Posts Tagged With: Hathersage

Brill walk for Halloween. Top bird interaction.

Digested read: went for a walk to explore new paths. Found a vineyard, a top bird and some jaw dropping dwellings along the way.

Unabridged version:

It’s a bad sign when it’s so long since you ventured out onto the moors you don’t even know what to wear.  How cold will it be up top? What about wind chill?  I don’t know if I’m on to something here or not, but I’m beginning to wonder if it’s just possible there may be some sort of link between my seemingly increasing inability to ‘just get out and run’ and the fact that my parkrun performances are getting ever more woeful.  I wouldn’t want to jump ahead of myself and the evidence but suggesting at this stage the effect is causal, but there does seem to be a correlation at least. Coincidence?  Who knows.

Anyway, today was a day for a new, and pleasing adventure.  It was agreed, me and my most loyal recce buddy from Dig Deep explorations earlier in the year would try out a new route.  Just a walk, just to see what was out there.  She was in possession of an idea, and I was happy enough to trot along behind.  It was a Brill walk in fact.  It said so on the cover:

Brill walks book one

‘Oh my gawd!’ exclaimed I.  Seeing the book from which the walk was sourced. ‘What a brilliant name for a walking book.  Because that’s what you say isn’t it? “I know a brill walk, or I’ve got a fab route.” Inspired!’ I was slightly disappointed when I realised it was actually the name of the author, one of them anyway, as it made it more of an appropriate witty pun as opposed to an exclamation of unabashed enthusiasm.    On the other hand, what a Brill name.  Literally and metaphorically.  So I suppose what you lose on the swings you gain on the roundabouts, or something like that anyway…

Where was I?  Oh yes, heading out for a rendezvous. I actually failed at the first hurdle because I couldn’t fathom which of the many car parking areas we were supposed to meet at, despite comprehensive directions.    There is no signal around Fiddler’s Elbow, but we opted to meet there and then go to the first parking area along from there.  We picked a grand day for it, the weather was perfection. Crisp but not too cold, quite still and the most amazing views in all directions, which was counter intuitive because it was misty, but honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever seen so far from there, the photos don’t do it justice as the light had a bleaching effect, and also I’m not very good at taking photos, but maybe if you squint a bit and use your imagination you’ll get the general idea.


I sat in the car for a bit, marvelling at the view, and wondering whether or not to wear my waterproof over-trousers (they restrict mobility a bit, but do keep you warm) and then when my walking buddy drove up, we exchanged pleasantries through our car windows as she kept her engine running, before she sped off to the proper parking point to start the route with me following on behind.  If you were either a lover of conspiracy theories or had an overactive imagination and had witnessed this, I like to think you’d have thought you were witnessing at the very least spies exchanging secrets, otherwise maybe a drugs deal or some other suspicious and clandestine endeavour, perhaps en route to check out spots for disposal of bodies or evidence or some such.  It wasn’t… but then I would say that, wouldn’t I.

To get to the official starting point for the walk, you veer right at Fiddlers Elbow and then take first right & park there where there is some hard standing on the side of the road at the base of Stanage Edge.  Spoiler alert, this is the route we took, it was more up and down than expected 1,169 ft of elevation, according to Strava, which never lies.  Except when it does, and it puts you splashing through a pond or reservoir or something instead of on an adjacent path, but those instances are for the most part entertaining rather than ruinous, so I’ll take their elevation estimate.  It felt like quite a bit.

Brill halloween walk strava

Parked up, we both faffed over what to wear.  I did go with the waterproof trousers, also sunglasses and a woollen hat.  Also a scarf.  I did get a bit hot though. It seems I have learned nothing from my Dronfield Round Walk excursion of a few weeks back.

First off, up the hill to Stanage Edge. This is very familiar territory.  I’d thought we were going to go towards Stanage Pole, but we actually went up to the trig point and came off down the paved path back to Fiddlers Elbow.  It was beautiful of course, it always is, but no surprises here.

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We descended to the car park where we’d rendezvoused earlier, then after a bit of bovine appraisal – lots of cows out and about on the path – we headed over the style from the main car park and took a right along the main path to Higger Tor.  I learned, from the walk book, or more accurately from my exploring buddy reading out to me from said book, that Higger Tor is so-called because it goes back to Viking origins.  Something like that, I can’t remember all that well. The walk would have been even more educational if I’d concentrated a bit more.  The book was a good guide to be fair.  Although it has no map as such, just a sketch of approximate route – it included little nuggets of local and historical knowledge and ideas of add ons and places to stop.  The written instructions were clear enough that we could work them out mostly without too much confusion. Then again, I didn’t have custody of the book, maybe the route finding was uncomplicated because of my recce buddy’s powers of deduction which exceed mine.  Oh, and I tried to find out more about why bits of the landscape are named as they are, and came across this blog post discussing archaeological features of the are, which seems credible to me.

The cattle were completely uninterested in  us, which was fortunate, as we had to squeeze past them on the track.  I found a Halloween spider, which seemed apt, but which I removed, as it’s still litter isn’t it. That was my only litter pick of the morning, not that impressive, but every little helps eh?


No sooner had we got to the top of the path, we were directed off back again, down the track that leads back to the road. Though there was an option ‘if you wish to explore Higger tor, carry on, but come back to this point to continue the walk’ sort of blah de blah.  I was a bit perplexed the walk didn’t include going along Higger, but it made sense by the end.  As we descended, we had a really bizarre wildlife encounter with this top bird.

