Monthly Archives: July 2018

Finding riches within the Dig Deep landscape… literally, no really!

Digested Read: more recceing of the Dig Deep 30 route. This time Win Hill to Shatton.  I don’t care what the course organisers say, Win Hill and the hoik up Rebellion Knoll after Bradwell sure feel like monster climbs to me.  Found abandoned riches en route, and a rock shop.  Who knew?

This was the recce where I had to take a deep breath and face my nemesis.  This would be the day that I’d do a recce encompassing both Win Hill, which most definitely constitutes ‘undulating’ territory and also return for round two with Bradwell and the long hot haul up to Rebellion Knoll before descending into Shatton, which appropriately on this day had indeed been copiously shat on, by passing cattle.  I know.  My hallway still  has a distinctly rural aroma a couple of days on.  I will get bored with writing blog posts about the Dig Deep eventually, but fully appreciate you might already be bored of reading them.  Remember though, you don’t have to.  You could just log off, and go and do something more interesting instead, like removing hair from the shower plug hole, washing up or playing spider solitaire on your phone, whatever grabs you.  If you choose to read on I take no responsibility for you wasting your life away with such pointless procrastination when you could be proactively engaging in exciting and stimulating activities including the illustrative (but not exhaustive) list of suggestions above.  Take some personal responsibility, make a choice, choose …. life.

Yes dear reader.  I am talking again about a recce of  a section of the Dig Deep Intro Ultra/ Peak Trail 30 .  In case you lost concentration in an earlier post, or a newbie to my blog, this is a 30 mile ultra that according to the website blah de blah

The Dig Deep Peak Trails 30 (formerly known as the ‘intro ultra’) covers some of the most beautiful scenery in the UK. At around 30 miles the route takes in some of the finest trails in the Peak District. The route has roughly 1388 metres of ascent and whilst there are no monster climbs the continued hilly nature of the course earmarks this race as a tough one to complete. However, the distance falls just within the ULTRA category – so if you are after your first ULTRA scalp – this could be the one!

The Route
The route has been chosen because of its stunning scenery and the tough nature of the route. Whilst developing the race we have worked closely with local landowners and the Peak District National Park Authority to ensure that the race is sustainable and avoids sensitive areas. For this reason there are some strict route restrictions in place on some areas of the race. Please follow these wherever indicated.

The route will be partially marked but navigation may be necessary. Sport ident dibbing stations will be in place along the route – each of these must be visited.

The race will form part of a festival of running to be held at Whirlow Farm Hall in Sheffield (camping available). As well as the 30 mile race there will be several other races starting and finishing over the weekend

I accidentally entered yonks ago in a fit of ‘what the hell‘ thinking and now I am thinking What the hell? indeed.  It’s over the August bank holiday so but a few weeks away, and my fitness is lamentable.  I am desperately trying to recce the route in advance to help prepare me for what lies ahead, but mainly it’s making me appreciate the enormity of the challenge and the gap between the ideal fitness levels for a potential participant and my actual ones.  Hint, it’s quite a big gap. Way bigger than even the gaps at the London underground station that disembodied voices are always warning you about as you disembark.  I don’t really know if I’m even going to make the start, but I haven’t yet withdrawn or transferred to another distance.  My only objective is to get around, it was originally to get around without crying, but I’ll settle for just finishing before the cut offs.  The cut offs are the same as for the 60 mile hard-core ultra taking place on the same Saturday, so it should be possible even if I walk the whole thing.  Actually, I have even calculated that if I take longer, I might just get caught up in the 10k participants yomping home on the Sunday morning, so might still be ok.   The recces are therefore continuing to advance, even if my confidence in my abilities retreats in direct relation to the amount of recces I do.  Ah well, it’s my home patch, I can always catch the bus home.


This day’s recce was to start at Win Hill, what better way to start a race recce than with a vertical climb through gnarled tree roots after all, to Hope and  then through Bradwell finishing at Shatton.  I had a recce buddy again. Hooray!  It does help morale, and is navigational support too, although, as previously established, I have now discovered that navigation is within reach of anyone with suitably corrected vision, as long as they have a decently scaled map.  It’s taken me a while to come to this conclusion, but it’s been a game changer.  I’m way more confident out and about, naturally I have retained the ability to get lost, and of course I do have to continually spin the map until it’s orientated the same way as the landscape around me to find where I am, but I still feel much more in control of where I’m putting my footsteps than I have ever been before.

I say we started at Win Hill, but actually, we rendezvoused with the cars in Shatton, then drove in one to the base of Win Hill – a side track just before the Yorkshire Bridge pub. The forecast was rain, and it was a lot cooler than last time I tackled the hill.  We’ve had some rain, and it made a huge difference. The water was flowing more quickly, and everything freshened up.  We had a bit of preparatory faffing before heading off.  My recce buddy was chatting away to me companionably as I dived behind a bush to reduce my load for the forthcoming ascent. When I emerged she looked confused.  Seems we had both been in full flown simultaneously, and she hadn’t immediately spotted my absence.  Oops, sorry about that.

Suitably prepared, we eyed the forest ascending above us.  I don’t care that the race blah de blah says there are no ‘monster climbs’ I think Win Hill is.  Think Jack in the Beanstalk, and you get the general idea.  It was a bit skiddy because rain had settled on dry earth.  Lose earth had been washed away, so the path, such as it is, was even more deeply rutted than usual.  Bits of it are, for me at least, full on climbing, as I grabbed exposed tree roots to haul myself up.  Progress was slow.  In my defence, I was battling through another recently acquired injury.  Admittedly one acquired in a residential muesli-belt context rather than a hard-core tough mudder one.  Specifically, earlier in the day I had thwacked the side of my knee on a coffee table that mysteriously launched towards me as I was exiting a room.  You can smirk all you like, but it blooming hurt, both at the time and subsequently.  A few days later and i still have quite an impressive bump, though the bruising hasn’t come out to anything like the extent I might have hoped.  Being injured is hard enough, but it is indeed to add insult to injury to have an injury that doesn’t colour up nicely in order that you can show it off coquettishly to other athletes (ahem) as a badge of honour.


I’ll say one thing though, if you stop now and again, which I did often, and look back, the views were gorgeous.  The woodland is lovely too, because the ascent is so steep, you feel like you are in the tree canopy of a rain forest.  It’s extraordinary.  I freely admit I wouldn’t have voluntarily clambered up here but for the necessity of doing this race route recce, and I made heavy work of ascending, but the rewards in terms of views are lovely.  I tried to take comfort in the knowledge that I doubt very much even experienced ultra runners would waste energy running this section, I don’t think it would be possible, and if it were, it wouldn’t be an efficient use of limited reserves to do so.  I think though their power walks might leave my crawling progress for dust, oh well, we all still make the same elevation I suppose, which was a lot.

Look from whence we came though:


As we clambered, I was trying to articulate to my companion, what misguided logic makes me think this event ought to be doable.  I explained I’d been examining the results of Dig Deep events for 2017.   Finish times of the slowest 30 milers last year 2017, final finisher came in at 10.43, whereas the fastest 60 miler was – unbelievably fast – at 9.27.  The final finisher for the 60 miles was out a staggering 22.07 hours, respect.  Allowing for the 30 mile starting 2 hours later, if the cut offs are similar, I’d have 20 hours to get around, and I really don’t want to be out that long, if it looks like I will be, I’d retire, or, pause for a nap and join the 12.12s coming back on Sunday morning the next day (joke).  I was saying all this out loud in an attempt to persuade myself as much as my recce companion.  I mean really, I have no idea what I’m letting myself into, or who long it might take, but I keep telling myself, if I don’t test my limits how can I ever know what they are.  Also, this is local, worst case scenario I can get a bus home, and we shall never speak of this again, and it will be as if this whole thing ’twas but a dream.  It never happened.  Never.  Fact.


So we took a couple of steps; paused, looked back at the view, stepped on.  Paused, chatted, took a few steps.  Paused, mopped our liquid brows, stepped on… you get the idea.  On one such power pause (I think that’s a thing, if power naps are, I don’t see why power pauses shouldn’t be, they are in my world now though) I espied and claimed a 5p piece.  Riches dear reader riches!  I took this to be a fine omen, but then again, I am easily pleased.  Obviously, if you are reading this post, and you believe this 5p piece to be yours, feel free to get in touch with a description and I will return it to  you.


Eventually, the steep slope opened out onto a gentler terrain, a ‘proper’ fell runner skipped past, heading downward – and we could see where we were heading.


Eventually, you emerge onto a ‘proper’ path and can continue up Win Hill to the Trig point.  About here, we met another runner.  She too, it turned out, was training for an ultra in Edinburgh later in the year. She was staying at Castleton YHA hostel, and aiming to do 21 miles today. She’d got lost, so we walked together for  a bit to get her back on track, and shared stories as we did. She was quite well-travelled, and though born in Hungary had lived and worked all over the world.  These facts are important for later dear reader, so concentrate!


We got to the intersection where we were descending through a gate, and left her trekking on along the roman road.  At this point, I glanced at my watch as it vibrated to indicate we’d covered another mile.  Want to know our progress rate dear people?  You’ll be amazed, I was.  We hadn’t covered another mile, we’d covered one.  One solitary mile and it had taken a WHOLE HOUR.  That is ridiculous.  One mile an hour?  What happened there?  We had stopped to chat and send our new friend on her way, I’d had my al fresco comfort break earlier on, there was a lot of faffing on the way up, but even so.  I can’t spend 30 hours doing this ultra, blimey, at that pace I’d miss even the 12.12 finishers, I was going to need to up my game.

We did speed up a bit, descending Win Hill is lovely actually.  Apart from the sight of the dead and mangled stoat/ weasel.  Now, I accept that photographing dead animals isn’t the most universal of hobbies – though I daresay there are niche sites out there dedicated to roadkill across the globe – but I am interested in whether this is in fact a stoat or a weasel, as I still haven’t positively identified whatever it was I saw on the looping the loops recce of the other week.  So here it is, dog kill (presumably) but what is it?  I’ll return to this another time. Sad, but surely interesting too, to know what wildlife is lurking in all that purple haze.


The view above was better than that at our feet:


We scampered down through the heather, into a field, green grass


and then, winking up at me from the ground, a pristine bank card, dropped recently by some poor walker or other.  The name was quite unusual.  We decided it must belong to our Hungarian friend.  The logic was, novel name, correct gender, recently dropped and we knew she’d come up this path earlier because it was from here she overshot and went the wrong way.  Upshot was, we agreed to stop in Hope, ring the Youth Hostel and see if we could return it to her there.  Good excuse for a latte also.  We were moving at glacial pace, maybe not even as speedily as that, with climate change and ice caps melting, I imagine some glaciers are moving positively speedily, albeit receding backwards rather than advancing.  In the circumstances, a lunch and latte stop would make little difference  to anything other than our morale.

On our way down to Hope, we passed the best no parking sign ever.  Raises the tone, don’t you agree?


and there were white doves massing.  In a good way, not like Hitchcock’s ‘The Birds’.


We were distracted by conversation, and nearly over-shot the official route down Farfield Farm. In fact, my recce buddy did an official recce of this section a few weeks back, and also overshot. In case you care, it doesn’t actually matter if you overshoot and hit the main road and go right later on, you’ll end up in the same place without missing the dibber point and the distances are pretty similar. Even so, we went the ‘proper’ way, because hey, I have navigational super powers and chose to conform, so we took in the pretty little bridge.  We also passed a small forested cemetery where an intimate burial was taking place.  It was a lovely spot to say goodbye to someone, we tiptoed past.


Into Hope, and straight into cafe adventure – a lovely intimate cafe with great food and a warm welcome for cyclist and walkers, and bank card couriers.  Knowing our Hungarian friend was out for hours there was the option of using her contactless card for a slap up meal, but we rose above that temptation.  Latte for me and tea for my buddy, and I had courgette fritters with salad, because, well it was lunch time now, and we’d given up any pretence of a purposeful power walk morphing our adventure into a leisurely meander populated with micro adventures along the way.

I didn’t take a photo of the cafe, but previously Phil Sproson has taken this rather fine artistic one that I got off their Facebook page.   Thanks both 🙂

phil sproson photo

We got the number for the YHA, well my buddy did, because she has a smart phone, I don’t, but I had a companion who did which amounts to the same thing.   The number puts you through to a central switchboard.  I explained the situation, in what I hoped was a non stalkery way, as I didn’t know whether they’d be able to confirm so and so was staying at the hostel without breaching confidentiality  I had that once before, trying to return a purse and id card to a school as I’d found it right outside the school gates.   They wouldn’t confirm the person was there, so I ended up having to return it to a police station elsewhere, and then heard that when the police phoned them, they moaned about having to go and collect it.  There’s gratitude.  Not. I hoped the YHA contact might be more pragmatic. I  spelt out the name, a lot, and after a few permutations as many and manifest as I seem to encounter when trying to put in my upper and lower case and multi digit 1000 digit wi-fi access code – he said he’d see if he could get in touch with Castleton Youth Hostel and phone me back.

We ate.  I over ate.  It was very nice though.  Some people have huge problems with eating on ultra challenges.   They end up throwing up copiously to the point that even flat coke re-emerges through their nostrils I understand.  This is why you are supposed to practise what you are going to eat on long challenges before the day.  One friend of mine who did a team  ultra at Dig Deep last year, was berated by another team member when they arrived at the Bradwell feeding station.  It was a full on wedding buffet, as she face planted into the feast she was dragged away ‘never eat anything new on race day!’ her running buddy reminded.  I get this. But then again, I figure I’ve had a life time’s experience of practising eating things, I  think I’ll be OK.  In all seriousness, I think with the speed I’m going at, it is less likely to be an issue, although there was a lesson today in that I ate too much just because it was there, and although I wasn’t ill for the second part of our adventure, it did slow me down sitting on my stomach like ballast and telling me really I should be lying down and surrender to postprandial somnolence that’s food coma to you and me.

As we were sat there, my phone rang. It was very surreal.  The nice man from the YHA had spoken to the bankcard holder, they were back in London.  Uh?  In one of those bizarre coincidences, it was indeed someone who had stayed at Castleton YHA, but it was a few days back.  I don’t know what nationality they were though.  Still, what were the chances eh?  Quite high obviously, but I found this novel.  Then again, as you know already dear reader, I am easily entertained.


Bye bye cafe, off we went again.

This time though, we – or more accurately my Brutelles recce buddy, spotted this interesting sign:


How did we miss this before. There is still the high walled corale very much in evidence.  I think that’s interesting.  I wonder when it was last used, looks useable still, but only for sheep say, as the entrance was low.

Trotting on, through the brutalist industrial features of the Hope Cement Works. I rather like the incongruity of this landmark.  It is like you imagine a soviet era Russian factory to be.  Would be a great film set I think.


