Daily Archives: September 18, 2016

Stumbling through the Fat Boys Stanage Struggle Fell Race

Let’s play scruples.  Should you let the truth get in the way of a good story?  Tough one for me.  Also a continuum, as, without venturing into territory more suited to ‘Thought for the day’ or worse still ‘The Moral Maze’, I don’t believe there is such a thing as an absolute objective truth.  It’s very nuanced, it all depends on context, point of view and the extent to which being constrained by accepted conventions of ‘truth’ will spoil an otherwise perfectly good anecdote.  Your call.

So, bearing this in mind, did you know that the Peak District is the second-most visited national park in the world after Mount Fuji?  No, me neither. This was the helpful fact with which one of the marshals greeted me on arrival at the school playground of Hathersage Saint Michael’s Primary School.  It is this kind of commitment to friendly and informative customer care that torpedoes the Fat Boys Stanage Struggle Fell Race to one of my favourite runs of the year.  Top tip for organising committees elsewhere I feel.   When you are evaluating your event afterwards, as well as counting out all the money and laughing at the photos, ask yourself whether you paid enough attention to providing titbits of tourist information to your race participants.  You might be missing a trick.  Why not postcards for sale as well next year?  Even a special post box and sorting office stamp, like they have in Lapland, so runners can write ‘wish you were here’ messages and post them out to prove they were there, part of an occassion bigger than themselves, that kind of thing.  (I think they do in Lapland, I’ve never been, but they must do, surely?)

So, this post is all about The Fat Boys Stanage Struggle Fell Race.  This was always going to have a certain appeal to me, call me shallow (if not svelte) but I am massively encouraged to see that there is an event being organised by a running club that goes by the name of ‘Fat Boys Running Club’.  It does suggest a broadly (pun intended) inclusive approach to the delivery of a fell race.  This could be one for me!  Here is the picture of the course.  Looking at this picture, I was quite taken with those lovely flat, green, fields in the foreground, and maybe didn’t pay quite enough attention to Stanage Edge way, way ahead high up on the horizon.  Oh well, I’d never enter these things if I was able to fully comprehend what I was about to take on, and just think what I’d have missed out on!  Heaven portend!

fat-boys-stanage-struggle-fell-race

Oh hang on, I’m jumping ahead of myself.  For those of you too daunted by the cutting edge technology that is the interweb to google it for yourself, the blah de blah on the Stanage Struggle website describes the event as follows:

The Fat Boys Stanage Struggle passes through beautiful Peak District countryside  beginning in the village of Hathersage the route progresses via track, grass, path and moorland up onto Stanage Edge, out to High Neb, with a quick downhill return leg on very runnable ground back to the village.

The Struggle is, despite its name, a very accessible race.

It provides a serious challenge for the swifter runners attracting top names capable of fast times – whilst the varied terrain ensures that everyone can excel at some stage of the race. Road runners and other fell race virgins often use The Fat Boys Stanage Struggle as their introduction to fell racing.

The first mile is on easy track with open gates  ensuring that the field spreads out quickly enabling faster competitors a trouble free start. The complete route is signed and marshalled throughout by Fat Boys – with additional support from St John Ambulance and the Edale Mountain Rescue Team.

The Fat Boys aim to provide a friendly and supportive atmosphere from registration through to prizegiving. Registration is on the day, turn up and run.

The Fat Boys Stanage Struggle is based at the village school/school field.

  • The field is well signposted and easily visible from the main road.
  • Free car parking is available in the field adjacent to the start/finish.
  • Registration, changing and toilets are undercover.
  • Refreshments

The Fat Boys Stanage Struggle has, since it’s inception, been sponsored by Outside of Hathersage.
Prize winners are able to redeem their prize vouchers for a range of high quality outdoor equipment at any of the Outside shops on the day or at a later time.

All competitors receive one Free bottle of water at the finish

So if that’s all you want to know about the event, go away.  What follows is my subjective account of taking part in the Stanage Struggle,  which I fully appreciate may be niche interest only.