I’ve seen them before – red grouse, but normally they are squawking and bolting for cover, crashing through the heather undergrowth.  On this occasion though the bird was blocking our path.  We descended slowly,  not wanting to disturb or scare it, assuming it would move aside.  It didn’t.  It basically started swearing at us noisily, and then actually came towards us.  It seemed particularly taken by my recce buddy, chasing after her and chuntering away.  Another couple of walkers further up the hill looked on with amusement. It seemed strange behaviour, but it was grand to get up close and personal to what is on closer inspection actually quite a remarkable looking bird. Rich brown and red feathers and a half-moon bright red ‘eye lid’, so scarlet it looked almost fake.   I’m sorry we ruined it’s day – or maybe we didn’t, as it saw us off its land all right, so maybe it considered that was a win. I googled it subsequently and learned this much from the moorland species section of the peak district website:

RED GROUSERed-grouse

Scientific Name: Lagopus lagopus
Distribution: Widespread in the uplands
Conservation Status: UK BAP species, Amber Listed species
Where to see: Any heather moorland in the Peak District
When to see: All year round

Resident in the Peak District all year round, the red grouse is a familiar sight (and sound) of the heather moors and blanket bogs.  They feed on heather, seeds, berries and insects and nest amongst the heather.  The UK population is in decline, hence this species was added to the UK BAP priority list in 2007.

So now we know.  Splendid.

So far, so familiar.  I was even wondering if this walk was going to be worth the effort of  navigation, not that it wasn’t lovely, but it was all known roads.  We crossed back over Ringinglow road, over a style, and then after a bit started a descent. This was unknown territory, and you know what dear reader, it quite rapidly took us to completely new and unexpected areas.  I had no idea there was a sort of ‘hidden’ tree rich valley down there. By which I mean, admittedly not that hidden if you bother to explore, but previously unknown to me which amounts to the same thing.  We ventured down towards a ruined and collapsing building – wondering what its history might be..

Then, we took a clear path towards a hidden dwelling.

I didn’t take any photos of the residence because I thought it might be a bit stalkery and inappropriate – not that that always stops me, but on this occasion it did.  It was absolutely extraordinary.  Huge and beautifully maintained but the real appeal was the breathtaking views back across to Higger Tor and in fact in all directions really.  I don’t know what the reality of living there would be like, I would have thought you’d get cut off pretty regularly in the snow, but if you like a view, hard to beat surely.

You skirt round the side of this amazing converted farmhouse presumably, I think Mitchell Field Farm and through what feels like their back garden, over a wall, and head off through fields and up hill again.  Can’t really remember the details, but it was all pretty darned nice.

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We got great views of various rock formations as we walked along.  My companion was not only tour guide and navigator, but had also done some sort of archaeology course that included a visit to a bronze age site we could see from the path.  If you go explore, you can see evidence of entrance ways apparently.  I’ve only ever gone underneath this, so not explored, and I’ve not even really explored Carl Wark either which is more obviously an old fort with clear man-made additions to the natural rock structures. Whatever the outcrop may be called, it was in fine silhouette today.


As we walked and talked, we suddenly came upon another incredibly impressive stone house.  As we approached, a guy there called us over saying we could come on to the property to avoid a really wet and boggy patch where the path was temporarily diverted.  That was quite something, even just walking down the driveway as we exited, marvelling at the views the occupiers would have from the huge front windows that looked out across the moor.  Excitingly, as we approached the gate to exit the land, they opened as if by magic, our saviour having operated the electric gizmo automatically to ease our path.  Wow.   I’m hoping this photo is taken from sufficiently far away not to be categorised as creepy behaviour.

Actually, it’s fine.  I’ve just googled it, loads of far more searching pictures there.  It’s apparently a listed building, and Scraperlow Farmhouse and attached outbuildings, so now we know.

We walked on, heading towards Hathersage now.

I was really excited, because we came out onto the main Hathersage Road (from Sheffield) down a little path that I’ve often noticed and idly wondered where it led to.  It’s grand to join up places in this way.  That’s why I need to get off my backside and start going off-piste a bit more.  Especially in these last precious days of Autumn, before winter sets in and no-one with their wits about them ventures out again until Spring.  Obviously people training for spring marathons or similar are included in the witless category for this purpose, they will be out however inclement the weather.  And Dark Peak Runners, clearly.  Nothing stops them.

You go almost into Hathersage, except that you don’t.  The guide-book thoughtfully suggests you can if you wish, and so avail yourself of coffee shops or whatever, but we took the right hand road, past the little school and the Scotsman Pub and then up a little path that leads to the church.  We took a detour here, to go and look at the Church, and more specifically, the grave of Little John.  I was surprised on two counts, firstly, because I had no idea that there was a connection between him and Hathersage, and secondly, because I’d always thought/ presumed him to be a fictitious character.  As I said earlier, this walk was most educational.  To be fair, I’m still not completely sold on the idea that he did really exist, but an interesting bit of local history all the same.

A pretty church, that rewarded the detour and extra hoik up the hill, also roasty toasty warm and with nice stained glass windows.

We walked on.  Exiting the village and coming across… hang on, what is this place?  It looked for all the world like a vineyard!  The most immaculately maintained lines of plants each lovingly trained along wires. There was a flourishing rose in bloom at the end of each line and a poppy too.  It’s hard to imagine this would be a financially viable proposition given it’s location, but a vineyard it most definitely was.

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According to Derbyshire Life, this is Carr Head Farm Vineyard and wine isn’t really commercially sold as yet, though it does exist for those in the know who pre-order.  It doesn’t seem the most promising of locations in which to grow wine, but I’d be up for trying it.  There are  occasional tours too, but not sure how you get to go on one of those.

The Derbyshire Life article also puzzlingly (to me) refers to the Vineyard Challenge running race, which sounds suspiciously like the Fat Boys Stanage Struggle to me, but then again, maybe they organise another run.  Hang on, let me google that for you…

Nope, can’t find another race, must be the same one.

They had a nice line in sheep sculpting too, a sort of steam punk one graced their gardens, made of possibly bicycle parts, I wonder if they made it themselves.  Very fine though, however created or sourced.