Emerging, we had two more discoveries. Firstly, the bee hives.  If you have been concentrating dear reader, you will know that on a previous Dig Deep recce we discovered a hidden community orchard, but couldn’t be bothered to walk to the end of it to check out the hives.  This time, we espied them through a gate.  They were really active, loads of bees buzzing around industrially.  All about collectivisation of the workforce here too…


As well as the collective industries though, there was also a free trade initiative a bit further up the lane.  This was I think, one of my favourite ever things to come upon on a walk.  Some local children had set up a rock selling initiative.  Choice stones were displayed on a wooden plank, with an honesty box for payments.  50p a stone.  At first I thought they would be painted stones, as I’ve come across these before, but no, they were stones.  Ostensibly similar to those on the path all around, but no doubt hand picked for having some uniquely attractive characteristic that, whilst it might not be immediately obvious to the casual observer or the untrained eye, was unmissable to a true rock connoisseur.  Impressive eh?


Yes, I did rattle the tin, no, there wasn’t any money in it.  I did briefly wish I’d got some change on me, as I like to imagine the budding entrepreneurs finding it, but I didn’t and also, adding rocks to my load was maybe not the best of ideas.  And yes, you could leave the money and just not take a rock, but I felt that would not be in the spirit of the endeavour.  If you are passing, and don’t have another 20 miles still ahead of you, you could maybe chip in though.  Just a thought.

On to Bradwell.  We took the triangle ‘properly’ this time, to check out where the feed station would be.  From there, we looked up and saw the summit of Rebellion Knoll, it is indeed steep, no wonder it’s such a drag to get up there.


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Past the fire station and church, over the little bridge and its pretty stream, past the flower bedecked houses of Bradwell.  Emerging the other side and this is my least favourite part of the whole route.  A long hot tarmac road stretches upwards.  It maybe didn’t help morale that as we tackled this part we were discussing toxic work environments, how being trapped in such contexts seems endless, hard, demoralising and pointless.  All adjectives that were especially resonant right there and then.   Eventually, you get to the end of the road and it’s the climb up.  Although this is a short section, both times I’ve done it the route has been really exposed.  The sun beats down on you, and it’s a grim climb up.  The path isn’t particularly attractive, unless you stop and look backwards at the view.  The highlights are marvelling at the water content of a random slurry pit, that must be on the top of a spring of some sort surely, otherwise how is there a puddle there despite weeks of no rain?


It was a lot speedier this time than last though, as we didn’t get so confused about the route, though we still took a wrong path once.  Doh. It’s confusing.  It was great to reach the top though and the gate that would take us to the next dibber point and the gravel road.


and it was pretty speedy after that.  Recces definitely make the route feel shorter.  Gravel path and our wall man friend


Down, little bit along, and pretty soon we had descended and taken a right into the village of Shatton.  It seemed a ‘sudden’ conclusion to our walk.  This section was notable mainly for the copious amounts of lose cow pats we encountered along the way.  I don’t mind this particularly, it is a rural location after all, but out of context back home in my hallway it was clear that I’d not circumnavigated the little land mines of excrement as cannily as I might have hoped.

Drove round to pick up the other car at Yorkshire Bridge, and that was that, another recce down. So this was the recce that took in the riches of a found 5p piece, a lost bank card, a dead stoat (or possibly weasel), brutalist architecture of Hope Cement Works, bees, a pinfold and an improvised rock shop.  That’s not a bad return on a few hours yomping.  I wonder what my next Dig Deep recce adventure will reveal…  Always something, don’t get that on a treadmill now do you.

strava route

For all my Dig Deep Series related posts, click here, and scroll down for older entries, or don’t, it’s up to you

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Where the wind blows… looping the loops in the cause of the Dig Deep recce, stoataly gorgeous!

Digested read: familiar route this time out, back to 12.12 territory, gusty out, lost my glasses to the wind, but found a striped caterpillar and met a family of stoats.  Also, whilst contemplating that 30 miles seems an awfully long way, met a trio of people running 190 miles (not all in one day though).  Perspective people, but bow down and worship them  all the same, or at least lend them a towel and shove then under the hand drier in the toilets to help them dry off a bit before sending them on their way.  Windy out though, hold onto your hat.

It’s good to know that even in the second half century of life, in which I am now firmly situated, there are still surprising new experiences to encounter out and about. Specifically, yesterday, that is on Saturday, the wind was wooshing and gusting so strongly at the top of Higger Tor, that it literally scooped my spectacles off my face and hurled them onto a rock!  No really, it did!  I had no idea the wind could do that.  This is why recces are important, I have learned that I don’t only need to hold onto my hat whilst hiking up the hills on the Dig Deep route, I may have to invest in a spectacle chain.  And I thought I’d nailed the kit list by investing in a compass.  Still, there you go, it’s good to be reminded there is always something new to discover or learn, if we are but open to doing so.


This particular excursion was fairly routine in terms of the route it covered, but remarkable in how it was executed.  I say this dear reader, because for the first time EVER, I was the person most in the know about the road not taken before by my recce companion for the morning.  The story is this. Bouncing back from the devastating news that my ultra buddies are still willing to be my recce buddies but are not now planning on doing the Dig Deep/ Peak Trail 30 I have widened my net in terms of recruiting others to take part in the Dig Deep running weekend.  The upshot was, another in my running circle has now signed up for the 12.12, but never done the route, despite often walking from Fiddlers Elbow/ Burbage bridge car park.  No worries, I dear reader would be able to show her the way.  Get me, leading the way, this is an absolute first.  Well, I reccied it enough last year, and although it isn’t especially a priority for me to recce again for the ultra, it’s a lovely route and it would be good to be reminded of the terrain where it overlaps with the 30 mile path.

The consequence was, another Saturday morning rendezvous – again no Sheffield Hallam parkrun, though I have missed my parkrun fix.  I figured I’d get it on Sunday at Graves junior parkrun instead.  However, this morning the gales were soooooooooooooo very savage that the run director had to make the very sensible call to cancel at the last minute.  I was off setting the course up at the time when another volunteer came to break the news.  A big tree branch had fallen off on the path just where we all gather round for the run director’s briefing, where children run past three times (it’s a two lap course and then back through the funnel) and where many spectators sit or stand cheering on the scampering, sprinting and ambling parkrun participants.  If that tree had fallen a few minutes later when parkrunners were gathered it would have been catastrophic.  We saturated volunteers assembled round the fallen branch, remarking at how very dangerous it would have been to carry on with the event in such circumstances as we piled our directional arrows back in the wheelie bin and squeezed out our sodden hi-viz before squishing it back in the event standard issue chequered laundry bag … ‘The problem is‘, we all agreed, ‘there is a whole line of trees along this path if this tree is structurally unsound, there is little doubt that all the others will be too.  Any one of these trees might shed its branches at any moment Doesn’t bear thinking about what might have happened if that landed on a group of children!’  We gazed upwards, realising simultaneously, that maybe standing right in the line of branch drop was possibly not the best choice of location for post event pack up chit chat whilst the gale blew around us.  We shifted pretty sharpish, not wanting to think about what might happen if branches should land on us either, a lot of squishing basically.  Here is the tree branch by way of illustration:
graves junior branch

It was still good to see my volunteering comrades though, and I also took the opportunity to walk through the animal park to say hello to the animals before leaving.   They didn’t return the favour, peering out from the sanctuary of their shelters as I stood in torrential rain, holding onto my hat.  The pigs were still lying down.  Only the deer greeted me, but that was because their breakfast was late, they were shouting for room service, and pacing as they caught sight of one of the animal keepers making his way towards them, belatedly I presume, with a bucket.

I’d lingered to help pack away stuff, and then 9.00 a.m. having come and gone, seeing no point in hanging around unnecessarily risking trench foot, or indeed drowning or being blown away entirely I clambered back into the car, being sure to saturate the entire interior with the run off from my coat and hat, and drove off, leaving the solitary bedraggled figure of the RD standing in the deserted car park ready to turn back any late arrivals if necessary, like a captain going down with their ship.  That’s commitment for you.

Anyway, why are you asking me about junior parkrun?  That’s not the point of this post at all, this post is all about looping the loops for the 12.12.  Starting at Lady Cannings, or more specifically, the lay-by opposite the Norfolk Arms, which was our rendezvous point.  I was early, of course, hate being late.  Which gave me the opportunity to eye up the cattle penned near the lay-by.  I do declare these are the infamous Limb Valley cattle, but they were looking chilled and innocuous munching on their silage yesterday morning.


This was to be a walk recce – I still cling to the belief I will eventually do some run recces at some point, but this was not the day.  I was in possession of new shoes for one thing.  I feel a bit guilty because I got them on the internet, but the thing is, whilst I do try to be loyal to local running shops, I really wanted last year’s model as I’ve loved my inov-8 parkclaw, even though they’ve not worn all that well, giving at one of the seams – and do not want to risk ‘new improved’ versions.  It drives me mad with running shoes, you find a pair you really like and then the manufacturers tweak them and the new versions don’t fit anymore.  So anyway, wiggle it was, and they came and it made me realise wow, I should have replaced my old shoes a while back. These have much better tread and much better cushioning. However, they do also feel strange, and I admit, I picked up a few weird twinges that I am sure from having slightly different contours on my feet at the end of the excursion. Still, glad I have replaced them in time to break them in a bit.


The idiosyncratic lacing is to take account of my bunions.  Sad but true.

My recce companion did have some very nice altra trail shoes though, tempting, looked like a nice comfy wide fit … maybe a running shop visit is in order at some future point too…

The shoes also matched my hat, which I won in a competition over a decade ago by writing my name and address on a postcard.  Actually, it must have been more like two decades ago now I come to think of it, as it was pre internet days, can you even remember such a time?  Doesn’t time fly…  I thought to hold onto my hat on Higger Tor, it was these very glasses that were flung off by the wind:


Waiting for my stomping companion I wandered up to look at the new fence down the Limb.  Wow, that went up quick after the crowd sourcing campaign.  I did contribute so was interested to see what it looks like.  It’s way more substantial than I expected,  really wide and it looks like they are putting down a compacted gravel track, which I hadn’t expected.  I was a bit taken aback, as it’s lost its off-roadiness, but to be fair, it was a quagmire in winter, and if a job’s worth doing…  I am definitely relieved it is from henceforth a cattle free zone, and it’s a generous width, no more playing chicken as you venture down that footpath in future.  Good job.


So we met up, nipped into the Norfolk arms for a precautionary pee.  We used their loos, we didn’t just pee on the carpet or anything, then off we went.  On the subject of peeing, it had been pissing down with rain earlier on, a welcome relief for the ground after weeks of sun-scorched drought.  Off we strode.  Up through Lady Cannings, dodging bikes, actually, that’s not fair, the bikes dodged us.  I’ve always found the mountain bikers there pretty courteous, though their antics terrify me.  I saw a reality helicopter heroes thing that showed a biker  with a dislocated shoulder being attended to by mountain rescue ‘in woodland on the outskirts of Sheffield’ and I’m sure it was Lady Cannings.  They have put in some pretty impressive off-road obstacle run routes for cyclists to use, I always assumed it was part of the outdoor city initiative to improve facilities for these off road enthusiasts, but, now I come to think about it,  maybe it was to concentrate all the cycling accidents into an easy access area to make life easier for the emergency services.  They are up there all the time apparently, they should have their own kiosk really.


Despite the rain, it was still pretty sticky hot.  And the landscape still looks dry.  I found it hard going just trudging up the hill through the trees.  I really do need to up my game fitness wise, but today was just about showing my new buddy a new route.

We emerged from the woods to the expansive view of heather.  I love that moment when you step out from the trees and ‘suddenly’ the landscape opens up in front of you.  I know now that there are plenty more spectacular views in the peaks, some of which we took in on this route, but I still remember that giddy feeling when I first moved to Sheffield and exploring ‘discovered’ how close to the heather the city was.  Love it.


The only thing that slightly burst our bubble, was that as we were walking a couple of people with a golden retriever dog were walking towards us, we exchanged companionable nods.  Then, after we’d passed each other, and there was a good 50 metres distance between us, and we were walking way, the dog came charging back towards us and then barked ferociously at our heels for a while, until its owner was able to call it back.  It was odd, because I didn’t think golden retrievers are particularly aggressive generally, and it wasn’t at all clear what might have provoked him.  Weirdly, at woodrun in Ecclesall woods a couple of weeks ago there was a similar golden retriever out with a pack with a professional dog walker.  It too ran at us barking, was put on a lead by the apologetic dog walker and led off.  Once it was a 100 metres or so away from us, the walker let it off the lead again, and it came charging back to chase us and bark again.  I wonder if it was the same dog.  I was not impressed. Dog owners, I don’t care that ‘he won’t hurt you‘ I don’t want an unknown dog – or indeed any dog –  to run at me barking when I’m just mooching about.  And yes, I know it’s not the dog’s fault, might not even be the current owners if the dog is a rescue, but if the dog is in your charge, please keep it under control.  And don’t hang bags of dog poo in trees either whilst I’m on the subject.  Rant over.  (Not suggesting this particular dog owner or dog walker did by the way, but others certainly do).  Why can’t all dogs be like Tilly. She’s perfect.  Other dogs, not so much.  I’d rather be stalked by a mountain lion, at least that takes you out of the ordinary and generates more anecdotes.  If it did take you out, I’m hoping  you wouldn’t know and it would be a very much more interesting demise than a slow decline into old age and penury.  I don’t think we have cougars in the peaks though, then again, I didn’t expect the wildlife encounters that came later in our foray out, so who knows…

tilly rocking windswept look

I was quite surprised how purple the heather was, it seems to have started to emerge after the rain, it was all closed up just a couple of days ago.  Now it is promising a sea of purple imminently – hope it doesn’t mean it vanishes  just as rapidly.  Nothing beats the August heather landscape, I’d love it to be in full bloom for Dig Deep itself.  We headed alongside the plantation, towards the track I call the roman road, because I’m sure it must be, though actually it’s Houndkirk Road if you want to be navigationally accurate, and obviously I now do, what with my newfound orienteering accessories.


turn right at the footpath, through the gate, up the stony path til you get to the next gate, and look out for… the white heather!  Yep, my little patch is still there, saw it last year, and I wondered if it would still be there, so happy it is.  It brings me joy whenever I see it.  I feel lucky!  So lucky… etc (feel free to sing along dear reader, it’s my adaptation from the west side story song list, don’t be shy, singing is good for the soul, though not always for your neighbours/house mates stress levels to be fair, but don’t let that stand in your way).  It’s not open yet, but is full of promise, on the cusp of blooming, can’t wait to go and inspect it again.  I clearly need to get out more.


Burst through the gate, onto Houndkirk moor, and as you descend the path – which had been quite washed away in parts from the overnight storm – you start to see Higger Tor, Carl Wark and even Stanedge over the horizon as Burbage Edge reveals itself to your right.  It was and is a gorgeous route, we saw no-one at this stage in the day, it really feels like you have the whole place to yourself.


Down to the lower path so you can admire the climbers on Burbage Edge.  There were a few more people around now.


We got to Burbage Bridge and then headed onwards and upwards towards Higger Tor.  This is where the wind started to really pick up.  It was already ‘breezy’, but as we got higher the wind seemed to rip the oxygen out of your lungs, and it was almost comical.  We couldn’t communicate, only press on, leaning into the elemental forces that would have flung anyone less earth-bound than me off the hill altogether. I knew carrying extra ballast round my midriff would come in  handy one day!