So, the day dawned.  Autumnal I’d say.  Thick ghostly mists gathering in the dips in the landscape, and a deep wet dew on all available grass.  Really gorgeous though.  Driving over to Hathersage from Sheffield the Peak District was jaw droppingly beautiful.  I can’t believe I’ve got this landscape on my doorstep.  If nothing else, local trail and fell races motivate me to go out and make the most of it.  Just look (photo stolen from fellow Smiley, for which I thank you).

cf-approaching-hathersage

So, as ever, I arrived incredibly early as I wasn’t too sure about the parking options.  I didn’t fancy the steeply sloping grassy field option (only accessible by 4×4 if wet) – I’m still not entirely convinced an automatic car gives you the same control as a manual –  and thought I’d try my luck at Hathersage Business Park, which was offering ‘limited parking’ instead.  I’ve never noticed this Business Park before, and I don’t know why as it’s well signposted and huge, right at the entrance of the village.  I lost my nerve a little on my way in, as the entrance is extremely grand and, although I’d like to think I could become accustomed to this sort of gateway in time, it is not a scale of living to which I was born.  Fortunately there was a pro parker on hand from Totley AC I think (hello).  He pointed me in the right direction, and what’s more, spotting my Smiley Vest (which opens more doors than casual observation might indicate), gave me the top tip of availing myself of the hard standing which was still available.  I was relieved about this, didn’t fancy slaloming down a wet field on exit.  I felt like a celebrity being waved through in this way, get me and my running club contacts eh?  As I left the business park (on foot) there was a large sign saying you had to leave by 2.00pm.  Leave by two?  In the afternoon?  Please gawd I’d be done and dusted by then.  It’s a 10k route starting at 11.00 a.m. afterall…

From there just a short walk round the corner to the magical wonderland that was the Primary School registration point for the fell race.  It is simply gorgeous, like the kind of school that exists only in fairy tales with pretty roses in adjacent gardens, lovely stone buildings and rainbow painted benches in the playground.

st-michaels-primary-hathersage

There was also plenty of helpful signage.  Though I did waver a bit seeing that the organisers had carefully differentiated between the certain-to-be enjoyable ‘fun run’ and the ‘senior race’.  The senior race presumably wasn’t expected to be any fun at all if that missing adjective was anything to go by…

helpful-signage

Following the signs, you go through a doorway to a wonderland, a bit like Mr Ben going into the  changing rooms of the fancy dress hire shop.  You enter a non participant, a nobody if you will, and then emerge a signed up fell runner.   Hurrah!  You do the filling in your details on a form first bit, none of the pens left out for this purpose worked, but I found a pencil that did.  Obviously, I left the dried up biros on the table anyway as a test of commitment for the other potential participants who would be coming in my wake.  Some of the questions were routine, though I don’t recall being asked for blood group as well as next of kin before.   You then hand it over to a gang of four, who were very jolly, and said ‘you’re the first one!’  They didn’t mean I was going to win it turned out, only that I was the first Smiley of the day.  I think there must be an I-Spy book of Sheffield Running Clubs that they were working through together or something.  Then I got my number and that was it, job done (apart from the running bit).

So, because I was early, there was time to explore.  I found the changing rooms (no Laurence Llewelyn Bowen though, so that was a relief).

The huts which had the loos and the changing area were absolutely sweet.  This was very much a children’s space.  Individually named pegs, colourful bags and hanging mobiles (not mobile phones, actual mobiles) and inspiring words and painted pictures in evidence everywhere on the walls and hanging from the ceiling.  There is something wondrous about being confronted with such positivity, optimism, hope and simple joie de vivre made manifest through finger paintings.  If only it were possible to re-enter such a world again when an adult.  To be able  return to a time before innocence has been crushed by experiences of life that inevitably vanquish all traces of joy.  Creativity shrivels and dies as the vortex of exams and assessment suck you up and then spit you out onto the treadmill of working life.  It won’t be long before the inhabitants of this enchanted worldtoo come to  encounter existential angst, disillusion and despair.  They will come to scream into the winds raving at the futility of existence and the meaninglessness of life compelled to stare endlessly into the void.  (Well, I can only speak as I find).  That time, it seems has not yet come however.  Yay!  A little oasis of delight in a cruel and hostile world.  How lovely.

