now hurting a lot. This was to be a day of walking rather than running to recuperate.
Just before the ascent of Great Shunner Fell there was gentle rain which became steadier. The rain was replaced by sleet and then snow and the ground was covered with snow obscuring the route. The snow obscuring the path made things more interesting: with each step there may be deep puddle, bog, slippery stones or ice. In places the route had stepping stones traversing pools but some were submerged or missing which invited detours off the route and back again. Trying to avoid the worst of it lead to coming off the route particularly where the pools were deep and partially covered in ice which may or may not have supported my weight. After a while I realised I had drifted too far from the route and had to battle back to it through deep heather, bog and snow. As the wind picked up I embraced proper Spine Race weather; it would have been a disappointment to face easy conditions and miss out on a challenge. After all one of the attractions of the event is the brutality of it and testing yourself. Attaining more and more height towards the summit the weather deteriorated (or improved if you were seeking more of a challenge) and the snow became deeper. Finally I was over the summit and heading down the other side. Care was necessary to avoid a fall on the slippery flagstones, ice and mud. After a while Mick from Racing Snakes was braving the weather to take photographs and I stopped for a brief chat before resuming the descent. I caught up with someone and we plodded along towards Tan Hill trying our best to avoid deep water from flooding along the way. When I arrived at the Tan Hill Inn it was already dark and a room had been set aside for Spine Racers. I bought a substantial meal and relaxed for a while. Meanwhile, Storm Brendan raged outside with winds of up to around 90 mph reported in the press.
The warmth and comfort of the Tan Hill Inn had an invisible hold of me but I broke the spell and ventured out into the night and over Sleightholme Moss. I seemed to be making reasonable progress and distant headtorches hinted that I might catch up with someone but I didn't see anyone else for quite some time. At Clove Lodge Bunk Barn there was a notice inviting Spine Racers to come inside, rest and make themselves a hot drink. I went in briefly and resisted the temptation of a hot drink since I was keen to press on and finish this leg. I looked at my maps briefly and it didn't seem very far and the terrain would not be challenging. However, I was tired and it was very muddy and slippery underfoot and my progress was slow. Suddenly I slid and fell and went back to admire the skid marks - I had managed to stay on my feet for about five yards before sprawling in the mud. This was the first time I had fallen over on the event and I reflected that in the conditions that was quite an achievement. Apparently the medics reported a high incidence of twisted knees and ankles this year due to falls. Along with hypothermia these injuries may have been factors in some of the DNF's this year. Finally, I arrived at Middleton where I ate heartily at the checkpoint before sleeping in a bunk bed for three hours.After my sleep I ate, chatted, sorted kit and packed up ready to go. While procrastinating and fortifying myself with more refreshments others had been more efficient and had left already. I had been possessed by a certain reluctance to leave the comfort of the checkpoint. At last I finally set off in daylight on Wednesday 15.1.20 on stiff and weary legs. I forced myself onwards and there was a route diversion along roads rather than along the Pennine Way next to the river due to flooding. Something seemed to be not right and different. Then it dawned on me that it was the first time that it had not been raining almost constantly since the start of the race. I paused to gaze at High Force before pressing on and overtaking a few people. Cauldron Snout was in spate and was a sight to behold; the scenery was certainly inspiring along the route and was effective at distracting thoughts away from tired legs and general weariness. A long trudge up towards High Cup Nick followed but by the time I got there it was already dark so I was denied the opportunity to admire the fantastic vista there. Partially to compensate for this and partially to get to Dufton quicker I ran most of the downhill section. A cafe there was open where I ate well and then a few minutes later I called in at the intermediate checkpoint. There was normally a 30 minute time restriction there but due to the inclement weather this had been lifted. There was an almost overwhelming temptation to sleep for a while. I lay down briefly contemplating a ten minute power nap but there was a risk of dozing off and delaying my departure. In a decisive move I sprang to my feet and resisted the offer a coffee from the helpful checkpoint staff. As I left I was adjusting hats, buffs and gloves to suit the increasing cold of the night. I waded along on my own in shin deep mud along a track hemmed in by hedges preventing proceeding along less wet ground along the edges. As I headed up the fells and gained altitude it became colder and the amount of snow lying on the ground gradually increased in depth. The landscape was dark and bleak and the wind steadily intensified as if it was trying to prevent me from reaching the top. It became increasingly arduous picking a route through the snow and ice; there was a compromise between trying to avoid the deeper ice covered pools and staying close to the route. The weather became increasingly wild and I was leaning into the wind to avoid being blown over. The wind was blowing my hood into my eyes and interfering with my vision. Suddenly it all went black and I was alone near a summit trying to stand upright against the force of the chilling wind. For a brief moment it occurred to me that my eyeballs may have been blown out by the force of the wind. A faint glow about 10 yards away gave cause for hope. Indeed, it was where my headtorch had landed in a snowdrift and I was able to stagger towards it over the jagged rocks despite the best efforts of the wind to propel me down the slope. Although only a short distance away it was quite a struggle to get to the headtorch without losing my footing on the icy snow covered jagged rocks with the best efforts of the wind to fling me off the ridge. Risking losing gloves too I somehow removed them; returned the headtorch to my head and got my gloves back on. Then down to Greg's Hut which was manned by John Bamber and others. John prepared some noodles and they tasted quite superb and were most welcome. We had an interesting discussion on fuels for stoves. With great reluctance I forced myself to leave for the long plod down a stoney track which was partially covered in snow and partly underwater. At Garrigill I was greeted by a man from the Spine Safety Crew and a brief refreshment stop was made in the village (a woman had put provisions out for Spine Racers which was kind of her). The rest of the route would now be easy but I was more tired than before. An ambiguous sign suggested turning left although I suspected a right turn would be more appropriate. My suspicions increased and I thought about cutting across to re-join the route but a very tall fence blocked the route. I hoped that there would be a way through before too long and rather than turning back I carried on. Finally, I was up against a river too deep to wade and the thought of retracing my steps inspired me to climb the 12 foot fence. I waded around in a flooded flood plain with sticky mud grasping my feet making me have to work hard with every step. Then there was another 12 foot fence before re-joining the route. Shortly after that I was at the Alston checkpoint feeling tired and feeling low. It was already daylight. However, I ate before having 3 hours sleep in a bunk bed.
So it was about mid-day when I left Alston on Thursday 16.1.20 after eating and sorting kit. Natasha was at Slaggyford greeting Spine Racers and kindly offering refreshments from her home. I had two mugs of soup and a chat and felt stronger. Someone else along the way offered biscuits and that was nice too. Crossing the bogs later on I was zig-zagging trying to avoid the deepest water. Although some of the terrain was flat it was very boggy with deep mud and water making progress slow. There is always an element of luck and judgement while traversing bogs. While attempting to jump across some deep water to land on what seemed to be firmer ground I just sank up to the top of my thighs and sort of crawled and swam towards firmer ground. Luckily (or perhaps due to good judgement) this only happened once and most of the time the water did not go much higher than half way up my shins.
A Safety Team greeted me just before Hadrian's Wall and after a pause to chat for a while reasonable progress was made along the wall itself. After that there were more bogs and moors. I missed a path and went through a gate which seemed to be the right way. That led to a wild goose chase back and forth until I decided to just head north and see if there was a way of re-joining the route later. In a ravine I was confronted by the fast flowing Warks Burn so I scrambled over stone walls and through deep, dead bracken until I found the correct path and over the bridge. Shortly after that I rested at Horneystead Farm where refreshments were left out for Spine Racers. Dan caught up with me and we left together. With soggy feet I could feel blisters developing but we coasted in to the Bellingham checkpoint in daylight. Some very helpful volunteers there assisted me and medics taped my feet up.I slept for 3 hours in a semi-darkened room.