Of course my photos don’t do it justice, but the ground had a sort of surreal quality.  The torrential rain had washed off the top service revealing layers of white and black sand, it was very strange, and rather beautiful, but you couldn’t fail to see the erosive power of the rain, great swathes of peat were piled up where they had been scoured off the hill overnight and settled lower down.


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We got to the top of Higger Tor, where I was all prepared for my usual quest to find the best route off.  There isn’t one, well if there is, it must be like at Hogwarts, it perpetually moves, as you never find the same path twice.  I went to the edge to peer over, to see the path we were aiming for and great gusts of wind were like a punch in the stomach.  I guess it was like being literally winded. I’d never thought about that before, that being caught in the full force of a wind does make it impossible to breathe, I wonder if that is where the phrase has come from.  I’ve been winded a few times from falling off horses, it’s horrible, this time though, it was bizarre. You could lean into the wind if the inclination took you and it carried your full weight. I did a bit, and then lost my nerve as it dawned on me that if the gust changed direction I’d basically just belly flop off the edge which was not the descent I had in mind when I set out earlier in the day.  As I write this account it occurs to me that what with the leaning over the edge of a precipice held aloft only by the wind on the Saturday and standing under trees of dubious structural integrity on the Sunday I am a strong contender for the Darwin Awards at some future point.  I don’t mind being a joint winner if appropriate – I wasn’t alone standing under the tree canopy earlier on today after all, but it would be nice to get recognition for something.

As I was playing in the wind, leaning over the edge, and hanging onto my hat, it suddenly gusted and snatched my glasses off my face and hurled them on the ground.  It was so strange.  A first in my varied life.  Who knew the wind could do that?  Well, we all know now.

We eventually found a way to scramble down.  I went down largely on my bottom, as I’m a bit of a scaredy cat descending at the best of times, and joking about the precipitous descent and gale force winds made it more challenging that usual.  The wind didn’t drop all that much until we got into the shade of Carl Wark.  Here we met some walkers coming up the other way, who proclaimed the path to be ‘boggy’ it was a bit, but nothing like as bad as I’ve seen it in the past, just a localised little bog section at one point.  It’s straightforward, and then we ended up at the little stone bridge, which looks like it should have trolls under it, but they’ve always been out when I’ve called to date.


Just a simple matter of retracing our steps back really, but there was still excitement to come.  First bit of excitement, a fine striped caterpillar:


but then subsequently, as we were back on the compacted gravel track, my buddy spotted something crossing the path out of the corner of her eye.  We both paused and retraced our steps to see if we could find a clue of what we’d seen. OH!  MY! GAWD!  I glimpsed it two.  Actually I glimpsed it three.  Stoats.  Pretty sure it was a family of stoats.  She’d seen one run down the bank, I saw three on the opposite site of the road.  I’ve since checked on google so it must be true – and you do get stoats on the moor.  They predate the rare birds which is a shame, but I was just massively excited to see a family of them.  I presume it was a family, as I think they are solitary creatures otherwise.  But actually, I don’t really know.  I don’t even know for sure they were stoats not weasels, which is silly really as everyone knows that they can be told apart because weasels are weasily distinguishable whereas stoats are stoatally different.  Stoats have black tips on their tails, but we couldn’t see them.  They were like little dark brown cucumbers, darting about.  Very exciting.  What with that and nearly losing my glasses and my new shoes and everything it was a more eventful outing than anticipated.  It’s always stepping out, always a micro adventure awaiting!  This is what it looked like where they were, so this is a photo where either a stoat family or a weasel family have passed by.  Gripping isn’t it?


Onwards and upwards. Back across Houndkirk


and back to Houndkirk road, walking onwards until Lady Canning’s plantation came back into view


and then suddenly we were back at the Norfolk Arms.  So we went in for coffee – well rude not to. And were just in time to dodge the rain.

In one of life’s pleasing but unexpected coincidences, as we were leaving I bumped into another running buddy, looking somewhat bedraggled to be fair, after being caught in a soaking of torrential rain. She and her comrades are at the half way point of a mega run over several days, they are covering the Peak District Boundary Walk, which sounds gorgeous, but they’ve had the hottest and most humid weather imaginable, followed by storms of near biblical proportions, so I’m not sure they picked the best climate window in which to undertake it.  It’s 190 miles, so not for the faint hearted.  And judging from the hollow laughs that rang out when I asked them how they’d found their guide-book it was ‘good in parts’.  Still, respect.  What a great idea for a project.  Runners I salute you.

peak district boundary walk book

So there you go, another fine morning’s yomping through the Peak district.  For those of you who are interested in such details, Strava tells me we covered around 8.6 miles and 1208 ft.  I am trying not to think how much harder it will be to cover 30 miles and 1388 metres.  Instead I will think of the feed stations.  They are supposed to be really good.  Spinach and feta cheese filo pastry anyone?

Whatever it takes to motivate you dear reader, whatever it takes.

So there you go, work in progress, but still one foot in front of the other, and that dear reader, is how the very longest of journeys starts.  Fact.


For all my Dig Deep Series related posts, click here, and scroll down for older entries, or don’t, it’s up to you

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Setting forth in hope… Dig Deep recce Hope to Hathersage

Digested read: still recceing for the Peak Trails 30.  Hope to Hathersage, blimey that was heavy going on the hottest day of the year to date.  Some getting lost, much getting dehydrated, but the restorative powers of a recce buddy with Les Brutelles credentials and a chip butty ensured all ended happily.  Still project in progress though, no idea whether or not it will be game on just yet.  Map still works. Hurrah!

Well, setting forth from hope, strictly speaking, but I didn’t think that was such a good title, so go on, sue me.  Good luck with that.  You might think from the photographic record, that the objective for the day was to get a panoramic perspective of the Hope cement works, viewing from on high from all conceivable angles, with the cement works being celebrated as the glorious epicentre of the known universe, but actually, that was but a happy bonus from this day’s travels.  Though quite apt as me and my recceing buddy cemented our technique and our mutual support tagging along the way.  See what I did there?  Not contrived at all.  High five to me! (Also no mean feat, it’s really hard to give yourself a convincing hi-five, it’s basically rather affected clapping, not recommended at all, this is why most organised running events have cheery race marshals to oblige.)


Now I have discovered my new super-power of navigation, I’m trying to work out how best to harness it for good.   I guess all superheroes have a few teething problems whilst they are trying to work out the extent of their abilities and how to utilise them, and I’m no different.  Still, the plan was to do another recce of a section of the Dig Deep 30 Ultra/ Peak Trails 30 Challenge this time from Hope to Hathersage.  Here’s the map so you can see where I mean…


only of course you can’t because the map is crap.  Fortunately, as you my regular reader already know, I am now in possession of a new, bigger, better map – this, coupled with my prescription glasses, means I have a sporting chance of finding my way.  Even so, I’m new to this map-reading, authoritative pathfinder/ lead orienteer role, so I took the precaution of having a buddy come along too.  More specifically, a buddy whose idea it was to do the recce in the first place, as she  had already recced this part of the route before, but got a bit lost so suggested a second attempt and the meet up as she had an uncharacteristic day off.  Basically, it wasn’t my idea at all, I was parasitising someone else’s initiative as passively as ever.   Well, I can only take leadership and my new-found resolve to be more proactive so far.   I was mightily relieved and grateful she was up for this – more so when we were actually doing it.

We had all day, so agreed on a leisurely start at 10.00 ish, and to meet at Hathersage public car park, then we’d drive in one car to Hope to start our walk from there so we could do a straight leg of the route rather than an out and back.   I got to Hathersage a bit early.  It was already blisteringly hot.  Maybe the leisurely start idea was not one of our best.  We were going to be out in the midday sun for sure and I loathe this heat.  On the other hand I suppose the likelihood is that I’ll be doing this section around noon, so perhaps it’s as well to practise at the same time.

My micro adventure started early on.  I found a parking place no problem but then found the ticket payment machine wasn’t working.  It was a great exercise in people watching.  If I could only find a job opportunity based on this I’d be giddy as a piglet with joy.  A free range, not-bred-to-be-eaten piglet obviously.  Maybe a wart hoglet them, they know how to have good time.  Great runners too – they have purpose and attitude.  Also, did you know if you scratch a wart hog under it’s belly it makes its hair stand on end?  Also useful for pub quizzes in the future.  Unfortunately, I’ve not yet sourced one – a job based on people watching that is, not a juvenile wart hog as a running buddy that is –  they have CCTV for that these days. Anyway,  we all took it in turns to approach the machine, try to use it, look puzzled and then inwardly debate what to do.  It was like watching squirrels try to negotiate a baffle on a bird feeder.  We were individually non-plussed.  This must be possible?  But no.


Eventually we decided to talk to one another about it, and the consensus was that if we all left the same note on our dashboards with a time we’d be OK.  I don’t know if we were all necessarily particularly law-abiding, I think we were rather more fearful of being landed with a fine, a less noble but more authentic sentiment.  The feeling was that the machine was full after the weekend (wasn’t it the Hathersage Hilly Tri only the day before) so the fear was that is someone came along and emptied it, it would start working later on in the day, and all those of us without tickets would be landed with mahoosive fines.  A life lived in fear is a life half-lived as we all know, so once there was consensus we all collectively breathed  a sigh of relief.  Pens and paper scraps were shared amongst us – one person even went the extra mile and left a note on the machine as well, just wow!  Then we all went our separate ways with a bit more of a spring in our step.  Especially in my case because that saved me over five quid in parking.  Yay!  As I waited, eventually a man in a white van appeared and prodded the machine, some new potential car parkees had appeared by this point and I watched from afar as some pointed at the machine and it was explained again about it not working, and then the white van man said something and everyone dispersed smiling.  Apparently white van man had proclaimed ‘it’ll be fine‘ and everyone believed him.  If that man had a hi viz and a clipboard too he could have set up his own cult.


I tried to find some shade whilst waiting for my running buddy.   She was delayed and sent me a message via Facebook, but as I am the last person in the known world not have a smart phone I didn’t get it. It didn’t matter, she arrived explaining she’d had to go back for something or other, but figured it wouldn’t matter too much as we were up for a leisurely morning out.  Morning!  Blimey, how fast was she reckoning on tackling this route?  At least one of us was going to be in for a shock.

We agreed as we drove over to Hope that I’d route find and she’d only intervene if I was going to take us a bit too far off piste for comfort.  We had a plan people!  It dawned on me as we motored over that this felt like a long way, and yet was barely a third of the distance we’d be required to tackle on the day.  Gulp.  No point in dwelling on that for now.  One foot in front of another and see how we go.  Parked up, and we alighted from the car, and got our bearings.  It immediately became apparent that we have rather different approaches to this sun.  I am loathing it.  I’m pale skinned and blue-eyed and, erm, in possession of a silken layer (euphemism for extra packing of sub-cutaneous fat dear reader, what did you think I meant).  I don’t like the temperature, but I also recoil from the actual bright sunlight too, I must have vampire heritage.  Not in the blood sucking or avoiding garlic traits mercifully (a vegetarian that doesn’t eat garlic would have a dull gastronomic time indeed) but I’ve definitely got the genes for cringing and recoiling in the light.  I’m not good with crosses and organised religion either to be fair, but that’s a post for another platform another time.

vampire light

The only way I can cope with it is by covering up.  Unflattering hat?  Check.  Sunglasses?  Check.  Full length leggings?  Check.  I was basically wearing a ghillie suit with a duffle coat over the top for good measure.  She on the other hand was all minimalist and light and loving it.  We must have looked an ill-matched pair!  Mind you, to be fair I was so well camouflaged you possibly couldn’t make me out, I am in the photo too you know!


The first challenge was navigating my way out of a paper bag getting my bearings in Hope, but after a brief episode of constantly rotating my map and staring around me vacantly, I was on it.  Off we trotted.   Well, not really trotting as such to be fair, we needed to conserve our energy, away we went.

Pleasingly, my first observation is that the start at least is/was quite straightforward.   Also, without wishing to sound too like I’m giving into negative thinking, as the route passes through the village there is the option of taking either a snack detour, a loo break, or even abandoning the endeavour altogether and getting a bus home.  As this will be a step into the unknown for me, if I do embark on it, it’s reassuring to know that at the half way point I can buy an ice cream rather than lie down on an exposed mountain face to die if it’s all been a bit too much.  Carry cash as well as a compass for this one people.  Incidentally, I have now bought a compass as it is part of the kit requirement.  The irony of having to carry a bit of kit I don’t really know how to use does not escape me, but show willing eh. I mean obvs I’d be able to work out where north is, but then what.  I know which way is the sky and which way is the earth too but that doesn’t necessarily help me stay upright, I’ve fallen over a fair few times running despite that insight.  Maybe it’s my centre of gravity rather than orientation that is the issue.  Incidentally, top tip, in an avalanche scenario (not that I’m expecting that in the environs of Hope in August to be honest) after all that tumbling around in the snow you can tell which way is up by spitting and seeing which way the saliva runs down your face, works with blood too, then you can dig your way out.  Obviously if your air pocket isn’t big enough for you to spit in you will die of oxygen deprivation anyway, and if the snow has set around you like concrete you wont be able to dig either, so which way up you are is the least of your worries. Might help you out at that pub quiz sometime though.  You’re welcome.  I have a feeling knowing which way is north will be of similar practical use when lost, but you never know.  I am enjoying having it all the same.  Makes me feel hardcore.

So, waving goodbye to the coffee shop we frequented last time we were in these parts, we hooked right and back on the Peak Ultra  30 route, or whatever it’s called now – Peak Trails 30 Challenge I think…  I forget.  As long as I haven’t accidentally entered the 60 miler it’ll be fine.


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This first section of our recce was roady and unremarkable, and very straightforward to navigate to be fair.  I got disproportionately excited when I realised we were going right past the entrance to the cement works.  I was even giddier later when we transversed it from within…

You pootle along, past an outdoor pursuits centre and campsite where a cat was snoozing contentedly on a bird table.  There is no way of knowing how many birds it had scoffed, but it was quite squashed into the space so I’m guessing quite a few.


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Shortly after Pindale Farm you get to a turn in the road where there was a fairly obvious left turn through a gate and along a trail that went through the cement works.  It was a shaded track, but the humidity as well as heat was building, we’d hardly gone any distance at all and I was flagging already, this does not bode well…

The route took in a DANGER sign, which I enjoyed.  A frissance of risk is always an asset on a micro adventure.  There were a couple of footpaths dissecting the path now and again, but essentially you just follow the trail ahead.


Eventually we emerged onto first a more pronounced track that took us past a rather quaint community orchard.  Here we had a brief detour just to see what it was all about, though we did obey the directive to ‘stay away from the hives’ not because we are risk averse, but because we couldn’t be bothered to walk all the way to the other side of the orchard.