Emerging from the farm was the only place we got a bit discombobulated by the instructions.  Not sure which farm we were supposed to keep behind us, but we worked it out in the end having espied an old footpath sign and triangulating with my actual map, which showed the farm and the car park we’d started from just over the hill.  Hookcar Sitch for future reference.

All too soon, we ended back on the road just down from where we started.


It had indeed been a brill walk!  I was a bit puffier going up the hills than I’d have liked, but I felt like we’d been beneficiaries of a gift of a day, and plenty of unexpected sights and sounds along the way.  The excessively interactive Red Grouse was for me a particular highlight and hilarious – but then again I’m easily entertained, and I can’t guarantee to those of you that come after us that it will still be there. However, I really think it might be, it was us who were required to shift from its territory not vice versa after all!  Add in historic sites and links to myth and legend AND a vineyard, I’d say this walk was a win.  Speaking of which, the views even stretched to Win Hill at times too, that’s how good the visibility was.

It was less than six miles, but we sauntered round, putting the world to rights.  We didn’t do that all that effectively to be fair, as it was all still bad news as far as I could tell when I got home.  Apart from this story.  This is good news.  Brill news in fact, which is appropriate, given it was a Brill walk which we embarked on from the outset.  Not that our walk was silly at all, au contraire, it was brill.

silly walks

So all done.  We concluded our adventure by heading to The Scotsman pub for a late lunch.  Apart from the rather eccentric layout of parking spaces this was a most excellent hostelry and we had grand lunches. I had the cheese and potato pie as they’d run out of veggie sausages for the yorkshire pud and sausage option, but it all looked pretty good, very friendly.

So all in all, today was a bit like being on holiday. Hurrah.

Reyt nice out.  Go find out for yourself!


One day I’ll get back out running again, but in the interim, let’s just think of these walks as in fact recces for future runs – which to be fair they may well be.  And all is fine and dandy in the running world.  I thank 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.





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

Hathersage Turtle or Hathersage Hurt? Run it, walk it, love it! Hurtling through the peaks. Hathersage Hurtle 2018

Digested read: Last saturday, I hurtled round Hathersage.  I say ‘hurtled’ but what I actually mean is I walked, but for 20 miles (ish), and you know what, it was lovely!  Corker of an event with fabulous views and the option of eating your body weight in cake (vegan options available).  Pathologically friendly organisers, cheery marshals, good parking, guaranteed sunshine* and you can either run or walk depending on your preferences – though you do need to decide in advance.  What’s not to like?  Fun** guaranteed!  Miss it, miss out.  You have been warned.

*maybe not that

**type two fun also available

HH shot

Saturday 19th May 2018 will be immortalised in history due to event memorabilia.  Quite right too, mementos of special events are to be treasured.  I went home after this one with one of these:

Whilst I’d be the first to concede orange isn’t really my colour, I still consider this vestment infinitely more wearable than the alternative event’s souvenir clothing options.

royal wedding swimwear

Apart from anything else, I don’t know where you’d be able to pin your race number?  There is a bikini option available as well to be fair, but I doubt that it would provide the same level of support as a proper sports bra, so that’s a definite ‘no’ from me.  I’m sure the merchandise marketers will be devastated to hear this.  Still, I care little for their feelings, I knew where I’d rather be.

So, on this auspicious day t’was the Hathersage Hurtle.  It’s only the second time this even has taken place, so I reckon I can be forgiven for being a bit vague about what I’d signed up for in advance.  I signed up for it back in February sometime, blooming ages ago, without particularly concentrating.  In the way that many of us do sign up for events in the midst of winter, fondly imagining by the time they come round we will have trained to a peak of fitness that was previously beyond our wildest imaginings.  ‘Oh that’s ages away’ I must have thought, ‘I’ll have smashed the London marathon   by then’ I must have elaborated, ‘recovered from it too!  Yep, go me and a 20 mile trail run with 2,500 foot of ascent.  What could possibly go wrong? It need hold no fear for me.‘  What actually happened was I completely forgot I entered.  I did get around London, but it was very hot, and afterwards my shins were very ouchy (which for the record might not be an official medical term, but most certainly should be).  Consequently, I’d only really done a parkrun in the weeks that followed, and then when I vaguely registered that I had entered this Hathersage Turtle thingamajig, I initially fondly imagined it would be just a nice little trail trot round some picturesque paths somewhere, 4 miles tops.  I nearly had heart failure when a bit of research told me that I’d actually signed up for this:

The Hathersage Hurtle is an exciting new event in the Hope Valleycovering 20 miles and 2,500 feet of ascent, a challenging course that you can run or walk. It will start and finish in Hathersage with walkers setting off before a mass start for the runners at 10am. There will behot drinks available at the start and lovely home-baked cakes at the finish.

Ooops.  Then again, there was a walking option.  I decided running wasn’t really on the cards for me, ouchy shins and all,  so got in touch with the organisers, who for the record are absolutely lovely.  Well the one who wrote to me was, I suppose I should treat that as illustrative evidence not necessarily conclusive proof that they all are.  … anyway, she basically told me that London was all well and good, but this event would have better views and more cake, plus, no problem with joining the walkers if I wished. Hurrah, that’s what I’d do then.  Plus, I’d get my t-shirt.  That’s the thing about knowing which events to sign up to, it helps if you have sufficient insight to understand what motivates you. Failing that, it helps if the organisers use their skill and judgement to lay on the most populist lowest common denominator to draw participants in, which increasingly – I’m glad to say – has been shown to be cake.   The only downside of all this was that the event takes place on a Saturday, so that would mean sacrificing parkrun, but hey ho, parkrun is here to stay, and I can get my fix again next week.  Bring it on.