It was late in the afternoon on Friday 17.1.20 when I started getting ready. The checkpoint was now more crowded and getting hectic. Dan set off but I was not ready; there was kit to sort out and more food to eat along with a bit of media attention. I changed into different shoes and finally set off before dusk. My headtorch seemed very dim despite having changed the batteries at Bellingham. I swapped over to my other headtorch and was moving slowly but at least I was moving. Later going through a forested area progress was reasonable but the bogs were deep and the path narrow. So it was a matter of zig-zagging to avoid projecting branches and the deepest mud. Later on firmer forest tracks I was able to jog along a bit.At the Byrness intermediate checkpoint there was chance for a quick drink and some food. Upon inspecting my headtorch the problem was found to be one battery inserted the wrong way round which was soon remedied giving me two working headtorches again. It is odd how despite checking the device at Bellingham when installing the new batteries that I did not pick up the error. This is the sort of thing to expect when weary and sleep deprived after several days of running! Up a slippery and particularly muddy slope I went and eventually reached the ridge. It was then fairly straightforward and just a matter of grinding out the miles until the finish. At Hut 1 a Safety Team were suffering with the cold despite their warm sleeping bags. I declined the offer of a hot drink and continued with the hope of finishing the race within 6 days. It was still possible but would require a sustained and steady effort. It was getting colder and colder and there was ice on the flagstones here and there. There did not seem to be enough ice to justify stopping to put on microspikes so I proceeded partly on the path where it was less icy and partly over the rough vegetation next to it. By the time I got to Windy Gyle I was wobbling around and having trouble focusing and getting cold. Phil Swims was there in a tent to observe the event as a spectator. I stopped for an interesting chat and had a bit of a powernap and something to eat. It was good to meet him. When I set off again I was fully awake but cold so I ran down the hill at a brisk pace and all seemed to be going very well as the darkness gave way to daylight. There followed a long slow uphill section which went on and on and on. I could feel myself fading and getting slower and slower. Progress was made on and off the path over rough vegetation. The flagstones were icy in parts but otherwise good. The bogs were frosty and sometimes the ice was strong enough to support my weight but other times not and that involved sinking into the mud and icy water. At other times the ice was just slippy. Each 10 yards seemed to be a campaign in its own right of selecting a route to maximise speed but reduce the various risks. The hill kept going up and up remorselessly. Before the top a nasty blister on my right foot was troubling me. There was a brief traverse along and then the descent to Hut 2 running on my heels to minimise the pain from blisters on my toes. Having got cold earlier I had put two coats on and when I finally arrived at Hut 2 I was hot and sweaty. It seemed to me that a Scottish Heatwave had suddenly developed. I had a welcome hot drink and a medic attended to the nasty blister on my right foot and taped it up. There was also a bit of media attention. Shortly after I left a blister developed on my left foot similar to the troublesome one on my right foot which had now been taped. With only about 6 miles to go I would just have to ignore the pain and get it over and done with. So up the Schill before mostly downhill to the finish. There was nobody in front of me or behind me for a couple of hours so there was no chance of catching up with anyone or, indeed, somebody overtaking me. About a mile from the finish a crowd of well-wishers and a media scrum followed me to the end. A final sprint across the green in Kirk Yetholm and it was all over. I was now a two-time Spine Race finisher. There was a lot of attention and then I could eat, drink and rest.
On the morning of Sunday 19.1.20 in the hall someone tried wearing Crocs but couldn't get them on. He initially thought his feet had swollen in the night until he realised that he had been trying to wear those of another runner with similar shoes but smaller feet. I heard that one lady was suffering during the race and had said "I could just cry" but she carried on to finish anyway. I found out that the winner had nearly given up at Hut 2. However, he had two hours of sleep and was able to continue to the finish and set a new men's course record (the overall record is still held by Jasmin Paris).
Tour de Helvellyn
Saturday 21 December 2019
38 miles (61.1 km); 7,874 feet (2,400 m) of ascent
Starting in Askham the route generally follows footpaths and bridleways to St Peter's Church near Martindale; Boredale (Boardale on the British Mountain Map); Patterdale; Sticks Pass; Stannah Beck; Swirls car park; Birkside Ghyll; Raise Beck; Grisedale Tarn; Patterdale again and back to Askham.
For the time of year it was a warm day and it almost rained a few times. On the way back mist came down but otherwise visibility was good throughout.
Details of starters and retirements are not known. However, 195 runners were recorded as finishers but 8 of those missed out a large loop of the course to opt for a shortened version of the course.
First Man: Adam Perry; 5:59:40
First Lady: Carol Morgan; 21st overall; 7:13:34
David Harrison: 36th; Dark Peak Fell Runners; 7:40:04
Ian Challans: 46th; Dark Peak Fell Runners; 7:55:36
Steven Jones: 161st; Dark Peak Fell Runners; 11:07:29
John Vernon: 173rd; Dark Peak Fell Runners; 12:04:14
I was not at either race due a shortage of holidays - all fully used up on other events in the year. However, Nicky Spinks was first lady in the Montane Cheviot Goat while Greg Crowley did well in the Exodus 100 traverse along the Beacons Way.
Round Rotherham Run
(Rowbotham's Round Rotherham)
Saturday 12 October 2019
50 miles (80.5 km); 2,625 feet (800 m) of ascent
A trail run around Rotherham following the Rowbotham's Round Rotherham footpath mostly over farmland and rural areas on sign-posted paths, bridleways and roads with very little ascent. The weather was about perfect for running although recent rain made the going a bit muddy underfoot in places.
First Man: Ben Hague; Rotherham Harriers and AC; M; 5:57:18
First Lady: 6th overall; Sabrina Verjee; F; 7:47:41
Mick Cochrane: 57th; Dark Peak Fell Runners; MV70; 11:06:56
Steven Jones: 61st; Dark Peak Fell Runners; MV50; 11:25:39
Stephanie Watts: 65th; Dark Peak Fell Runners; F; 11:35:53
Last year Ben Hague of Rotherham Harriers and AC set a new course record by quite a margin. This year he beat his own record to bring the course record below 6 hours with an impressive time of 5 hours 57 minutes and 18 seconds. That represents an improvement of 3 minutes and 34 seconds.
Mick Cochrane was the first MV70 finisher out of 10 starters (2 DNF and 8 finishers). This was despite having a calf injury early on in the race.
This was the last race in the Runfurther 2019 series.
Runfurther Championships 2019
1st Rory Harris; M; 3,987
2nd Sabrina Verjee; F; 3,948
17th Steven Jones; MV50; Dark Peak Fell Runners; 2,700 (3rd MV50)
33rd Ian Challans; M; Dark Peak Fell Runners; 2,233 (only 3 races)
108th John Vernon; MV60; Dark Peak Fell Runners; 1,388 (only 3 races)
175th Stuart Walker; M; Dark Peak Fell Runners; 1,000 (only 1 race)
Points are awarded for the best results for a short, medium and long race in the series plus a fourth result from any category. Steven Jones was third MV50. In the team results Dark Peak Fell Runners were sixth (Steven Jones; Ian Challans; John Vernon with 6,321 points in total).
Dig Deep Ultra Trail 30
21 September 2019
30 miles (48.3); 4,554 feet (1,388 m) of ascent
The run started at Whirlow and went along Burbage Rocks and Stanage Edge and below Bamford Edge; up Parkin Clough to Win Hill; through Hope, Bradwell and Shatton; bypassing Bamford and Hathersage and up Carl Wark and back to the start. The day was unseasonally hot hampering fast running.