After a little distance more, we emerged onto road and the edge of Bradwell.  Now, here we need to be canny on the day.  There is a check point, but to get to it, you have to go along two sides of a triangle, instead of straight ahead.  This is not a complicated manoeuvre, but it’s one to be mindful of.   The more obvious route is straight ahead.  We decided not to add on that extra bit as it would surely be unmissable on the day… only I subsequently found out that last year’s ‘winning’ runner, actually ran on by this check point and in missing it, incurred a penalty and so missed out on the top spot.  So it’s worth noting people.  Personally I doubt I’ll be running so fast at this point I’ll speed on by, especially if this could even be a feed station.  We’d hardly gone any distance at all and I was already fighting the urge to ask ‘are we nearly there yet?’


Through the village, and very soon you get to a pub on the right and there’s a mini green and some steps up to the left, and there you go, next bit, this navigational malarkey is a breeze!


Uh oh.  Things started to unravel.  I don’t know quite how, but it got really confusing from hereonin.  Maybe we were distracted by the loveliness of Bradway/ Bradford/ Bradwell, wherever it was we were.  I had a mental block about the name of the place which created some confusion.  The village itself though was a little nest of quaint buildings with elaborate flower arrangements and lots of little run throughs and alleys all over the place.  It reminded me a bit of  Portmeirion, but without the prisoner running through all over the place.  Well not when we were there, though it was pretty deserted to be honest…


I’m not absolutely sure how we went wrong here but we did, taking a premature right hook through the village, and ending up in what was obviously the wrong spot as a path headed out of the settlement in completely the wrong direction.  My heart sank a bit as we had just hoiked up a long hot hill to get there, and the temptation to try to get back to where we were supposed to be without retracing our steps was strong. If you are looking at this view, you are off course my friend…


Fortunately we managed to hold out and follow reason, and duly went back to the steps to try again.  This time we went right through the village, which is what we should have done in the first place.  We met a friendly man with a blue van who explained the path ahead, basically head on up to Rebellion Knoll.  It sounded straightforward.  I don’t know if there will be another man with a differently coloured van there on the day, but I do rather hope so.

We headed up, oh my goodness, after the road bit it got really steep.  There seemed to be some ground works going on, so there wasn’t really a single obvious path, just rutted, very rutted steep narrow and overgrown tracks heading skyward, and wide tracks made by vehicles crossing traversing them. It was very confusing and didn’t correspond obviously to the map at all.  Not even when my buddy got her OS map out and even tried finding our location using the mysterious magic of her phone tracking system.  I was getting distinctly hot and bothered now, and were we not in this together, would have been sorely tempted to abandon the endeavour and put the whole thing down to sorry experience.  We went up and down, and out and back along various tracks, hitting dead ends or high bracken.  Eventually, we used logic just to head upwards and in the vague direction of the knoll we could locate on our map due to our fantastic map reading skills.  Also, because as already identified, I know which way is up, didn’t even have to spit, which was lucky, as we needed to preserve all the fluid we could.


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On the plus side, when we stopped to draw breath, we could see new views of the cement works and down over Bradford, I was so shattered by heat at this point, it was easy to think we had indeed walked from there.  The Portmeirion analogy seemed even more plausible from on high..


Finally we came out and hit an obvious path at the summit of our climb!  Hurrah, this must be it… my recce buddy cautioned me that on her previous recce it all went wrong here too.  I couldn’t see how, there was literally nowhere else to go, so we turned left and followed until… we hit a fence, there was no way the path was continuing.  It did not compute, I  thought my brain would implode, we couldn’t see where we’d gone wrong.  We went back to where we’d emerged from the undergrowth.  This was another bit where you really can’t improvise as there was supposed to be a checkpoint somewhere.  Curses!  Eventually my buddy had a moment of genius inspiration, and suddenly all the neurons – or whatever they are in her brain – fired off, and she saw where we needed to be.  Long story short, we’d over shot on our exit point, so had to go back a couple of hundred metres to where there was an obvious footpath and gate.  We just had to cross a field and ended up on a really proper, proper road,  It was dry and dusty, but where we needed to be.  We wasted an age though.  I’m hoping on the day they’ll have put up something in the way of markers as it was very confusing, on the other hand if they don’t I suppose that’s the point of the recce.  You are going to end up somewhere along that ridge, and it’s just a question of finding the main gate once at the top, who knows, on the day I might even get lucky and come up the intended path! Still, let’s not get too carried away with delusional thinking.


So we ended up on this long, dry, downhill path.  On the one hand we were quite pleased to have got back on track.  On the other hand this wasn’t the nicest of routes on a hot dry day.  The surface wasn’t that great, contrary to expectations.  It was downhill, which ought to have been a boon, but covered with a loose, dry gravel, which made it slippery. I’d be scared to run down that, I don’t know quite how speedier runners do it, it can’t just be fearlessness, maybe they are literally running so fast, they have moved their feet on before the stones beneath them have a chance to slide away?  Whatever, I can see some limiting factors to my participation in this event, running wise.   Aside from the obvious issues around lack of training, fitness and inherent disinclination to run, there is the little matter of I can’t run up hill because it’s too hard and the inclines are too steep, and I can’t run down hill because it’s too skiddy and scary and I don’t want to do a face plant, and there aren’t really that many unflat bits as such, and I wont be able to run them because it turns out I’m not massively enamoured with running after all.  Oops.  I’m beginning to think there might be a problem with this event.  Oh well, they say at distance it’s more a mental game than a physical one, have to say, that’s just as well in my case, because I think I’ve already capitulated in relation to embracing the physical part of the challenge.

It wasn’t all bad though.  We chatted companionably.  We realised we were on Hathersage Hurtle territory, we were very relieved we’d not gone all the way over to Abney, which is where by buddy had ended up on her earlier recce.  Also, some high points, more views of the cement works – I am beginning to think these are to the environs of Hope as the Christ the Redeemer statue is to Rio de Janeiro.  Best bit though, was the fine face in the wall.  What act of anonymous creative genius was this?  So impressed, completely unexpected.  Thank you whoever you were:


that, and the rather cute baby pheasants, hiding on their mum’s back.  Cute eh?  Shame they’ll all be shot in due course no doubt…


So these sights cheered us as we trudged onward, marvelling at how little distance we had actually covered and how long it had taken us to do so.  I suppose this is the point of doing recces, we won’t waste so much time next time, this is the theory – I suppose I have to accept I’ll need to do a recce of this section again, can’t say I relish the thought, oh well.

After this though, it was straightforward.  The landscape seemed dry, and I struggled to link it with the Hathersage Hurtle views from a few weeks ago.   Even Shatton didn’t raise a giggle this time – we were both feeling the heat by now and water was running low, though we weren’t yet at the point where we were each eyeing up the other with a view to sating our hunger… that time could come though, it could….


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Navigationally, it was all easy enough, there was a bit where you have to dodge through a narrow set of gate posts – very narrow, bit of a squeeze if you didn’t watch what you were doing with your back pack, and ducked down along the river for the final haul to Hathersage.  Even here it was dry, but there was some shade from trees, and the water looked nice.  We passed the stepping-stones which looked incredibly tempting, but which were fully occupied by playing families so we didn’t feel we could plunge right in.  Not that we had the energy to do so.  And then after miles and miles – trottable miles if you had the energy and inclination to do so, you ‘suddenly’ emerge onto the road, cross a bridge, and on the day this is I think another marshal/ dibbing point.


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For now though we are done for the day!  Hurrah!  We made our way wearily up back into Hathersage, having long since left Hope behind.


Fortunately, refreshments awaited us in the form of a chip butty – paid extra for an egg, and gallons and gallons of water, which you could replenish from the outside tap.  I had an unguarded moment of manifest eccentricity by choosing to eat my chip butty with a knife and fork, yes I know it’s mad, but my hands were grubby and they are on the small side for wrestling with a butty of the dimensions I was faced with, didn’t want to do a public battle with it in the circumstances.  I can’t help my southern foibles, I’ll own them.

And then, restored and revived that was it.  Job done, we did about 9.5 miles, not even a third of the route, and it took forever.  My verdict, well apart from the notable exception of Bradwell, where I did very nearly lose the will to live, this is a very straightforward leg, but some of the uphills were brutal.  I was astonished how little ascent we did on this stretch according to Strava as it felt unforgiving, but I wonder if that was perhaps partly because of the heat on the tracks and tarmac radiating back up at you.  It’s not as scenic as the earlier sections, but interesting enough, and I’ll be so relieved if I make it to that point that should be its own reward.  Today’s effort hasn’t give me confidence in terms of my ability to complete the challenge, but I do feel increased confidence I can find my way.   And not just because the Dig Deep Races event organisers offered reassurance to another nervous navigator entrant that they’d help her find her way by sellotaping arrows on to the backs of faster runners, so she’d be fine following them as long as she didn’t get over-confident and try to overtake.  It’s a thought.

I’m still a bit hey ho about it all though. Then again, the organisers are on record as saying this is a good one for first time ultra ‘runners’ as the cut offs are the same as for the 60 milers, so you should be able to do the 30 mile at a really slow walk and still make it.

Cut offs:
Yes, and no! The cut offs which are in place for the Peak Trails 30 are based on the Ultra Tour of the Peak District. So, in order to have any chance of being cut off you would need to walk (slowly) all the way!

That’s all well and good, but I’m not sure what my crawl pace actually is.  One to test for next time.  Oh, and I’m reminded of the vital stats – Distance: 30 miles, Ascent: 1388 metres.  Note to self, sort anti – chafing options.

I drove us back to Hope, in order that my Les Brutelle companion/ recce buddy could pick up her car.  She once again proved herself to be an asset on any occasion by pointing out to me how the air con in my car works.  I honestly had no idea I had any, wow, what a revelation. It’s been one discovery after another the last couple of weeks, mind-blowing doesn’t begin to cover it.  I’ve only had the car 3 years though, so you mustn’t judge me…

Oh, here’s where we went:

hope to hathersage strava

Distance 9.5 miles and ascent 1387 ft.  That’s pretty pitiful isn’t it really.  Ah well, work in progress, and I’m sure it’ll be speedier next time round.

Or not.





For all my Dig Deep Series related posts, click here, and scroll down for older entries, or don’t, it’s up to you

Categories: off road, running | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Digging deep in search of my running mojo I discover I have a previously untapped super-power! Who knew?

Digested read: lost my running mojo, but acquired a super-power. Who knew my geography O-level would turn out to be such a boon later in life?  Also, realisation has dawned that the way to get ready for a long distance run is to do some long-distance running. Fortunately, the views are lovely.  It’s true you know, don’t wait, just step out, it’s all out there ready for us to dive into.   It’s been one revelation after another this week, really it has!


Why has nobody mentioned this before?  I mean, well really, this discovery is an absolute game changer.  I’d always thought people who could navigate were endowed with some kind of a super-power, but I discovered today what they are actually in possession of is a suitably scaled and detailed OS map.  Plus, if not actual twenty twenty vision, then some sort of correctly prescribed and adjustive corrective lens: be it in the form of monocle; spectacle; magnifying glass; periscope; pince-nez; opera glasses or whatever. Well, maybe not an actual periscope, that’s probably more a triathlon than running thing, but essentially, whatever works for you.  A rusty geography O-level has also helped me out, but no doubt other rudimentary qualifications are available that will serve just as well.  I’ve not been so amazed since I realised that you don’t need to be able to cook if you know how to shop.  Some discoveries are indeed life changing.

I’ve always categorised myself as rubbish at navigation. It’s true I have zero sense of direction, and a possibly unique ability to not be able to retrace routes alone that I’ve done dozens of times before in the company of others, but I am now wondering if I simply haven’t given myself a chance to find out otherwise.  I’ve allowed this self-perception to fester unchallenged.  When I first moved to Sheffield, in late Autumn, I went off on my own along a footpath from the Snake Pass and terrified myself by getting completely disoriented up on a moor somewhere with dusk drawing in.  I decided it was irresponsible to head off alone again, I just couldn’t make sense of the unfamiliar landscape and had no idea where I was.  So now, my default position when I want to discover new routes is to try to find someone to guide the way, or if I have to do things on my own, to do endless out and back recces until through trial and error I do learn an area, but it isn’t very efficient.

My lack of navigational competence and/or confidence is starting to be a barrier to my running progress.  To be fair, there are quite a few barriers to my running progress, not least of which is my fundamental reluctance to run.  However, the focus here is on being able to find my way on longer routes.  I have zero aptitude for shorter distances where there is an horrifying expectation that participants will run at speed (apart from parkrun, gotta love parkrun), but I do seem to have a certain tenacity which means I can endure over distance, as long as my default speed is what many might regard as pointlessly slow.  For my part, I try to just thing that forward is still progress.  It’s a start.


Even two steps forward, one step back is still progress.  Unfortunately, running round in circles is not.  I have my eye on doing longer trail events, but they inevitably require navigation, because you can’t really marshal or tape off courses of more than a few miles, unless it’s a road race like the London marathon.  Even marathon runners have been signed the wrong way to be fair – Venice 2017 marathon anyone? so nothing’s a given.  I want to do longer distances, so I need to crack this navigation malarkey.

Last year, my favourite event turned out to be the Dig Deep 12.12.  I know!  I amazed myself, it was just super friendly, gorgeous course, and for me, challenging, as I hadn’t done that distance on a ‘proper’ trail route before.  I resolved to come back the following year, which is now this year.  (Concentrate dear reader) and what’s more, I’d have a bash at the intro ultra.  Thirty miles!  Well, I did my usual thing of entering ages ago, thinking I’ll have lots of time to train.  I’ll have done the London Marathon by then so I’ll have morphed into a practically super-human finely tuned distance runner by then, it’s only a couple of miles more!  Whilst most many of these thoughts were always going to be entirely delusional, I did do some proactive preparation.  I cajoled everyone I knew to see if others might be up for the challenge.  A few were in a ‘we’ll see’ sort of way, and I started up a ‘Dig Deep and Dig Deep Curious’ private Facebook group to try and build some solidarity amongst us so we could motivate each other and … this is where I get to the crux of things … do joint recces.  We could learn the route together.  It would be grand!  I never planned on running with others during the event, that way tears and tantrums and a growing sense of personal inadequacy and failing lies (for me anyway).  But the preparation would be half the fun. If I’m entirely honest I suppose I was hoping to parasitise the navigational skills of others, but it was also about joint yomping out and discovering new trails on our doorstep.  It was going to be joyous!  Scampering about in the wake of  my navigationally gifted running buddies we’d avoid the dragons and learn the trails. How fantastic would that be!


I’m a bit phobic about finding my way, not only metaphorically in life generally, but literally, heading out on the trails.  My confidence in my navigational skills has not been helped by my acquisition of the route map for the Dig Deep race series.  I actually got it last year for the 12.12, bought of the website, but it’s just rubbish.  Beyond rubbish.  The scale is small, and the route so heavily marked you can’t work out which trails are which anyway.  Last year I felt stupid because I couldn’t make sense of it.  I must have done a squillion recces before I cracked the 12.12 mile route.   I ended up constantly calling on Smiley buddies for assistance in deciphering the code, and my local running shop even used google images of Higger Tor from above to help me find the path off the blooming thing.  In the event, I’m really glad I did the recces, but the route was pretty well marked, so I would have been alright without.   This year, if I do go through with it and do the thirty mile intro ultra, I’ll definitely need to find my own way round.   Marshals will be few and far between, and going the wrong way could add unwelcome elevation as well as miles to the distance.   I can’t see how they can mark out the whole route that far.   Crap.  The 30 mile route is unchanged from last year, which means I can still use last years map but it remains about as illuminating as last time around.  Crap again.  All the paths looked blurred, no idea where you are supposed to go. This does not bode well.