In a way, it was a sort of metaphor for the forthcoming fell race.  From afar, the hills look covered in sunshine, inviting and glorious, you can’t wait to get stuck in… the reality is the Stanage Struggle is called a ‘struggle’ for a reason.  Work it out.  Go on, I dare you…  You plough on through it (as with life) wondering if this horror will ever end, and how you could have been so naive as to have wished this experience on yourself, the hope is that on conclusion of the endeavour you will at least look back and laugh. Misguided nostalgia is another wonderful (if misleading) thing.  Well, here’s hoping anyway.

So, cheered by this vision of wide-eyed joyfulness, I skipped over to the playground and encountered  the next set of officials.  This included the guy from tourist information who explained about the Peak District being the second most visited national park after Mount Fuji.  I subsequently found out this might not be strictly true, but wonder if I just misheard him?  What he probably actually said, is that the Fat Boys Stanage Struggle route was the second highest and steepest ascent in the world after Mount Fuji.  I think that must be it.  I’ve googled endlessly, heavens, even consulted Wikipedia, and absolutely nowhere is this claim refuted or rebutted ergo it must be true.  My legs don’t lie.

welcoming-committee

I also took the opportunity to grill the welcoming committee about the course – even though having parted with my fiver I was already committed to taking part.  One asked if it was me who’d emailed to ask about it earlier in the week.   This confused me ‘erm, I really don’t know‘ I said.  Which was stupid, as I think I would have remembered.  This led to a comical interaction where I over-compensated for my discombobulation (just wanted to get that word in really – wonder if spell check will be able to cope) by explaining that I wasn’t in the habit of firing off so many emails on diverse subjects to random and unknown men that I couldn’t be expected to recall with whom I’d been recently corresponding.  I think I got away with it.  It wasn’t me who’d been asking if it was indeed an entry-level race.  I explained how I’d given up contacting organisers in advance, as they were invariably encouraging having leapt to a wildly optimistic, if misguided, assessment of my abilities based (presumably) on my spelling and punctuation within said emails.  I wasn’t aware of any obvious correlation between spelling and running ability but there must be I suppose, otherwise how would run organisers be able to advise people on their fitness to participate based only on written exchanges?  I know, it’s a complete mystery.

Anyway, they assured me the course was ‘a good honest fell race’ (not like those lying, dishonest, disreputable fell races you get elsewhere presumably), and fine as an entry-level attempt.  To be fair, they were very positive and encouraging, and I even began to harbour an aspiration (if not actual belief) that I might try to not come last at this event, now that would be something!  I went for a bit more of an explore.  This included counting out the mountain rescue vehicles (rather a lot – should I be worried) and St John’s ambulance (also more in attendance than I’d normally expect).  I also took some scenic shots of the surrounding fields, I was going for a ‘sheep in the morning mist’ effect, not entirely succesful.  Plus, I took the precaution of photographing the finish funnel in case I never did get to see it.  Also, I hoped it would fix it in my mind’s eye, so if my legs and steering were to give way at the end, I’d still be able to find it just in case one of the Brownlee Brothers wasn’t on hand to carry me over the line.  Gorgeous venue, despite the alarmingly conspicuous presence of emergency staff and vehicles.