First Man: Marcin Zaleski; M; 4:34:20
First Lady: Fran Cummins; 7th overall; F; 5:04:03
Andrew Chester: 28th; Dark Peak Fell Runners; MV50; 6:11:23
Steven Jones: 86th; Dark Peak Fell Runners; MV50; 7:36:51
King Offa's Dyke Race
8 pm Friday 13 September 2019 to Tuesday 2 pm 17 September 2019
185 miles (297.7 km); 29,806 feet (9,085 m) of ascent (90 hour time limit)
The course follows the Offa's Dyke national trail path from near Chepstow in South Wales to Prestatyn in North Wales. The route roughly follows the boundary between England and Wales and crosses numerous counties in both England and Wales; passes several towns and villages and ascends various hills including the Black Mountains and the Clwydian Range giving a cumulative ascent and descent surpassing sea level to the summit of Everest. There was a 90 hour (6 hours short of four days) cut-off with any resting or sleeping eating into the time available.
First Man: Jack Scott 49:43:50
First Lady: 8th overall Hayley Stockwell 72:26:29
Gregory Crowley: 2nd Dark Peak Fell Runners 50:57:24
Steven Jones: Dark Peak Fell Runners DNF
The course record was set by joint winners John Knapp and Fraser Hirst in a time of 52:26:00 in 2016. In 2017 Greg Crowley won in a time of 54:54:04 and was back in 2019 to have another go (the event did not take place in 2018). Greg improved his time by nearly 4 hours but beaten to first place by Jack Scott. Steven Jones was further back in the field suffering with the heat and making slow progress. After about 84 miles he stopped for a rest at a checkpoint and woke up to find that he had been timed out!
9-11 August 2019
100.8 miles (162.2 km); 22,880 feet (6,974 m) of ascent
The first two Beacons 100 ultras started and finished in Brecon and took in the Brecon Beacons, Black Mountain to the west and the Black Mountains to the east. This year the start and end point was in Crickhowell although the route otherwise remained the same.
The race started at 8 pm on Friday 9 August 2019 with 37 runners heading north to tackle the Black Mountains. The weather forecast has put some people off with festivals and so on cancelled throughout the country. Others were said to have been deterred from taking part after doing a recce of parts of the route.
In a bout of optimism I had set off with my waterproofs in my rucksack since the weather seemed to be improving. Less than 10 minutes after setting off heavy rain started causing me to scramble to put on full waterproof covering. The delay relegated me to only one place from last position. However, on the ascent a wall of thick clouds waited as if in ambush and obscuring the summits. By the time the first summit had been reached I managed to overtake about a dozen runners as it got darker and the clag layer had been entered. The wind picked up steadily and the rain kept on incessantly although it did relent briefly to be replaced by sleet. Apart from a couple of instances of having to battle through some dense bracken the first section went well.
A few more hills followed and some road running. Checkpoint 2 preceded some canal and an easy trail section to the Talybont Reservoir. Thereafter the wind became malevolent and the exposed climb up Twyn Du offered no shelter. I could see other runners ahead being battered and blown about trying vainly to keep to a straight line. I couldn't tell if I was on a path or a waterfall on the ascent as I waded onwards remorselessly. Navigation was hindered by the driving wind and rain prompting a stooped posture with eyes half closed and semi-focused on the ground rather than looking ahead. Any exposed flesh was subjected to a painful scouring by the rain.
After Carn Pica the summit plateau would have offered good running but the severe wind made walking challenging on the approach to Waun Rydd. The long descent on the other side seemed an effort on legs weary from battling the headwinds earlier on. Some road and path sections followed into Brecon before heading south and wading along roads. I lost count of the number of large branches that fallen across the roads here brought down in the winds on the approach to Cribyn.
The wind seemed to double in intensity with each incremental advance up the mountain. The final 100 metres or so involved waiting for gaps in the gusts and lurching forwards and upwards while bracing for the next gust and half anticipating becoming airborne at any moment. Then down and up again to Pen y Fan and Corn Du before the descent to Storey Arms while being constantly buffeted by the wind.
At the Storey Arms (checkpoint 4) there was a van to sit in where I was able to tend to some chafing issues and lie down while contemplating the next stage. I was informed that I was in 8th position with only 4 runners behind me - the rest of the other competitors having retired. Shortly after I arrived two runners came in and promptly retired. Another runner came in and set off almost immediately and the final runner joined me. As we readied ourselves to push on we were held back and advised to await an announcement. Shortly after that the news came in from Race HQ that the event was being stopped on the advice of Mountain Rescue. The winds were predicted to pick up again later and on safety grounds all competitors would be stopped at their next checkpoints and taken back to base. Hence there were no finishers and at the time of stoppage only about a dozen entrants had not retired. So I missed out on three more of the Brecon Beacons mountains; the Black Mountain; the various river crossings; the marshy tussock grass and pathless terrain; more Brecon Beacons mountains; Tor y Foel and various other hills. Already I am becoming increasingly obsessed by returning next year to complete the full course in Wet Wales.
About a week after the event the organisers revised the results to show the results based upon who was still in the race when it was stopped. It had been stopped for safety reasons after 19 hours. Out of the 37 starters only 12 had not dropped out and were still in the race. How many might have reached the finish if it had continued? With the conditions and attrition rate any finisher might have achieved a podium position. At the time of the stoppage I was in 9th place. Next year's event will take place on 7-9 August 2020 with a limit of only 50 places.Entries open on 27 September 2019.
26-28 July 2019
105 miles (169 km); 22,493 feet (6,856 m) of ascent
The route starts and finishes at Coniston with a circular tour of the Lake District taking in Seathwaite, Eskdale, Wasdale Head, Black Sail Pass, Buttermere, Braithwaite, Blencathra Field Centre, Dockray, Dalemain, Howtown, Haweswater Reservoir, Kentmere, Ambleside, Chapel Stile and Coniston Fells.The route consists mainly of paths and trails.
On the Thursday record temperatures were recorded making it hard to think or walk let alone run. It was still hot when the race started the next day at 6 pm sapping strength and energy. There was no respite at all during the night and the hot and humid conditions slowed progress. During Saturday there was some welcome relief with some light rain which kept stopping and starting. With all the false starts I removed my waterproofs just in time for the rain to come down heavily but now soaked I felt invigorated and was able to move more quickly than before. However, at the Dalemain checkpoint it was fairly packed not leaving much room to have a power nap and I was well behind my planned schedule. A niggling injury and being behind my planned timetable persuaded me to DNF at that point. Sitting on the bus of shame heading back to base I reflected that I could have finished but not in the time hoped for. Maybe I should have pressed on getting closer and closer to the cut-offs towards the end and maybe finished? However, that would have exacerbated the injury and possibly led to cancelling other ultras coming up.
Finishers: 265 (256 within 40 hours)
First Man: Rory Harris; M; 21:27:05
First Lady: 22nd overall; Anna Troup; Trail Running Association; FV40; 26:19:27
David Harrison: 30th; Dark Peak Fell Runners; MV50; 27:11:29
Steven Jones: DNF; Dark Peak Fell Runners; MV50; Dalemain - stopped at 19:33:50
The finishing rate was 57.4% (55.5% for a finish within 40 hours).
Lakeland 50 selected results:
Finishers: 824 (823 within 24 hours)
First Man: Jayson Cavill; Team Montane; MV40; 7:55:42
First Lady: Bethan Male; (Joint 21st overall); Brighton Triathlon Club; F; 9:26:02
For the Lakeland 50 the finishing rate was 93.5%.
1066 100 Ultra
Saturday 6 July 2019
104.5 miles (168.2 km); 7,750 feet (2,362 m) of ascent
First Man: Simon Margot; MV40; 22:12:33
First Lady: Helen Pike (second overall); FV40; 24:01:02
The event started at the Barn Elms Sports Centre in Barnes western London at 9 am on Saturday 6 July 2019. There was a strict 32 hour cut-off - with any finishers after that time being counted as a DNF.