The day dawned, glorious sunshine.  It was going to be a scorcher.  It was a bit weird going to a run event as a walker, but good weird.  Zero pressure, in fact, I was a bit too chilled about it, and on the morning suddenly realised I’d not packed up my running belt.   I had no idea about water stations, or kit.  I was expecting it to be hot out there, but equally, it’s exposed and conditions can change quickly.  At woodrun on Thursday, where I joined runners for coffee without having done the run bit first, we were talking about risks on the fells.  Only a couple of weeks ago a Polish runner died doing a recce for the Bob Graham, despite being an experienced runner who’d set off with a companion, but they’d got separated.  I wasn’t expecting this scenario to unfold on Stanage Edge, but I did think it was only fair to respect the kit requirements. So I filled up my water bottles, stuck in some naked bars, dug out a whistle, and dredged out my windproof jacket just in case.  So equipped I headed off in time to register ahead of the 8.00 a.m. walking start.

Oh wow.  Even the drive over to Hathersage lifted my spirits. It was just breath-taking scenery along the way.  What with all my London Marathon training (have I mentioned at all that I did that this year?  Oh I have.  Really?)  I’ve been concentrating on flatter routes, specifically the Monsal Trail.  I’ve missed being out in the peaks proper.  Yes, it’s a challenge dragging my weary carcass up them there hills, but the views that reward you are truly spectacular.  Not going to lie though, it is a lot easier driving up to the high points than it is making your way up on foot.  This was just taken en route to the meet up point:

off to hathersage hurtle

I got a bit lost on the way, as the instructions had only given a grid reference, and not a post code.  I used the sat nav and the postcode S32 1BA  to get to the David Mellor Cutlery Factory instead, and arrived just about 7.15.  – the event HQ was just adjacent.  There were people milling about in high viz and a huge orange banner up proclaiming the event. The car park was in a field, still occupied by cows.  Some marshals shooed them gently to the other end of the field, and then opened the gate to let me in –  I was the first person to park up.  The cows just ignored us, which was good. There have been a series of recent attacks on runners and walkers by cattle turned out in the Limb Valley which has made me a bit wary.  I know they are protective of their young, but it’s not a great mix having aggressive cattle grazing where footpaths pass through. Still, no point in fretting about leg three of the Round Sheffield Run just yet, plenty of time for that later…  These bovines were fine and dandy.

cattle companions in car park field

I sat in the car faffing for a bit, and soon a few other early birds rocked up.  The two next to me were brandishing nordic walking poles, and they were clearly quite a boon, as they powered by me later on when the event was underway.  After a bit I crossed over the road to register.

over the road to sign in

There were lots of marshals to assist you over the road.  There wasn’t much traffic.  I wistfully wished they’d had proper lollipop sticks for the occasion, but alas, that was too much to hope for.  Maybe an innovation for next year. Not because it’s actually necessary, but because the notion pleases me.  I’m thinking more giant actual lollipops a la Willie Wonker, rather than the traditional ‘lollipop lady’ offering, but either would do.

This event was incredibly well organised.  There was an army of pathologically friendly marshals and helpers to get you registered. This involved having your name ticked off an alphabetical list, and being issued with a wrist band with inbuilt dibber oojamaflip.  Then you could go to another marshal, who was responsible for issuing of t-shirts to those who had pre-ordered them.  There were loads though, so you could buy one if you wanted to afterwards.  The shirts weren’t technical, but they were unique.  The back having been designed by a presumably local, child.  ‘Keep running’ indeed!

It was all very efficient.  There was a women’s changing room, and presumably a men’s too somewhere.  There was no officially supervised bag drop, but you could leave your stuff in the changing area which I did.  It didn’t look like anyone else had, but to be fair the car park was so near, if you were worried, you could have easily left things in your vehicle if you’d driven or been driven by your chauffeur if you are the sort of runner who has staff.  Though I suppose logically, if in the latter category, your staff would watch your bag anyway?  I don’t know.  Look, just stop fretting about the bag issue, it was fine. There were also portaloos for those of us who require a precautionary pee, and with the walkers as there was a leisurely starting window (you could head off anytime between 8.00 and 9.00) there were no queues at this stage either which was a first.  Later I think for the runners there was more of the traditional queuing.  However, I always think that’s a grand opportunity to make new friends via idle running chit-chat, and part of the traditional build up to any event.

PS traditional loo queue

Putting on my number was a bit of a trauma.  They were ENORMOUS.  Trying to find a space to accommodate it what with my running belt and my jacket round my waist as well was a challenge.  A few people, with higher IQs than me, thought to fold it down to size and my walking buddy for the day pinned it on her shorts, that was smart.  I have no idea why they were so spectacularly super-sized, perhaps they are still experimenting with what is to be their USP for this event.  Last year I understand it was a vintage tractor display en route in the form of the Annual Castlegate Tractor Run, but they weren’t able to pull that off again this year for some reason.  I think seeing all those machines chugging by would have been splendid, but apparently it was less so for runners trying to manoeuvre around them.  Light weights!  Part of the joy of trail running is the encounters with the unexpected surely…

All sorted eventually, I figured I might as well head off at 8.00, which is when the walkers were officially allowed to start.  By happy coincidence another injured smiley was also walking, so we agreed to pootle round together, by which I obviously mean ‘stride out purposefully’. I was a bit worried I’d hijacked her planned contemplative walk, but she seemed not to mind, and it was good fun having company on the way round.  Walking this distance is very different from running it though. Apart from the very obvious ‘not being required to run’ element, the interactions along the way are different.  When I run, I tend to find I strike up brief conversations with other similarly paced runners as we sort of leap-frog each other on the way round.  (Just to be clear, I mean metaphorically as in shifting our positions relative to one another, not literally as in seeking a competitive advantage by bounding over their bent backs).  This means that, in theory at least, you should never be stuck with a runner or they with you other than by choice.  You can strategically sprint off, or, if that is beyond your physical capabilities, drop back and let them stream ahead to allow a tactful parting of the ways.  Walking is different, because once you are with a walker of a similar pace, you are likely to stay with them throughout, depending on either your luck or judgement, you may find yourself in for a very long day.