So once I’d done the equivalent of scent marking everywhere (I mean by taking photos, what did you think I meant?) I found an old gym bench by the side of the playground in a sunny spot, and took the chance to catch up with a friend on my mobile.  We had a good old natter and only fell out later.  Apparently, I pocket rang her mid-morning, didn’t leave a message and she was – and I quote ‘really worried you’d collapsed out on the fell, or were in an ambulance or something unable to speak‘.  Now, you might think I’d be touched by that level of concern, and to be honest, I would have been, had she not left it until about 9 hours later to call me back to check I was OK!  What kind of a friend is that?  Frankly, if I was the sort of person who reliably sent Christmas cards, that sort of thoughtlessness would be enough to get her struck off my Winterval card list!  In fact, I’ve a good mind to start sending them out this year just so I can slight her by leaving her out.

Phone call finished, I started to play my own game of I-spy Smileys, and I’m pleased to report there were a few about.  I even got myself snapped alongside two which was a rare treat.  Poor guy we accosted to take the photo was already trapped in one spot as another runner was leaning on his shoulder whilst doing some warm-up stretches.  As he was standing around anyway, we thought he might welcome the chance to do a bit of multi-tasking to stop him getting bored.  He did OK I think, maybe not got the memo about directing runners like me to stand in the most flattering possible stances, but apart from that, he did us a good deed.

I got waylaid by another Smiley when I was en route to the loo for my precautionary pee.  Unusually for me I cut this rather fine.  I was last in the queue, and by the time I came out of the cubicles, there were no other runners in sight!  The junior fun runners were all lined up ready to charge out of the school gates and no seniors to be seen.  Who knew the start was back down through the village?  Uh oh.  The marshal for the fun run held up the juniors and let me sprint past – though on reflection, maybe I should have just joined in with  them. Instead,  I ran on past the Hathersage Business Park and then spotted the queue of runners at the start line just off the main road to the right.  Honestly,  I think that sprint was the fastest I ran all day, I was in such a panic at being left behind!  I arrived just in time to join the line up for another Smiley Paces photo, even if I did look a bit like the fat bridesmaid in the wedding shots.  Still, nice to be included in this, I often miss out because I finish too long after everyone else at the end of races and am not always bold enough to photo bomb these start shots.  This is thus a relatively rare group photo.  Yay, go us!

I was breathless and confused.  My new Smiley friends were asking after hobbit buddy. Where was she?  I had no idea who they were talking about.  They jogged my memory.  You know  – she who had posted on facebook that we would be coming together, she of my DVD workout project, she my loyal hobbit hash buddy and training companion for the past year.  I was so ashamed.  The thing is though, we were supposed to be doing the Stanage Struggle together but then carelessly, she allowed her foot to disintegrate or something so pain meant she couldn’t come.  I am now a ‘committed athlete’ because I wear runderwear.  This means I can’t allow anything to impede my performance in competition.  As soon as she had told me she was having to pull out, she had my sympathy of course, but she was also then dead to me (only for the duration of the event, not properly dead, that would be awful).  It’s what she would want.  I needed to focus.  It’s hard to explain unless you’ve been there.  Also, I was feeling panicked and under pressure what with being late and everything, and breathing so hard my brain wouldn’t work.   All that running and puffing had depleted my brain of oxygen and I woudn’t have been able to state my own name at this point in time, let alone converse about another runner.   Not an ideal start to the business of running up a fell to be honest, but you have to work with what you’ve got.

Almost immediately, we were off.  It is indeed a lovely start, you go through green fields, with marshals on each of the many gates to cheer you past and keep them open as we all surged through.  There were just over 300 runners in all, and we streamed out quite quickly.  I was aware of being constantly over-taken, but not quite last so that was a novelty.  In brilliant sunshine it was a colourful sight.  There were lots of spectators relatively speaking and a friendly and encouraging ambience too.  Thanks to Eleanor and Robert Scriven for these fab photos of the early stages of the run, before it got hilly!