The route went along the Thames Path along the River Thames following the curves of the river and crossing bridges occasionally including Westminster Bridge and through the City; past Canary Wharf to Checkpoint 1 near the Isle of Dogs. It was a hot day and it was tiring in the heat running along roads and pavements. Before I got to the first checkpoint my calves seemed to seize up and were painful so I was reduced to walking.
Crossing the River Thames using a tunnel the route passed the O2 arena and continued along the River Thames in the heat until the River Darent where the route turned south towards Checkpoint 2 in Dartford. The route went along the north bank of the River Cray and various runners were seen on the south bank suggesting that they could be caught. However, it was about 2 km before the river was crossed and the route then shadowed the earlier route but along the south bank of the River Cray. I missed Checkpoint 2 and found myself catching up with people that had overtaken me much earlier. Realising the error I doubled back which was a bit frustrating but necessary.
After that there was open country and into Rochester near the castle in the dark to Checkpoint 3. The route followed the River Medway before turning south to the North Downs Way. Although cooler in the night and better for running my legs were already trashed.
Checkpoint 4 south of Maidstone was reached in daylight. After pausing for a while sort out some troublesome chafing I resumed. Other runners had come in after me and had pressed on and got a head start on me. The day was cooler and rain threatened but did not materialise. There was lots of wet grass which soaked my feet leading to blisters starting to form.
At Checkpoint 5 at Sissinghurst I was inclined to withdraw since it was obvious that I was not going to beat the cut-off but the staff there urged me on. The route had various navigational traps with a choice of paths available leading to dead ends and some doubling back was needed.
Checkpoint 6 was at Sandhurst and after that the quantity of brambles on the overgrown paths increased. The route went past Bodiam Castle which was a magnificent sight. There were more dead ends and overgrown paths.
I had been trying to beat the 32 hour cut-off and increasing my pace after Checkpoint 4. However, with 6 miles to go it was apparent that finishing in 32 hours was not going to be possible (particularly with the paths being quite overgrown with some aggressive brambles) so I eased off to a walk to plod into the finish at Battle Abbey in Battle but with a final sprint to finish off. The refreshments at the finish had been cleared away and just the organisers and a few stragglers remained.
I finished in a time of 32 hours and 44 minutes. However, due to the strict cut-off I was not going to be recorded as a finisher and my name would not appear on the list of finishers. The next edition of the event will take place in 2021 (or possibly 2022) with a reduced distance of 100 miles to avoid some of the more overgrown paths and with a cut-off itself reduced to 30 hours.
Kong 10 Peaks The Lakes - short course
Saturday 29 June 2019
26.7 miles (43 km); 11,000 feet (3,352 m) of ascent (aproximate)
Since I was not there the details are brief. A tough course in the Lake District similar to the long course route which visits the ten highest peaks in the area. The short course omits Scafell, Pillar and Skiddaw and replaces them with Green Gable, High Spy and Maiden Moor. Mike Robinson (MV40) from Dark Peak Fell Runners not only came first in a time of 7:28:25 but was nearly an hour quicker than the runner in second place.
Summer Spine Races
22 June 2019
The summer versions of the Spine Race and Spine Challenger covering the same route but in more favourable conditions. The full 268 mile race is called the Spine Fusion while the shorter version is called the Spine Flare.
Sabrina Verjee was first lady and the overall winner in a time of 81:19:07. She set a new lady's record and in doing so became the first lady to be the outright winner of the Spine Fusion. Gregory Crowley of Dark Peak Fell Runners was the second man to finish and third overall with a time of 93:22:25.
Dragon's Back Race
Monday 20 May 2019 to Friday 24 May 2019
195 miles (315 km); 50,852 feet (15,500 m) of ascent
A stage race over a few hills in Wales. Parts of the route are over wild, trackless, remote and mountainous terrain. It is said to be the toughest 5 day mountain running race in the world.
Daily statistics are as follows:
First Man: Galen Reynolds; M; 37:48:06
First Lady: 9th overall; Lisa Watson; F; Dark Peak Fell Runners; 44:33:23
Mike Robinson: 38th; MV; Dark Peak Fell Runners; 50:03:57
James Lowe: 51st; M; Dark Peak Fell Runners; 52:22:41
Gregory Crowley: 78th; MV; Dark Peak Fell Runners; 56:18:01
Steven Jones: 203rd; MV; Dark Peak Fell Runners; 68:09:45
Benjamin Robson: 213th; MV; Dark Peak Fell Runners; 70:36:29
Registration; kit check; pre-race briefings and buffet were all dealt with on the Sunday. A well co-ordinated team was on hand to deal with the various tasks to ensure that participants were registered and sorted out.
Day 1 - Monday
Everyone gathered in Conwy Castle with a pent up desire to get going. At 7 am the race started with the runners streaming along the castle walls and to the dibbing point to record a starting time. This ensured that those at the back were not disadvantaged. It took some time for the crowds to thin out and the early stiles presented bottlenecks giving those who had run up the first slope a chance to catch their breath. The day started out overcast with mist on the tops. The route gradually became rockier with each ascent and descent more demanding than the one before. The route visited most of the summits of the Welsh 3,000's. Firstly the magnificent Carneddau range was traversed which is a superb broad ridge for the connoisseur. As the day wore on the temperatures increased making the going tougher. Some restraint was required to avoid going too quickly to keep something in reserve for the rest of the day and, indeed, the rest of the week. Water and drop-bags were available at Llyn Ogwen prior to tackling Tryfan and the shattered summit of The Glyders (The Glyderau). By the time the Pen y Pass checkpoint was reached many runners were also feeling shattered. With a bit of spare time before the cut-off I made use of the cafe at the Youth Hostel to refresh myself. Getting up off the chair seemed to involve quite an effort before resuming the quest. The airy ridge scramble of Crib Goch was exhilarating as I ran along the rocky top causing some marshals to become anxious as they urged me to go a bit more cautiously. After Snowdon and Y Lliwedd it was practically all downhill to the finish for the day. However, from the top the outlying peak of Gallt y Wenallt seemed a long way off and after that it was still some way to go on weary legs. The campsite was at Hafod Y Llan at Nant Gwynant where runners shared pre-erected tents for 8 people. Drop-bags were available for overnight equipment and to re-supply for the next day. Food was provided in the evening and again in the morning. A group of Dark Peak Fell Runners had congregated and all had survived the first day.
Day 2 - Tuesday
For each of days 2 to 5 there was a rolling start. Slower competitors were advised to start early to give more time to beat the cut-offs. Faster runners had more time to rest and recuperate.
The route for day 2 tackled some rocky and rugged terrain in Southern Snowdonia on the way to Dolgellau including the Moelwynion and Rhinogydd (The Moelwyns and the Rhinogs). Near the summit of Cnicht Lisa Watson came sprinting past at a pace that seemed astonishing to me. It was hotter today than yesterday and the terrain more rugged with lots of pathless terrain slowing progress. Despite being in the mountains of Wales there was still no hint of rain. The day ended in the tents at a campsite near Dolgellau after a tough day.
Day 3 - Wednesday
I set off from the campsite at a run buoyed by optimism and exuberance. I managed to keep this up for just over a kilometre before subsiding into a walk. The two previous days seemed to have sapped some of my strength and energy but at least I was still moving. A long slog lead to the magnificent Cadair Idris with superb examples of glacial features although swirling mist obscured some of the view. After this there were quite a few more hills which seemed unrelenting. On the descent of Tarren y Gesail and looking south Machynlleth seemed a long way off. It dawned on me that I was going to be timed-out unless I ran the rest of the way. Fortunately it was mostly downhill but involved more effort than was comfortable. All morning I had been fantasising about getting to Machynlleth well ahead of the cut-off and pausing for a hearty meal and refreshing milkshakes; coffee and cake; ice creams and so on.