Another friendly marshal (honestly, friendly marshals were ten a penny at this event, and that’s not even counting the cake wielding ones we encountered en route) mustered the walkers that were ready for off, and we after being dibbed out (which I nearly forgot to do which would have been a catastrophe as it’s a well-known fact that if you didn’t dib it didn’t happen) we were led across the road again and waved off on our way.

It was a very sedate start.  Maybe because of this, I completely forgot to turn my tomtom on, until about a mile in, which was irritating, as it is another well-known fact that if a run/walk isn’t on Strava then it didn’t happen either.  Oops.  Walkers sort of drifted off whenever they wanted, which is quite unlike the mass start the runners had later.  The photos for that looked fab!

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It felt really odd walking.  To be honest, initially I felt a bit of a fraud wearing a race number ‘just’ to walk.  However, I got over that pretty quickly.  It was really nice to just be able to walk and enjoy the views.  Being amongst walkers was a very different experience.  Many seem to do a lot of these long distance walking challenges and were kitted out with walking boots and backpacks as opposed to our rather lightweight running gear.  Some had come from quite far afield to attend. I’m sure someone said they’d come from Wales, but maybe I imagined that.  People did most definitely stride out.  Some had donned their orange tee-shirts.  There were a fair few couples holding hands.  Well, I’m assuming they were couples, maybe they’d just got on really well after bumping into one another at registration and were just going to see how it went from there.

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It was rather sweet, the amount of unashamed hand holding going on, don’t tend to see that at running events, unless it’s a trail race and a running club member has paused to try to haul a fellow runner out of a bog say, but that’s not really the same. Also, I think we all know that the first reaction to seeing a fellow runner face plant into a bog is to laugh and point and then maybe take a photo or two before proffering a hand of support.  It’s what we runners expect, it’s fine, all part of the fun.  You must have seen the belly laughs that go on when runners fall in the rivers at the Trunce say?  They look like they are laughing and pointing, but they are doing so supportively and with affection.  Honestly.

supportive laughter at the trunce

As always, I had no idea where we were.  I did print off a map, but honestly, it wasn’t all that detailed, though  it gave a general idea of the places we’d pass through.

HH map

Having a map with me was all very well, but I hadn’t brought my prescription glasses with me, so it was more cosmetic than practical assistance.  Not to worry though, I basically outsourced navigation.  By keeping other walkers in sight, we didn’t really have to navigate as such at all.  There were marshals at key junctions, and on the rare occasions where we didn’t have anyone to follow because we’d stopped for a natter with marshals and lost sight of others ahead say, there were red and white ties to follow.  I gather a few people did do unplanned detours, but one of those was due to someone deliberately laying a false trail.  I’ve got caught out by that at my first ever fell race.  Came in behind the sweeper at the Wingerworth Wobble!  Oops.  It happens.  As a walker finding your way was fine, as a runner if you ended up on your own I’d say it was still probably fine.  Which is good enough, you only really need to worry if you are in the lead I reckon, which has never happened in my universe.

It was a hot, hot day.  This route is definitely lovely, but somehow achieves what should logically be impossible, it appears to be almost all uphill.  True to terrain, we therefore immediately started onward and upward.  I was very relieved not to be running.  We were heading out just after 8.00 and it was already pretty warm, by the time runners left at 10.00 ish it would be a lot less fun in soaring temperatures.  For we walkers though, this was ace.  We could stop and admire the view, we could take pictures.  Excellent.

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Although we were but walking, we didn’t miss out on the official photographer.  As my running buddy observed we tried to finesse our shot with mixed success, resulting in an image that was both hideous and awesome – I think that is fitting, as this is what much of running feels like to me as well.  Others did rather better at nailing their race photo poses.  I consider our effort to be very much work in progress.  Can you guess which is which of these two offerings?  One features more experienced photo posers, the other me and my Smiley compatriot…

I know – easy to tell the shots apart really because of the Smiley Vest!  Outed.  You get the idea though.

So we headed out, and we basically walked and talked.  Topics of conversation were many and varied.  Of particular interest to you as a fellow runner dear reader, was the one about missing toenails. I’ve never lost a toenail through running.  I don’t care that apparently it doesn’t really hurt.  The very idea horrifies me.  However, I had a rare moment of insight on our walk.  Maybe I don’t lose toenails, because the arthritis in my feet means my toes don’t bend and flex properly. Thus, they can’t rub against my shoes the way ‘normal’ feet do.  I wonder if this is true, or Lucy Logic, a phrase which encompasses things I believe to be true based on my subjective experience.  Theoretically, I understand that these things may not be, but I will hang onto these views until I receive absolute evidence to the contrary.  I believe most people have their own variants of this outlook, irrespective of whether or not they choose to ‘fess up to it.  Another Lucy Logic view, I may yet be sucked into a vortex of my own self-perpetuating logic if this continues.  Well, you have to go somehow.

It was so nice to be out and about, and without the angstyness of trying to run when the body protests.  Our nordic walking friends powered past us at one point, despite being delayed at the start because one of them had left their dibber in the car.  They were a good advert for trying these.  I’m beginning to wonder if I ought to start to experiment with the now I have ouchy shins and a new pained knee to match.

PS way to do it

To be perfectly honest, for me the main difference between walking at an event and running at an event, is that I got to do all the things I normally do: pause to admire the view; stop to chat to marshals; stop to take photos; stop because I’m tired; chit-chat to passers-by; chit-chat to other runners; stop because I’m having a drink – you get the idea – but whereas when in a running event I feel bad because I ‘shouldn’t’  do these things, when you are walking it’s considered completely legitimate.  It’s basically a pass to enjoy yourself, and not feel like every step taken at a walk marks you out as a failure as a runner and therefore as a human being.