Although it was flat, relatively early on I wasn’t feeling great.  I’m slow and steady normally, but don’t ever think I won’t get round, but today was a bit different, my legs felt quite crampy.  Whether that was the sprint to the start or (sounds unlikely alert) because I’d actually accidentally run five days out of the six previous ones I know not.  It was hot, and the sun beat down on my head.  For the first time ever I wondered if I might be a DNF.  That would never do!  I dug deep, remembered what I’d heard a five-year old shouting at their mum at parkrun the day before ‘come on, unleash your titan‘ (no I really did!), and focused on just getting round by putting one foot in front of another.  Which to be fair, at the end of the day is all that running is.

It was lovely countryside, but not without its hazards.  Early on, there was a stampede of sheep across the track that brought me and some of the other runners towards the back to a standstill as we waited for them to complete their descent down the hill.  Hope we hadn’t spooked them too much.  Then, as the field of runners thinned out, the ascent began.  It was quite a heave-ho onwards and upwards, with a bit of negotiating to be done with walkers and dogs etc coming in the other direction.  The gentle gradient gave way to steeper steps, and disappointingly, well-behaved walkers insisted on giving way to ‘you runners’ so there was some pressure to keep up outward appearances of giving it a go up them there hills.   We ran past an amazing old building which according to the sign was I think Norton Lees Hall, which may or may not be the basis of the house from which Mr Rochester’s wife jumped to her death in Jane Eyre.  I’m a bit dubious about tourist information these days, and I didn’t have the time to nip in and ask.  Plausible though, an amazing looking place.

Shortly after this, a bit of wood, and then the climb up ‘proper’.  At this point it slowly dawned on me we were going to be expected to go right up to the top!  The path was pretty crowded.  Various people carrying bikes (not the point surely), a couple gazing at each other, sat on a large boulder just off the path in a yoga lotus pose.   Whatever quiet meditation and contemplation they were engaged in, I hope it didn’t involve listening to their own breathing.  My loud puffing alongside would have been very distracting at least and disconcerting at worst.   Hardly restful.  Some people were lumbering upwards with mattresses strapped to their backs.  Now that was a good idea, I’ve always felt a fell run would be improved with the option for a bit of a lie down in comfort once you got to the highest point.  If the pictures are anything to go by it wasn’t only me struggling on the way up though (thanks Sue-Nigel Jeff for this one)

not-just-me-heaving-up-the-hills-snj

It was something of a scramble in parts, and although I was in sight of one or two runners, the majority of the field was streaming across the tops.  Bracken was towering over my head and I was feeling the pressure of negotiating walkers, climbers and a couple of fabulously fast dogs that came careering own the narrow paths at torpedo-like speeds.  A bit un-nerving to be truthful, I was worried the dogs would take me out, and if not me, the runners behind, who I figured must be potentially fragile if even I had managed to outpace them.  Everyone I met en route was friendly and encouraging though.  A few clapped furiously, some acknowledged the Smiley vest.  I wasn’t sure if they were connected with Smiley Paces, or just appreciated the comic sans logo.  Still, all well wishing gratefully received.  It never ceases to amaze me just how nice most people are.  ‘You’re doing great‘ they’d shout, which was not strictly true, they must have been silently adding ‘considering’ at the end of that.  Not just the marshals, but others out and about shouting support and giving cheery waves.  Maybe I’m inspirational!

I had the same thing years ago, when I was in a five a side football team.  We were terrible.  We’d been lent kit by the Nuneaton Borough Ladies Football team due to friend of a friend, but were so clueless we quite literally were playing at a tournament when the referee had to stop the game to tell us which way we were supposed to be scoring.  I was in a cubicle in the ladies loos and overheard a captain from one team say to the captain of another ‘have you seen the Coventry and Warwickshire ladies team?’.  ‘Yes.’ replied the invisible other.  Then there was a long pause and one ventured to the approval of the other…  ‘Aren’t they brave‘.  We were absolutely annihilated out there, but played on.  Making it to the semi-finals due to another team no-showing.   Maybe it’s the same syndrome.  It seems impossible that I’d even give it a go from the look in my face, so fair play to me for trying perhaps? By the way, is it really obvious our kit didn’t fit do you think?  We look like toddlers in dressing up clothes, which coincidentally is pretty much how we looked when we playing as well.

five-a-side-football-arent-we-brave

Back to the fells!  Eventually, I found myself at the top of Stanage Edge.  Phew.  That was some clamber at the last bit.  Some late addition photos from Alan Billington capture the challenge of ‘summitting’ (I still don’t think that’s a real word).  Amazing view, shame I was clinging to the rock face too much to risk letting go and turning round to take it all in!