On the outskirts of the town it was apparent that I would have to run all the way to the checkpoint without pausing and certainly no chance of visiting a cafe. As I passed a shop at a garage some gravitational forces caught hold of me bringing me back into the orbit of the shop and propelled me through the door. To escape the pull of forces within the shop I was compelled to purchase a few pies and a couple of bottles of pop. Having lost a few precious minutes there was now an increased desperation and urgency to run on to the checkpoint. The goodies were consumed along the way and I arrived at the checkpoint with less than three minutes to spare. I ran through without pausing for my drop-bag and continued on the route. There were still many miles to go and plenty of hills and rough terrain to cross. After the summit of Pen Plumlumon Fawr it was downhill to the campsite. On the last steep hill I ran flat out enjoying the steep descent and trying to get to the finish before dark. Resting at the campsite later my legs stiffened up complaining about the last descent which I should have perhaps done more slowly to preserve my legs for the last two days. It was good to rest and chat with Mike Robinson who had been doing well.
Day 4 - Thursday
The hills were now smaller and there were some road sections for those who like running on the flat. The grass tussocks of the Elan Valley provided welcome respite from the roads. The Elan Valley Hotel provided a very welcome chance to rest, refill water bottles, apply liberal amounts of suncream, eat and drink (two pints of milk shake, a pint of diet coke and a pint of orange juice all went down quickly) before continuing to the checkpoint about a kilometre down the road. The checkpoint staff seemed a little surprised that I didn't want access to my drop-bag or to top up my water bottles. I pressed on admiring the views of the Cabban-coch Reservoir along the way. The moorland plateau of the Cambrian Mountains featured Drygarn Fawr before a descent through bluebell woods. There followed a hideous road section in the heat. Walking along the valley along the road I was admiring the hills to the side and wishing that the route went along the tops where I would be more inspired to run. Fortunately the route went back into hills with the bonus of marshy ground. More roads followed and eventually the campsite near to the Towy Bridge Inn at Rhandirmwyn.
Day 5 - Friday
The event continued along roads in rural South Wales before going back to paths and trails over a few small hills. More roads followed and some trails to the Usk Reservoir checkpoint. After this things became more interesting with an ascent of The Black Mountain and the summit trig of Fan Brycheiniog with the spectacular views which continued to the summit trig of Carreg Y Ogof. Before reaching this summit the sky had turned black and heavy rain was inevitable. I got my waterproofs on before the deluge started but it never materialised and the rain was fairly light and lasted for about half an hour. This was the first and only rain of the whole week! The route continued over some rough terrain and seemed to go on forever but I reached the final cut-off checkpoint of the day in good time. Just two more minor summits then a final descent before the route reverted to roads and following paths across rural land. It was hard to get motivated on the final road section so I just plodded along at a brisk walk. There was a buffet at the end and presentation of trophies to all finishers (all the Dark Peak Fell Runners finished successfully). After a final night of camping there was a coach service to take the runners back to Conwy where most had parked their cars.
The weather was warm and sunny throughout apart from a brief spell of rain on day 5.
Overall it was a superb event to take part in with some spectacular and glorious scenery. Despite being tough it was enjoyable from start to finish with a variety of terrain to run over and vistas to take in. I could probably have finished in a quicker time. But how? Maybe going a bit slower over the first two days and then picking up the pace on the flatter more runnable sections later on? Or maybe going faster earlier on to build up a bit of a lead? However, it is a five day race and some restraint is needed. As one competitor put it when they dropped out on day four "If you are blacking out, then that is the time to stop." Lisa Watson seemed to have got it right by gradually working her way into the lead on day four and then increasing her lead on the final day.
Saturday 11 May 2019
32.9 miles (53.0 km); 3,986 feet (1,215 m) of ascent (approximate figures although the Chesterfield Round Walk is stated as 34 miles (54.7 km) and the ultra is based on that route with some minor modifications). Some pleasant running through bluebell woods and countryside with a bit of rural circumnavigating Chesterfield.
First Man: Kevin Hoult; 4:30:42 (new course record)
First Lady: 12th overall; Karen Nash: 5:57:37 (new ladies course record)
Ian Challans: 8th; Dark Peak Fell Runners; 5:43:25
Steven Jones: 20th; Dark Peak Fell Runners; 6:20:52
The weather was kind on the day; starting on the warm side but cooling later. As the day progressed some dark clouds prowled the skies and the heavy rain held off until a few minutes after I had finished which was fortuitous.
Saturday 27 April 2019
61 miles; 11,000'
There was a variation of the route for 2019. From checkpoint 15 at Fleet Moss it was necessary to take a diversion downhill following a road and along a valley before climbing back up towards checkpoint 16 at Middle Tongue. Apart from adding about another mile to the route and extra ascent it meant traipsing along on tarmac rather than the rather more pleasant and interesting bogs and mud that regular participants of the Fellsman enjoy so much. I found the road section disheartening but was rejuvenated when rejoining the fells and wading around in the tangled vegetation.
The weather was fairly reasonable. Some folks didn't enjoy the heavy hailstorm late in the afternoon but they were compensated with a relatively warm night. The ground conditions were fairly moist as might be expected for this event.
Fastest Man: Stuart Walker; Dark Peak Fell Runners; 11:18
Fastest Lady: 7th overall; Sabrina Verjee; 12:23
Chris Lawson: 109th; Dark Peak Fell Runners; 19:03
Steven Jones: 116th; Dark Peak Fell Runners; 19:44
Sarah Jones-Morris: Joint 132nd; Dark Peak Fell Runners; 21:10
Neil Drake: Joint 134th; Dark Peak Fell Runners; 21:26
Richard Needham: Joint 147th; Dark Peak Fell Runners; 22:11
John Vernon: 204th; Dark Peak Fell Runners; 26:34
Saturday 13 April 2019
36.3 miles (58.4 km); 6,234 feet (1,927 m) of ascent
The official ascent details do not seem to be tie up with the conversions: 6,234 feet equates to 1,900 m and 1,927 m equates to 6,322 feet!!!
Starters: 72+1 = 73
Finishers: 70+1 = 71
First Man: Rory Harris; Stockport; 5:09
First Lady: 6th overall; Sabrina Verjee; Ambleside; 6:24
Ian Challans: 20th; Lincoln; DPFR; 7:25
Steven Jones: Joint 25th; Leicester; DPFR; 8:04
There were also walkers on the long course and a shorter course of just under 26 miles for both runners and walkers. The fastest walker on the 36 mile course was Rick Clarke from Branhall in a time of 9:07. The fastest 26 mile runner was Matt Bennett from Heague in a time of 4:57.
The weather was reasonable - warm at the start but cooling down later and a stiff breeze throughout which always seemed to blowing towards me all day. The dry ground conditions and lack of rain made the running more enjoyable and this was further aided by the good visibility.
Lakes Mountain 42
Saturday 30 March 2019
42 miles (67.6 km); 10,387 feet (3,166 m) of ascent (approximate figures)
Starting at Askham the route visited the summits of Loadpot Hill and High Street before passing Angle Tarn on the way to Patterdale. A steady trail up Grisedale led to Grisedale Tarn then a rocky path continued down to a fast track to the Wythburn Church car park. The ascent of Helvellyn took the race to the highest point of the course then along to Whiteside before descending to Glenridding and back past Patterdale. Place Fell was the final peak to be tackled before a return to the start via Martindale Church.