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So this year, I might be doing the Dig Deep 30 mile intro ultra.  I mean, I have entered it (what was I thinking) but it’s still in the balance whether I’ll make it to the start.  Loads of reasons why.  Too slow, not fit enough and not trained enough for starters.  Then there is the issue that my entourage of running buddies who were possibly going to enter, and were part of the ‘Dig Deep and Dig Deep Curious’ band of buddies,  have now pretty much all fallen by the wayside.  Legitimate reasons, going away; injury; not trained; realised that thirty miles is actually quite a long way and might not be fun to run if this heat continues blah de blah.   I understand their reservations and view points, heavens, if I’m honest, I share them.  The thing is though, if I do decide to withdraw, I want it to be because I don’t want to try not because I can’t find my way around on my own.  I was hoping running buddies meant recceing buddies.  We’ve had a few days out – thank you those who have shepherded me round to date, but I’m nowhere near knowing the route, and it is so much easier to recce a long race in sections if you pair up. then you can have a  car at each end of the segment so you don’t have to constantly retrace your steps.

I tried to console myself.  I reminded myself I was never going to actually run the route on the day with anyone anyway – waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too stressful.  No-one runs as slowly as me so buddying up to make a running pair isn’t an option.  If I did, either my eyes would pop out with the strain of trying to keep up with them, or they’d become  frustrated to the point of apoplexy by having their natural running speed constantly curtailed.  You can only push running friendships and challenges so far.  I know.  I’ve come home from plenty of group runs and had a quiet cry at my enduring ineptitude.  There is nothing to be gained from comparing yourself to other runners, and therefore, by extension, from trying to run alongside any particular individual runner for prolonged periods,  that way madness lies.


Not that sort of madness, that would be quite novel…  might risk a pairing for that.

Even so, irrespective of whether or not you actually run together,  it’s reassuring at a new event to have buddies out on the course, if only so they’ll notice if you don’t make it back before nightfall.  Psychologically, others pulling out of the Dig Deep Intro Ultra now Peak Trails 30 Ultra has been tough for me.  Especially, because without exception, they all seem fitter, stronger more capable runners, I’ve been feeling a bit crushed.  What’s the point of even trying…  I don’t know the route, even if I could drag my weary carcass round the distance, I felt like I had zero chance of knowing which way to go. You have no idea how hard it is to be me.  And don’t get me started in terms of what’s happened to my running mojo.  I have no idea what it looks like, and no, I can’t remember when I last had it.  Crap. Crap again.  It’s all crap.  I hate running.  I hate not being able to run even more.  My relationship status with running is kind of complicated.

lost mojo

I had a mini meltdown earlier in the week.  It all seemed a bit ludicrous to have ever signed up for the thirty miler in the first place.  I did make it out with my Smiley Paces buddies for an off-road Thursday night run for the first time this year.  As usual I trailed at the back feeling hot, clumsy and useless.  Other bright young things fitter of frame and fleeter of foot sprung ahead, hopping across the rocks like mountain goats as a glorious sunset bathed the peak district in spectacular evening rays.  I try to tell myself that I have endurance, so speed doesn’t matter, but it still messes with my head.  How can I even entertain the idea of doing long distances if I can’t even keep up with others on a barely 5 mile social run?  Still, it was scenic out, this is still something I’d like to crack….

I decided it is/was not yet game over.  I still have some time.  It is dawning on me that it’s not altogether surprising I’m making no progress with my running as I’m not regularly training if I’m honest.  Yes, yes, it has been crazily hot, but even so, I’m not going to magically get fitter if I don’t do anything at all.   What I need, is a cunning plan.


So, I did my usual thing, indulged in a brief pity party, and then decided to be a bit less defeatist. I will try to crack this navigational thing myself.  How hard can it be?

I actually went out and invested in a proper scaled map, oh my gawd!  It was like discovering the gateway to Narnia.  Did you know, that if the scale of a map is big enough you can actually work out where you are and where to go next by looking at it!  It’s remarkable.  Obviously a 1:1 scale would be ideal, then I’d just lay it over the peak district and walk over it like a map carpet, but they weren’t available in store so I’ve gone for the more conventional Peak District Central 1:25,000 Harvey superwalker map.  I think it’s the map which is being referred to as ‘superwalker’ not the user of the map which in this case is me.   I got it from my local running shop, which was also a good plan, as they checked to make sure I bought the right one for the ultra route – insider info people, it’s what you need.  Cheers nice Front Runner people.


I’m practically a sponsored athlete now I’ve had so much advice, though it’s come from so many different sources I’ll need bespoke kit to acknowledge all the many who’ve contributed to my running ‘journey’, mind you they perhaps wont all want their brands associated with me, so that’s a win.

I then laboriously marked out the route from the shite map onto the bigger scaled one.  It took a bit of deciphering, but I got there in the end.  It was both fun and a revelation. Fun, in the way that when I was at junior school I remember there was a time when every new bit of written work began with writing your name neatly at the top of the piece of paper, and then you could decorate the borders of the page however you wanted before you did any actual writing as such.  Tongue stuck out the side of my mouth, it was undemanding and even relaxing.  I imagine those adult colouring in books serve much the same purpose, though it would feel like surrendering to a slow death to go and purchase such an item.  Once I’d accomplished this task though, the revelation came –  the route actually made sense!  Oh my goodness, with this map, I’ll be able to find my way without having to chase round after faster runners or memorise the route from begged recces with other runners who already know where to go.  Couldn’t believe it.  There is a slight fly in the proverbial, in that I find I do need to wear my prescription glasses to decipher this navigational aid, but this seems but a small price to pay to avoid getting lost out there in the peaks.  My new map looks like this:


Looking a lot more manageable on this scale.  Maybe I can find a way to do this, literally as well as metaphorically.  Yay!  At the very least, solo route finding has to be worth a punt.  I can still duck out of doing the Dig Deep for lack of fitness; finesse; training or inclination, but let me not duck out from not being able to find my way.

My next decision was to try and be a bit less passive.  I’ve relied too much on others to plan routes.  Really though, there is no reason why I can’t do sections on my own if I keep them short enough that I can do out and back.  It is probably good to do this anyway, as it’ll give me a better appreciation of the whole area, and the more I do, the more hours on my legs, who knows, it might even help me recover some fitness, though I concede there may be an element of hope over experience and delusional thinking in operation here.

In other news, I also had a reminder moment about how confidence works.  It’s so easy to wait to do things until we are stronger; cleverer; more experienced; fitter; have more time; thinner; when it’s warmer/ colder; whatever.  The reasons for perpetual procrastination based on a toxic cocktail of inertia combined with a lack of self-confidence are many and manifest. Sometimes though, our – perhaps that should be ‘my’ – belief that things that seem beyond my reach will be doable ‘if only’ I’d passed some particular milestone or situation and so boosted my confidence are based on a misconception about how these things work.  You don’t do things because you are confident, you become confident by doing things which take you out of your comfort zone.  If we wait, we might miss out entirely.

For the most part, fear of failure is irrelevant, most challenges aren’t life or death, they aren’t even risking humiliation.  Speaking personally I fear doing lots of running stuff because I’m not ‘good enough’, I don’t fit the ‘idealised runner’ stereotype. I know this is irrational. Very few people do fit the idealised runner look and performance, and those that do are probably equally riddled with self-doubt – unless Donald Trump takes up running, in which case he would be the best, greatest of the great runners of all time, (obvs, in his head), as he is on record as being the fittest president in the history of the universe ever.  I think the pictures speak for themselves…

I’m not going to advocate harnessing your inner Trump, clearly there are always exceptions that prove the rule, but I do advocate just getting over your/ myself and if necessary feigning self-belief enough to give things a go. Spoiler alert, running wise, mostly, nobody cares.  A few track athletes maybe, in competitive arenas, but on the hills and trails, at parkrun or participating in your local friendly neighbourhood running club nobody gives a toss what anyone else is doing.  So whatever other real barriers might exist, don’t let the demons in your head add to them.  What’s the worst…  A few of my Smiley compatriots are adopting the ‘JFDI’ mantra – just jolly-well do it, and quite right too!  I jolly well will.

Well, I’ll start with a solo recce at least.  If I don’t try I’ll never know if I could…

So that’s what I did.  I know the first part of the route pretty well from my 12.12 reccces last year, so I decided to just do a 6 mile chunk from the ice-cream van carpark, which is officially the Burbage/ Fiddlers Elbow carpark, and head out across Stanage to the base of Win Hill.  I’d just walk, I’d take my time, and check out my map reading skills.

It didn’t start brilliantly, I managed to get confused just exiting the car park, as there is a path at the back you can take, but my ‘instinct’ was telling me to stride off towards the edge.  In fact, I did the sensible thing though, and relied on what the map said, rather than what i thought I was supposed to be doing, and you know what, it works!  It actually blooming works!  There were a few technical issues like now I need to pack my reading glasses in my kit along with water and naked bars.  Also, the route is annoyingly just on the edge of the map so requires using both sides.  However overall, all good.  Hurrah!

The weather was cooler than of late, and the paths for the first part of the morning were pretty much deserted.  It is unbelievable how lovely it was out, I feel so lucky to have this just a few miles from where I live.  I wouldn’t go so far as to say I found my running mojo, that has most definitely gone AWOL for now, but I definitely tapped into my inner ‘it’s reet nice out‘ because it was and it is.  The paths are inviting, the heather is just at the stage of promising a purple bloom in a few weeks’ time.  A scattering of rain the night before had even freshened everything up, though it is still pretty scorched out there.

It was pretty roady to begin with, there are more direct paths, but the race route takes you along the tarmac and official routes with firmer terrain, and probably they are quicker as the terrain is more stable than the scampering over the rocks options.  However, after a bit, you head up off the tarmac, and approach Stanage and then up top, where it was surprisingly breezy, I was rewarded with the trig point and stunning, if somewhat hazy views.  I had it completely to myself, it was astonishing really.  Where is everyone?  They couldn’t all be at Sheffield Hallam parkrun, as that was cancelled because of tramlines this week.

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I did get chaperoned around this route a few weeks back, by Smiley buddies who did the Intro Ultra last year as their ultra debut as part of a trio of lovelies.  That definitely helped, but I do find that if others are ‘in charge’ of navigation, I tend to follow, gazing about and not really notice where we go.  This time with the map I was pleasantly surprised to be able to find my way relatively easily, and what’s more, finally identify what some of those rocky outcrops are actually called.  Well, I think I did, my O-level geography is a bit rusty, though I could probably still do a presentation on glacial erosion and a representational picture of frost shattered mountain peaks.  I used to love doing all those drawings in physical geography.  I wonder if school children still do, or is it all print outs now. shame if so.  My pictures of glacial erosion were good enough to be stuck to the front of a fridge, not that they ever were, but frankly they ought to have made the cut.  Perhaps I should have sent them in to Vision On for the gallery now I come to think of it?  Imagine if I’d had my talent for O-level physical geography drawings spotted way back then, how different my life might have been. Sigh.  We’ll never know.

Coming down off Stanage, resisting the temptation to do a quick detour to the pole first (focus Lucy, focus, you are supposed to be learning a course !) I found I was walking a section of the Hathersage Hurtle route in reverse.  It’s brilliant doing recces as it helps me work out how all these places fit together.  I know, I’ve been slow on the uptake, but be patient with me, I’m not a Sheffield local, it’s taken me a while.   As well as the fine sight of the cement works, I had the pleasing bonus of espying a fellow Smiley, also out recceing an ultra route, but a Dark Peak 30 miler in October that seems to cover similar territory, albeit in the opposite direction.  her endeavour sounds more hardcore though, ‘Described by the elite field of runners as one of the hardest and most beautiful 30 mile races they have ever done!!  With soaring ridges and technical descending, you will gain over 7000ft of vertical gain!!‘  That’s a lot of exclamation marks and a lot of elevation.  Mind you, on reflection I have no idea how much elevation there is in ‘my’ ultra – not sure if I want to find out, blind naivety has worked for me before, no point in scaring myself unnecessarily…

Here are some more pictures.

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See, reet nice out indeed!  There was even some unfamiliar standing water on the path at one point, I thought it was a mirage at first.

I came out just along from the Yorkshire Bridge Inn, and then trotted over the road, across the mini bridge which went over a surprisingly picturesque bit of running water

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Quick right and down the no through road to the base of my nemesis… Win Hill.


I did briefly consider going on as far as Hope, but then the lure of a latte at the Yorkshire Inn got the better of me.  In my defence, I did still need to retrace my steps back to the car, and I had planned to do shorter, more frequent recces.  Yorkshire Bridge to Hope will be another good section to crack, and I can save it for another day.  Yep, latte:


And then back up that hill and as the sun came out scorching again, homeward bound.   At first I just met one or two other walkers or runners, all were friendly.  I always feel a kindly disposition towards other people I meet out and about, I have a working assumption that they will be sound people and not mad axe murdered.  It occurs to me that this assumption is not evidence based, it’s just what I choose to believe.  I do feel safe in the peaks.  Apart from anything else, in this heat even a mad axe man wouldn’t want the hassle of lugging his axe up the hill, you can be weighted down enough just with your cheese and pickle sandwiches, packet of crisps and bottle of water.  Perhaps it’s like with adders, the snakes and psychopaths alike are more scared of me than I am of them.  I’d love to see an adder in the heather one day.  I remember seeing them basking in the sun on holiday in Northumberland as a child, but haven’t seen one in decades. They are out there somewhere though.  So it’s a ‘yes’ from me for spotting an adder and a ‘not today thank you’ from me in terms of meeting anyone unstable and armed.  Just to be clear.

For my return up on Stanage Edge, the route was packed, loads of climbers up top, and puffing cyclists en mass on the roads, some having noticeably more fun than others.  Some plucky opportunists had managed to lasso and capture a rock, no idea how they were planning to get it home.  I didn’t think you were allowed to help yourself to things from the peaks, but who knows…  Was it intrusive of me to photograph the bikes having a private moment of coupledom?  Hope not.

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And then finally, I was nearly back to base.  On the last stretch I heard and saw a fire engine speeding by, I really hope there wasn’t a fire anywhere on the moors, it would all go up like a tinder box at present, which is not to be confused with the tinder app, that’s a different sort of sparks flying scenario altogether.

My favourite sighting of the day though was right at the end.  I passed a grey-haired couple sitting in their car, admiring the view.   I can’t be sure, but I got the impression that one of them at least wasn’t that mobile.  It was no obstacle to peak based fun.   They were sat there in the front seats, half way through a bottle of rose and having a blast.  Watching the world go by and marveling/ laughing at the panting cyclists and runners who were struggling up the hills so they didn’t have to.  That’s the way to do it!