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Almost immediately, my progress was thwarted by a large crocodile of youthful looking DoE walkers with an accompanying adult at the back.  Seeing my dilemma, he shouted down the line ‘stand aside runner coming through‘ I clarified ‘I’m not really running all that much to be quite honest‘.  He shouted down an amendment ‘ambler coming through!’  I picked my way through, and carried on. It was a lot further along the ridge than I’d expected.  It is lovely though, the views are extraordinary, and I made a mental note that I should try to come back some time when I was not compelled to do so much running.    I could see the faster runners descending at speed down the crag side, and little  blobs of fluorescent yellow and green snaking across the road where a mountain rescue vehicle was on hand to supervise.  There weren’t any marshals for most of this, but there was one handily positioned where you dive down from Stanage Edge along what seemed to be a stream bed of sorts, not really a ‘proper’ path as such.  It was more of a scramble than I’d expected, and I just picked my way down really carefully, I didn’t want to come a cropper. I know faster runners do fly down, but how I just can’t comprehend.  I descended into the bracken, and again, was a bit unsure if I was going the right way, until I saw a photographer pop up from the undergrowth.  He took some great shots, think it was Phil Sproson.   Thank you!  He did take one of me, but it didn’t make the cut.  Just as well, I’m pretty sure my nose was running by this point, my legs weren’t and I looked like a weeble wobbling through a weary descent.  Not really the poster girl look on this occasion.

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I wondered vaguely if I had gone off piste at one point at least – wished I’d had GPS tracking so I could be picked off crevasse like guy who did the Alps Ultra, and ended up having a vehicle come and collect him complete with medic. In the event, I emerged from the bracken to a style, where there was a little huddle of people to direct me right, and along another flat track alongside wood. It was a relief to get some shade.  There was apparently a photographer as well, but I didn’t spot them, or I’d have pretended that I’d been running a bit more continuously than this photo suggests!  I quite like it though, thoughtful, just contemplating racecraft and pacing myself!  You can compare and contrast my approach with that of my fellow compatriot runners.  Always rushing aren’t they?  Sometimes it’s good to pause and smell the roses along the way!  Thank you Peak District Fell Races for sharing these pictures, not sure who is the photographer I should credit.

As I headed alongside the wood, there were some walkers carefully securing the attention of their rather boisterous spaniel Dotty with proffered treats.  She sat obediently, gazing up at them with rapt attention.  They gave her a treat just as I ran past, and seizing her moment she gulped the reward and then newly energised launched herself round me with much bouncy enthusiasm.  Dotty’s owners were mortified, they were trying so hard.  I had to stop, though I didn’t really mind, I could see they were doing their best, and the dog was uber-friendly and having a lovely time, just wanting to join in all the fun, which is fair enough.

I walked by whilst they wrestled with their delighted dog, and then picked up a run again.  I emerged at a carparky bit I sort of half recognised.  There was a marshal frantically waving, but I got confused.  ‘Please don’t make me go back and do it again!’ I pleaded.  It was OK, he was just pointing me down the road.  After a couple of hundred yards, more marshals, and they sent me off right, back across fields and styles for the final couple of miles home.  It was one of these styles that got the better  of one of my Smiley compatriots.   She like me thought the Stanage Struggle, was actually the Stanage Stumble I think and took it rather literally going head first over one of them.  Oh well, she was still fourth woman home (her category) go her!