First Man: Josh Wade; M; 7:05:08
First Lady: 11th overall; Sabrina Verjee; F; 8:23:20
Mike Robinson: 8th; DPFR; MV40; 8:10:48
Steven Jones: 82nd; DPFR; MV50; 10:43:46
John Vernon: 143rd; DPFR; MV60; 14:01:56
Duncan Marsh: DNF - Patterdale Return; DPFR; MV40
The race started at 6 am while the weather was a bit chilly but with the slow steady ascent from Askham things soon warmed up. Visibility throughout the day was good apart from some of the tops which were embraced with clag. The scenery on the route is excellent and is a welcome reward for the hard work of the ups and downs of the route. After Grisedale Tarn there appeared to be some entrants well off-route as they descended obliquely to join the path that I was on. It turned out that they were a group from Dark Peak doing a BGR recce and it was good to have a quick chat with them on the way.
For the final mile or so I had been lagging behind a few other runners trying desperately to catch up and maybe overtake them. They eased ahead on the final small ascent before the long descent back to Askham. With the benefit of the slope to aid me I put in a final sustained effort to get almost within touching distance of them before they also speeded up. Not to be outdone I increased the pace to maximum and managed to overtake most of them before staggering to the finish. I collapsed in a heap on the floor as the others strolled past to sample the soup, bread and cakes, etc. It was about ten minutes before I was able to prise myself off the floor and join them. A superb day out. Mike Robinson had run well and finished more than two hours ahead of me with a top ten finish.
Saturday 9 March 2019
32 miles (51.5 km); 4,400 feet (1,341 m) of ascent
Finishers: 295 singles and pairs (340 runners in total)
First Man: Rory Harris; M35; 4:22:59
First Lady: 28th overall; Lorraine Slater; F45; Barlick; 5:06:30 **
Steven Jones: 134th; M55; Dark Peak Fell Runners; 6:17:58
** = running as part of a pair
The Haworth Hobble is a race for singles or pairs with mostly single runners taking part. During the event there were hot dogs, doughnuts, whisky and other refreshments.
There were no details of the number of starters and those who retired.There were certainly some runners who retired but without those details it is not possible to state the number of starters.
There was a very stiff breeze to start with and sideways rain. The wind caused large waves on the first reservoir which would not have been out of place in the North Sea. The conditions eased off later to my dismay since I had been enjoying the wild weather and had been hoping for things to deteriorate. The shot-blasting by hailstones provided modest consolation for the sun coming out.
There are three versions of the Spine Races. The Spine Race itself follows the entire Pennine Way from Edale to Kirk Yetholm in Scotland. The shorter Spine Challenger starts at Edale but stops at Hardraw. The Spine Challenger MRT is the same as the Spine Challenger but is solely for active members of rescue teams. The races commence at different times which reduces crowding and checkpoints being inundated with runners. The Spine Challenger started at 8 am on Saturday 12 January 2019 with the Spine MRT Challenge starting half an hour later. With the first wave of runners out of the way the organisers could register and kit check the rest of the runners enabling the Spine Race to start at 8 am on Sunday 13 January 2019.
No support was allowed for the runners other than a drop-bag being transported by the organisers to checkpoints along the route.
The races have quite a reputation for being brutal due to the harsh winter conditions; the terrain and the darkness. Nevertheless they attract entrants from around the world.
Saturday 12 January 2019 to Monday 14 January 2019
108 miles (174 km); 18,550 feet (5,654 m) of ascent
60 hours maximum time limit
First Man: Jim Mann; 22:53:28 (new course record)
First Lady and 6th overall: Carol Morgan; 31:47:37
Simon Bourne: 4th; Dark Peak Fell Runners; 30:20:20
Jennifer Scotney: 3rd lady and 12th overall; Dark Peak Fell Runners; 38:53:16
Jim Mann set a new course record beating the previous best time by 2 hours 48 minutes and 53 seconds. A very impressive time indeed.
Spine Challenger MRT
Saturday 12 January 2019 to Monday 14 January 2019
108 miles (174 km); 18,550 feet (5,654 m) of ascent
60 hours maximum time limit
First Man: Joe Farnell; 32:25:18
First Lady (only lady finisher) and joint 7th overall: Jane Hilton; 51:31:36
Jack Swindells: Retired; Dark Peak Fell Runners
Gregory Crowley: Retired; Dark Peak Fell Runners
Sunday 13 January 2019 to Sunday 20 January 2019
261.3 miles (420.5 km); 43,733 feet (13,330 m) of ascent
168 hour time limit
First Lady and 1st overall: Jasmin Paris; 83:12:23 (new course record)
First Man: 2nd overall; Eoin Keith; 98:18:23
Steven Jones: 44th man and 47th overall; Dark Peak Fell Runners; 152:21:37
Jasmin Paris set a new course record of 83:12:23. The previous record was set by Eoin Keith in 2016 in a time of 95:17:00 and remains the fastest time for the male category. Jasmin's outstanding result beats Eoin's best time by 12 hours 4 minutes and 37 seconds. Her achievement is all the more remarkable given that she was breastfeeding during the race and expressed milk at four of the five checkpoints. Jasmin's winning time which was 15 hours ahead of the next runner made headlines around the world. Meanwhile, somewhat further behind my recollection of the event is set out below.
The Spine Race started at 8 am following the Pennine Way over Kinder Scout, Bleaklow, Black Hill, Standedge, the M62, past various reservoirs and Stoodley Pike and on to the Hebden Hey checkpoint. The day started with a bit of rain and wind and progressed to gale force winds as the day wore on. At times it was hard to even stand up let alone try to run in a straight line which slowed progress and sapped energy. Along the way there was plenty of wading through streams and rivers. By the time I got to Stoodley Pike my legs were soaked and I was suffering from a lot of chafing. At the Hebden Hey checkpoint there was plenty of food and hot drinks and time to recuperate including a full 90 minutes of sleep in a bunk bed.
After eating more and messing about sorting kit out I set off into the night. Plodding along over Oakworth Moor I was falling asleep on my feet and trying to stay upright. There were refreshments at Lothersdale which revived me a bit and with the daylight things seemed better. By the time that I got to the Malham Tarn checkpoint it was already dark. I was already behind in my planned schedule so didn't stay long although my urgency arose mainly from the weather warning at the checkpoint. Gale force winds were forecast to build up within the next few hours. Fountains Fell was tackled with the wind picking up. On the ascent of Pen-y-ghent the wind was battering me and threatening to pluck me off the rocks adding to the sense of adventure. Having passed the summit the descent was fairly tame but went on and on. At the cafe at Horton-in-Ribblesdale (open all night for the Spine Race) there was a chance to sit and enjoy some welcome refreshments. I was by then in about 34th place so doing reasonably well although feeling tired. I dozed with my head on the table as other runners came in and went out again to overtake me. I continued to doze and had more to eat and drink. When I finally managed to drag myself to my feet and leave I had been there about an hour and a half but felt better for it although a bit cold from just sitting and not moving. In order to warm up I broke into a run and kept going which allowed me to regain some of the places lost while resting. Along the Cam Road the wind was howling and making a terrible racket. Wading through the wet and muddy conditions my feet were getting waterlogged and I could feel blisters coming on. In the wild weather stopping to sort my feet out was not my priority and I wanted to get to the next checkpoint. My legs refused to move as quickly as I wanted them to but I finally got to the Hawes checkpoint even further behind my own planned schedule.
Eating and resting at the checkpoint was good and I allowed myself 90 minutes of sleep in a bunk bed there which was superb. The checkpoint is small and was crammed with lots of competitors, checkpoint staff and medics who sorted out my blisters enabling me to continue. One final task before departing was to sort out kit amongst the mountain of drop-bags and limited space to find things. A well-ordered drop-bag can save lots of time and effort and I resolved that next time I would strive to be more organised. I finally left the checkpoint mid-morning whereas my plan had been to set-off around 4 am. The schedule was slipping but I was still moving forward.