So, all in all, navigation wise, that was a pass.  Didn’t catch sight of my running mojo, but to be fair, I set out to do a walk and that’s what I did. It was only about 12 miles, which isn’t much mileage given the distance I’m aiming for, but it was a respectable start, and it’s helped my confidence massively that I am capable of working out where I need to go.  1665 ft elevation, but obviously as I went out and back that doesn’t necessarily correspond to elevation over that distance on the day.  Whether I can do so at the speed that might reasonably be expected is another question all together, but that’s for another day.  This is where I went, in case you care:

strava route

Even if you are not in possession of Geography O level, you might be able to spot my latte detour if you examine the route really, really carefully.

So job done.  It’s not much, but it’s a start.  I’ve still got at least one joint recce pending, so will be cool if I can test out my new super-power map reading skills there, but I feel a bit more in control of things.  It’s by no means a given that I’ll make it to the start of the Dig Deep 30 miler, but I’ve been checking out the results from last year, and we do get the same length of time to get around as those doing the 60 mile course, as there are shared checkpoints, that makes the cut offs generous, as long as I can make the early ones in time.

Que será, será  dear reader, que será, será Doris could be wise at times you know, very wise indeed.

que sera sera

So running ups and downs continue. On the plus side, I have discovered how to harness the super power of navigation, on the not plus side I’m still not doing an awful lot in the way of running.  But I’m showing willing, and you know what they say, the longest of journeys starts with a single step.  I’m stepping out. You could too!



For all my Dig Deep Series related posts, click here, and scroll down for older entries, or don’t, it’s up to you


And this link is for my mum to find.  Hello mum Image result for emoji waving ! It’s a headcam video of Bushy parkrun where she is honorary marshal at her very own Elisabeth’s corner.  Hurrah!  Kudos to her and all the hi-vis heroes!  You can catch a sneaky peak of her in situ between 10 minutes 24 – 26 seconds – blink and you’ll miss it!

mum kudos

Categories: motivation, off road, running | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Dashing for DABKA, in action at the inaugural Round Donny Run

Digested read: I entered the DABKA Round Donny Run 30k event on a bit of whim, why not, wouldn’t want to miss out on an inaugural friendly distance event now would I?  It was hot, it was longer than 30k, but yep, it was well signed, it was fun and who knew about that amazing viaduct and the endemic population of pathologically friendly fellow runners and helpful marshals that are so prolific in these parts.  A few teething problems maybe, but I had fun, and loved the medal, which I think you’ll find is what running is all about.  Would recommend.


Now read on at your peril, this is a long one.  It’ll probably take you as long to read this as it did for me to run the blooming thing, but look at it as a test of your stamina and mental strength, these things count for distance running, trust me, I’ve googled it.  Or you could save yourself a lot of time and watch the video summary of the Round Donny run course.  Remember, the choice is yours, you read on now, it’s at your own risk, contributory negligence on your part for being sucked into a time vampire. You have been warned.  You’re welcome.

RDR viaduct

No sooner had my Smiley Buddy deposited me back on my doorstep after driving me home from the Round Donny Run, a concerned neighbour came scurrying across the road to ask if I needed any assistance.  She naturally assumed from my creaking and stiffly cautious progress towards my front door I must have experienced some sort of medical emergency and was in need of immediate help.  It possibly wasn’t the greatest testament to my athleticism that I had to admit that I was absolutely fine in a ‘but I have just run(ish) over 20 miles‘ sort of way, meaning, that whilst I was able to move immediately after the event, sitting in a car for the drive back to Sheffield stiffened me up completely.  To the point I did seriously consider just asking my buddy if I could just live in her car for a few days, until I’d regained the use of my legs.  In the end, I thought that was maybe asking a favour too far. After all, she had chauffeured me to Donny for the inaugural DABKA Round Donny Run, hung around for me waiting for me to finish, and taken me home, and to be fair, I probably wasn’t at my most fragrant post the event, and I’d have matured to an even riper pungency sat in her car for a few extra days during this seemingly endless heatwave.  Even the best of running buddy friendships need some boundaries.  By this I mean I did ask if I could, but then pretended I was only joking when she laughed in a ‘clearly that’s a joke’ sort of way.  I didn’t push the point.  Anyway, it was nice of my neighbour to enquire after my welfare, but she did look slightly horrified when I told her my temporary (hopefully) impairment to my mobility was self-inflicted.  ‘But why would you do that?  Run all that way in this insane heat?’ she queried.  I showed her my medal.

RDR medal

I think it is quite a nice one, enamel, that’s unusual, and the shoe tread design, it’s a fine bit of bling… she was unmoved, not even unmoved, completely nonplussed would be more accurate.  I concede it is hard to communicate what motivates people to run (I use the term ‘run’ loosely in relation to my own event performance) to those that don’t.  Honestly, I don’t even quite get why I put myself through these things myself, so you can’t really expect others to get it.  I speak from the heart here, as every event I enter I go through agonies of regret in the weeks and days before about whether or not I’ll actually turn up to the start.  I like lots of things about running: the people you meet; the places you discover; the post-run endorphins, coffee and chit-chat; the whole parkrun ethos; but the actual running bit…  Hmm.

Seriously, for the most part it’s fun retrospectively. I  am always astonished at races when the shout goes up ‘go’ and everyone sets to set off at a sprint and it suddenly dawns on me I’m expected to do likewise what’s more, with some semblance of enthusiasm!  My body protests as I lumber along, bits wobble, other bits threaten to chafe, and I have to contend with a noisy internal monologue berating me for turning up at all  ‘what was  I thinking?  How is this fun? It had better be a very fine medal indeed to justify all this physical unpleasantness that I’m currently undergoing.  Oh god, I think I need the loo again.  I wonder if there’ll be any loo stops.  Am I lost yet?‘ that kind of thing, hilariously, I don’t even think this experience is unique to me, there are loads of us out there enjoying our running as Type Two Fun, i.e. the fun is really only recognisable retrospectively for the most part,  such is the nature of the endeavour.  This is why the term  ‘fun run’ is often cited as the most easily identifiable and therefore obvious example of an oxymoron, pushing ‘happy Christmas’ into second place.   Me and running, well it’s sort of complicated….

The Round Donny Run is a case in point.  For those of you who like to know the blah de blah, the Round Donny Run website tells us that:

On Sunday 8th July The inaugural DABKA Round Donny Run takes place. It is a multi-stage trail race which will see entrants undertake a scenic 9 stage 30k course on footpaths and trials taking in the beautiful Don Valley Gorge, Sprotborough Flash Nature reserve, Conisborough Viaduct, Hatchell Wood, Cantley Park, Sandall Beat Woods, Doncaster Racecourse and back to your friends and family at the Town Fields during their annual Summer Gala.

The run can be done as an individual or with a friend as a pair doing the full distance or as part of a 3-person relay covering the 30k distance.

RDR event blurb

Details of the event popped up in my news feed months ago.  This is significant.  Any event that is ‘ages away’ allows me to delude myself that I will undoubtedly have put myself through rigorous training and preparation in the intervening weeks.  Also, I liked the idea of taking part in an inaugural event –  fear of missing out is a powerful thing.  It sounded as if it might be following the format brought into being by the Round Sheffield Run, which is  my favourite event of the year – i.e. friendly, sociable, inclusive and introducing participants to areas around they might otherwise never discover.  Yeah, why not, post London Marathon I’d be soooooooooooo fit, I’d romp round 30k effortlessly, you know what, I’d probably even have lost so much weight with all my training and cross training and everything I’d be OK going down a size in the tee-shirt. It would be fine.  Yeah, I’m in, it’ll be fun.  Why not?  Spoiler alert, I was delusional dear reader, but fortunately, I’m conscientious if not keen, and having entered took part anyway.  Also, it doesn’t matter that my T-shirt is a bit of a squeeze, as it’s white anyway, and therefore would be destined never to be worn even if it fitted ok.

I’m not going to lie, it did cross my mind that it might be a scam at first.  Hardly anybody entered, and it didn’t have that big a profile.  Granted, I’m over in Sheffield, but for many weeks it seemed very quiet compared to other events I’ve entered.  It’s a shame that these thoughts do crop up. There have been some scam events in recent years, night-light runs and obstacle courses being the most common contenders for fraud. I did feel though if you were going to do a scam event, you’d go for something more flashy, and frankly in support of a better known charity. I reckoned it was legit, definitely worth a punt.

This event was a fund-raiser for DABKA, which I’d never heard of before.  Oh, you haven’t either?  Erm, hang on, the RDR Facebook about section says:

DABKA; Doncaster and Bassetlaw Kidney Association helps kidney patients, their families and carers live with renal disease, from pre-dialysis through to transplant. DaBKA is run entirely on a voluntary basis for the benefit of renal patients. They provide information and support to patients, their families and carers. We are hoping that we will be able to raise some much-needed funds for them and raise awareness of the great work that they do


The number of entrants was pretty small (but perfectly formed) for the inaugural event, and a lot of time, effort and funds went into getting the Round Donny Run up and running, so whether or not it did raise funds I just don’t know, but I’m sure it raised the profile of the charity, and I daresay as the event continues and grows it could be a money spinner for a local initiative.  Here’s hoping.

So I entered, and then largely ignored it, until a couple of weeks ago.   As the event drew near, there was a little flurry of e-mails explaining logisitics, where to park, an OS map of the route popped up on Facebook,

RDR route

this didn’t massively help me to be honest.  A Strava route would have been better.  I knew there would be different stages, but I never did work out how long each one was, and, significantly, nor did I discover the actual distance once you added in the recovery stages.  Because it was advertised as a 30k event, with the option of having relay teams of three people running 10k each, I’d imagined it wouldn’t be far off that distance.  In fact, on the day the walking sections added to the mileage quite significantly, and I’m not going to lie, that was a mental challenge of me as I found in searing heat I had literally no idea how much further there was to go, not helped by my TomTom watch expiring on my at the 18 mile mark, as if saying ‘this was what I signed up to, you are on your own now mate‘ not grand, also not strictly true as my TomTom is an inanimate object and can’t actually talk, but I’m sure you get the gist.

As the weekend drew nearer, I was half hoping they might cancel due to low numbers of entrants. It was just so insanely hot. I’d hardly been running at all, broken post London, my running mojo upped and left, I did do a few parkruns and the Round Sheffield Run a couple of weeks before but nothing since, and frankly didn’t want to venture out of the house in the heat, let alone head out for a long distance run.  As preparation for a 30k run goes I hold my hand up to being at the ‘lamentable‘ rather than ‘exemplary‘ end of the preparation continuum.  Nobody’s queuing up outside my door for running training tips.  At least it meant I wasn’t injured… little prospect of getting a running related injury if your primary state of activity is just about inert.

Still, on the plus side, I did know one other member of my Smiley Paces running club had entered, and so our fates became intertwined. I had a massive wobble a couple of weeks before hand and she talked me round pointing out it could be seen as just another training run.  Then I remembered about the bling and the t-shirt and the potential for generating amusing anecdotes etc and after some mental faffing I was back in. Also, she was up for going together and driving us both there and so that was it, destiny sealed. The thing is, there are pros and cons of jointly committing to doing a run together.  The pro is that agreeing to both go means that you are much more likely to do so, no baling or you let your running buddy down, that would be unthinkable!  By weird coincidence the con side of the equation is exactly the same thing, you have to do it now. Curses.

So the day dawned.  Hot, hot hot.  Ridiculously hot.  I did my usual faffing routine, there’d been some last-minute emails warning about the heat and saying there would be extra water stations and sponges with water along the route. I debated about whether to wear my running water belt.  I hate running with it, but being dehydrated would be worse.  I filled up my bottles with electrolyte laden fluids, stuffed some naked bars in, and some toilet paper for good measure.  I coated myself with factor 50 sunblock like a channel swimmer covering themselves with goose fat.  I was still fearful I’d sweat if off.   I have my hat and deeply unattractive but very practical freebie TomTom sunglasses and then porridge consumed and trail shoes on I was out the door and ready to go.

Disappointingly, my lift arrived soon after.  I was sweating even at 7.00 in the morning, this did not bode well.  She wasn’t feeling too good, nursing the end of a bad cold and a good night out the evening before.  I was feeling a bit guilty that she might only be coming because we’d pre-arranged it, so she felt obligated to come, but she was gracious about it.  ‘See how it goes‘, well quite.  I felt the same.

It was an easy drive out to Doncaster, but actually it’s further away from Sheffield than I thought.  It occurred to me, that I hadn’t really thought about the event very much at all apart from entering.  I don’t know the area at all.  I’m not sure I’ve ever been to Doncaster, other than passing through the railway station on a train en route to elsewhere.  Oh well, that’s the joy of trail running, you get to see new parts of the world.

We were sent directions in advance advising there’d be some parking at the Doncaster School for the Deaf, which was pretty much opposite Doncaster race course.  We round it OK, and we’d even remembered to bring our printed out car parking permit, but in fact a cheery marshal was on hand to wave us in the right direction and give us a freshly minted permit to display on the dashboard.

parking permit

We parked up near to a massive ambulance.  When you are at an event with a conspicuously high number of St John’s trained people in evidence I never know whether to be reassured that the event organisers are taking participant health and safety seriously, or terrified that it is basically thought necessary to stalk us all day with highly trained medical personnel as there could be a life threatening occurrence at any moment.  You have to question whether it’s a good idea to take part in any endeavour where ambulances follow you round as a matter of course.  Oh well.   There didn’t seem to be a massive amount of parking, but there were other car parks and roads around, and I guess locals would know other areas and maybe even walk down.

Oh well.  Parked at 8.00 exactly, we had some faffiness, sorting tops and water and what to take, other runners rocked up.  We debated with them whether or not to carry extra water, the consensus was we would.  Blooming good call, I’d never have made it round without.  Me and my Smiley buddy weren’t quite sure where we were heading, but basically followed a couple of other runners marching purposefully ahead of us, and sure enough, after a ten minute or so walk, following some yellow chalked arrows on the pavement we ended up at the Town Fields start area.

The fields were dry and the area huge.  We could see some tents at what must be the start line, but it looked like runners were congregating by a brick building in the opposite direction.  We followed the migrating lines of trainer clad people and after only a brief panic on my part, as we walked alongside what looked alarmingly like the track for a school sports day had me shuddering with unwelcome flashbacks of getting stuck in a tyre during an obstacle course race, we were at the building registration HQ.

The building was sort of the opposite of a Tardis, in that it seemed a lot smaller on the inside.  It was really well organised, with tables where you could pick up your number, another where you were issued with your dibber, an area where you got your (too small) tee shirt and could pin on your number and do all the hoiking of kit and joining queues for the loos that is a prerequisite of participation in any event.   As the numbers were small, the building could cope, but my those corridors were narrow, if there had been many more runners assembling it would have reached grid lock pretty quickly.  A large map of the route was on display, but it was hard to get to as it was up on a wall along the corridor, also, somewhat fatalistically I felt there was little to be gained by looking at the route at this point.  I was relying on the route being signed and marshalled and it was a bit late in the day for checking out the land marks to look out for along the way.   Maybe if next year, they stuck it on a board outside to avoid congestion I’d take the time to go and look.  There was a long, long queue for the loo, until someone in the know pointed out there were extra loos in the changing rooms.  A bit more signage would have been good.