The end bit was a bit twisty through wood, fields and one particularly impressive bit of bog.  As it was near the end, I decided to just plough straight on through it, as I hadn’t really got my feet wet up to this point.  This maybe wasn’t the best idea as the boggy bit came over my knees.  Also, during the drive home I came to realise the over-powering smell of slurry in the car wasn’t from fertiliser outside, but was from me.  My slurry-soaked feet to be precise.  Oh well, it’s not a fell race if you don’t get covered in something organic and wet!

muddy-shoes

From there, I think it was pretty well-marshaled.  I lost my nerve on the route a couple of times, pausing to check out where the next markers were, but it was always pretty clear after a quick peak round.  After a bit we returned to the series of fields we’d run across on the way out.  There were lots of marshals here.  At the start of each field they’d say ‘nearly home now!’  I don’t wish to be ungracious, but that wasn’t strictly true for all of them.  I greatly appreciated the marshal who said instead ‘have you been told you’re nearly home yet?’  ‘Yes,’ I said, ‘but I’m not convinced‘.  ‘Well‘, he replied ‘you are nearer the finish than when the last marshal told you that.’ This was indeed a cheery thought.  Well said!  Eventually, I was back on tarmac, and a turn to the right and I found myself hurtling down a steep hill to the road.  I didn’t immediately realise it, but it was essentially back to the school.

thats-the-way-to-do-it-es

Unfortunately, just as I got to the road, a car was coming out of the pub car park, and a parent herding two small children was overtaking an older guy walking with a Zimmer, so I had to stop for a bit to negotiate all that.  As both road and pavement were out-of-bounds.  It took an effort to get running again, it was so meltingly hot by then, and I was dehydrated.  However, the end was in sight, just a hoik up the hill to the finish.  Which you, my attentive reader, will know I’d taken care to visualise at the start of the day.  As I turned back through the main gate to the school, I realised for the first time I was still in sight of two runners just ahead.  I could see my Buxton Buddies (hello) on the hill, they must have finished way ahead of me.  Even better hear some Smiley Paces compatriots cheering me in.  Some had been running in the Struggle, others were visiting post the Smiley monthly off-road run, which coincidentally also was in Hathersage this month.   I put on what was for me at least, a bit of a sprint and managed not only to catch up, but just pass the other runner.  Hilariously (for me, maybe not for her so much) I ended up beating her by one  second.  However, we were both minutes behind the previous finisher. This meant that as I crossed the line it felt like I was actually coming first.  Some of the organisers who I’d chatted to at the start recognised me and were saying ‘told you you could do it‘ and other encouraging things.  ‘Have I won?’ I shouted as I tore (ahem) across the line.  ‘Yes you have!’ they responded.  And in a way that’s true isn’t it, we are all winners if we run!

My moment of victory was captured on camera by Smiley friends.  Other smilies were also captured on the finish line.  You can look and learn from our varied styles.  I may not have a running style you wish to emulate, but you could still use it as the basis for a ‘compare and contrast’ type analysis of running gait.  Don’t share with me though, I know the worst already!  I was a bit down by the state of me in some of the photos to be honest.  I confided in Hobbit buddy (my best friend again now the run is over) that I knew I really need to lose some weight somehow, but she said we just need to get Smiley Paces to order more flattering vest styles.  That’s why she’s my hobbit hash DVD buddy, we can work with that practical positivity!  Go us!

We took a moment for some celebratory hugs, and then I wandered off in my dream like state in search of my ‘free bottle of water’ that was promised to every finisher.  My I was in need of that.  Also available, really posh ice-cream. Next time I’ll go for that I think. Cakes and tea and coffee.

After mutual congratulations and story swapping.  We went to investigate the results, which was unexpectedly high-tech.  These two Smilies both made the placings for their age group.  I less so, but it’s not whether you win or lose is it?  This is what I tell myself.  Some of the leaders’ times though were crazy, how is it even possible to go those speeds on that terrain?  If you are interested, then see here for the full results of the 2016 Stanage Struggle .  I must marshal on a steep bit of a fell race one day, so I can see how it’s done.  40 minutes 36 seconds.  Just incredible, are they fearless or just crazed coming down those hills?