Great Shunner Fell is a great big lump of a hill which climbs gradually but this means the journey to the top is further. The descent on the other side was welcome though giving scope for a bit of running. A photographer there took some photos and I challenged him to a race down and he sped off ahead of me. Approaching Thwaite my anticipation of cake and hot chocolate at the delightful cafe was growing in intensity. The notice on the door proclaimed that it was closed for the winter but open again in spring! I consoled myself with a packet of Eccles cakes and some cold water before resuming the journey plodding on to the Tan Hill Inn. Suitably refreshed there and having some blisters attended to by medics enabled me to continue north over the soggy Sleightholme Moor; under the A66 underpass and more moorland to checkpoint 3 at Middleton-in-Teesdale. The food there was excellent and presented with a choice I found it easier to have one of each of the main meals offered plus cake and copious hot liquids. 90 minutes in a bunk bed was good; more would have been better but the clock does not sleep so I got up and went back to the rest area to eat again. At the time I thought that I could be happy sitting there for a hundred years but there was a race to run so it was time to put the cold, damp and muddy shoes back on and head out onto the next leg. It was already daylight as I left and passed other runners coming in. They must have been going all night and would now be faced with sleeping and missing some of the limited daylight or pressing on again with hardly any rest at all. I did feel sorry for them and hoped that they would be okay.
The next section has some interesting scenery to occupy a weary mind and body - Low Force, High Force, Cauldron Snout and High Cup Nick. Before I reached the last of these there was a sharp pain in my right achilles tendon which was a concern to me. It got worse as I went on and I ignored it hoping it would go away. Fortunately towards the end of the day it had not developed into anything more serious. The cafe at Dufton was a welcome place to rest and eat prior to the long slog up Knock Old Man and beyond. The icy summits of Great Dun Fell, Little Dun Fell and Cross Fell were not places to hang around and linger. I increased my pace to get it over and done with while trying to avoid the frozen puddles and pools which sometimes bore my weight and at other times the ice broke causing me to wade around in the icy water. The strong breeze gave me an incentive to get off the tops as quickly as possible and down to Greg's Hut for a chance of a hot drink and a chat with the nice people there. After that it was the long slog along a stony track to Garrigill and a few more miles across mainly farmland to checkpoint 4 at the YHA at Alston. More food and 90 minutes of sleep in a bunk bed partially rejuvenated me.
After having some blisters attended to by medics and eating the mission resumed. However, after just a few miles a blister on my heel was causing me to limp badly so I stabbed it with a penknife which allowed the fluid to drain and progress to continue. I had been looking forward to running along Hadrian's Wall in the daylight but by the time I got there it was already dark. Nevertheless it was interesting going along it before heading north across moorland. It was in the forests that drowsiness started to take hold and I was stumbling around sleepwalking and sleeprunning. From time to time I would jerk awake just as I was about to fall. It was as if time stood still and all the trees looked the same. Had I been going around in circles and making no progress at all? No, it was that the ill-defined path lacked variety. On one occasion I awoke with a start thinking that I was in a supermarket and I was in a panic because I could not find the frozen peas aisle. Gradually it dawned on me that I was still on the Spine Race so I kept trudging forward. Out of the forest and across moorland there appeared to be someone watching me - safety crew perhaps? But why the fishing rod? There wasn't even a stream or pond there. As I got closer they disappeared only to re-appear further along the route several times. At the Horneystead Farm there was a sign stating "Pennine Way Pit Stop" which was sufficiently persuasive to draw me in. There were welcome refreshments there and seating with a box for voluntary donations towards the items on offer. A comfy chair took me prisoner and prevented me from leaving. I stayed there in a torpor for quite a while as other competitors came and went. Eventually I was able to escape from the comfy chair but the inactivity had led me becoming a bit chilled. To warm up I set off at a brisk pace towards checkpoint 5 at Bellingham along fairly easy terrain. It was already light when I arrived at the checkpoint. I ate, sorted some kit out and had medical attention for the blisters and was given anti-biotics for a developing chest infection (to carry around if things get worse but I was able to finish without resorting to them). There were no bunk beds at this checkpoint but I was lucky enough to find a spare settee to sleep on for 90 minutes.
I set off in deteriorating weather and had not got far before darkness fell. Forest tracks take away the need for careful navigation and enable a runner or walker to doze off with either one or other or even both eyes closed to rest while moving forward. From time to time the edge of the path is veered into causing wakefulness if only for a few seconds. Amazingly I was able to stay upright and not fall over although there were quite a few near misses. A couple of times I brushed the snow off large clumps of heather to sprawl on them briefly to rest before resuming the journey. There was chance to sit down at the Byrness intermediate checkpoint and eat but there was a time limit for stopping there of 30 minutes. I left feeling fatigued with blisters on aching feet and throbbing and aching knees. The forecast was high winds, snow and bad weather on the Cheviots and I didn't feel in a fit state to continue. I was dead tired and found a pleasant graveyard to sleep in and resolved to sleep until I woke up rather than set a time limit. About four or five hours of sleep went some way to improving my condition. The ascent onto a ridge warmed me up and I was encouraged that by now there was only about 25 miles to the finish. The route briefly crossed into Scotland before passing some Roman camps and at Hut 1 it was already daylight. The friendly checkpoint staff there included a medic so another chance to reduce the problems with blisters and rest a bit. A few other competitors came and went so I lost a few more places but at that stage I was thinking more of finishing rather than anything else. The worst of the weather had been in the night and weather was now calm with good visibility over the frozen terrain. My speed was limited by the pain in my feet and knees and also general tiredness. At Hut 2 I was greeted by a media scrum which was unexpected and interesting. A hot drink and a chat lifted my spirits along with the thought that it was now only about 6 miles to the finish. Also, there was another runner about half an hour ahead of me. I tried to run as best as I could and as I started the descent from the ridge I saw someone ahead which caused me to quicken my pace. Looking back he spotted me and he also quickened his pace. Apparently he had seen my bright yellow hat and for future events perhaps I will use camouflage for the final stages of a race. With the twists and turns in the route he was in view at times and at other times out of sight. During the times of lost visual contact I put on spurts of speed to try and sneak up on him. He seemed to be using the same tactics because the gap was not closing very much. There was a final uphill road section that slowed me down but after that it was all downhill. I saw him and burst into a run but he saw me and did the same. I was gaining but the finish was just around the corner. A final mad sprint to the finish enabled me to get within striking distance of victory. In the end we both touched the wall of the Border Hotel at the same time to both finish after 152 hours 21 minutes and 37 seconds after leaving Edale the previous Sunday. When the final results came out an hour had been added on to his time (presumably due to a time penalty) so the final sprint had not been necessary but had nevertheless been fun and good to finish in style.
During the course of the event I met some great people - both fellow competitors and event staff. It was a pleasure meeting them all; running with some; walking with others and being looked after by others.
I have already signed up for next year's event.
Tour de Helvellyn
Saturday 15 December 2018
Shortened bad weather course
26.8 miles (43.1 km); 6,030 feet (1,838 m) of ascent - from GPS data
Due to forecast nasty weather and the likelihood of things deteriorating significantly and risking runners being stranded on the wrong side of a mountain range the organiser invoked a bad weather course. This followed the normal course from Askham passing St Peter's Church near Martindale and Patterdale but involved a U-turn before the top of Sticks Pass and a return to the start following the outward route. The route therefore missed out Swirls car park on the other side of Helvellyn; Birkside Ghyll; Raise Beck and Grisedale Tarn but meant runners got to tuck into the soup and other goodies back at base earlier than planned which as the weather worsened seemed welcome.
