Grindleford Fell Race

I wouldn’t normally do a write-up for a short, mid-week fell race, however, after the Grindleford fell race, I just had to! This was the first time I had been able to do the race, as last year we were mountain biking in the Alps. It was pre-entry this year, so I signed up, and as a few of the other Harriers had commented how good a race it was, I was really looking forward to it.

As I left Belper, the sun was shining and it looked like it could be a nice evening. However, before I had left, I checked the weather forecast, and it said something very different – heavy rain from 6pm onwards. Lovely. As I got nearer to Grindleford, the sky darkened, and sure enough, the rain began to fall. I sat in my car watching the heavy rain, waiting for the a gap in the shower. Fortunately I had my OMM waterproof so after collecting my number, I went off for a brisk warm-up. The rain was still falling, but thankfully it was quite mild, so stripping down to my Harriers vest wasn’t too bad despite the rain.

There were about 370 runners registered for the race, and we all accumulated on the cricket pitch ready for the start. Myself, Ed and Sean were the Belper representatives, and we positioned ourselves at the front of the pack. The race was advertised as 4.5 miles, with 499ft of climbing – due to the shortness of the race, I decide to push hard from the off, attacking the climb, and then try and hold my own on the descent.

The race started with a lap of the cricket pitch, before we wound our way round and started the first climb. Start loops are always fast, so I tried to get as close to the front as possible to position myself for the upcoming climb. The climb was all runnable, but quite technical in places, made even more tricky with the soft ground and very slippy rocks and tree roots. The main climb was about 1 mile long, and I was very pleased with how I ran. I overtook a handful of runners in the bottom section and then started pulling away from them, closing in on the group ahead. It was all going well until I ducked under a tree or rock (I don’t know which), and lifted my head prematurely, smacking my head on the hard object above. Despite feeling dazed, I ploughed on not wanting the runners behind to gain any ground, but after touching the top of my head, I realised there was blood. I carried on, feeling a little light headed, every now and then checking to see if I was still bleeding – I was. After the steepest part of the climb, there was about half a mile of steady uphill, moorland bog. This was tough going, especially with the driving rain and incessant bogs underfoot.

We summitted in Longshaw Estate and a fast forest road followed, before we started to descend through the woods towards Padley Gorge. I love this area of the Peaks, and the running is so much fun, with it being technical underfoot at times, however, due to the rain, it was even more technical than normal, with the rocks and roots very slippery, and the ground inbetween very soft. I was really confident in my footwear (Salomon SLAB Sense 3 Ultra SG shoes) and pushed on through the rocks, hopping from one to the other, or slaloming my way through with smaller steps. I closed in on a couple of guys ahead and flew past them.

After a brief stretch on the road, we turned off and started descending down to the River Derwent. I was chasing the two guys ahead of me, and being chased myself by a pack of 3/4 runners. Turning a corner in one of the fields lay a line of flagstones, however, since I was carrying so much speed I overshot the stones, straight into a waiting bog, up to my waist. That brought me to an abrupt halt, but thankfully I managed to clamber out quickly before the chasing pack made too much ground. Sprinting across the next field, we then dropped down to the Derwent and proceded to wade across. Due to the amount of rain we had recieved over the last few days, I was expecting the water level to be higher than it was and a raging torrent, but it only came up to my knees so I was able to cross quite easily. A final sprint across the cricket pitch brought you to the finish.

I was really happy with how I’d run (despite the cut head and bog), and pleased with how everything had come together for the race. I finished in 12th place out of 321 starters, and with it being a Peaks race with a good quiality field, I was pleased with this result. My head was still bleeding, and the rain still falling hard, so after catching up with Ed, I decided to make a quick getaway. I also wanted to get my car off the saturated cricket pitch as soon as possible as I could just tell it would soon be a mission getting all the cars off the field!

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