We got official stops too. Like when we got dibbed by marshals.

All the marshals were fantastic.  Soooooooooooo friendly and encouraging. Granted, it probably helped that it was a gloriously sunny day, but I do think that either they were a product of some captive breeding programme whereby they’d been selectively chosen for friendly temperaments, or at the very least they all went through some sort of vigorous recruitment programme to check they could do jovial small talk, clapping, cheering, congenial laughter and directional pointing.  Basically, all those I met would be great as marshals at junior parkrun, and I can give no greater compliment or vote of confidence in their skills than that.  Thank you all.

They were indeed stationed at strategic points, let the records show extra blue arrows were in place to assist with navigation. These were a bit like the red arrows, only with less ability to fly and a bit quieter, but otherwise indistinguishable.  Despite this large blue arrow, and the presence of two smiley marshals, me and my Smiley compatriot did try to head off down the hill and had to be called back and waved down the narrow path in the right direction.  A good example of user error to be fair.  It’s obvious now, but I could well imagine romping on down that hill had the marshals not been in place, despite the clear marking!  I’m glad we were put back on track, because this particular shaded path led to the first feed station.  It was indeed laden with more cakes than you could shake a stick at.  Carefully labelled, and with vegan options too.  From memory there were also bananas and of course, lots of water.  It was amazing, like turning up at the cake table at a school fete.  Loads of options.  Granted, a bit more tray bake (think brownies and flapjacks) rather than multi-tiered iced ones, but certainly a few with sprinkles on top.  You had to resist the temptation to consume your body weight in cake before moving on.  I’ve never seen so much.  Extraordinary.  Top work Hathersage Hurtle bakers.

Taking note of some curious features en route, we walked and talked on.  The next surprise was a check point with a Smiley in situ.  She’d pretty much put together a bespoke pack of goodies.  We could pick and choose – there were crisps there was fruit.  We lingered and ate satsumas. Well, probably not actual satsumas, but some sort of sweet citrus fruit that was lovely.  There was also a really nice dog.  Took time to say hello to s/he too.

I didn’t really know where we were, but fortunately my walking mate was game to get out the map periodically, peruse it and report back to me.  Is it bad that I giggled at the news we’d just been (in) Shatton at one point?  Yep, probably, but hey ho, I’d never heard of it.  We wandered over a bridge, some lovely marshals helped direct us over a road and waved us on, and then, oh good!  More going up hill!

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Honestly, because it was 20 miles, it’s all a bit of a blur. Don’t really know where I was when various photos were taken, but I do know that it all went quickly.   There were some official ones of me and my buddy – photos were made available for free on the Hathersage Hurtle Facebook page after the event, and they were good too, not necessarily flattering of course, that would be too much to hope for, but taken by professionals who’d given up their time to do so, and some other injured runners who’d been out supporting on the way round and also captured the occasion.  I love that.  I love reliving events by browsing all the photos after the event.  It’s probably a runners equivalent of watching daytime TV, but feels more justifiable somehow. Lucy Logic I daresay.  This snap shows the number issue though, I could have learned from my partner had I but realised it at the time!  Also, check out our jazz hands.  I know, epic.

ZA jazz hands

We were on a road section, going up hill when some of the lead runners started to storm past us.  A few had the grace to look like they were really digging deep, but others looked fresh as anything, with lovely relaxed form as if they’d only just started out.  I like watching faster runners, I don’t often get a chance to do so.  We stopped to clap them on their way, and the overwhelming majority thanked us or at least nodded acknowledgement, it was all very friendly.  One thing I did notice though, is how few of the runners I recognised.  Normally there are many familiar faces from Sheffield parkruns or local races, but this event, maybe because of its distance, or maybe because it’s relatively new, or maybe because it’s a bit further out (not much though really) seemed to draw on a different area. There was good contingent of Porter Valley Plodders, a few Smilies of course, inevitably some Striders, but lots of other club represented that I didn’t recognise. Barnsley Harriers were there too.  This club is well-known for being lovely.  It’s a Lucy Logic thing again, but definitely FACT.  There were a lot of runners not wearing club vests too, which was rather refreshing actually.  I tried to snap some photos of runners flying past.  They aren’t great, the photos I mean, not the runners, the runners were all exceedingly great,  but I was showing willing.

After what seemed like near endless hot tarmac, we finally got to head out onto the moors and via a feed station positively groaning with cake, on and up to the first of the edges.

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It was blooming lovely.  I felt a bit sorry for the actual ‘proper’ runners who had no time to linger and debate which of the many and varied items of confectionery they wished to indulge in.  I also felt quite excited, because this part of the route is so spectacular.  Again, because we were walking not running, instead of feeling the pressure of a hill, it was just the challenge of going up in the knowledge that you’d be rewarded with stunning views ahead.  What’s more, as walkers we’d be able to stop and admire them. Runners, even if they stopped, probably wouldn’t be able to see as their eyes would be stinging with the sweat that’s run off their fevered brows, and the exertion would have had their eyes bulging out of their sockets as well, so they’d have to shove them back in again before they could even begin to focus. I’ve decided I’m quite a convert to this walking malarkey, way less stressful!  Some people opted to sit at the side of the roads to cheer runners by.  I’m not sure if they actually knew participants, or were just soaking up the mood in the sun. Either is possible, both desirable.

So finally we were up top.  How gorgeous was that!

We were just calculating when the first Smiley runners should be coming through, right on cue, one appeared.  We distracted her to the point she stopped, but she was fairly sprinting until we interrupted.  Go Smiley!