As the day progressed the winds grew stronger and the driving rain stung like thousands of tiny needles.
First Man: Adam Perry; M; 3:45:20
First Lady: 14th overall; Sabrina Verjee; F; 4:24:18
David Harrison: 25th; Dark Peak Fell Runners; MV50; 4:39:06
Clare Oliffe: 33rd; Dark Peak Fell Runners; F; 4:46:46
Steven Jones: 137th; Dark Peak Fell Runners; MV50; 6:13:34
Round Rotherham Run
(Rowbotham's Round Rotherham)
Saturday 20 October 2018
50 miles (80.5 km); 2,625 feet (800 m) of ascent
A trail run around Rotherham following the Rowbotham's Round Rotherham footpath mostly over farmland and rural areas on sign-posted paths, bridleways and roads with very little ascent. The weather was about perfect for running being a bit chilly early on and warming up as the day went on. Mostly clear skies were augmented with some friendly clouds that never once threatened rain.
First Man: Ben Hague; M; Rotherham Harriers and AC; 6:00:52
First Lady: 24th overall; Karen Nash; FV50; FRA; 8:41:15
Steven Jones: 48th; MV50; Dark Peak Fell Runners; 9:57:38
Mick Cochrane: 61st; MV70; Dark Peak Fell Runners; 10:30:33
John Vernon: 136th; MV60; Dark Peak Fell Runners; 14:54:42
Mick Cochrane was the first MV70 finisher out of 12 starters (2 DNF and 10 finishers).
There was a new Race HQ this year at the Manvers Waterfront Boat Club at Wath upon Dearne north of Rotherham. There was the option to sleep at the event centre on the Friday night to avoid a very early morning and travelling prior to the race. I opted for this and slept on the floor in a room containing another runner who was snoring like a rather old tractor long overdue for a service struggling up a particularly steep slope. The lights went on early on the Saturday giving plenty of time to get ready and watch the 6 am wave of starters depart. They were all reeled in and overtaken later when I set off in the 7 am wave of starters.
The weather was ideal for running - a bit chilly in the morning at the start but warming up later with clear skies and no rain. It was dry underfoot facilitating fast running. Indeed, nearly 17 minutes were taken off the course record. The new record of 6 hours no minutes and 52 seconds was set by Ben Hague of Rotherham Harriers and AC. This was more than an hour faster than the finishing time last year in 2017.
This was the last race in the Runfurther 2018 series.
Runfurther Championships 2018
In the individual results John Vernon of Dark Peak Fell Runners was third MV60.
1st Team Krypton - Karen Nash; Nick Ham; Robert Nash; 8,383
2nd Mercia Fell Runners - David Chetta; Dick Scroop; Stewart Bellamy; 6,444
3rd Horwich RMI Harriers - Andy Ford; Albert Sunter; Josie Greenhalgh; 6,290
4th Dark Peak Fell Runners - Steven Jones; Stuart Walker; John Vernon; 6,287
Dark Peak Fell Runners were very nearly third being just 4 points short of overtaking Horwich RMI Harriers. A new course record on the final race reduced the scope to gain extra points and leap into third place.
Saturday 6 October 2018
50 miles (80.5 km); 8,000 feet (2,438 m) of ascent
Starting from the Old Cardington Lane at 1 pm on the Saturday the route visits the summits of Caer Caradoc and the Lawley before Pole Bank (part of the Long Mynd), the Stiperstones and Earls Hill and then over the border into Wales to the top of Corndon Hill. Back in England Black Rhadley Hill is tackled before going back up the Long Mynd to Pole Cottage prior to the final ascent up Ragleth Hill before finishing in Church Stretton in the dark (or after sunrise for the slower participants). Compulsory grouping applies after dark with participants grouped into at least threes.
Finishers: 419 (417 within 24 hours)
First Man: Pete Vale; 8:11
First Lady: 6th overall; Mel Price; 8:52
Steven Jones: 66th; 13:08; Dark Peak Fell Runners
Trevor Matty: Joint 123rd; 14:56; Dark Peak Fell Runners
The weather was dry but it nearly rained on the Stiperstones when the wind picked up and the temperature dropped. Some frost was observed in the night.
7th October 2018
Report by Simon Allen.
43 miles (69km), 5413ft (1650m) of ascent.
This is a point to point trail ultra that runs from Ashbourne in the far South of the White Peak along the fully signed Limestone Way path through the White Peak to Hope where the Dark and White Peak meet.
This undulating route starts at the entrance to the Tissington Trail in Ashbourne, and follows the trail just past Tissington itself, then leaves the Tissington Trail and heads across to the village of Parwich. From here the views of the White Peak begin to open up as the route follows the Limestone Way to Bonsall where the first of three checkpoints en-route is located. After dibbing in, the route takes us to Youlgreave via Winster and Robin Hood's Stride with great views of the Hermit's Cave and Nine Stones Close stone circle. From Youlgreave the route heads to the second checkpoint at Monyash Village Hall, via the picturesque riverside path up Bradford Dale, then down a steep limestone staircase into Lathkill Dale. Leaving Monyash the route progresses along the most laborious section of the whole race, a long climb along a roadside path to the outskirts of Chelmorton via Flagg. Joining the trail again the route heads down a steep wooden staircase into Miller's Dale. Here the race diverts off the Limestone Way, heading to Wheston then rejoining it at Hay Dale for a last mile or two, before it reaches the third and final checkpoint at Peak Forest Reading Rooms. From here the route climbs onto Old Moor and descends into Castleton via Cave Dale. After a brief section of road through Castleton the route takes the riverside path along Peakshole Water to Hope. From St Peter's Church in Hope the route double-backs along Castleton Road to the finish line at Hope Sports Club.
The weather was cool and sunny, with a ground frost in the first half hour of the race. This was in stark contrast to the 2017 event where the check point cut-offs had to be extended, as much of the route was muddy or water-logged, and visibility was low due to mist for much of the day. This year was mainly dry underfoot making for a faster race. Even the Cave Dale descent was dry enough to be runnable with tired legs, 41 miles into the race.
First Man: Tim Perry MSEN Unattached 6:21:03
First Lady: 13th overall Alli Grundy W40 Unattached 7:58:52
Simon Allen: 33rd M40 Dark Peak Fell Runners 8:52:03
There was also a Half Limestone Way Trail Run which ran the final 17 mile (27.5km) leg of the race from Monyash to Hope with 1965ft (599m) of ascent.
Cumbria Way Ultra
Saturday 15 September 2018
73 miles (117.5 km); 10,000 feet (3,048 m) of ascent
Starting in Ulverston the course follows the Cumbria Way through the middle of the Lake District past Coniston Water; along the Langdale valley; up to Stake Pass; through Keswick; past Skiddaw House via the Latrigg Car Park; to the summit of High Pike; down to Caldbeck; through Dalston and finally to the finish inside Carlisle Castle. The race starts in darkness and all but the fastest runners finish in the dark too. Along with solo runners there were relay teams of either two or five per team for those wishing to spread the journey between several runners. The results below represent just the solo runners.
First Man: Jacob Snochowski; Ambleside AC; 12:15:00
First Lady: Sabrina Verjee; 3rd overall; 13:45:50
Steven Jones: 61st; Dark Peak Fell Runners; 21:29:56
There was also a 30 mile version of the event starting in Keswick and finishing inside Carlisle Castle. There were 37 starters and finishers with no DNF's. The results for that are:
First Man: James Chapman; Northern Fells Running Club; 4:39:34
First Lady: 2nd overall; Louise Stubbings; 4:56:20
The weather was mild and no rain giving good conditions for running.
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