So about 8 weeks back, we reached a point where all the running events cancelled or re-scheduled in during the Covid lockdown began to restart in earnest.
It’s been a strange period for running – lockdown head state and work have meant that training has not been what it could be – and much of my recent training before this race was on the gravel bike ahead of a Rat Race event coming up in Scotland. As a result, for this event I really wasn’t sure what I’d be capable of.
The first event back was the Tough Trails ‘Edale Ring of Hell’ – I’d considered the Ultra version of the course (about 58km), but given lack of training and wanting to stay rested for other upcoming events, the ‘Half Ultra’ (25km) seemed like the better option.
How long has ‘Half Ultra’ been a thing? Maybe it’s not been in range for me historically, but I’m sure that there’s more trail races in the 25-30km range that are now listed as such. Either way, it’s generally a good distance, particularly when the terrain is fairly steep.
For this race, I was running with Kelly – we’d headed out through ever increasing clouds – the top of Win Hill wasn’t visible as we dropped towards Ladybower, and this only got worse as we drove in towards Edale. I have to apologise to Kelly at this point – I have yet to do any event with the word ‘Ultra’ in the title where it hasn’t rained hard at some point during the event….
Registration was quick and well organised in the village hall given the range of slightly confused looking runners, many like us to hadn’t done this in a while – it was good to catch up with some Bad Boy Running crowd whilst getting sorted in the car park, although at this stage I was cursing a soft flask having sprung a leak.
At the starting line, we could theoretically have looked up and seen the hills we had ahead of us – all 1400m of ascent or so across the 3 main climbs on the course (not bad given the length of the event) – however at this point, the cloud and rain were at a level where you were left to your imagination. It’s a beautiful location, surrounded by ridges and hills (look up the Edale Skyline – it’s a great route from Win Hill to Lose Hill). It was a slightly strange start – the majority were being cautious due to Covid, many starting with Buffs as face coverings.
The course started through Edale, past the start of the Pennine Way at the Old Nags Head, over a bridge then up past Ringing Roger – a good start to get the lungs working, and it spread the pack apart fairly fast. Routes were set with different coloured mini flags for the different race lengths – 10k, Half Ultra, Ultra – the event set an expectation of navigation skills being required, and whilst in most cases this wasn’t needed, we saw multiple cases of people running off in entirely the wrong direction – not a great look around Kinder! This was not aided by some of the guide flags becoming increasingly sporadic, with various discussions around what happened them during the event
Having ascended to Ringing Roger and looped past Golden Clough, we then hurtled and slipped downhill to the start of Grinds Brook – and, after running past a family carrying their dog over some of the smaller rocks at the start of the scramble, hacked our way up the valley. From half way up, most of us had given up many pretences at real running – a combination of running, climbing and hiking were the order of the day, up a slope of part rock, part stream. At the top though, it was a quick snack, then onto familiar territory running along the top of the ridge along the edge of Edale Moor, around the bogs and the rocks, and on towards Kinder Scout.
The terrain was in surprisingly good condition – I’m using to running it into the winter, at which point it’s a case of bog hopping – only some parts were quite this bad. At this stage of the race, things were fairly uneventful – we met the same runners who kept on getting lost then coming back to the course again, enjoyed some of the more rolling territory, then descended Jacob’s Ladder towards the Check Point at Upper Booth – at this point, given the amount of ascent we’d done, watermelon and crisps were the order of the day.
Feeling a little weary at this stage, we headed back out, past a near invisible turnoff over a stream, then off up Whitemoor Clough. It had been merely damp and a bit windy up to this point – it now stopped any pretenses, and hammered it down. Tired legs made for a slog up the Clough onto Rushup Edge, then we picked things up past the Lords Seat, before heading down to the Mam Tor car park for another well stocked check point. At this stage, one of the runners with us ended up with both legs fully cramping, leading to marshals desperately trying to feed him and relieve his legs.
At this point, we knew there was around 6km left, largely down hill – so naturally, having got most of the rough terrain out of the way….I ran around a family up a slightly muddy bank and rolled my ankle badly (to the level of having a snapping sound effect).
At this point, bar the slightly concerned family we’d just run around, the world stopped for a bit as I sat and tried to reset and work out quite what state it was in. 5 minutes later, overtaken by the runner with cramp from the aid station, a very slow hobble started – I really wasn’t keen on a lift back to the start, or waiting in a rain storm – on the same note, I was having problems moving my foot in a controlled manner in any direction.A tip – do not try to run down the Great Ridge with an ankle that you cannot control or weight properly.
We got down past Hollins Cross, then back to Edale – slowly. It’s a shame, as that downhill is normally highly entertaining. The finish line involved running back into the village hall – and shortly after, getting ice, a bandaged ankle, and some pizza (thanks race organisers!).
- Respect for those doing the ultra!
- Edale, and the general area, is still beautiful in the rain
- It will always rain
- Don’t roll your ankle a few weeks before a block of events
- It’s to run with others after so long
- That’s an awesome route, and a friendly group running the race
- I’d like to finish still running without pain next time
- Always stop for cake and coffee after races like this at the Hope Adventure Cafe. It’s awesome.