Registration was speedy, and so once we’d got our numbers and had our precautionary pees we headed back across the dusty dried out grass to the start area, where the MC was practising with his mike and the start arch was speedily being inflated in front of our very eyes.

I was seriously impressed by the attention to detail in the organisation.  The place was crawling with pathologically friendly and helpful marshals (that is a compliment, in case you are wondering).   Yet more St John’s people were gathering (enough now, their extreme prevalence is starting to freak me out a bit), and the event compere was enthusiastically welcoming people as they assembled at the start, calling out the names of running clubs from vests various, and talking about the DABKA charity.

There were explanations about the dib dab dobbering. I  was quite chilled with this as it’s been a thing at the Round Sheffield Run for years, but some runners were a bit apprehensive about how they’d get on with them.  I’m probably tempting fate in saying this, but I’ve never had a problem with the technology, so it must be fairly well tested and robust, as long as you don’t do anything stupid like affix your wrist band to your ankle say so you have to do the can can at every check point in order to dab your dibber in chest high dobbing points.  Not quite sure if I’m referring to dibs, dobs and dabs correctly, but I’m sure you’ll get the gist.   There was a bag drop – big secure tent, so no worries there.  Lots of milling and chilling, all very relaxed and friendly, a really good vibe.

There was a photographer on hand, so plenty of opportunity for posing for official shots, and taking shots of each other, and making new friends, and taking photos of them too.  It’s always a good idea to get lots of snaps at the start, because you never know quite how the day will unfold.  One nameless pair shared their view that as we got given the tee-shirts on registration, and it was so very, very hot, no-one would be any the wiser if we all just went straight home now and skipped the run altogether.  Me and my smiley buddy tried to make out we were horrified by the very thought, we did the honourable thing and conceded we had nursed (and rejected) the very same thought.  Tempting though…

The organisers were having a few teething problems, so somewhat stressed, but as participants we were all tickety-boo.  Because of the heat, the event organisers had introduced a cut off time, as after that there would no longer be any first aid available on the course.  I did/do understand the rationale for that, but couldn’t get my head around whereabouts that would be as the instructions were given in relation to stage sections, but I was planning the route in miles.  Oh well, I decided que sera sera, given the heat I could only do what I could do, but I would be gutted if it was to be my first DNF, even so, a DNF is better than a DNS I figured just go with it.  We gathered, we fraternised, we checked out the different running clubs.  I found it a bit strange being out of my usual home patch, lots of new clubs were in evidence, and really none that I recognised other than Doncaster Athletics Club who were really well represented and seemed a friendly and inclusive bunch.

RDR the gathering

The event was going to start a few minutes late due to, erm, actually, I’m not sure why, sorting out the dib-dobbery I’m guessing.  But that didn’t spoil the fun, beyond me wondering if they’d add that on to the cut off time consideration.  There were some novelty treats to come. The BEST BIT, was that the organisers decided to line up the slower runners at the front, so they could dib through first, and have more time on course than the speedier runners at the rear.  This was a little strange, because it did also raise the possibility that we’d all get trampled by a stampede of faster sprinters behind, but it would have been well worth it, just for the experience of starting off at the front.  An absolute first for me!

RDR start line up

As we were being briefed, a white car came speeding across in front of us, the driver leapt out, and ran across to hand something to one of the organisers, as he did so, he hadn’t put on the handbrake, and nervous laughter went round as we all watched the white car continue with it’s forward momentum, wondering if it would come to a halt or collide with the next inanimate object in its way.  Disaster was averted as the driver leapt back in, drove off at speed, then came driving at speed back towards us with a velocity that at first was entertaining and then alarming as I seriously thought he was about to ram raid the starting line up. Suddenly being at the front didn’t seem such a coveted position!


Once the car excitement had abated, there was a count down to dibberdom, and off we went.  As you have to dib out, it was a stuttering start, but joyful to be underway.  Although I was one of the first through, naturally I was soon being overtaken by speedier souls, I cling to my belief in the validity of the fable of the hare and tortoise, it is hope over experience that often gets me through on such occasions.  Heading off felt fun. This was going to be grand, I was here, we were all doing it, the event was happening.  Yay!  Oh look! They even had a photographer to capture the off!

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So I had a very brief moment of feeling like I was leading the field, VERY brief, and then yomped on along behind pretty much everyone else.  The first leg was really short, blink and you miss it – maybe 0.5km.  Phew, that wasn’t so bad, I can do a few more legs like this.  Dib out, and onto the first of the walking/ recovery sections.


My only real criticism of this event, was that I had no idea how long each section was.  It would have been really handy to have had a list giving distance for each running section and each recovery stage, because it made it hard to judge how to pace yourself for each bit.  This information may have been buried somewhere in the advisory notes, but I couldn’t find it, and references to places didn’t help as I’m not local.  To be fair, I think section maps did go up on Facebook in advance of the event, but that isn’t particularly user-friendly or accessible on the day.  I don’t recall seeing a summary anywhere…

Never mind, it didn’t matter much, as I just blithely followed everyone else.  I like the element of surprise out yomping, it maintains interest and distracts me from the overall unpleasantness of being expected to run.  The first walk section though seemed to go on forever, though.  It took in the delights of a Sunday morning desolate Donny town centre, and coming so early on in the event seemed a bit bizarre.  I overheard one runner remarking to another ‘this is the weirdest race I’ve ever been in – are you sure we are supposed to be walking this bit?’  Yep, we were though. Some runners, frustrated by the pace, chose to sprint on by, this might have got them round the course as a whole faster, but wouldn’t have moved them up the rankings of the actual race results.  It is a strange one to get your head around if you aren’t familiar with similarly devised events.  I was on my own, but already groups of runners were sort of finding their pace, some ahead, some behind, plenty of time to go…  Highlights included going over the railway bridge – this is the Doncaster I know!

After what seemed like miles and miles, during which time I’d already started drinking my water, this did not bode well, but it was soooooooooo hot, especially in the town centre, with light reflecting back up from the hot tarmac.

Eventually, we espied a cheery marshal just over the bridge, pointing the way down a canal path and onto stage 2.  I found the signage pretty good for this event. There were loads of marshals, a reasonable amount of red and white tape at intervals and some yellow arrows in biodegradable powder paint I think on the off roady trails.  Some of these did wear off quite quickly, but for the most part I was in sight of other runners or had some vague idea where to go because of the excellently briefed and helpful marshals.  Others I gather did not fare so well, due to vandals laying a false trail at some point which is a darned shame as it was beyond the control of the organisers, but obviously pretty devastating for those who ended up going a couple of miles awry.  The organisers were on it as soon as they heard, putting extra marshals in place, so did all they could.  From a personal point of view, I thought the markings were ok, and you didn’t need any navigational skills.  I myself have also been caught out by small minded anti-social bastard vandals pranksters laying a false trail in the past, getting so lost I came in behind the sweeper at my first ever fell race the Wingerworth Wobble –  and it’s heart breaking but really not the fault of organisers, it just happens.  I felt pretty confident on this route for the most part, just a couple of minor wobbles navigationally speaking.  Here’s the next cheery marshal with excellent directional pointing skills, I tried to stop and photograph all the volunteers I passed along the way, too often they are the unsung heroes at events.  Not sure I got them all, but I did my best.


And suddenly, we were out of the urban, and alongside the canal.  It has been so very hot and dry, I guess it wasn’t as lush or scenic as it might have been, but it was shaded, and the dry air meant there were no midges or biting insects laying siege to runners as they passed by. It was nice, not spectacular scenery, but pleasing nonetheless.

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We hugged the canal for quite a while, and then at some point, it widened out and we moved a bit away from it, as the adjacent land opened up into farm land.  It was dry and dusty, and you could hear traffic at times. The runners space out a fair bit, and I found I ran long sections on my own. I didn’t mind this particularly, I’m so slow, I do all my long runs on my own anyway, unless I can persuade someone to come out and do a walk recce of a new route with me.  I think the event would be improved by more runners though, so you don’t feel too isolated on unfamiliar paths.  It felt safe though.  The second section was incredibly long though, and that was a surprise after such a short opening sprint (cough).

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We romped on.  Up and over bridges, under bridges, giving and receiving thumbs up to marshals and volunteers.  Occasional runners passed, I offered to give way to some as they caught me up, but many were sticking with running buddies anyway so it was all pretty friendly and supportive.  People encouraging one another and exchanging small talk about the heat, the ludicrousness of running and the unexpected appeal of parts of the route.  I have no idea what the mood was like at the front of the pack.

Note for others, up until now I’ve always been somewhat contemptuous of people who are members of the flat earth society, but here running round Donny, you begin to appreciate why the idea of the earth as a slightly squashed sphere would indeed appear to be errant nonsense.  This is a really flat route.  There are no hills.  One incline, but that was going up to the viaduct, and not really a natural geographical feature in the same way as a mountain say.  The paths were largely tarmac, or compacted mud and grit, so pretty much like road running for the most part.  If there had been loads of rain I suppose some sections might have been muddy, but not too bad I would have thought.  I wore my trusty innov8 parkclaws, which are feeling their mileage a bit now, but are my go-to shoes for unknown terrain, but really road shoes here would have been fine.  My guess is that this course would be paradise for speed merchants, they could hare round unimpeded. Less opportunity for small talk with other runners out and about though, so they’d be missing out on a large part of the run in my book, but each to their own.

At one point I noticed a load of guys lurking by a rock face to the side of the canal.  I thought they were answering a call of nature, but in fact they seemed to be about to embark on some rock climbing adventure, not quite Stannage, but did the job.


It was peaceful by the canal, and picturesque in places.  There was a diversion across the canal at one point, and extra marshals were on hand kitted out with life jackets presumably in case sirens started singing to them from the decks of canal boats and they felt compelled to jump in after them.  I assume that runners were deemed to be moving at too great a speed to hear such voices luring them waterwards, and therefore the event risk assessment allowed us to take part without wearing buoyancy aids.  I nevertheless threw caution to the wind, stopping to both take photos and pose for them. Well, seeing as I was there, why not – and I didn’t fall in, so no fear of either sirens of Weil’s disease for me!

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There were fishermen (they were all male) fishing.  I don’t get the fishing thing, it seems pointless and cruel, but the sitting by the water thing looked appealing.  Eventually, and this was odd too, though welcome all the same, there was a water tent.  Not a tent on or in the water, that would be a life raft, but a tent with bottles of water, so you could stop and get a drink, and refuel and cool off but it was in the middle of a run section.  I don’t care about my times, I was just aiming to get round, but again I found that confusing, that the clock was still running at the refueling point – though on reflection, I suppose that’s the case at most ‘normal’ events, so maybe I’m being unfair there.  It was much-needed though, I was more than ready for something to drink.  Again the marshals were super friendly, I think there may even have been jelly babies on offer, and – brilliant idea this – a bin full of water and sponges so people could cool down but without wasting the bottled water.  I’ve not seen this before at an event, but what a great idea. High five to whosoever it was who came up with that one.  I’m genuinely disappointed I didn’t think to take a photo of a barrel full of water and floating sponges by way of illustration and emphasis of this point, but I daresay dear reader you can use your imagination and recreate the scene almost as well in your mind’s eye.  See?  Clever eh?  Genius even.  Like all great ideas, ridiculously simple to execute, just needed some bright spark to think of it and make it so.

Refueled, rehydrated and revived I romped on. One of the advantages of running in a completely new area is that you get moments of real surprise. There was some fairly impressive industrial architecture along the canal, bridge wise, but then at one point a mighty viaduct came into view, Conisbrough Viaduct to be specific, and it really is extraordinary. It loomed into view from quite a way back, and then there was a bit of hike up hill to clamber on to it. There a fearless photographer was sat on the wall in defiance of gravity, snapping pictures of runners streaming past.  I wasn’t doing all that much streaming to be honest, so paused for a chat.  Turns out she was supposed to be running, but had twisted her ankle doing The Trunce, and very sensibly decided not to risk it running the Round Donny, but to bike up and take pictures instead.  Hurrah!

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We photographed each other, then, after pausing to take in both the view from on high, and the other runners hot on my trail,  I trotted off again.

Here is a smorgasbord of her photos, they capture the event nicely do they not?  Good job.

Honestly, bit of a blur after that, more hot trails, more running, more uncertainty about when the stage might end.  I followed the other runners, fading yellow arrows and sniggered inappropriately at the gratuitous knob graffiti which also seemed to be showing the way ahead with extra enthusiasm.  Eventually, just as I’d given up any hope of the section ever coming to an end, I emerged onto a road, just over the brow of the hill was another handily pointing marshal, always good to see!  This was a dib point, and then it was but a short walk to the next water station.

which was just the other side of a cut through by some houses, that felt a little strange, but hey ho. Quick pit stop, and on again.

So I guess that must have been a walk for a bit, just a short road section, past a graveyard, which I may have just hallucinated because I was pretty sure I was dying of the heat at this point, and then another cheery marshal (where does this run source so many smiley and supportive people, it’s very impressive, I’ve rarely felt so supported and welcome on a run, even on my own turf) was on hand to direct you into the woods.

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This was a shorter by comparison shady section.  I was on my own for the whole length of it, but this was not bad thing, as it enabled me to take a wilderness comfort break without fear of interruption, it was a lot better running after that – I obviously wasn’t as dehydrated as I thought!

One option for this event was to do a sort of relay in teams of three, but it wasn’t altogether clear to me where the handover points for this were.  It didn’t matter as such, but it did contribute to my growing confusion about what the actual mileage of the event was going to be. I’d long ago clocked up 10k, but seemingly was not a third of the way through the route.  Oh well, I’m here now. I have another Smiley running buddy, selfie queen, and her philosophy on longer runs is something along the lines of, ‘well tea time is going to come round eventually, so I might as well keep moving forward and try to get back for it, I got here under my own steam, so I can get back too‘.  I find this helpful, others may not.  Basically, onwards.  It was going to be a long one though, and I was slow, even my standards, it being so hot. I was starting to fret a bit about the cut off, as I didn’t know where and when it was.  I’d be gutted to be turned back after coming so far.

Over a road, over a bridge, directed down alongside another housing estate and…

Much excitement – spectator interaction!   Some local residents were out picnicking and playing with water guns, and – by mutual consent – took aim and gave me a good soaking with their guns. It was really fun, they cooled me off, and then waved me on my way over a little bridge – which was just as well, because even though just seconds earlier a marshal had clearly instructed me to do just that, I was in danger of heading off back down the crescent to where I’d just come from, destined to repeat that loop in perpetuity like a runner caught in some weird vortex. That would have been a bad thing dear reader, not grand at all.