Other runners started coming through fast and furious.  It’s a fantastic run route on Stanage Edge, it made me realise I really must make the effort to get out and explore it again.  It’s technical enough to be fun boulder hoping without being terrifying, this can be a tricky balance in seeking trail routes hereabout in my experience.

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It was extra fun when we espied people we knew, and even more fun, when I got one doing a star jump en route.  Result!  She’s not known as a running super star in these parts for nothing!

super star

Excellent and effortless fell running technique there.

Onward we went, and eventually a bit of down to get to Burbage Bridge.  Here there was an unofficial water station as some enterprising marshals had got out an extra-large water bottle to draw on.  It was most welcome.  This was back on familiar ground, so the miles passed quickly.  It felt to me like we were nearly home, though to be honest we weren’t really.

So you emerge the far end of the path, cross a road, and then into some welcome shade skirting the Longshaw Estate and taking in Padley Gorge.  Astonishingly, I’ve never actually done this path before.  It was pretty heaving with picnickers and families splashing about in the water.  It was green and glorious.  I hope the litter got taken away afterwards though, there have been some grim posts showing the litter left after hot days in our local beauty spots.  Sad but true.  For me, one of the best things about the Hathersage Turtle – as I’ve decided to call the walk option, is that I began to appreciate how various parts of the area link up. I’ve done separate smash and grab walks from say Burbage, or Longshaw, or even Hathersage, but hadn’t appreciated how close they all are to each other.  It was most educational.  It was also astonishingly picturesque.

Stunning as it was, and nice as you might think it would be to go downhill, the mottled light effect through the trees, coupled with the gnarly tree roots, made for ankle breaking territory.  Although some did come through pretty fast, rather more reeled it back a bit.  We did see one runner take a tumble, though they seemed to get up again, not just a Chumbawamba tribute act but a way of living.  Gorgeous out though.

Out again onto road, then off again past an abandoned, but very beautiful stone building.

Nope, can’t remember what it was called, even though there was a sign, and I made a conscious effort to try to remember.  Can anyone explain why I can recall in infinite details moments of excruciating embarrassment at primary school, but can’t tell you what this mahoosive stone building is that I saw but a couple of days ago?  Actually, maybe don’t explain why, I might not like what you have to say.

Anyways, past there, with its fine door, and then into more woodland, with the end of bluebells carpeting the floor, and sploshes of a beautiful white woodland flower interspersed amongst them.    This route takes in everything.  We emerged into a field with some fairly nonplussed looking sheep. I think the expression was nonplussed, to be honest I find sheep expressions quite hard to read.  They can be quite enigmatic, don’t you agree?

Pretty much the end in sight now!  We saw one runner seated with a foil blanket round them, she looked OK, but obviously wasn’t carrying on.  A marshal/ medic was sitting alongside murmuring soothing words, so no extra help was needed.  Just a bit of road, and suddenly we were back where we’d started, having had a lovely time walking round in one ginormous 20 mile(ish) – slightly under in fact – circle. This is a lot more fun and a lot less pointless than I am perhaps making it sound!  I paused to say hello to a run director from junior parkrun who was there supporting her partner, go him.  Also, took the opportunity for a Boris hello, because you can’t not really.  The thing is, I don’t consider myself a ‘dog’ person as such, but I do know one or two canines I hold in high esteem.  Obviously Tilly is top dog, but Boris is a fine pooch too.  Not just puppy love.

Hilariously, as we entered the football field event HQ, we did a sort of emergency stop at the lined red and white taped finish funnel.  I don’t know what was going through our minds, but I think it was because we were walking not running, it didn’t feel right to go into it, so we got thoroughly confused about where to finish and ended up wandering over to the run director/ finish timer, who was mortified to have missed us coming in… erm, think I might know how that happened.  Gutted to have missed out on a sprint finish.  Oh well, there’s always next year…

All done, there were lots of options.  More cake, in case you weren’t already caked out as well as flaked out.  Tea/ coffee for participants, water, obviously, ice cream for sale.  Also there were burgers, including veggie options and even beer!  It was lovely and sunny, and it had a sort of festival feel.  It was lovely.  I had water, and coffee and then bought an ice cream, and we sat and watched other runners coming in.  We were wandering where our smiley runner friends were, as we’d expected them to overtake us on the way round, but they never showed.  On the plus side though, this meant we got to cheer them in.  Hurrah!  One scooped up one of her offspring for an emotional run in, isn’t that lovely?


They came in looking really strong!  They’d clearly romped round effortlessly!

Only they hadn’t.  Debrief people, debrief!

Long story short, the heat had taken its toll.   Still, lessons were learned, maybe don’t try electrolytes for the first time on race day, and also, it’s true, sometimes you will feel better after throwing up your entire stomach contents on Stanage Edge, but that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily the best idea to press on.  I think it was tough out there.  I empathised.  London marathon (did I mention I did that at all? Oh I did already?  OK) was crazily hot with no water for miles and miles, and that did mightily impact on the fun quotient of the day.  Even so, they got round, but I sensed a sentiment of ‘unfinished business’ for some.  The thing about running is, well you know, it’s complicated.  We were unanimous in our praise for organisation, friendly marshals, stunning locations.  Think with the heat though, the walkers had type one fun and the runners would be experiencing type two.  It happens.  Lots of smiley faces in the post run chill zone though.  Happy people.

It was nice sitting and chatting, and watching the runners come in.   At one point the run director came over to check out everyone was OK and was sharing thoughts about the day.  Apparently they got a bit caught out with the dibbers, because they hadn’t anticipated that some of the people who headed out with the walkers were intending to run/walk, and so they got to the first check point ahead of when expected and before the marshals were in place.  I can completely understand that.  The run director was most accommodating about this, and I got the impression they might even add this in as an option for next year which, from a selfish point of view would be great.  This is quite a tough course, very tough, I don’t know that I’d ever be fit enough to properly run it, so a nice chilled run/walk option would be grand. Having said that, the 7 hour cut off time is generous.  Walking it with my Smiley walk and talk buddy took about 6 hours 20 and we were pretty leisurely to be fair.  Mind you, there’s always that angst in my head anyway, what if I don’t make the cut off.  Leaves me fretting.  Oh course elevation and route hang on, it’s here.  For the record, that’s a lot of climb.