Next stop caffeine.  Whilst the refreshment options were impressive (there was a pub next door to the school as well), we felt we wanted ‘proper’ coffee, so decided to head to the Hathersage deli.  My Smiley buddies had first to go back to their car to change shoes and get cash. They left me on my lonesome by the roadside.  It was OK at first, but I did start to think I’d been abandoned like a puppy jettisoned from a car on a motorway as I hadn’t appreciated just how far away they’d parked. Still, not to worry.  I was able to hobnob with passers-by.  Thank marshals – though they were hard to spot as they were in disguise post event having removed their hi-viz so they could blend into the background once again.   Seriously though, thanks all you Fat Boys, fellow participants, marshals, hosts it was a fantastic event.  What’s more,  I had it from one of the officials that the sun always shines at this fell race, so that’s good to know.  One to do again next year, hopefully bringing not only loads more Smilies, but the entire Monday Mob with me too!  (Oh go on – you know you want to!).

Eventually my long-lost Smilies came into view, and after a bit more Smiley networking, we adjourned to the crowded deli and secured our post run coffee and carb fixes.

So we sat in the sun, and had a run debrief.  Soon enough, talk turned forthcoming running challenges.  The horror of this one ended, and the restorative effects of coffee, making the prospect of more running seem positively delightful all over again.  Both my companions are tackling the Sheffield Way Relay    I still can’t quite get my head around how this works.  It seems to be teams of five pairs of runners, each pair has to run one leg of about 10 miles. Looks quite hard-core.  To add interest to the final leg.  Competitors need to don biohazard suits, in order to avoid spreading the Japanese knotweed which is rampant on the last section.  I wonder if it’s near where Tom Wrigglesworth’s parents live?  I presume it’s some sort of variant on triathlon? I haven’t done any of it, but my Smiley companion who had, described doing a recce past signs warning ‘no entry without biohazard protection’ and then encountered a guy with a spray gun wearing all the gear like there’d been some sort of radioactive incident.  It sort of focuses the mind I’m guessing.  Given that earlier we’d all been saying how we hated carrying anything with us that might impede our running, I think it might be a challenge to run in this lot.  And to think some find taped seamed clothing requirements onerous in fell races. This should sort out the proverbial sheep from the goats eh?

We sat just long enough to stiffen up completely, and then hobbled back to our cars.  I only just made it out of the car park in the Business Centre in time.  Headed back to Sheffield over the hills, but the views were so stunning, with paragliders coming off Stanage Edge, that I actually pulled over to take some photos.  They aren’t a patch on the offerings from the ‘proper’ photographers out and about on the hills today, but they convey something of the scenery and isn’t it just grand!

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So that was that.  All done and dusted, and what a day out it was.  Thanks everyone.  Oh, and I didn’t come last, only nearly last.  A milestone of a sort?  Yes, I’d recommend, though whether the Stanage Struggle organisers feel there is merit in including my endorsement in their publicity is a matter for them and them alone!

For  all my posts concerning fell races follow this link (scroll down to see the one’s you’ve not read yet.)

Thanks to everyone who turned out to take photos and make them available afterwards too.  Some photos I can’t credit because I’m not sure of their origins, but special thanks to:

Robert and Eleanor Scriven for photos

Phil Sproson Photography also out and about

Shots of reaching the summit from Alan Billington

Stanage Struggle photos available from Sue-Nigel Jeff who ask: No obligation but if you wish please follow this link to make a donation of a couple of £ to Edale Mountain Rescue http://www.justgiving.com/edalemrt/donate .

Also Peak District Fell Races Facebook page has album of photos of Stanage Struggle

Categories: 10km, fell race, motivation, off road, race, running, running clubs | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

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