It seemed rude not to look in at Grindleford last night. I was, after all, in the area.
The fell runners handbook (which is, incidentally, a thoroughly good read and the bible of hill runs that should be used in conjunction with all professional trips, visits to relatives and holidays around the country) said it was a CS category fell race. In other words I shouldn't expect to be out after dark and that the oxygen mask was safe in the car. Having not been oot in the hills since February, I thought this would be a suitably low key affair with a few ramshackle runners with nothing else to do on a Thursday night. I made my way to the Pavilion set within the Peak District village's local cricket ground. It was chocka. Folk were wandering down the street from the railway station, arriving on foot and by bike but mostly by car and there were throngs of the blighters. Maybe a field of 250 or so.
I signed up and getting my entry for £4 the kind lady explained which way up my number was to go on (69). Not sure if she was taking the micky. I overheard a few buddies talking about the river crossing and wandered over to the river to see if I could see the river bed. We lined up across the pitch which had become a car park and were told it was 2 laps around the grass and then off up the hill. The start was a bit of a rampage and by the end of the second lap there must still have been around 50 or 60 in front. I know I'm at the wrong end of the V40 category these days but this was uncalled for. Off we charged up the hill through the trees, the rocky and gravelly track widening and narrowing as some runners up ahead thankfully found the gradient too arduous and began slowing. Getting past them was an effort though and, in places, I remember thinking the course too narrow for a field of this size. Still, I had passed around 10 or 15 on the way up, so time to concentrate and keep up the momentum.
I realised halfway through that the secret of running a fast half of any race is to mistake its duration. It occurred to me as we climbed in single file through the the narrow fern clad corridor that the 30 minutes I had in my head was the record and not the time I would end up finishing in. But, too late and by then we were lumping across the top of the fields, not so much heather more rough pasture and then onto gravelled tracks.
There was something of Latrigg in the gradients and landscape and the downhill soon came. I had yo-yoed with a Dark Peaker for a little while but then he ran out of puff and I soon had a group of 5 in front. I passed another Peaker before the first stream crossing. As I picked my way across the boulders I heard a crunch behind me and a yell of 'OOOHH' filled the air from the handful of onlookers stationed at the crossing. Peaker had gone down. The fall seemed to give him immediate impetus (or a double shot of gravel-lickers adrenaline) and he scampered off in front of me. I kept right behind him as we careered through the woods, strewn with grey gritstone boulders and roots, the former frequently forcing you to flick your trailing leg high to ensure you didn't trip.
We ran out of hill and soon hit flat lying pasture as the course made its way parallel with the river on the floodplain and Peaker's batteries began to stall. As we got to the river crossing a Steel City Strider was making his way across to the other side where there was a host of cameras, his group of 5 having fragmented through the woods. With 400m to go there was still time and energy for a burst past the Steelman and it was home in around 27th place.
Unfortunately couldn't stay for the flapjacks and tea, but enjoyed the race. Doing a fell race out of your usual area (where no one recognises you) is a novelty and adds a frisson of excitement. Highly recommended. Auntie Aggie says I should get out more. Maybe I will.