The next section I was pretty much on my own.  There were dusty paths, long stretches adjacent to quite busy roads, so you could hear and occasionally see traffic rumbling by.  The trail markings were clear though, so even though I was alone, I wasn’t worried about getting lost.  There was some shade along the way, but it was quite nice to come across another water stop eventually, with again, friendly marshals and this time some pleasingly interactive fellow runners too. I’d actually been stalking them on and off from afar for a while, but not caught up with them before.

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It was fun meeting them.  They were having mixed experiences, but seemed to think we should make the cut off.  Was it here that one of them pronounced she’d cracked having a pee standing up, an achievement for which I warmly congratulated her.  It’s amazing what becomes interesting and relevant chat on a run.  I was a bit worried about washing off my sun block with the cooling sponges of water, so opted instead to fill my cap and let the water just run down from my head.  My new best friend running buddy offered some sun block, but I declined, I wanted to press on and was reasonably confident my slathering in factor 50 would hold.  I left them debating whether or not they’d both continue.  I wasn’t far ahead, but pushed on.


The next section was a bit strange, well, maybe that’s the wrong word, sort of unexpected.  We went through what looked like quite a dreary landscape, but actually there were loads of pools which I think given a bit more rain would have been quite an impressive wildlife reserve, lush and green. As it was, it seemed a little bleak, adjacent to an enormous Amazon warehouse, it seemed extremely unlikely the actual amazon being so dry, though to be fair, we know great acreages there are being turned into dust bowls through deforestation. The path sort of looped round on itself, so at one point I could make out distant runners ahead, and then saw a solitary runner behind me, so I gathered one of the two must have decided to withdraw.  I think there are times when it’s sensible to do that.  No point in risking your health for what is at heart a pointless activity, and one that is supposed to be fun.  How does the saying go?  ‘Run often, run long, but never outrun your love of running‘.  Agree.

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If I’m honest, my enthusiasm was dipping a bit by this point.  I had no idea how long there was still to run, and it was dry and dusty.  Ahead of me was a limping runner, I wanted to crack on to meet the cut off, but wasn’t sure I’d make it anyway, and she looked sore, so I stopped to check she was OK, which she was sort of.  By which I mean she was in a lot of pain, but it was a recurrence of a known injury. She’d taken a punt on whether to run or not, and as she’d been in a team of three doing the relay didn’t want to let her buddies down. She had water she said, and food, so we just walked and talked for a bit, and then satisfied she really was OK, I half-heartedly picked up my pace again, more in hope than expectation.  I didn’t think the cut off would be in reach now.  Oh well, it’ll still be an experience and miles banked, you always learn something when you go out for a run, well I do anyway, I guess I’m still quite a blank canvas when it comes to this running malarkey, everything is news to me!  Dusty paths, more road crossings, cheery marshals all a bit of a heat baked blur!

I asked the next lot of marshals about the cut off, one had no idea what I was talking about, and then another said in a kindly tone ‘you’ve missed that now love’ fair enough.  I’d plod on though, game wasn’t over yet.  Ahead of me was the big-hatted runner I’d stood alongside at the start. I never actually asked her why she was wearing a large hat, but then again the correct response to such an enquiry would be ‘why not‘ I’ve run enough times with companion animals to know you don’t need an excuse to don a different outfit for a run, it raises spirits and morale, that should be enough.  I set myself the goal of trying to catch up with her. I did, and we trotted along together for a while, sort of leap frogging each other, I got ahead of her at one point, and then she overtook me later, so we had fragmented conversations.  Enough though for me to establish she is a pretty amazing ultra runner and did a 55 mile (I think) endure 24 event just last weekend, and she told me about other ultras she’d done which were many, magnificent and inspirational.  Wow, just wow.  It’s great hearing what other runners have done.   Might even check out the White Rose Ultra some time  it’s apparently got generous cut off times and clearly marked paths, plus you get fed proper food, always a boon.  Point of information if you are thinking of doing this Round Donny Run, there aren’t really feed stations as such, there were jelly babies, but you did need to carry your own supplies – I had my trusted naked bars – I underestimated the distance here and probably should have thought a bit more about nutrition and hydration in advance.  I’ll know for next time though.  I was fine, and because it was a small field and the marshals were fantastic they’d have given you their last sandwich if necessary I’m sure, but best to be self-reliant.

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We jogged along to catch up with a small group of runners ahead. I  had a theory, based on nothing other than wishful thinking, that if we were a big enough group close to the cut off, they might take pity on us and let us finish.  My watch was at 16 miles, so it seemed bizarre if they wouldn’t let us continue just another couple of miles.  Of course I now know we had another six to go at least, which is quite a different distance.  As it happened, when we arrived at the next water station, which was also a dibber point and should have been the cut off, we were told that the St John’s ambulance people had agreed to stay on a bit longer, so we were ok to continue!  Hurrah.  I didn’t want to go home with unfinished business, not when I was feeling ‘fine’ just slow, but I knew I’d be able to finish if they allowed the time to do so.

I’m so glad we were able to continue, because the last section was my favourite one.  We started in shady woodland, the pathways of which concealed marshals ready to ambush you if you were in danger of going the wrong way and who called encouragement.  This was one bit of the route that I didn’t feel entirely comfortable running on my own. The psychology of this is inconsistent.  I run on my own in woods and across fells all the time on my own patch, and never give it a moments thought. I didn’t really like being a lone female in dense wood where I didn’t know where I was.  Again, a few extra runners taking part would help, and maybe in future years participants won’t lament the isolation of the path, but the difficulty of overtaking others on congested narrow routes… here’s hoping!

It was a short section, then you emerged at the back of some houses, through a gunnel at the back.  There was another roady bit, I think this was another walk section, but to be fair, by this point the distinction was academic, as I’d given up any pretence of trying to run anymore, it was just so hot, and now I knew I was going to make the finish I sort of stopped trying. That’s sounds really bad actually doesn’t it, when I say it out loud.  I’m just being honest, I can’t be the only person in the world who undertaking a running event in that heat starts to think as long as I’m moving forwards that should be good enough.  Oh well.  Given that left to my own devices my natural state of motion would be inert, it’s pretty remarkable I was hoiking myself Round Donny at all, be it running, or otherwise.

go slowly

For those who need external motivation to help them pick up speed, there is always the jurassic run, that might help me put a wiggle on…  I think that would be the Round Dino Run though – do make sure you book into the correct event next year or you could be in for a surprise in the wooded sections…

running with dinosaurs

There was a mischievously positioned photographer in a collapsible chair sitting the opposite side of the road from one of the marshals who was offering up jelly babies as sustenance to the weary.  I snapped him snapping me, maybe we can do swapsies later?

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A strategically placed marshal stopped runners from continuing down the road, and waved us back to a cut through that took us past the most enormous and well manicured grounds of what looked like a stately home estate of some sort.  Not a clue where it was, but it was a completely unexpected landscape. I  wished I was a bit fitter, as this part would have been lovely to run through, wide fields on either side, and easy flat terrain.  About this point, my TomTom spluttered and gave up the ghost.  It had recorded 19 miles which was a puzzle, but my watch won’t upload at the moment – long and boring story.  I thought once the memory was full, it would ditch earlier runs, but no, it just turned itself off like it was having an almighty sulk.  I wouldn’t have minded quite so much, but a few minutes earlier it flashed a ‘memory nearly full’ warning, but I couldn’t work out how to delete any previous runs so it was just basically shouting ‘panic, just panic!’ at me in a really unhelpful way before completely refusing to engage with me. Blooming great.

I emerged at the end of this section, to be greeted by the sight of a quartet of St John’s people, I say St John’s but they looked more like ghost busters, all tooled up and ready to go.  They smiled encouragement and pointed the way to the next tent.  I don’t know if they were going to assist someone, or just standing down as the end was very nearly in sight.

My only real hiccup of the day followed shortly afterwards.  I made my way down to the next marshal point, where there was water and melted jelly babies and a cheery marshal again

The route went across an open field, and then into woodland beyond. There was a group of young lads, some on bikes, who were curious about what I was doing and what the event was. They started chanting ‘Smiley Paces’ and taunting me for being a slow runner, ‘well you try running with me then’ I said, one did, another on his bike, I protested that using the bike was cheating, so he ditched that and ran instead, not for very long, as I’d correctly assessed that despite their youth and my fatigue they wouldn’t actually be able to run more than a couple of hundred metres, so I put on a sprint and they peeled off.  It felt really uncomfortable though, they were being overly interactive rather than deliberately harassing me, but I guess groups of youths just don’t get what it’s like to be a lone female runner.  I was mightily relieved to shake them off before I got into the woods.

The woods were cool and it was a relief, but I felt like I’d gone miles by now and still had no idea where the finish was.  I had one moment after I clambered over a bridge when I couldn’t see any more tape and my heart sank.  There was only a fifty-fifty choice of direction though, and I took a punt which was correct, as some guys on a bench had been watching other runners go through and asked me what the event was and where we’d been. It was hard to respond to the latter question as I didn’t really know, I recalled the viaduct, and the canal and the amazon lakes, and they nodded, saying I was definitely nearly back now, just about to emerge at the back of the racecourse.   Which indeed I did!

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The school for the deaf where we’d parked up was bang smack opposite the Doncaster Race Course, so I felt like I was indeed nearly home when I saw the familiar white rails which instantly signify a race track.  Only who knew a race course covered such an extensive area.  It was a straight line to the exit point, but it was blooming miles.  I passed posh stable blocks with hundreds of immaculate wheelbarrows all lined up ready for use.  The grandstand was there, and a little dot in the distance was a hi-vis marshal ready to receive dibbers.  I caught up with my behatted buddy here, but her walk pace was phenomenal, but it was company for a welcome while, before she marched off into the distance with me scuttling along in her wake!

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Finally, we were spat out and it was the last few hundred metres back to the start.  I’m not gonna lie, the novelty of the event had rubbed off a bit by now and I was looking forward to finishing.  As I wended my way back, I passed other runners who’d finished and were sporting their bling. That was nice actually, as it included runners I’d met at the start, and it’s always good to know how things unfold.  I’d say they were pretty happy with how it all worked out.

More marshals were there to make sure I’d not overshoot the final turn:

At last, the end was literally in sight.  As I was one of the last few stragglers, I had the undivided attention of the compere who called my name and I got a huge cheer from the remaining few bystanders as I loped in, which was lovely if not entirely merited.  I dibbed in, was handed my medal, which we have already established as being both fine and original bling that quite cut the proverbial mustard. I have no idea where that phrase comes from or what it quite means, but who cares.  I surrendered my dibber in return for which I got an instantaneous print out of my times by section, the compere announced my finish time for all to marvel at, whether they were astonished by my speed or by my sloth was not a question  I pursued.


Erm, nothing to write home about perhaps, but then again, they’re all going to be PBs by definition as first time out, and if I do make it back next year, it’ll be fun to have a base line from which to improve.  I was reunited with my bag and got a paper goodie bag which had water, a banana, I think and some fliers for local physio deals.  Best of all, there was my Smiley buddy on hand to greet me home.  Hurrah!  I earned that white tee.


Alas my Smiley Buddy hadn’t had such a good time. She’d fallen foul of the misdirected course, and after a 2 mile detour, what with her cold and failing morale decided to withdraw.  It was the mental blow of doing so many extra miles early on that was impossible to overcome.  It’s true what they say, running can be much a test of mental strength as physical sometimes.  So, she made a good decision, particularly as she wasn’t well to begin with, but disappointing all the same, and I did feel a bit bad that she’d consequently had to hang around for me for three hours or so.  Oops.  I owe her, big time.  Thank you Smiley buddy.   A few didn’t make the cut off, which did happen, but later, some withdrew and some didn’t make the start.  Lots of these guys were sacrificed and harmed in the running of this race, they all most definitely didn’t make it through to the end of the day.  However things may unfold in Russia at the weekend, these guys will not be coming home. Sad but true…

RDR AJ jelly babies didnt make it

Still, we got to debrief on the way home as I stiffened up nicely as already described.  by now I’d forgotten how dispirited I’d felt once my TomTom abandoned me and I moved into limbo land, and instead was feeling encouraged and inspired by having had another micro adventure.

Oh, by the way, whilst it’s true that my TomTom gave up the ghost, but others did manage to Strava the route, so I’ve basically stolen another runner’s version in the interests of the greater good.  According to their gps, the distance was in fact 21.96 miles, which I think we can safely call 22 miles, and elevation of 802 feet, which is basically mill-pond flat and smooth by Sheffield standards.  Here’s the route, enjoy:

RDR strava

It’s also worth mentioning that whilst I thought it was hot out there in Donny and was quite chuffed relieved just to make it round before the cut off and indeed at all.  It was sobering as well as exciting to hear later that whilst I was hulking my weary carcass around the dusty Donny trials, Kilian Jornet was on target to complete a record breaking Bob Graham Round and in fact smashed Billy Bland’s long-standing record by 1hr in a totally amazing run.  That’s 106km  across the Lake District with an 8,200m ascent over 42 fells, which must be done within 24 hours.  How is that even possible?  Respect.  Mind you, I reckon I felt like I’d done something pretty similar, so that practically amounts to doing the same thing doesn’t it?  Well it should, just saying.   Trail Running magazine, amongst others, has done a write-up – about Kilian, not about me, just to be clear.


Oh, nearly forgot, for those of you who are more interested in the arrival than the journey to get there, here are the DABKA Round Donny Run 2018 results, for me though, that really isn’t the point, but stats geeks out there, get stuck in, loads of numbers to crunch and pore over.

So, if you are still here and still reading, well done you.  You have proven yourself capable of acts of endurance too.  Either that, or there is some horrific task that you really, really don’t want to do.  You do know you are going to have to tackle it eventually don’t you, this blog post really is nearly at an end now, and that’ll be that.

So conclusions, this event had a lot of merit.  It was the inaugural so there were a couple of teething issues – for me the critical one is knowing the length of each section and recovery stage in advance in km would have been helpful. I thought the organisation was great, the team worked really, really hard to pull it off.  Some sort of coffee or refreshments available at the end would have been good, but hard to justify for such a small field. There was a gala event going on the other end of the fields and for those with any energy left I guess you could have foraged there.  I’d recommend it though, you see parts of Donny you don’t expect, it’s extremely flat so potentially fast for speedy runners, and doable for non-speedy ones like me who to be blunt are somewhat portly in the midriff and struggle up the hills.  It was really friendly, with a supportive ethos and I’d really like to see the event continue and grow.  Local(ish) events like this are most welcome and need support if we want them to carry on.  Fingers crossed it was worth all the hard work and will be the first of many.  Look out for it people, and yeah, give it a go.  It is almost a marathon at the end of the day, but felt doable, because of the friendly and supportive vibe along the way.

So thank you everyone who made it so, especially the cheery marshals for being awesome, and my fellow runners for being encouraging and funny and of course to Tony Vout for having the vision and getting it off the ground in the first place, no mean feat!  Job done.

RDR lovely marshals

See you same time same place next year?  It’ll be even bigger and better and the weather gods will be more benign. Probably.  Possibly, well, it’ll be what it will be, but you wouldn’t want to miss out two years on the trot now would you?


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