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There was an extra loud cheer for the final finisher, and also a rather fine alpkit spot prize!  The third finishing female got an ice-cream, this top was way better!

And that was that, event over.

So, in conclusion, this was a fantastically friendly, well organised and welcoming event.  It was a tough course for runners, but surely worth the effort to take on the challenge of such spectacular routes.  Personally, I was pleased I went for the walking option, and would thoroughly recommend it.  It meant I got to take part despite my ouchy shins, so avoiding for the most part that fate worse than death, the Fear Of Missing Out.  However, no question the runners look a bit more impressive in the photos, flying across the gritstone, mustering for the mass start and whooping through the finish.  And it felt weird.  So I would recommend it, like I said, but next time I’d love to try running – though if it was as hot as this year again then maybe not so much…

For some reason, I think this event went a bit under the radar.  It could handle more entrants, and was so friendly and relaxed delivering also in bucket loads with both views and cake.  In the case of the cake quite literally.  There was no reminder email sent out, which might possibly have contributed to what seemed to me to be more than the usual number of DNS (no shows), but who knows.  It is a long way, but the walk option makes it doable for a wider range of people.  And walking was still a challenge. It is still a long way and with a lot of up.  I found to my cost that my residual fitness levels post the marathon were not as high as I might have wished.  Definitely some stiffness the next day, but also that warm glow of satisfaction for having got out and done it, plus I had a good night’s sleep for the first time in months.  Can’t put a price on that!

So time to depart, the sun still shining and the mood still high!  First to park and one of last two to leave.  I do like to get my monies worth at an event clearly.


Oh you want to know the results. Yawn, why are people always so interested in these I wonder.  For me it really isn’t about the times, it is about the experience, the people you meet, the micro adventures en route and for this event in particular the astonishing views, super friendly volunteers and astounding quantities of cake!  But if you do want to know – maybe to encourage you that this is an inclusive event that embraces the super-speedy at one end of the continuum but celebrates the slow and steadies at the other just as enthusiastically, the Hathersage Hurtle 2018 Results are here.  Though to be on the safe side, I reckon they are more likely to exist in perpetuity on the Hathersage Hurtle’s own website, so maybe check in there too.  Even so, blooming impressive runner to finish in first place with 2 hours 21 minutes 34 seconds, and bravo to the final finisher walker who got their monies worth for time on the trails in 7 hours, 10 minutes and 38 seconds.  What’s more, there was still cake left at the finish line for them too.  So maybe, if you are thinking about it, this will encourage you to sign up and take to the trails.  See what their banner slogan is?  Walk it, run it, love it!  This means you!

PS run it walk it

Thanks to the amazing photographers who turned out on mass to supply loads of high quality and atmospheric photos which you can find under the relevant Hathersage Hurtle albums on the Hathersage Hurtle Facebook page. Thanks to (drum roll of support and expectation followed by sleeve rolling up because there are quite a few to acknowledge)  by Phil Sproson Photography,   Peak photography project Chris Nowell, Zaf Ali and everyone else who turned out with a camera, and shared their images with such excellence and grace.  Love a good race photo, love a bad one too in fact, they are always a great way to relive events afterwards! I say that,  but I’m not gonna lie, there are one or two that make me feel like I shouldn’t really venture out in daylight again ever, because it’s just too humiliating to be seen in public. But that’s ok, not long til the summer equinox, and thereafter it’s a well known fact that the nights are drawing in. See you again when the clocks change.   I’ll look forward to it.

Thanks everyone, who put in the hard work to make it so!  Really hope this gets to be an annual fixture, I’m sure it will, the runes look good…

Same time, same place next year?  Would recommend.  Be there, or miss out massively, which is the worst feeling in the world ever.  This could be you…

So I headed home, and then just as my heart was lifted by the glory of the landscape ahead of me, it was crushed by the sight of not just litter but three, yes THREE discarded BBQ kits by the road side. It makes me so mad.  I stopped to clear them up, well, they weren’t going to miraculously disappear otherwise, and it made me feel like I earned my Runners Against Rubbish badge (always a worry).

Why do people do this, and what is it with the fire thing.  Especially heartbreaking given how we now know that fires all over the place have killed amphibians, ground nesting birds, all sorts.  So depressing.  What’s worse is that some fires have been started deliberately, though leaving one of these BBQ trays behind – let alone using them in the first place – seems criminally negligent to me.  Check out the Longshaw Estate post about the impact of fire on the landscape and weep.

Gawd, I hate people sometimes, I really do.  The damage we do.

Still, let’s not end on a downer.  I don’t hate the Hathersage Hurtle people!  Au contraire, they were collectively and individually lovely.  This was a grand event, and whether you would be going for the Hathersage Turtle option at a more measured pace, or the Hathersage Hurt which requires you to hurl yourself ever upwards to get round as fast as you can, you are sure of a great adventure.  Plus, there will definitely be views and cake, I think should cover the most frequently asked questions.

Keep an eye on the Hathersage Hurtle facebook page for more information, so as soon as we have a date you can save the day.

Fun will be  had, I promise.  It might of course be type two fun, but none the worse for that I’m sure!

See you there!




Categories: off road, race, running | Tags: , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Stumbling through the Fat Boys Stanage Struggle Fell Race

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All competitors receive one Free bottle of water at the finish

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

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


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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Robert and Eleanor Scriven for photos

Phil Sproson Photography also out and about

Shots of reaching the summit from Alan Billington

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

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

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

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